Planning a solo trip to Porto, Portugal? Here’s everything you need to know for your visit:
- The second largest city in Portugal, with a population of around 240,000.
- This mercantile city, also known as Oporto, is traversed by the Douro River, one of the major waterways on the Iberian Peninsula.
- The city’s most distinguishable landmarks are its six bridges, the most famous of which is Dom Luis, built by the disciple of Gustave Eiffel.
- Its most famous export is port wine which is exclusively produced in the Douro Valley.
- Nicknames: “Cicade Invicta” or The Unconquered City, The City of Bridges
- Currency: Euro (EUR).
- Spoken languages: Portuguese, although Spanish and English are also widely spoken.
- Best time to visit: from March to September for semi-Mediterranean climate that sees averages temperatures of 24 ºC (75 ºF) coupled with dry weather.
- Arriving via airport: Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport (OPO) is served by bus €2.70 one-way or by Metro for €2.45 (requires transfers at Trindade or Bolhão stations). Taxis charge around €30.
WHERE TO STAY
- Best Porto hostel for solo travelers: The House of Sandeman. Friendly, English-speaking staff, perfect location (with a view), clean rooms and comfortable beds, great facilities. Relaxed atmosphere (not a party hostel), and with delicious breakfast included daily. Makes sure to book ahead!
- Ribeira is the heart of the ancient quarter, built on hills overlooking the scenic Douro River. Known for its meandering alleyways and their hidden gems, it is the perfect setting for a cultural exploration.
- Baixa marks the city’s downtown area, known for its bustling markets, Art Deco architecture and wide range of accommodation that includes hotel chains and hostels.
- STCP provides the metro, tram and bus services across the city and the suburbs under a unified ticketing system called Andante. Fares are charged depending on zones travelled while a 24-hour pass costs €7 or €15 for 72-hours. See official site.
- Porto Card features the advantage of unlimited access to public transportation with free or discounted access to the city’s cultural highlights, including museums. The 1-day pass + travelcard is priced at €13 (the 2-day at €20 and the 3-day is €25). See the official site.
- Taxis are somewhat overpriced (and almost useless amidst the heavy traffic in the city centre). Call +351 224 808 853 or +351 225 076 400 to book.
- Drinking age is 18, and last call is never.
- Downtown and in particular the locations of Rua Galeria de Paris and Rua Cândido dos Reis feature a heady mix of bars perfect for the casual weekend spirit.
- Cais de Gaia across the river is known for its decadent wine cellars and floodlit scenery.
- Zona Industrial combines massive nightclubs with prestige in an evening scene favored by the party crowd.
- Great bars for solo travelers: Casa da Horta (they host events and language exchanges), Barracuda Rock Club, Woodstock69 Rock Bar, Torto – Food, Bar & Cocktails, and FERRO.
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- Dom Luis Bridge is the arch that connects the city of Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia and was, at the time of its construction, the longest metal bridge in the world.
- Coliseu de Porto is one of the most relevant landmarks in the city, a theatre espousing Portuguese Streamline Moderne and Art Deco styles of the early 20th century.
- Church of São Francisco is the most important Gothic monument in Porto located in the city’s historical centre labelled a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Clerigos Tower is the main feature of the city’s skyline, formerly used by incoming ships as a guide. It is located opposite the Cordoaria Gardens.
- Crystal Palace Gardens overlook the Douro River and form a landscaped park featuring a domed pavilion that serves as the venue for major events. The grounds are also home to the Romantic Museum, a 19th century mansion that showcases the lifestyles of the bourgeoisie.
- Rua Miguel Bombarda is known as art gallery street thanks to the multitude of its exhibitions on contemporary art. Tea houses, funky shops and co-working offices complete the effect.
- Avenida dos Aliados is the heart of the city, a boulevard lined with stately structures presiding over a central promenade. The Town Hall stands at the top of avenue while Praça da Liberdade signals the other end.
- The six bridge cruise is a popular way to admire the wonderful structures from the leisurely waters of the Douro River and to take in the full effect of Porto’s hillside location.
- The francesinha is Porto’s iconic sandwich made with wet-cured ham, linguiça (fresh sausage) or roast meat all topped with melted cheese and served in a bowl of special tomato beer sauce.
- There are over 50 port wine lodges in the city and together they form its most popular attraction. Free tours and tastings are available and represent an educational insight into Porto’s culture and history.
- Great restaurants to try: Adega Do Carregal ($$), Fava Tonka ($$ – vegetarian), Apuro – Vegan Bar ($$), Brasão Coliseu ($$).
- Where to find good cheap eats: Mercado do Bolhão sells traditional dishes at very affordable prices. Casa Guedes is popular with locals (multiple locations). Or head straight to Conga for the bifanas. Check out daTerra (multiple locations) for a great vegan/vegetarian buffet.
- Dangerous areas: Porto is very safe. Watch out for pickpockets in tourist areas.
Recommended trip duration: 2-3 days