Porto, don’t skip it!

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Are you going to Porto for the first time? It's a gorgeous city, and you will love it.

Porto is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its charm lies in its age and colorful vintage look, with many tiled buildings waiting for love and care. As the city gains popularity among tourists and new residents, these buildings will likely be snatched up and refurbished soon. So this is a great time to visit Porto.

A bustling city. Porto is a lively city with busy streets and sidewalks, making solo travel safer and fun. Porto’s small size makes it perfect for walking, although be prepared for those steep hills! The art nouveau buildings, tiled structures, street art, and Baroque churches will charm you.

Public transport is excellent- I rode on buses around the old town and the metro to the beach often, and they were always on schedule and organized. There is plenty of information at the station (and helpful people).

Porto is called the Cidade das Pontes, City of Bridges. Gustav Eiffel designed a few, and his construction methods influenced many other Porto’s and surrounding bridges.

Porto is a photographer’s paradise. The lighting is exquisite, and the tiled buildings are beautiful at sunset or sundown for those interested in architectural photography. Landscape or cityscape views from the bridges and hills facing the river are unique.

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I loved photographing on foggy days because it made the city mysterious, scary, beautiful, and dated- like a 1600s painting. Sunny days are colorful and fun, so I think there is something for everyone.

Are you an urban sketcher enthusiast? You will love this city! When I spent a summer in Porto, I saw many traveling urban life sketching groups and made a note of finding one to join sometime. Some groups came from Spain and Italy, and I also met a small group from England. What a great way to travel!

What’s terrific about Porto? Unlike Lisbon, there’s no airplane noise here—just the genuine sounds of the city and chirping birds that I adore.

Porto’s sidewalks are rain-friendly—no slippery surprises like we have in Lisbon!  Most sidewalks are made of cement.

Porto is a fabulous city, and I suggest at least three days in Porto.

Can you tell I’m head over heels for this city?

How to get to Porto from Lisbon

Fly to Porto’s airport: Francisco Sá Carneiro airport.

Train from Lisbon to Porto: Comboios de Portugal

Car Rental

Car Rental in Lisbon

Hertz downtown Lisbon

Discover Cars

Direction from Lisbon to Porto

Directions to Porto (Google map)

When is the best time to visit Porto?

Clerigos tower and a park in front at sunset

Clérigos Tower, Porto is in front of the Lello Bookstore

Summer in Porto: Oh, it’s a vision in Porto during summer! The city shines with warmth and sunshine, the parks radiate a vivid green, and the vibe is all about outdoor fun.

It can get pretty hot during the days, you will need warmer clothes for some evenings and always take a rain jacket- just in case!

Autumn in Porto: I’m all in for Porto’s off-season charm! Imagine the city adorned with autumnal hues, flaunting trees dressed in oranges and reds. It’s like Porto transforms into a northern wonderland.

It’s usually reasonably warm during the day and cold at night. The temperature is excellent for walking around, up and down the hills.

Winter in Porto: Are you a fan of the chilly vibes? Winter in Porto offers a chilly yet lovely experience, but it’s essential to prepare for rain by having appropriate rain gear and shoes with good traction.

If you adore the rain as I do, the city takes on an enchanting charm after a downpour, particularly during the captivating and mysterious sunsets.

During this season, there are fewer tourists, making it easier to secure fantastic spots to eat out in restaurants. Additionally, hotels tend to be more affordable.

Spring in Porto is a beautiful season when the city starts to bloom. While it might have a nip in the air, the sun will grace the streets. It’s a fantastic time to stroll through iconic gardens like Jardins do Palacio de Cristal or the Serralves Museum gardens.

Expect fewer tourists during spring, but don’t underestimate it—Porto is increasingly gaining popularity! Booking ahead is vital to securing your desired spots.

When packing for springtime in Porto, be ready for all kinds of weather—rainy days, warm spells, and chilly nights. Layering up is the secret to dressing smartly for the ever-changing spring climate in this charming city.

The bottom line? The best time to visit Porto is whenever suits your fancy! Just peek at the weather forecasts to align your preferences with the perfect Porto experience.

Is Porto a good place for an over 50 solo traveler?

Absolutely! Porto is an excellent destination for those traveling solo and travelers over 50. There are so many things to see and do. Tour the city slowly, hire a guide, or rent a bike and get to know the Douro river banks. To taste local culture, visit museums and art galleries, and you will find great stores if you like shopping.

Marguerite blog author at Casa da musica in Porto, checkered background and marguerite is wearing a checkered dress

Here I am on my solo trip to Porto at the Casa da Musica

My month in Porto. My Porto Adventure: A month of solo travel and exploration before the pandemic hit. I was thinking of making Porto home so, armed with my sourdough starter snug in a special cooler, essentials like watercolors, a camera, and clothes; I hit the road for Porto.

Settling into a cozy apartment in a residential area (away from the touristy areas), I relished the charm of my neighborhood, nestled near the enchanting Jardins do Palacio de Cristal. I got to know my neighborhood tascas (small restaurants) and often visited Casa da Musica’s cafe. I lived like a local.

Afternoons were devoted to capturing the beauty through my lens, sketching, painting, and wandering aimlessly.

The city’s warmth extended beyond its weather. From a watercolor class to exciting outings and my cherished cafe rendezvous, I mingled with locals and fellow travelers.

Porto’s friendliness left an indelible mark, and I fell in love with this city-I think you will too.

Is Porto a safe city for solo travel?

It’s a safe city—I’ve ventured there multiple times solo, wandering around at various hours, day and night. Dining alone is a piece of cake, and I felt perfectly at ease in the city.

However, here’s the tiny “but.” Porto is evolving, so watch for pickpockets in touristy spots.

Traveling solo? Stay aware, but stay chill—vigilant yet relaxed!

Where to stay in Porto

Casa Camelia

I loved this place. I was lucky and got a room facing the garden with a Douro River view.

view of pool and River Douro at sunset from Camelia guest house Porto

My room with a view at Casa Camélia. The pool and the Douro River in the background.

Casa Camélia is on a quiet street, within walking distance to all the sites- but then, Porto is easy to walk around. The service was fabulous, and friendly staff. The breakfast room is a glass house with a beautiful river view.

Torel Avantgarde

This is an exciting boutique hotel. Rooms are decorated according to an artist, so you might get the Picasso or Dali rooms. I loved my room with a small balcony and view of the Douro River and the Dom Luis I bridge. Good service, a nice bar, and the food is excellent.

The Yeatman

If you are looking for something more unique in a hotel, want fantastic service, and are not concerned with a budget, consider this hotel. And remember to reserve a table at their excellent restaurant.

InterContinental Porto is on the gorgeous Avenida dos Aliados and is very central.

Maison Albar Le Monumental Palace on Avenida dos Aliados. Central.

Pestana Palacio do Freixo, outskirts of Porto, about 4 kilometers from the Dom Luis I Bridge.

Vila Foz Hotel & Spa In Foz district, by the River Douro, 15-20 minutes from downtown Porto.

There are many other great places (with different budgets) to stay in Porto.

Things to do in Porto for the solo traveler

Exploring Porto is best done on foot, so grab your most comfortable sneakers or walking shoes and hit the streets!

Walking tours with a theme

Discover the city through themed walking outings. For food enthusiasts, embark on a delectable foodie tour.

History buffs can delve into Porto’s rich past, from its Celtic origins to the city’s significant trading ports, culture, and renowned wine.

Each neighborhood and street holds its unique story, so consider hiring a guide or taking a series of short tours to unravel the captivating history of local people in this charming city.

Wine Tasting: The wineries in Vila Nova de Gaia

You can try different wines in Vila Nova de Gaia, so check out their schedule and reserve your spot.

Port wine tasting at Taylors

Espaço Porto Cruz: Wine-tasting and restaurant.

Graham’s Port

Ramos Pinto, Croft, House of Calém, Sandman’s Cellar

Get your Guide (wine-tasting tours).

Porto by Tuk-tuk

A Tuk-tuk excursion is ideal for the solo traveler. If your time in Porto is limited, a tuk-tuk ride provides an excellent overview of the city’s layout, showcasing stores, diverse architecture, street art, and more. Given Porto’s hilly terrain, the thrill of riding up the slopes on a tuk-tuk adds to the experience. 🙂

Experience Porto’s beauty and its iconic bridges through a tuk-tuk ride. Marvel at the architectural wonders, including bridges designed by acclaimed architects like Eiffel, Seyrig, and Cardoso, offering majestic city views.

I have done several Tuk-tuk rides and loved them all.

River Cruise

To witness Porto from a different perspective, indulge in a river cruise. It offers a unique vantage point, allowing you to relax and appreciate the city as it unfolds along the water.

Porto short river cruise: River cruise

Porto Restaurants for the over 50 traveler

Cantinho do Avilez, Portugal’s famous chef, has finally come to Porto, and you will love his restaurant! You can eat the famous Francesinha there along with other superb dishes.

Subenshi Fore when you feel like fabulous sushi. I loved this place and went several times! They also have a restaurant in Aveiro.

Mistu emanates a vintage charm, balancing elegance and relaxation while exuding sophistication. The ambiance is delightful!

The food is fantastic, most dishes are perfect for sharing, and portions are ideal for over 50 solo travelers.

For a relaxed yet enjoyable dining experience, Coupage 51 Restaurant is the place to be.

Tucked away on a serene street, it’s my newfound “must-visit” spot (right up there with Cantinho do Avillez)! It’s a small and cozy place where all dishes are meant for sharing, yet perfectly sized for solo travelers to relish multiple plates.

Tapabentos

As I strolled near the São Bento station, I noticed a lengthy line of people on a summer evening. Out of sheer curiosity and little else on my agenda, I meandered along the line to discover what the fuss was about.

Fortunately, I struck up a conversation with a few folks and inquired about the wait. They excitedly informed me that they were queuing up to dine at Tapabento.

One person mentioned it was already his third visit in just ten days. He strongly recommended making a reservation or getting on the waiting list, as the experience was truly worth it. And indeed, it was!

After a few days of anticipation, I secured a table. The dinner was unforgettable, and I found myself returning multiple times, experiencing the restaurant’s charm across different seasons, always delighting in the consistently excellent fare.

The Bolhão market is housed in a stunning, historically rich building. Following its renovation, I visited the market for pastries and coffee, finding it a perfect spot to unwind and take a break.

Surrounding the market are numerous delightful old stores, creating a beautiful area to explore. Not far off lies the iconic Majestic café, while on the main shopping street, you’ll discover a charming must-see church called Capela das Almas (Chapel of Souls).

Michelin Star Restaurant

The Yeatman: Make a reservation ahead of time! This is a trendy place.

Michelin Guide

Casa de Chá da Boa Nova is in Leça da Palmeira, just outside Porto. I did not go here, but it was highly recommended.

One day in Porto for the over 50 traveler

Morning

Spend your morning enjoying a relaxed breakfast, and then hop on a Tuk-Tuk outing. Let your driver guide you through the historic spots of the bridges, the famous Majestic café, and the vibrant Bolhão market, soaking in the city center’s lively atmosphere.

If you’re a Harry Potter enthusiast and wish to see the iconic Lello bookstore, simply inform your Tuk-Tuk driver before the ride begins so he can plan to pass by it. Still, if you plan to enter, you should make a prior reservation for a visit when your tuk-tuk ride ends.

Lunch

Arrange a lunchtime walking foodie excursion to take you to the best spot to savor the famous Francesinha sandwich and other typical Porto delicacies. You will stop at traditional coffee spots and indulge in delightful pastries while delving into the rich tapestry of Porto’s culture and its vibrant foodie scene.

Late afternoon: I have two options: Sunset over the river or wine tasting- or you can do both.

Sunset:

Make your way to the Dom Luis I bridge to witness the stunning golden light stretching over the River Douro. Even on a cloudy day, the view remains exquisite.

If you want to go to Vila Nova de Gaia for wine tasting and dinner, take the cable car or walk down the hill.

Wine Tasting:

Explore Vila Nova de Gaia for a spot that provides wine-tasting experiences.

Dinner:

Consider my recommendations, but it’s wise to conduct some research as Porto’s dining scene is rapidly evolving, with new fabulous restaurants emerging.

Feel free to share any exceptional finds you discover during your exploration.

A day trip to the Douro Valley for the over 50 solo travelers

Embark on a day trip to the Douro Valley by hiring a private guide. Visit various vineyards, savor a local restaurant for lunch, and indulge in wine tasting at a scenic vineyard.

My experience with  Lab Tours to the Douro was unforgettable. I was delighted I didn’t have to navigate those narrow roads! It was a private tour, and the guide provided breathtaking views, captivating stories, and a delightful wine-tasting experience. Solo travel doesn’t mean you have to do everything alone!

We dined at a local restaurant and strolled through charming villages. Serendipitously, we stumbled upon a bakery just as fresh bread emerged from the wood-burning oven. The aroma was divine, and we purchased some bread to enjoy once it had cooled down.

I will return to Douro for a few days to investigate it more. I still need to go on a fabulous Douro River boat trip!

Boat Trips

Porto’s River rides

Portugal by Wine offers private boat rides.

Douro River rides

Anim Durius, based in Pinhão, Douro Valley, offers private boat rides on fantastic boats; they organize wine tastings and guided excursions.

Douro by train

Are you interested in a self-guided adventure to Douro? Consider incorporating a train ride and a riverboat cruise for an enriching solo travel experience.

The rail journey, known as Linha Do Ouro, follows the river, departing from Porto and heading towards the picturesque areas of Peso da Regua and Pinhão. In Pinhão and Regua, you can go on riverboat trips.

Ensure thorough study of the schedule, as this self-guided excursion might span up to 10 hours and necessitates comprehensive planning for a seamless experience.

A solo adventure day at the beach

I arrived on a warm, foggy morning at the beach, where visibility was practically zero. I considered returning to Porto, but my perspective shifted when I started taking photos.

As I strolled closer, the chirpy gossip of birds filled the air, but the stubborn fog played hide-and-seek with my eyes, keeping everything under wraps.

Unfazed, I pressed on, fingers crossed that my stroll led me seaward. Then, a quirky spectacle unfolded before me: a lady comfortably parked under an umbrella as if she’d set up shop in the fog itself!

It was so bizarrely dreamlike that I couldn’t wrap my head around why anyone would choose this dense fog for a sunbathing session. Talk about taking “cloud nine” to a whole new level!

Foggy beach scene with an orange and a green umbrella, rocks and water Matosinhos beach

As the sun dispersed the fog, a sudden revelation: many people appeared, all set for a sunbathing session; others were playing soccer and walking. I don’t know how they did it! I could hardly see anything in the fog.

The lengthy beach beckoned, and though too chilly for a swim, I reveled in observing amusing expressions as people braved the freezing waters.

Matosinhos boasts numerous tascas offering fresh fish, with enticing sidewalk pop-ups grilling sardines. Choosing a spot to eat was tough, but I decided on an adventurous sidewalk pop-up.

Matosinhos is a 30-minute metro ride from Porto.

Portugal’s Beaches

If you are visiting Portugal for a longish trip, consider exploring the northern coast’s exquisite beaches and making stops in villages for lunches and nights. It promises a fantastic trip!

Solo travel and adventures to Cities near Porto

If this is your first visit to these cities, consider joining a group excursion or hiring a private guide with a car for an enriched experience.

Self-guided excursions demand meticulous planning and thorough research.

Checking the train travel details before heading to the stations is crucial, as things may change unexpectedly.

Here are just some of my favorite cities, along with my preferred tips.

However, keep in mind there’s a wealth of attractions in each location waiting for you to explore.

Guimarães

The old city area is mainly flat, offering an array of fantastic restaurants and charming cafes. Did you know that the historic center of Guimaraes is also a Unesco world heritage site?

Museums and various attractions are conveniently located near the old part of town.

For my solo travel to Guimarães by car, strolling through the older part of the city was the highlight of my visit.

Here’s how to get to Guimarães from Porto:

Car: directions to Guimarães

Train leaving Porto: São Bento Station (check the schedule and reserve both ways)

Braga

Stature of Sao Longuinhos at sunset in Braga at Bom Jesus do Monte. Statue of man and sword on horse, man

Stature of Sao Longuinhos at sunset in Braga at Bom Jesus do Monte

My absolute highlight was visiting the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte, a UNESCO Heritage Site.

My stroke of luck was arriving in the afternoon and staying to catch the breathtaking sunset.

How to get to Braga from Porto

Car: directions

São Bento Station

Viana do Castelo

I visited Viana do Castelo for two nights to experience the thrill of walking on Eiffel’s Bridge and to hop on the Funicular de Santa Luzia for a ride up to Basíica de Santa Luzia, catching a bird’s-eye view of the city. Heads up: the funicular is undergoing some spiffing up in 2023.

To top it off, I struck gold with a fantastic street festival in Viana do Castelo. The locals dressed in traditional costumes, dishing out scrumptious typical food—it was a vibrant and picture-perfect scene.

Viana do Castelo is a hot spot for various lively festivals, so check if any are happening during your stay in or around Porto: Viana do Castelo Festivals.

How to get to Viana do Castelo from Porto

car: directions

Train: Campanhã Station

Coimbra 

Coimbra, the old capital, is renowned for its vibrant universities and bohemian student scene. Remember to explore one of the oldest university libraries.

Prepare for some serious hill action, stunning vistas, winding narrow streets, delightful small eateries, and delicious pastries.

Coimbra is bursting with history, so I recommend having a local guide by your side during your visit. When I ventured to Coimbra by train, I hired a fantastic private guide who was a history whiz. Our walks were a blast, filled with intriguing historical tidbits and juicy 1600s gossip, and she made my entrance to the Biblioteca Joanina a breeze.

The guide dropped me off at the Botanical Gardens where I photographed and walked for a few hours. I meandering casually around downtown and back to the train station to have dinner in Porto, in one of my favorite restaurants.

How to get to Coimbra from Porto

car: directions

Campanhã Station

Aveiro

I hopped on a train to Aveiro for a self-guided day trip that turned out to be delightful. It was a sunny, breezy summer day, making strolling around an absolute joy.

I was super intrigued to catch a glimpse of the renowned Moliceiro boats (traditional Aveiro vessels used for gathering algae). The boats look like colorful Venetian gondolas.

While you can ride them, I wandered around the charming canals, photographing and soaking in the scenery.

Another highlight was visiting the Costa Nova beach, famous for its striped houses. I walked along an extensive boardwalk that stretched over the dunes, which was quite a beautiful experience and ended the afternoon with a walk on the beach and my toes in the water.

How to get to Aveiro from Porto

Car: directions

São Bento Station

Resources for Porto, Portugal

Map of Porto on Google

Timeout Porto

Casa da Musica Concerts

Museums:

Photography museum: Centro Português de Fotografia.

Contemporary art and more: Serralves

My favorite gardenJardins do Palacio de Cristal,

Clerigos Church

Casa da Musica (beautiful architecture, home to Porto’s orchestra and a great coffee shop)

Visit the Porto Cathedral

Walking Food Tours:

Taste Porto (I loved this one!)

Porto Walkers

Eating Europe

Marguerite Beaty, Blogger, Photographer & Artist

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2 Responses

  1. You’ve captured Porto well! I went on a walking food tour when I was there. A great way to taste local flavours!

    1. Thank you!
      Who did you go on a foodie tour with? I am aiming for a second trip and would love to check them out. They have fantastic places to eat in Porto!

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