Porto’s winding streets are lined with the most picturesque houses and seem to endlessly go up and down. The food is marvelous and the port doesn’t need any explanation. There are endless secluded corners around the city to enjoy the warm summer nights, curl up on a winter day, or enjoy any weather in between.
Maybe you’ve been to Porto before or maybe this is your first time. Either way, we’re pretty sure you’ve seen it all by now: you’ve explored the Ribeira district, you’ve gazed at the tiles in the São Bento railway station, you’ve seen the unique Lello bookstore and the iconic bridges.
While it’s true that these are some of the most famous places that tourists like to visit in Porto, there are still a few secret places worth exploring in this city. There’s plenty of history, nature and breathtaking views: Let’s visit some of our favorite hidden places in Porto.
Centro Português de Fotografia
Visiting the Portuguese Photography Center is like a ‘two for the price of one’ kind of opportunity. On one hand, you have the architecture and history of a building from the 18th century that served as a prison until 1974. On the other hand, you have a rare collection of photographic cameras, spanning more than 150 years.
This stern looking building held prisoners from every class of life, rich and poor, men, women and minors. Portuguese 19th century author Camilo Castelo Branco and Zé do Telhado (a kind of local Robin Hood) were among the famous inmates of this prison. The museum also holds a series of temporary exhibitions within the scope of photography while having a specialized library and a shop.
Jardim e Passeio das Virtudes
ocated in Porto’s historic center, Jardim das Virtudes is one of the city’s secret places. From this garden you have a magnificent view over the Douro river and the imposing Customs House (Alfândega do Porto). One of the things that make this garden so special is the fact that it is spread over terraces along the street, so it’s actually a vertical garden of sorts. Here you’ll find a public fountain from the 17th century, which also happens to be a national monument. Nature lovers will appreciate the fact that this garden is home to the largest ginkgo biloba tree in the country, measuring about 35 meters.
In front of the garden lies the Passeio das Virtudes, from which you can enjoy one of the best sunsets in the city. This place is a local favorite spot to hang out with a group of friends, read a book or simply cuddle with your better half, basking in the dying sunlight. And while the sunset is a must, this spot features a beautiful view during the day or at night as well, making it a must-visit at any hour.
Quem és, Porto?
On the exterior of the Gare nightclub, next to São Bento Railway Station, there are 3000 azulejo tiles that from further away read ‘Quem és, Porto?’ (Who are you, Porto?). Upon closer inspection, however, each tile presents an answer. Painted by locals and tourists, the project was led by Porto street artist ±MAISMENOS±, aka Miguel Januário.
Look at Porto
Vhils (Alexandre Farto) creates poetic images in urban spaces by drilling through layers of posters, dirt, and plaster to form bas-reliefs such as portraits. Look at Porto is Vhils’ first piece in a public space in Porto, and according to him, the figure’s eyes are “gazing out poetically towards the city and its old neighbourhoods.”
In a corner of a building in Vila Nova de Gaia lies a giant rabbit sculpture made from waste and recycled materials such as steel, cans, wood and used tyres. This amazing street art piece belongs to Porto artist Bordalo II. His work is renowned for the social and eco-awareness message it carries.
Daniel Eime is a Portuguese visual artist and a master in stencil art. If you pass through Miragaia it will be hard not to notice his mural Mira, a large-scale artwork representing a portrait of a local resident.
Iglesia de los Clérigos
This complex is considered a must-see national monument in Porto. The tower and the church are part of a Baroque-inspired structure. The real treat is the breathtaking view from the tower. The climb isn’t for the faint-hearted, but if you do brave the 250 steps needed to reach the top, your eyes will be rewarded with panoramic 360-degree views of the terracotta city below.
Igreja de São Francisco
The 14th-century Saint Francis Church is a church of contrasts. Wood carvings gilded with over 300 kilos of gold leaf add an opulent feel to the baroque interior – once considered too extravagant for its humble location. Underneath, the catacombs provide a final resting place to Franciscan monks and Porto’s elite. Piles of human bones can be viewed in the glass-floored ossuary.
Lighthouses at Foz
The lighthouses at Foz are located at a place of natural beauty, at the meeting point of the Douro river with the Atlantic sea, making this site very special and worth visiting. You can walk along the water toward the three lighthouses at this spot in the mornings or evenings for an energizing walk. Then take a seat in one and listen to the sea and fishermen, while feeling the wind and the sea breeze – absolutely peaceful.
If you look straight towards the sea, you could almost feel as if you’re at high sea since your view won’t cover the city at all. No need to say that the sunset from here is also a must-see. The waves breaking on one of the lighthouses from far away might be one of the most beautiful and mesmerizing moments you take away from Porto.