One of the best parts of living in Porto (aside from the amazing Douro wine), is that the city offers dozens of things to do on a student budget. If you read this blog post, you already know that there are amazing affordable restaurants in Porto. But Porto is much more than just delicious cheap food, as it also offers incredible leisure options for you to enjoy without spending a dime.
Ready to visit Porto’s best museums, sightsee world-class monuments and check the most breathtaking views of the city? Then read the complete list to find out what are the 10 best things to do for free in Porto, Portugal.
São Bento station for a tile overdose:
Few things represent Portugal as well as tiles. These polished ceramic squares called “azulejos”, in Portuguese, are found practically everywhere, from palaces to houses and churches.
One of the best places for you to check amazing tile-work in Porto is the São Bento Station. This 20th-century railway terminal is located in the Historic Centre of Porto and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Monument of Portugal.
As soon as you arrive at São Bento Station, you’ll be mesmerized by its large panels decorated with more than 20,000 blue and white tiles painted by the Portuguese artist Jorge Colaço. The figures represent Portugal’s history, and São Bento Station is the place to be if you want to feel inspired by the charming Portuguese tile-work.
Serra do Pilar for the best view of Porto:
When you cross the Dom Luís I bridge from Porto and head to the other side of the Douro River, you’ll arrive in Vila Nova de Gaia. Aside from prestigious wine cellars, Vila Nova de Gaia has the best views of Porto.
Once in Vila Nova de Gaia, go to Serra do Pilar, a former 16th-century monastery that is now a viewpoint. From up there, you’ll be able to overlook de Dom Luís I Bridge and the historic centre of Porto, which are simply breathtaking.
Go the second most visited museum in Portugal:
In this post we explained why going to the Serralves Foundation is one of the 10 things you should do while living in Porto, Portugal. But there’s one more thing that makes the Serralves Foundation worth it: the entrance is free every first Sunday of the month, from 10 am to 1 pm.
The Serralves Foundation houses an 18-hectares park designed by the French architect Jacques Gréber; the Casa do Cinema Manoel de Oliveira, a place entirely dedicated to promoting contemporary cinema; and the Serralves Contemporary Art Museum. With 14 exhibition rooms, the museum is home to a major modern art collection, and it was designed by the award-winning Portuguese architect Álvaro-Siza.
Visit the Porto Cathedral for a unique sample of the Romanesque architecture:
A visit to the Porto Cathedral is especially cool for architecture students and enthusiasts. Built-in the 12th-century, the cathedral was renovated many times, so nowadays it displays a variety of styles. It’s mostly baroque, but it has a Romanesque façade and nave, aside from gothic-style chapels. The Porto Cathedral was declared a National Monument, and it’s the most important religious building in Porto.
Antique hunting at the Mercado Porto Belo:
This flea market takes place every Saturday in Carlos Alberto Square. In there you’ll find a bit of everything: from LP records and traditional Portuguese toys to books and homemade pasta. After exploring the antiques at Mercado Porto Belo, you can take a walk in the historic square, where Charles Albert of Sardinia used to live.
Take a walk at a green oasis in the middle of Porto:
The Botanical Garden is a small -but lovely- garden in the city of Porto. This green oasis is located in the 1900’s Andresen House, which was bought by João Henrique Andresen, a Porto wine merchant and father of the writer Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen. Curious fact: Sophia grew up there and she even mentions her childhood memories in the Andresen House on a few of her works!
Even though the Botanical Garden of Porto is not big, it has plenty of charm for a relaxed afternoon stroll. The garden is divided into 3 sections: the Rose Garden, the Fish Garden and the J Letter Garden. There are two lakes, one with water lilies, a garden of cactus and succulents and centuries-old trees and exotic plant species.
Chapel of the Souls for one of the most photographed spots in Porto:
Don’t get turned off by its spooky name. The Chapel of The Souls is everything but scary. On the contrary! It has a gorgeous blue and white tiled façade with figures of Saint Francis and Saint Catharine. The tiles were carefully painted by the artist Eduardo Leite and produced by the famous Viúva Lamego Ceramic Factory. No wonder why the Chapel of the Souls became one of the most photographed places in Porto!
Placed on Rua de Santa Catarina, close to the Bolhão Market, the Chapel of the Souls used to be a simple wooden chapel before it was restored and enlarged in 1801. Tip: get inside to check the chapel’s neoclassical-style 18-the century altars.
Organize a picnic with friends at the Jardim do Morro:
Wondering what to do on a sunny day in Porto? If so go to Jardim do Morro, another cool spot in Vila Nova de Gaia. But instead of just enjoying the stunning view of Porto from the garden, you can take some snacks, a bottle of wine and gather a small group of friends for a picnic.
Jardim do Morro can be accessed by the Jardim do Morro metro station (yellow line) or by foot. It’s located close to Serra do Pilar viewpoint.
Get inspired at the Centro Português de Fotografia:
There’s nothing like a great art exhibition to get us feeling creative and inspired. And the perfect place for this in Porto is the Centro Português de Fotografia. Curiously enough the museum is located inside a former prison, and it’s home to one of the largest collections of photography in Portugal. They host temporary and permanent exhibitions, aside from housing a collection of cameras that are more than 100 years old.
The Centro Português de Fotografia is located in the city centre of Porto and you can access it from Trindade, Bolhão, Aliadas and São Bento stations. Afterwards, why not go to the Clérigos Tower?
Get lost in Porto with Porto Walkers:
If you thought that walking tours were only for tourists, we’re sorry to say you were wrong. If you’re living abroad, taking a free walking tour is one of the best ways to explore a city like a local. And fortunately, there are lots of free walking tours happening in Porto. The most famous and well-evaluated is Porto Walkers, and they offer different free walking tour options. The “Classical Free Walking Tour” takes 3 hours and will take you to the eastern side of the city centre of Porto, for a more historical walk around. There’s also the “Porto Lifestyle Free Walking”, a tour that takes participants to the western side of the city centre of Porto, which is perfect for those who want to learn more about the modern history of Porto and it’s daily life. Take some comfy shoes and clothes and you’re ready to go!
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