Discovering the hidden gems of Porto: Off the beaten path sights and activities

Do you know the city of Porto and it’s hidden secrets?

Porto is a city full of history, culture, and charm, and it has much to offer the curious traveler. While it’s well-known for its iconic sights and landmarks, there are also many hidden gems waiting to be discovered. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the off-the-beaten-path sights and activities that you might not find in the typical tourist guidebook. From historic markets and parks to contemporary art museums and food tours, there are plenty of ways to get a deeper understanding of the city and its rich culture. So come with us as we uncover the hidden gems of Porto and discover what makes this city so special.


Here are 10 of the hidden gems of Porto that you can visit:

  1. Visit the Mercado do Bolhão
  2. Explore the Jardim do Passeio Alegre
  3. Visit the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves
  4. Take a tour of the Port wine cellars
  5. Stroll through the streets of the Ribeira neighborhood
  6. Visit the São Francisco Church
  7. Take a boat ride on the Douro River
  8. Visit the Palácio da Bolsa
  9. Go on a food tour and sample some of the delicious local cuisine
  10. Visit the Casa da Música
  11. Extra tip: Try Explorial

1. Visit the Mercado do Bolhão

Mercado do Bolhão is a historic covered market located in the center of Porto, Portugal. It was built in the late 19th century and has been a central hub for the city’s food and agriculture industry for over a century. The market is known for its wide variety of stalls selling fresh produce, flowers, meats, and other goods. It’s a great place to get a sense of the local culture and try some of the delicious food that the region has to offer.

The market is housed in a beautiful Art Nouveau-style building with a glass-covered central hall and two wings extending out on either side. The central hall is lined with stalls selling fresh produce, flowers, and other goods, while the wings are home to stalls selling meats, cheeses, and other specialty items. The market is open every day except Sunday, and it’s a popular destination for both tourists and locals alike.

In addition to its food stalls, the market is also home to a number of other interesting shops and vendors. There are stalls selling handmade crafts, clothing, and other souvenirs, as well as a number of small restaurants and cafes where you can grab a bite to eat. The market is a great place to explore and discover some of the hidden gems of Porto. It’s also a great place to try some of the delicious local cuisine, including the famous francesinha sandwich and Port wine. Whether you’re a foodie, a history buff, or just looking for a unique shopping experience, Mercado do Bolhão is definitely worth a visit.

2. Explore the Jardim do Passeio Alegre

Jardim do Passeio Alegre is a beautiful park located in Porto, Portugal. It’s situated on the banks of the Douro River and offers stunning views of the city and the surrounding countryside. The park is a popular destination for both tourists and locals, and it’s a great place to relax and enjoy the fresh air.

The park was originally created in the 19th century as a private garden for the wealthy elite. Today, it’s open to the public and is a popular spot for picnics, leisurely strolls, and outdoor activities. The park is home to a number of interesting features, including a lake, a fountain, and a number of beautifully landscaped gardens. It’s also home to a number of statues, sculptures, and other works of art, making it a great place for art lovers to explore.

In addition to its natural beauty and cultural attractions, Jardim do Passeio Alegre is also home to a number of events and activities throughout the year. There are concerts, festivals, and other events that take place in the park, making it a vibrant and lively place to visit. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful place to relax, or a spot to enjoy some of the city’s cultural offerings, Jardim do Passeio Alegre is a great destination.

3. Visit the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves

The Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves, also known as the Serralves Contemporary Art Museum, is a contemporary art museum located in Porto, Portugal. It’s housed in a beautiful modernist building designed by architect Álvaro Siza and is surrounded by a stunning 18-hectare park. The museum is known for its diverse collection of works by international and Portuguese artists, and it’s a popular destination for art lovers and cultural enthusiasts.

The museum’s permanent collection includes works by artists such as Joseph Beuys, Dan Flavin, and Louise Bourgeois, as well as a number of contemporary Portuguese artists. In addition to its permanent collection, the museum also hosts a number of temporary exhibitions, events, and educational programs. It’s a great place to learn about contemporary art and explore some of the latest trends in the art world.

In addition to its art collection, the museum is also home to a number of other interesting features, including a bookshop, a café, and a restaurant. The park surrounding the museum is a beautiful place to relax and enjoy the outdoors, and it’s home to a number of sculptures and other works of art. Whether you’re an art lover or just looking for a unique cultural experience, the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves is definitely worth a visit.

4. Take a tour of the Port wine cellars

The Port wine cellars, also known as the lodges, are a group of historic buildings located in the heart of Porto, Portugal. They are where Port wine is aged, blended, and stored before it is shipped out around the world. The cellars are an integral part of the city’s history and culture, and they are a popular destination for tourists and wine enthusiasts.

There are several different Port wine cellars that you can visit in Porto, each with its own unique history and atmosphere. Some of the most well-known cellars include Taylor’s, Sandeman, and Croft. Many of these cellars offer guided tours that allow visitors to learn about the history of Port wine and the process of its production. The tours typically include a tasting of a variety of Port wines, and some cellars also offer food pairing options.

In addition to touring the cellars and learning about the production of Port wine, there are also a number of other activities that you can do in the Port wine region. You can take a boat ride on the Douro River and enjoy the stunning views of the city and the surrounding countryside. You can also visit the Quinta do Seixo, a vineyard where Port wine is produced, and learn about the process of growing and harvesting grapes. If you’re interested in history, you can visit the Douro Museum, which tells the story of the region’s wine-making traditions.

Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or just looking for a unique cultural experience, the Port wine cellars are a must-visit destination in Porto.

5. Stroll through the streets of the Ribeira neighborhood

The Ribeira neighborhood is a charming and historic district located in the heart of Porto, Portugal. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it’s known for its narrow streets, colorful houses, and charming squares. The neighborhood is located on the banks of the Douro River, and it offers stunning views of the city and the surrounding countryside.

This is a great place to explore on foot, and it’s filled with small shops, cafes, and restaurants. You’ll find a wide variety of local goods and products, including handmade crafts, clothing, and other souvenirs. The neighborhood is also home to a number of historic landmarks and cultural attractions, including the São Francisco Church, the Porto Cathedral, and the Clérigos Tower.

In addition to its charming streets and landmarks, the Ribeira neighborhood is also home to a number of events and festivals throughout the year. It’s a lively and vibrant place, and it’s a great destination for anyone looking to experience the local culture and traditions of Porto. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or just looking for a unique and charming place to explore, the Ribeira neighborhood is definitely worth a visit.

6. Visit the São Francisco Church

The São Francisco Church, also known as the Church of São Francisco, is a Gothic-style church located in Porto, Portugal. It is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks and a popular tourist attraction.

The church was built in the 13th century and has undergone several renovations and additions over the years. The interior of the church is adorned with ornate Baroque-style decorations, including gilded woodcarvings, elaborate frescoes, and intricate tile work. The church also houses a number of artworks, including several large paintings by Portuguese artists.

One of the most notable features of the São Francisco Church is its elaborate cloisters, which feature a series of arches and pillars adorned with intricate carvings and decorations. The cloisters are also home to a number of tombs and burial chapels.

In addition to its religious function, the São Francisco Church has also played a significant role in the cultural and social life of Porto. It has hosted concerts and other events, and has been used as a setting for films and other media.

Overall, the São Francisco Church is a stunning architectural and cultural landmark in Porto, and is well worth a visit for anyone interested in the city’s rich history and culture.

7. Take a boat ride on the Douro River

The Douro River is a major river in northern Portugal that flows through the city of Porto and is known for its scenic beauty. Taking a boat ride on the Douro River is a popular activity for visitors to Porto, offering a unique way to see the city and its surroundings.

There are several companies that offer boat tours of the Douro River, ranging from short cruises to longer excursions. Many of these tours offer guided commentary in multiple languages, providing information about the history and culture of the region.

One of the most popular boat tours is the Douro River Cruise, which takes passengers on a journey through the heart of Porto and along the beautiful Douro Valley. The tour includes stops at several points of interest, such as the São Francisco Church and the Port Wine Cellars.

In addition to sightseeing tours, the Douro River is also popular for leisurely boat rides, such as sunset cruises or romantic dinner cruises. These types of tours often feature live music, fine dining, and other amenities.

Overall, a boat ride on the Douro River is a must-do activity for anyone visiting Porto. It offers a unique and memorable way to experience the beauty and culture of the region.

8. Visit the Palácio da Bolsa

The Palácio da Bolsa, also known as the Stock Exchange Palace, is a historic building located in the heart of Porto, Portugal. It is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks and a popular tourist attraction.

The Palácio da Bolsa was built in the 19th century and was originally used as the headquarters of the Porto Commercial Association. It is an impressive example of Neoclassical architecture, with a grand façade and ornate interior decorations.

Inside the Palácio da Bolsa, visitors can explore a number of lavish rooms and halls, including the Arab Room, the Chapel, and the Stock Exchange Room. Each of these spaces is adorned with elaborate frescoes, gilded woodcarvings, and intricate tile work.

In addition to its historical and architectural significance, the Palácio da Bolsa is also home to a number of cultural events and exhibitions. It hosts concerts, conferences, and other events throughout the year, and is also used as a venue for weddings and other celebrations.

Overall, the Palácio da Bolsa is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting Porto. Its impressive architecture and rich history make it a unique and fascinating place to visit.

9. Go on a food tour and sample some of the delicious local cuisine

Porto is known for its delicious local cuisine, which combines the flavors of the sea and the land. Food tours are a popular way for visitors to experience the city’s culinary offerings and learn about its culinary traditions.

One of the most famous dishes in Porto is the francesinha (as shown in the picture above), a hearty sandwich filled with various meats, topped with a fried egg, and served with a spicy tomato and beer sauce. Another popular local specialty is tripas à moda do Porto, a stew made with tripe and white beans.

Seafood is also a major part of Porto’s cuisine, with dishes such as caldeirada de peixe (fish stew) and arroz de marisco (seafood rice) being popular options. Port wine, a sweet fortified wine that is produced in the region, is also an integral part of Porto’s culinary scene.

Food tours in Porto often include tastings of these and other local specialties, as well as visits to local markets, restaurants, and other food-related locations. Some tours may also include cooking demonstrations or other interactive experiences.

Overall, a food tour is a great way to immerse oneself in the culinary culture of Porto and try some of the delicious local dishes. It is a fun and tasty way to learn about the city and its traditions.

10. Visit the Casa da Música

Casa da Música is a modern concert hall located in Porto, Portugal. It is a major cultural venue in the city and is known for hosting a wide range of musical performances, from classical music to popular and contemporary genres.

Designed by the renowned architect Rem Koolhaas, Casa da Música has an unusual and distinctive shape, with a series of interconnected cubes and angles. The interior of the building is also modern and visually striking, with a large concert hall and several smaller performance spaces.

In addition to hosting concerts and other music events, Casa da Música also serves as a cultural center, with a library, a café, and an exhibition space. It is a popular destination for both locals and tourists, and is considered one of the city’s most important cultural landmarks.

Overall, Casa da Música is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in music and the arts. Its impressive architecture and diverse programming make it a unique and exciting place to experience the culture of Porto.

11. Extra tip: Try Explorial

A pretty smart and on a budget idea to help you explore the city. Explorial is an interactive and challenging game in which the objective is to collect as many points as possible as a group. You explore the city on foot and get points for solving different types of tasks. Whether you know your way around the city or are just visiting, with Explorial you are guaranteed to get to know the city in a new way. Find out more by clicking on the image!


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