I was really looking forward to my return to Porto! From my previous visits there I remembered the city as an incredibly beautiful one but also kind of edgy and with an unique soul. This time I was hoping to discover more than just amazing architecture and picturesque streets – I was excited to see alternative Porto and enjoy it to the fullest. And even if I didn’t have as much time as I’d have loved to I still did pretty well and the second biggest Portuguese city made it even higher to my list of favorite destinations. If you’re planning a trip there (highly recommended!) here is my alternative Porto guide!
Table of contents
Gallery Hostel Porto
From outside it looks like a random building but inside it’s a true gem! Located in the old, typical Porto house, Gallery Hostel was one of the prettiest accommodation I’ve ever stayed in! From the moment I came in I could see every single detail was well thought and altogether they made a perfect place with a charming vibe. It didn’t feel and look like a typical hostel but something more luxurious yet in still with an affordable price. The place is spacious, bright, with lots of flowers and art hanging on the wall. There’s even a small cinema!
Rua Miguel Bombarda
The street where Gallery Hostel is located – Rua Miguel Bombarda – is a pretty special one. That’s where most of the newest contemporary art galleries and hip hangout spots in Porto can be found. Couple of times each year there’s an event called Simultaneous Openings – one Saturday all the galleries premiere new work, making the street bustling with life. I was lucky to be in Porto on one of these days and it was pretty amazing! Even at late hours the galleries, vintage shops and fancy bars were full of people seeking art and fun. Gallery Hostel hosted one exhibition as well! This event was probably the best surprise of my time in Porto and I really wish I had more time to visit all of the galleries!
Portuguese Center of Photography
For years, until 1974, this 18th century building served as the prison. Now it is a pretty exceptional Photography Museum. There’re few temporary exhibitions (during my visit some were better than others) as well as a permanent one, showing history of cameras. But the best thing about the place is definitely the location – when you keep in mind the history of the building the whole experience of visiting the Museum goes to a different level. The thick, cold walls and high ceilings give a perfect scenery to some black and white pictures. No matter if you’re into photography or not this is a place not to miss in Porto! A bonus: the entrance is free!
Did you know that a lot of places and details of Harry Potter were inspired by Porto? I didn’t and finding out about that was the biggest surprise of my stay there! Students of the local university wear capes very similar to those described in the books, the Lion’s Fountain looks just like the one in Hogwarts and the overall feeling of the city – dark and gloomy – feels just like the books. But the most known HP related attraction is the little bookstore – Lello and Irmao. It is often called the most beautiful bookstore in the world and that isn’t far from the truth as the place is just stunning! Wooden finishes, twisting stairs and arches and high bookshelves make it look so incredible it’s hard to believe this place actually exists! Just one tip: try to avoid the bookstore on the weekends, it’s way too overcrowded!
This was the best sandwich of my life, so good I was close to missing my flight! A Sandeira is a tiny place, hidden in one of the Porto’s backstreets and so easy to miss but it hides a true treat for the taste buds. For only 5€ you can get a daily menu which is a soup, a sandwich and a drink of the day. I choose the one with feta cheese, basil and olives and oh my, it was a pure heaven! Clearly everything else they serve at A Sandeira is really yummy too as the place was bustling with people (I was lucky to get the last free seat there, joining others at their table). Even now, two months after my trip to Portugal, I still remember this incredible taste!
A short bus ride away can take you to a completely different world – the the Ocean beach. The scenery around is totally different than in Porto’s downtown, it’s much calmer and suburban alike – perfect for relax. The beach itself isn’t maybe very wide but it surely is beautiful, with waves crashing into the rocks. It’s best to visit the place in the evening to witness a sunset – if you’re lucky it can be as pretty as what I’ve seen!
Porto location is the best possible – the city is spread on the hills sharply getting down into Duoro river. Therefore the city has so many amazing viewpoints, each of them offering a breathtaking panorama. I can’t decide which one was my favourite: the one from Torre dos Clerigos, from the end of Rua de Sao Bento da Vitoria, from in front of the Cathedral or maybe from Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar in Vila Nova de Gaia. One thing is certain – no matter from where Porto looks phenomenal from above!
Before going to Portugal I knew Lisbon has an exceptional street art scene but I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Porto. And to my big relief it turned out also this city has a lot of great works spread on the walls all over the city. I didn’t see any big murals but these small pieces were pretty cool as well and gave a certain edge to the overall look and feel of Porto, fitting with the rusty houses just perfectly. It really wasn’t hard to spot a street art in the city, it was just about everywhere!
I’ve used Spotted by Locals Porto to find most of these places recommended by locals in Porto. They publish (100% offline) apps & blogs with up-to-date tips by city loving locals in 57 cities. Here’s a map with all the places I wrote about:
If you think of visiting Portugal or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it!
Note: I was a guest of Gallery Hostel but all of opinions are my own, like always, and I totally recommend you the place, it’s pretty awesome!
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