Introduction

Welcome to Porto, a vibrant city nestled on the banks of the Douro River in the northwest of Portugal. Known for its rich history, stunning architecture, and world-famous wine, Porto is a must-visit destination for backpackers looking to immerse themselves in a unique blend of tradition and modernity.

As you navigate the medieval streets and stumble upon hidden corners, you’ll be enchanted by the city’s charm, from the colorful houses adorned with decorative tiles to the lively squares where locals gather to socialize.

Whether you’re a history buff, a food lover, or simply in search of a great adventure, Porto has something for everyone. From exploring historical landmarks to indulging in delicious local cuisine, and from hopping on a boat tour along the Douro River to discovering the vibrant nightlife, there’s no shortage of experiences to make your backpacking trip unforgettable.

This guide will provide you with essential information and tips to ensure you get the most out of your backpacking experience in Porto. From transportation options to budget-friendly activities and everything in between, you’ll have all the tools you need to navigate and explore this captivating city.

So grab your backpack, put on your walking shoes, and get ready to embark on an incredible journey through the cobbled streets and picturesque landscapes of Porto. Let’s dive into the enchanting world of backpacking in Porto!

 

Getting There

Porto is easily accessible by both air and land, making it a convenient destination for backpackers from around the world. The city is served by Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport, which offers direct flights to major cities in Europe and beyond.

If you’re already in Portugal, you can also reach Porto by train or bus from other cities such as Lisbon or Braga. The railway station, São Bento, is a historic landmark itself, with its magnificent tile panels depicting scenes from Portuguese history.

Once you arrive in Porto, you’ll find that the city has an efficient public transportation system. The metro network covers most areas, and buses and trams are also available for getting around.

If you prefer a more active and adventurous approach, you can explore the city on foot or by renting a bicycle. Porto’s compact size makes it easy to navigate, and walking allows you to fully immerse yourself in the charm and beauty of the streets.

No matter how you choose to travel, be sure to plan your journey in advance and check for any COVID-19 travel restrictions or requirements that may be in place. It’s always a good idea to have travel insurance to ensure a smooth and worry-free trip.

Now that you know how to get to Porto, it’s time to find the perfect place to rest your weary backpacker’s head. Let’s explore the accommodation options available in this captivating city.

 

Accommodation Options

When it comes to accommodation in Porto, backpackers are spoiled for choice. The city offers a wide range of options to suit all budgets and preferences.

Hostels are a popular choice for budget-conscious travelers, and Porto has plenty to offer. These accommodations usually provide dormitory-style rooms where you can meet fellow backpackers from around the world. They also often have communal areas and organized activities, making it easy to socialize and make new friends.

If you’re craving a more private and comfortable experience, guesthouses and bed and breakfasts are a great alternative. These charming establishments offer cozy rooms with local character and a personal touch. You’ll have the opportunity to interact with friendly hosts who can provide insider tips on the best spots to visit in Porto.

For those looking for a touch of luxury without breaking the bank, Porto also has a variety of boutique hotels and stylish budget accommodations. These options offer comfortable amenities and unique designs, allowing you to relax in style after a day of exploring.

If you prefer a more independent and flexible experience, consider renting an apartment or a room through platforms like Airbnb. This option gives you the freedom to cook your meals and live like a local while enjoying the comfort and privacy of your own space.

No matter which accommodation option you choose, it’s advisable to book in advance, especially during the peak tourist season. This ensures you secure the best rates and availability for your preferred dates.

Now that you have a place to stay, it’s time to dive into the vibrant city of Porto and discover its must-visit attractions. Let’s explore the iconic landmarks and hidden gems that make this city truly special.

 

Must-Visit Attractions

Porto is a city brimming with architectural wonders, cultural gems, and breathtaking views. Here are some of the must-visit attractions that should be on every backpacker’s itinerary:

  1. Ribeira District: Start your exploration in Porto’s oldest neighborhood, Ribeira. Wander through narrow alleyways, admire the colorful houses, and soak up the lively atmosphere along the riverfront promenade. Don’t forget to snap a photo of the iconic Dom Luís I Bridge, which offers panoramic views of the city.
  2. Livraria Lello: Book lovers won’t want to miss Livraria Lello, one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. Its stunning Art Nouveau architecture, grand staircase, and ornate interior make it a true architectural gem.
  3. Clerigos Tower: Climb the 240 steps of the Clerigos Tower for a bird’s-eye view of Porto. The panoramic vistas of the city’s rooftops, riverside, and beyond are simply breathtaking.
  4. São Bento Station: Marvel at the exquisite tile panels that adorn the walls of São Bento Station. These intricate blue and white azulejos depict scenes from Portugal’s history and provide a glimpse into the country’s rich cultural heritage.
  5. Port Wine Cellars: No visit to Porto would be complete without experiencing a port wine tasting. Cross the river to Vila Nova de Gaia and explore the cellars, where you can learn about the history of port wine and sample different varieties.
  6. Palácio da Bolsa: Step into opulence at Palácio da Bolsa, Porto’s stock exchange palace. Admire its stunning Neoclassical façade and explore the grand halls, including the breathtaking Arab Room.
  7. Matosinhos Beach: Take a break from the city and head to Matosinhos Beach. Relax on the golden sands, indulge in fresh seafood at the beachside restaurants, or even try your hand at surfing.
  8. Casa da Música: Architecture enthusiasts will appreciate the unique design of Casa da Música, Porto’s modern concert hall. Take a guided tour or catch a performance to fully experience this architectural masterpiece.

These are just a few highlights of the many incredible attractions that await you in Porto. As you explore the city, be sure to wander through its neighborhoods, stumble upon hidden squares, and embrace the serendipity of discovering the lesser-known treasures that make Porto so special.

Now that you’ve experienced the sights, it’s time to indulge in Porto’s rich culinary scene. Let’s discover the flavors that make Porto a heaven for food lovers.

 

Exploring Porto’s Cuisine

Porto is not only known for its beautiful architecture and charming streets but also for its delectable cuisine. The city offers a gastronomic journey that showcases the flavors of Portugal. Here are some must-try dishes and experiences for food-loving backpackers:

  1. Francesinha: This iconic Porto sandwich is a hearty meal that combines layers of bread, ham, steak, and cured sausage, all topped with melted cheese and smothered in a rich tomato and beer sauce. It’s a true indulgence and a must-try for meat lovers.
  2. Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá: A traditional Portuguese dish, Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá is a delectable combination of salted codfish, potatoes, onions, and olives. This is a must-try for seafood enthusiasts.
  3. Caldo Verde: A comforting soup made with kale, potatoes, and chouriço sausage, Caldo Verde is a staple in Portuguese cuisine. It’s perfect for warming up on chilly evenings.
  4. Francesinha Prego: A twist on the classic Francesinha, this variation features a juicy steak sandwiched between layers of bread, topped with melted cheese and smothered in a flavorful sauce. It’s a mouthwatering delight.
  5. Pasteis de Nata: Indulge your sweet tooth with Portugal’s famous custard tarts. These crispy pastries filled with creamy egg custard are best enjoyed with a cup of coffee.
  6. Port Wine Tasting: Porto is renowned for its namesake port wine. Visit one of the many port wine cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia for a tasting experience, where you can sample different varieties and learn about the history and production process.
  7. Seafood Feast: Porto’s proximity to the ocean means you can enjoy an array of fresh seafood dishes. From grilled sardines and octopus salad to seafood rice and grilled fish, indulge in the flavors of the sea.

Aside from these specific dishes, make sure to explore Porto’s vibrant food markets, such as Mercado do Bolhão and Mercado Bom Sucesso, where you can find a wide range of fresh produce, local cheeses, cured meats, and more. You can also visit traditional bakeries and try regional specialties like the famous Queijo da Serra, a soft sheep’s milk cheese.

Food plays a significant role in Portuguese culture, so be sure to take your time to savor the flavors, engage in conversations with locals, and embrace the culinary traditions of Porto.

After indulging in Porto’s cuisine, it’s time to experience the city’s vibrant nightlife. Let’s delve into the after-dark scene that awaits backpackers in Porto.

 

Nightlife in Porto

Porto comes alive after dark with its vibrant and diverse nightlife scene. Whether you’re in the mood for a relaxed evening at a cozy bar or an energetic night of dancing, the city offers something for everyone. Here are a few highlights of the nightlife in Porto:

  1. Galerias de Paris: Located in the city center, Galerias de Paris is a street filled with bars and clubs where the party goes on until the early hours of the morning. This is the heart of Porto’s nightlife, offering a variety of venues catering to different tastes in music and ambiance.
  2. Rua de Cândido dos Reis: Known locally as “Galerias,” this street is lined with trendy bars and cafes. It’s a popular spot for locals and tourists alike, offering a lively atmosphere and a chance to enjoy a drink while people-watching.
  3. Foz do Douro: If you prefer a more relaxed nightlife scene, head to Foz do Douro, where you can enjoy beachfront bars and lounges. Sip cocktails while feeling the ocean breeze and taking in the stunning views.
  4. Ribiera: The Ribeira district, with its scenic setting along the riverfront, is a great place to enjoy a drink or two. You’ll find a range of bars and restaurants offering a mix of traditional and modern vibes.
  5. Livraria da Baixa: This unique bookstore also doubles as a bar, where you can sip on a cocktail or a glass of wine while browsing through the shelves. It’s the perfect place to relax and unwind with a book and a drink.

Aside from these specific areas, Porto has a lively pub and music scene. Keep an eye out for live music performances and local bands playing in venues throughout the city. From jazz clubs to rock bars, there’s always something happening to cater to different musical tastes.

It’s important to note that Porto has a relaxed and casual nightlife atmosphere. You can dress comfortably without feeling out of place. Also, keep in mind that the nightlife scene in Porto typically starts a bit later, with locals heading out around midnight or later.

No matter where you choose to spend your evenings, be sure to embrace the warm and welcoming spirit of Porto’s nightlife, raise a glass to new experiences, and create unforgettable memories.

While exploring Porto’s nightlife, it’s crucial to prioritize your safety as a backpacker. Let’s discuss some essential tips to keep in mind to ensure a secure trip.

 

Safety Tips for Backpackers

While Porto is generally a safe city for backpackers, it’s always important to prioritize your safety and well-being. Here are some essential tips to ensure a secure and worry-free trip:

  1. Stay aware of your surroundings: As with any destination, it’s important to stay alert and aware of your surroundings while exploring Porto. Be cautious in crowded areas and keep an eye on your belongings, especially in tourist hotspots.
  2. Use a money belt or hidden pouch: To protect your valuables, consider using a money belt or hidden pouch to keep your passport, money, and other important documents close to your body. Avoid carrying large sums of cash and keep copies of your important documents in a separate location.
  3. Avoid walking alone at night: While Porto is generally safe, it’s advisable to avoid walking alone in unfamiliar or poorly lit areas, especially at night. Stick to well-lit and populated streets, or consider sharing a taxi or using public transportation to get around after dark.
  4. Protect your personal information: Be cautious with your personal information, especially when using public Wi-Fi networks. Avoid accessing sensitive information or making online transactions on unsecured networks. Consider using a virtual private network (VPN) for added security.
  5. Stay in licensed accommodations: When choosing your accommodation, opt for licensed and reputable establishments. Read reviews and do your research to ensure a safe and comfortable stay. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the emergency exits and safety procedures of your accommodation.
  6. Travel insurance: It’s essential to have travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and lost or stolen belongings. Make sure to review the terms and conditions of your policy and keep a copy of your insurance details with you.
  7. Respect local customs and traditions: Porto is a culturally rich city, and it’s important to respect the local customs and traditions. Dress modestly when visiting religious sites, and be mindful of local etiquette and norms. This will help you blend in and show respect for the local culture.
  8. Emergency contact information: Save the contact information for local emergency services, including the police and medical services. It’s also a good idea to have the contact information for your country’s embassy or consulate in case of any emergencies or issues during your trip.

By following these safety tips and using common sense while exploring Porto, you can have a secure and enjoyable backpacking experience. Remember, it’s always better to be prepared and proactive when it comes to your safety.

Now that you know how to stay safe in Porto, let’s explore some budget-friendly activities that won’t break the bank.

 

Budget-Friendly Activities

Exploring Porto doesn’t have to strain your wallet. The city offers a plethora of budget-friendly activities that allow you to experience its charm and culture without breaking the bank. Here are some affordable options to consider:

  1. Free Walking Tours: Joining a free walking tour is a fantastic way to explore Porto’s highlights while learning about its history and culture. Knowledgeable and passionate local guides will take you through the city’s streets, sharing intriguing stories and insider tips.
  2. Visit Porto’s Parks and Gardens: Take a break from the bustling city and enjoy Porto’s beautiful parks and gardens. Jardins do Palácio de Cristal offers stunning panoramic views, while Parque da Cidade is perfect for a leisurely stroll along the coast.
  3. Explore Porto’s Architecture: Porto is renowned for its stunning architecture. Enjoy a self-guided walking tour to admire the iconic buildings, such as the Church of São Francisco and the Palácio da Bolsa. Don’t forget to marvel at the intricate azulejo tilework that adorns many facades.
  4. Visit Museums on Free Admission Days: Several museums in Porto offer free admission on specific days or times. Plan your visit accordingly to take advantage of these opportunities, such as the Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis and the Casa do Infante.
  5. Enjoy Porto’s Street Art Scene: Take a self-guided tour to discover Porto’s vibrant street art scene. From large-scale murals to smaller hidden gems, the city is a canvas for talented local and international artists.
  6. Sample Local Street Food: Taste the flavors of Porto by indulging in affordable street food options like bifanas (pork sandwiches), fresh grilled sardines, and traditional pastries. Walk around local markets like Mercado do Bolhão for a variety of affordable and delicious snacks.
  7. Beach Day in Matosinhos: Head to Matosinhos Beach, a short metro ride away from Porto, and enjoy a day of sun, sand, and sea. Pack a picnic, soak up the sun, and even try your hand at surfing.
  8. Attend Cultural Events: Keep an eye out for free or low-cost cultural events happening in Porto, such as open-air concerts, street festivals, and art exhibitions. Check local listings and event calendars to find out what’s happening during your visit.

Remember to plan ahead, as some attractions may have discounted rates during certain times or days of the week. Additionally, Porto offers a Porto Card, which provides discounts on public transportation, museums, and attractions, making it a great investment for budget-conscious travelers.

With these budget-friendly activities, you can fully immerse yourself in Porto’s vibrant atmosphere, cultural heritage, and unique experiences without straining your travel budget.

Now that you know how to explore Porto on a budget, let’s dive into the transportation options available within the city.

 

Transportation Options within Porto

Getting around Porto is easy and convenient, thanks to its well-connected transportation system. Here are the main transportation options to consider when exploring the city:

  1. Metro: Porto has an efficient metro system that connects various parts of the city and its suburbs. With six lines and a comprehensive network, the metro is a quick and reliable way to travel. You can purchase a rechargeable Andante card, which offers discounted fares for multiple journeys.
  2. Buses and Trams: Porto’s bus and tram network provides extensive coverage, reaching areas that may not be accessible by the metro. Buses and trams are a great option for traveling to specific neighborhoods or attractions. Be sure to have some loose change to purchase your ticket onboard.
  3. Taxis and Ride-Sharing Services: Taxis are widely available throughout Porto, and ride-sharing services like Uber are also operational. Taxis in Porto typically use meters, but it’s always a good idea to confirm the fare with the driver before starting the journey.
  4. Walking and Biking: Porto is a walkable city, and many of its attractions and landmarks are easily reachable on foot. You can also rent a bike and explore the city’s bike-friendly streets and parks. Keep in mind that some areas, especially in the hilly parts of Porto, may require extra effort when cycling.
  5. Boat Tours along the Douro River: For a unique perspective of Porto, consider taking a boat tour along the Douro River. These tours offer stunning views of the city’s skyline, historic bridges, and the picturesque waterfront.
  6. Train: If you want to explore beyond Porto, consider taking a train to nearby cities or towns. Portuguese railways offer comfortable and affordable connections, allowing you to easily venture out and discover more of the country.

When using public transportation, it’s important to note that you should validate your ticket upon boarding buses and trams, and when entering metro platforms. This ensures that your ticket is valid, and you won’t face any fines or penalties.

Before using any transportation mode, it’s helpful to plan your route in advance, either using navigation apps or by consulting maps and schedules available at metro and bus stations. This will help you navigate the city efficiently and make the most of your time in Porto.

With these transportation options at your disposal, you can easily explore the enchanting streets, beautiful landmarks, and vibrant neighborhoods of Porto.

As our journey through backpacking in Porto comes to a close, it’s time to recap the highlights and bid farewell.

 

Conclusion

Porto, with its rich history, stunning architecture, delicious cuisine, and vibrant culture, offers a captivating experience for backpackers. From exploring the narrow cobblestone streets of Ribeira to savoring the flavors of traditional Portuguese dishes, there’s something to delight every traveler’s senses in this enchanting city.

Getting to Porto is convenient, with an international airport and excellent rail and bus connections. Once you arrive, you’ll find a range of accommodation options to suit any budget, from cozy hostels to stylish boutique hotels.

As you venture out into the city, be sure to visit the must-see attractions, such as Livraria Lello and São Bento Station, and indulge in the local cuisine, from francesinha to pasteis de nata. Explore the vibrant nightlife in Galerias de Paris and enjoy cultural events and street art scattered throughout the city.

While immersing yourself in the charm of Porto, prioritize your safety by staying aware of your surroundings and protecting your belongings. Take advantage of budget-friendly activities, including free walking tours, visits to parks and gardens, and sampling street food.

Transportation within Porto is convenient and accessible through the metro, buses, trams, and taxis. Consider exploring the city on foot or by bike for a more immersive experience.

As your time in Porto comes to an end, take with you the memories of its picturesque views, warm hospitality, and vibrant atmosphere. Porto has a way of capturing the hearts of backpackers and leaving a lasting impression.

So, pack your backpack, embrace the spirit of adventure, and embark on an unforgettable journey through the enchanting streets of Porto. Discover the blend of history and modernity, indulge in the flavors of the city, and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Safe travels and enjoy your backpacking experience in Porto!