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Porto, Portugal’s second-largest city, rivals Lisbon in its more quaint atmosphere, historic charm, beautiful nature, and artistic cityscapes. Porto is also famous for its easy access to beautiful national parks, thousand-year-old vineyards, friendly laid back locals, azulejo (tiled) facades, and a gorgeous river at the foot of the hilly city. However, despite these attractive qualities, most tourists instead head for Lisbon or the Algarve (the Portuguese Riviera) forgoing northern Portugal and all it has to offer. For my most recent solo trip, I decided to venture over to Porto — one of my favorite cities in Europe for a relaxing solo vacation. After a wonderful 2 weeks exploring and re-connecting, here is my travel guide to Porto solo travel— including unique and culturally immersive things to do and see on your own!
Why Solo Travel to Porto?
Solo travel can be like a mini-pilgrimage for the soul. You embark on a trip (100% personalized by you) to a totally new place and as you move around (on your own) you connect more mindfully with your changing surroundings and the people around you. Solo travel can be a wonderful way to connect with yourself, realize your tastes, clear your mind, truly relax, and enjoy a vacation inside out. A solo trip abroad can also provide a more culturally immersive experience, as locals tend to be more open to helping and talking to a solo traveler than to a group of tourists. So why not solo travel?!
Moreover, did you know that traveling alone is on the rise? According to Expedia’s Solo Travel Report, more than 60% of travelers will embark on a solo trip in the next year! People are no longer waiting on their friends to book a vacation, women are becoming more empowered, and travel is becoming more accessible through an increase of travel resources (such as travel blogs) and online platforms that make it easy to book your trip and find great deals (like Expedia).
Is it Safe to Travel to Porto Alone?
I’ve been traveling around Europe on and off for about 12 years now, and it’s one of the easiest travel destinations in the world. However, it seems that petty has just always been an issue around much of Europe. So it’s important to mind your belongings, especially purses that are open (such as canvas totes) and to avoid putting valuables in your pockets around crowded areas (such as trains). Beyond this, Portugal is a safe and easy destination to travel to and around. And as a solo female traveler, I’ve never felt any harassment or danger walking around Porto on my own.
Fun fact: According to Safe Around, Portugal is the 13th safest travel destination in the world.
Porto Solo Travel: 5 Unique Things to Do & See
Although hilly, Porto is a very walkable city due to its size and interconnectedness. Consider spending an entire day simply walking around Porto from Gaia neighborhood, crossing over the bridge and up and around the cities various nooks and crannies. In between sighting seeing, take breaks at coffee shops or to try the local delicacies. Friendly locals also make solo travel to Porto easy, so don’t miss out in connecting with them! Beyond eating, walking, and museums… Here are some culturally immersive experiences and unique things to do on your next Porto solo travel trip.
Azulejos – Tiles Painting Class
Azulejo comes from the Arabic word meaning “small glazed stone.” These hand-painted tiles have been a classic part of the Portuguese art and style for hundreds of years; originating in Iran and having been brought over by the Moors in the 15th century. Today, you can spot these beautifully designed tiles covering the facade of buildings, tables, and even as household ornaments.
Unlike Lisbon, there is no tile museum in Porto and the city is losing much of its tiles in development or petty theft. So to help with the preservation, the folks over at Gazete Azulejos have put together a catalog of the 1,000+ different tile designs in Porto. They also offer a tile painting class which helps support their project while offering an amazing art + history + cultural workshop.
As an artist and lover of creativity, this was one of my FAVORITE things to do in Porto. I loved the workshop so much I went back a second time to paint more tiles. This is also a perfect Porto solo travel activity, as I also got to connect with other travelers and the members of this project!
Feminist Walking Tour
Consider an alternative tour of Porto by taking a feminist walking tour of the city with Coletivo MAAD. Much of history (in general) ignores the contributions of women and people of color, so go on a tour that supports the intersectional efforts of uncovering these pockets of history. For four hours including a coffee break, we walked all around Porto hearing different parts of history that textbooks tend to omit or glaze over. Some of it was heartbreaking, while other parts were inspiring and uplifting. But all of it were things I would have never found out about on my own. We even engaged in some healthy conversations about the complexities of current-day topics as we toured through different parts. In the end, we engaged in some art therapy by contributing to an art mural in memory of Gisberta.
The Douro Valley: Wine, Boats & History
Calling lovers of history, wine, and nature: the Douro Valley is a must-visit experience in Portugal– located just one hour north of Porto. Bask in the two-thousand-year-old vineyards, which are still maintained manually by hand from local farmers. This region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where the rolling hills look as if they’ve been sculpted with geometric designs from afar but are lined with rows and rows of grapevines. The Douro Valley is home to the world-famous Portuguese port wine as well as the Douro River. Many visitors to the region will combine a vineyard + wine tasting + riverboat cruise day trip here. As a solo traveler, I joined one the BL Heritage Tours. It is one of the pricier tours but the quality was well worth it! It was a great way to meet other travelers over breathtaking views, incredible food, and delicious wine.
Hiking Peneda-Gerês National Park
While in Porto, consider visiting Portugal’s northernmost national park sharing a border with northern Spain. Here you can hike along dramatic peaks, stacked stone formations, and flower-dotted hills. You can also spot several historic sites such as ancient ruins of castles along hiking trails that were once part of the Roman Empire’s famed road (as in “all roads lead to Rome”). My favorite was the trail that lead to several emerald green translucent pools that you can swim in.
Solo Travel Tip: As a solo traveler, I don’t recommend going on this hike alone since the trails can be confusing if you’re not familiar with the area. Instead, I joined a local tour leaving from Porto. Together with a group of 7 others, we hiked for about 2 hours each way and had a picnic by the natural pools.
Photography + Walking Tour
Halfway through your Portugal solo trip, you’re probably thinking solo travel is great and all but how can I get a good picture of myself to remember this special trip? Passerby tourists are a great option as they themselves may even want you to help them with their picture! But if you’re like me, a lover of recording special moments and good photography, consider hiring a local photographer! You can combine a photoshoot + walking tour + connecting with locals. In Porto, I hired the talented Afonso Godinho. He and his girlfriend took me to epic parts of Porto and helped me take some epic shots of me (see the picture above).
Planning Your Solo Trip to Porto
For this trip, I used the Expedia Mobile App to plan my trip from start to end. You can book your car rentals, flights, and accommodation at competitive prices that are often the cheapest on the market. The app kept track of my entire trip itinerary in one place with reminders and easy access to booking references. The app also has a nifty feature called “hotel taxi card” which let me show my cab driver the hotel directions in his local language.
Exclusive coupon code: Book your very own trip via the Expedia Mobile App using the following code: SOLOTRAVEL. Applies to hotel bookings only.
Where to Stay in Porto: Solo Travelers
HOSTELS! They are one of my favorite ways to solo travel. Here, you can book a dorm bed or your own private room but still get all the amenities of a hostel. Hostels offer organized local tours, local insights, and a centrally located place to stay! Best of all? They’re a great way to meet other travelers. The prices usually start around $20/night and go up from there depending on what kind of accommodation you prefer. Otherwise, you can find a zillion hotels on Expedia to choose from. But the most important thing to look at is the reviews and the location. As a solo traveler, you want to be in a safe and well-connected area. Here are my two favorite places to stay in Porto: