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 of 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!
Table of Contents
I. Why Solo Travel to Porto?
Porto, with its serene ambiance and welcoming spirit, serves as an exquisite backdrop for a solo pilgrimage of the soul. As you chart your own course through this vibrant city, the trip becomes an intimate narrative that you author, personalized and paced uniquely to your rhythm. The act of moving independently through Porto’s historical streets allows you to engage more mindfully with the ebbs and flows of the surroundings, opening up a dialogue not just with the city’s soul, but also with your own.
This city, draped in cultural riches, offers a tableau upon which solo travelers can paint their experiences. Here, the journey becomes as introspective as it is physical. Embracing the solo voyage in Porto is to realize your tastes, to clear your mind amid the terraced vineyards, and to truly relax within the embrace of the Douro Valley’s serene vistas. It’s a chance to relish a vacation from the inside out, where every choice, from sipping coffee at a riverside café to tracing the contours of azulejo tiles, is a thread in the fabric of your personal narrative.
The transformative nature of solo travel in Porto is heightened by the openness of its residents. Locals often extend a hand of friendship to the solitary wanderer, perhaps sharing a story over a glass of fine port wine or guiding you to a tucked-away eatery. Such interactions not only enrich your travel tapestry but also foster a sense of belonging far from home. Solo explorers in Porto find themselves embraced by a culture that honors the individual’s quest for discovery, making it an authentic, immersive journey into both Porto and oneself.
II. Is Porto Safe for Solo Female Travellers?
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.
III. Porto Solo Travel: 9 Unique Things to Do & See on Your Own!
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.
1. 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 adored this azulejo workshop so much and really support their preservation mission. 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! If they’re sold out, you could check out this other workshop, too!
2. 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.
3. The Douro Valley: Wine, Boats & History
Calling lovers of history, wine, and nature: a Douro Valley tour is a must-do highlight experience in Portugal– located just one hour north of Porto. Bask in the two-thousand-year-old vineyards which are still maintained by hand by the 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 of 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.
From Porto, you can also join this Douro Valley tour, which includes lunch, wine tastings, and river cruise experience.
4. Peneda-Gerês National Park Tour
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.
You can join this local tour leaving from Porto or check out this other tour which includes kayaking!
5. 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).
6. Make Your Own Pasteis de Nata (Workshop)
Whether you’re a foodie or not, you absolutely must try pasteis de nata in Portugal! Often called Portuguese custard tarts, these feature a crispy, flaky crust with a rich and sweet creamy custard filling, and a sprinkle of cinnamon or powdered sugar. The unique combination of textures creates a heavenly sensation that’s both comforting and indulgent. If you love baking, you can learn how to make pasteies de nata yourself!
7. Porto Sightseeing Highlights
- Livraria Lello: For bibliophiles, this world renown bookstore is a paradise. Renowned for its stunning architecture and historical significance, it boasts beautiful Art Nouveau design with intricate wooden carvings, a magnificent stained glass ceiling, and a remarkable red staircase. The collection of books ranges from classics to contemporary literature, inviting visitors into a world of literary wonder and cultural immersion. Please note it can get super crowded in here with lines wrapping around the block. You could also stop by to see this place on this walking tour.
- Torre dos Clerigos: This is an iconic baroque architectural gem created by Nicolau Nasoni. Climbing the tower’s narrow spiral staircase of 240 steps is an experience that will reward you with a spectacular panoramic and 360-degree view of the city! Don’t miss appreciating Porto’s beauty from that point!
- Dom Luis I Bridge + Lookout Point: On the right side of the bridge, is a hidden gem lookout. I went here during golden hour and got some of the most gorgeous views and photography during sunset!
8. Walking Food & Wine Tasting Tour
Another way to indulge in Porto’s rich culture is through a walking food and wine tasting tour. Such an experience offers an exploration of the city’s history and culinary delights. Not only do you get to savor authentic Portuguese food and world-renowned wines, but you also get to see impressive surroundings in the process!
9. E-Bike Tour of Porto
Don’t miss out on exploring the enchanting city of Porto through an e-bike tour. Navigate through Porto’s historic neighborhoods, witness its scenic views, and dive into its rich heritage with the ease an electric bike provides. This is such an eco-friendly way to immerse yourself in the city’s culture and landscapes!
IV. Where to Stay in Porto: Solo Travelers
There are hostels, hotels, and apartment rentals you can stay at in Porto. Hostels are one of the most popular ways to solo travel. In a hostel, you can book a dorm bed or your own private room. And they offer organized local tours for solo travelers, provide local insights, and a centrally located place to stay! Best of all? They’re such an easy way to meet other travelers. But if you want a nicer stay, consider boutique hotels or apartment rentals (with kitchen and laundry) and then you can meet others on tours, instead.
- Hostels: Here are my two favorite hostels to stay in Porto: Urban Garden Porto Central Hostel ($20/night) & Selina Porto ($22/night).
- Boutique Hotels: Torel Palace Porto is absolutely stunning, with a perfect location.
- Apartment Rentals: For apartment rentals, check out Armazém Luxury Housing.
My Other Portugal Blog Posts
- An Enjoyable 3 Days in Lisbon Itinerary
- 24 Amazing Places & Things to Do in Madeira, Portugal
- 23 Things to Know Before You Travel to Madeira, Portugal
- Madeira, Portugal Itinerary