Porto, Portugal’s second-largest city, attracts travelers indulging their passions for culture, history, art, great food and more. Fortunately, after all that indulging there are plenty of free things to do in Porto.
By doing a little research before they set off on their Portugal holidays, visitors can make sure they don’t bust their budgets while staying in Porto. Simply wandering around the streets with a guide-book and map in hand can make a great pastime. With its medieval relics, impressive bell towers, baroque churches and beaux-arts buildings, there is plenty to explore. With its old architecture and plazas, Porto’s historic center of Ribeira is part of a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Since the city is the birthplace of Port wine, it has long been a favorite destination for wine lovers who visit the cellars that are open for tastings. Most of these cellars require visitors to pay a fee. However, savvy travelers head to Taylor’s, where free tours are available showing how this beverage is made. Visitors get a glass of white and red port for free and can taste these samples on a terrace with wonderful views overlooking Ribeira. The Port producer Croft also offers free tours and samples.
To get your bearings in this meandering city, try a free tour when you arrive. Porto Free Tour guides aren’t professional, but they are enthusiastic, friendly and knowledgeable. They accompany tourists on trips through the city, sharing interesting facts and helping people experience places off the usual tourist trail.
Tours are limited to six people and they usually begin at 11am, although afternoon excursions can also be arranged. Typically, they last for two to three hours, with a break in the middle. To book a place on these tours, contact the organisation by 10pm the previous evening. This can be done by phone or text.
Photo by Michal Huniewicz
Porto boasts many beautiful buildings, one of the more unusual is the Livraria Lello. This dramatic neo-gothic bookstore first opened in 1906 and the Lonely Planet has classified it as the third best bookshop in the world. It sells new, second-hand and antique books, as well as foreign-language guidebooks. This is a must-see for book lovers and building enthusiasts alike.
NOTE: Due to overwhelming crowds the Livraria Lello bookstore now charges 3 euros to enter which will be refunded off a book purchase.
Then there are the gigantic tile murals for visitors to admire. The tile panels inside the São Bento Station are a marvel to behold. In total, there are around 20,000 of these tiles featuring images alluding to the history of Portugal and its transport. They are mostly the work of artist Jorge Colaço.
Photo by Alex Ristea
Similarly impressive is the façade of the Carmo Church, what some say is Porto’s prettiest church was built in the 18th century. Visitors are drawn to the building because of its magnificent baroque architecture and one of its walls, which is completely covered in blue and white tile panels.
To get the full Porto experience, allow yourself at least two full days in the city. There is plenty to see and do within its streets and these free activities are just a taste of what’s available.