Porto is THE destination for a weekend with your significant other or for a fun trip with your family! The picturesque city is lively, relatively less busy than the capital but just as beautiful! It’s well known that between transportation, restaurants, housing and the different visits a trip can get quite expensive! Luckily, you can do many things in Porto without taking out your wallet, you just have to know when and where. So here’s a list of 10 free things to do in Porto…
Things to do in Porto without worrying about your bank account!
Porto’s photography center
You really don’t have to be into photography to love this place. This place itself has an interesting history, it was originally a prison but it was transformed into a museum in the 90s. The building is almost untouched, the cells and the heavy doors are still there and are now part of the several exhibits.
The tour is always free and lasts between 2 and 3 hours. The museum is closed on mondays, otherwise you can visit from 10 am to 5 pm on weekdays and between 3 and 7 pm during the weekend. It’s a 2 minutes walk from the nearest tram station and you can also get there by bus, as many bus lines cover this area. You should also take this tour as an opportunity to have a walk and maybe visit one of the many churches and chapels. Hence the following point:
In Porto, aka “The baroque city”, churches come in all shapes and sizes. You will love discovering the typical baroque style interior with their golden details and their many artworks. Visiting churches can get very interesting not only because they are amazingly beautiful but also because they embody a very specific side of the Portuguese culture. Even though you have to pay to get in the biggest and most popular ones, some others are free and just as gorgeous.
For example, the Porto cathedral is worth a visit: Its architecture might seem basic but it’s full of details and mosaics. Also, it’s located in a place with a stunning view of the rest of the city. After that, you should visit the Igreja dos Carmelitas, a little church in the Vitoria district. It’s famous for its baroque interior. Finally, right next to it, is the church of Carmo, with a spectacular facade and free entry. While touring these constructions you will be strolling through the historic center of Porto.
The Serralves Museum
The Museum of Contemporary Art of Porto offers many temporary and permanent expositions as well as a great collection of works by Portuguese and international artists. Usually, the museum costs about €10 (with discounts for students and kids) but every first sunday of the month the museum is free between 10am and 1pm. So if you are lucky enough to be in Porto during these days take the opportunity. Besides getting the chance to take a look at all these artworks you can also access the Serralves park (which usually costs €5); take a morning walk through the garden and admire the many statues in its 18 hectares.
The wineries of Porto
The city is known worldwide for its iconic alcohol… the port wine! It has become a key element in the tourist image of the city. Many tours and degustations are hosted for wine lovers and curious people. Unfortunately, these visits are expensive, especially if you buy some bottles before leaving ?. Our recommendation is the winery Porto Augusto’s south of the Duero. The tour and the degustation cost €5 but it will be paid back if you buy a bottle of wine at the end of the excursion. It’s one of the last family wineries that really shows the traditional Portuguese knowledge.
The gardens of the Crystal Palace
Talking about green spots in Porto the garden of the Crystal Palace has to be on the list. You will not necessarily like the park for its gardens, but for sure for its location that offers an impressive view of the banks of the Douro.
Moreover, the park is full of exotic plants and animals that make walking there a unique and enriching experience. And let’s not forget the many fountains and statues. The park is organized in themed gardens around its main path (Avenida das Tilias). There are, for example, the Garden of Feelings, the Garden of Aromatic Plants, the Rose Garden, and so on. You will love it!
You should also visit the Romantic Museum of Porto! This museum is actually the reconstruction of a typical Portuguese aristocratic house of the nineteenth century. The house is next to the park and consists of various rooms with furniture and artworks of the nineteenth century. The tour costs €2,50 but if you buy the Porto Card (a card that includes the public transportation and many discounts; more information here) beforehand, it’s free.
Free tour through Porto
The Porto Free Tour is a citizen initiative which means that locals organize free walking tours through the city. Since taking the bus can be expensive we really recommend booking a free tour. It is advisable to wear comfortable footwear and to not bring much stuff because it’s a fairly intense walk. You will take this tour with the company of a local, who will surely give you many tips and will tell you about less known places. The tours start at the city center twice a day and allow you to visit the entire historic center of Porto in approximately two hours. More information about the schedules and routes of the tours here.
The Quarter of Arts Galleries
What makes Porto so lovely is the perfect balance between the modern and the traditional. The best way to discover its young and innovative angle is in the street Miguel Bombarda in the Quarter of Arts. Bombarda is popular for its numerous galleries with contemporary and street art. The many expositions usually take place on saturdays during the day and the visit is free. The Quarter of Arts is full of young local artists and gives you a sneak peek into a totally different Portuguese culture. In the Miguel Bombarda street and the streets nearby you’ll find many galleries and the famous street music of Porto. An adventure for the whole family!
The market of Bolhão
If the Quarter of Arts shows the young and dynamic side, it’s the market of Bolhão where you will discover the traditional Portuguese culture. If there is anything you should not miss in Porto, it’s this market! The market is legendary: a two-story market in a picturesque neoclassical building. All kind of products are sold here; fresh products, fruits and vegetables, fish, flowers but also typical Portuguese dishes can be tasted. It’s cheaper than a restaurant and the best place to taste the traditional Portuguese pastels de nata. On sundays it’s closed but all other days it’s open from 8am until 8pm. We highly recommend going there for at least one dish, just to get an idea of the great Portuguese cuisine and culture.
São Bento Station
The São Bento Station is both a station in operation and a monument in itself. Besides its spectacular facade, the interior of the station is covered in mosaic tiles. There is a huge wall that shows scenes from the popular life or the great periods of Portuguese history from the 12th to the 15th century. São Bento is a must-see in Porto and since it’s a train station in the first place, the visit is for free. It’s open every day and can be reached easily by foot.
The Casa da Música
Besides hosting the main classical Portuguese orchestras, the Casa da Música in Porto is an architectural marvel. Visiting the Palace costs a little less than €10 in general, but if you plan to visit Porto in summer, you can save money! In fact, during the summer months you can attend the free rehearsals of the orchestra. And sometimes the foundation also offers a series of free shows. The rehearsals are mainly on weekends, but since there are no fixed dates or schedules, you must request more information on-site.
Simply a classic. Ribeira is the emblematic district of the city. It’s a neighborhood full of colorful bars, restaurants and buildings by the river. It is a place to go for a walk at any time of the day! You can walk in the morning and have breakfast on a romantic terrace, but we also recommend you to go there at night. It’s the ideal place to dine or simply to have a drink. Try to escape the main streets to find better prices and secret spots.
Are you ready to explore the city? Hold on! Before you rush to get your luggage ready we recommend reading this guide about public transportation in Porto. It’s super helpful to live the Portuguese experience to the fullest.