Porto’s winding streets are lined with the most picturesque houses and seem to endlessly go up and down. The food is marvelous and the port doesn’t need any explanation. There are endless secluded corners around the city to enjoy the warm summer nights, curl up on a winter day, or enjoy any weather in between. Our Spotters live in and love this city all year round, and are always on the lookout for the best hidden spots in the city.
We have compiled some of our Spotters’ favorite places in Porto, that will hopefully bring you some sunshine and ease (or maybe evoke) your wanderlust. For tourists and fellow locals alike, we hope you will discover new favorite places and grow to love the city even more. Enjoy this selection of 12 unique local Porto gems.
Start off with soccer, beer, and spectacular views
Sitting next to the “Fernandina Wall” (which established a limit of the town in the 14th century), the Guindalense Futebol Clube is a quintessential Porto spot, and still not known even to many locals. The club is a snack bar as well as the head office of a sports and recreation association, and offers a great view of the D. Luis I bridge. It is a wonderful place to catch some late sun while enjoying a coffee or a quick meal.
This place breathes Porto, especially on summer days when locals come to sunbathe and drink some fresh “finos” (beer). If you are around town during “São João”, the popular party of Porto on the night of June 23rd, you will see this place full of life and party like almost nowhere else.
What social residencies should look like
Every day hundreds of people take the metro and pass by Lapa metro station. There, all you can see is a big gray wall, hiding one of Porto’s best modern secrets: Bairro da Bouça, a social residence complex in Cedofeita, crafted by the genius mind of Siza Vieira.
In grey and white, with strokes of burgundy, this social structure dates from the ’70s, when young architects were challenged to embellish a handful of buildings destined to house the poor (called the SAAL project). This residential block is one of the finest works of that project, and it receives some daily attention due to its author, Siza Vieira, one of the great Portuguese culture ambassadors.
Where day turns into night
The thing about Maus Hábitos is that you could pretty much spend an entire day here. It’s hard to define but easy to love. It’s a place that encourages and promotes all forms of cultural expression. It’s urban. Contemporary. Hip and happening. Its whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a bar, a restaurant, a concert venue, a club, a gallery…
To be less poetic and more specific: the restaurant goes by the name of Vícios de Mesa. With an Italian-based menu, it’s a great choice for a cool, casual dinner. The food is homemade and the ingredients are top-notch. The brunch is to die for. But Maus Hábitos is also a place to enjoy great music and party all night. It features a carefully curated program, highlighting both Portuguese talents and international artists.
Sea you at the lighthouse
The lighthouses at Foz are located at a place of natural beauty, at the meeting point of the Douro river with the Atlantic sea, making this site very special and worth visiting. You can walk along the water toward toward the three lighthouses at this spot in the mornings or evenings for an energizing walk. Then take a seat in one and listen to the sea and the fishermen while feeling the wind and the sea breeze – absolutely peaceful.
If you look straight towards the sea, you could almost feel as if you’re at high sea since your view won’t cover the city at all. No need to say that the sunset from here is also a must! The waves breaking on one of the lighthouses from far away might be one of the most beautiful and mesmerizing moments you take away from Porto.
Your daily dose of caffeine
Mário and Leonor, the owners of Mesa 325, had the clever idea of opening a cafe under their own house so they could spend time with family (with their baby and friendly doggy), friends and of course, customers. It is one of the classiest and most relaxed stop-by places that you’ll find in the neighborhood. And the kind and amicable demeanor of the owners is the cherry on the top of the cake.
Their selection of healthy and unique products is very tasteful. The options range from lunch classics like soups and sandwiches to cakes and pastries, accompanied with freshly-made lemonades, craft beers or quality coffee. While the selection is relatively simple, the quality and taste are always excellent. Mesa 325 doesn’t need any extras: they have what they have, and it’s just perfect.
Cross the river like a local
Weekend mornings are some the best times to get lost in the picturesque old streets of Foz Velha. During a wander through this area, take the chance to try out Flor do Gás, a small boat taxi that exists purely for the purpose of transporting people (and bikes) across the Douro river. It has been fulfilling this task since 1961, and crosses the river every 15 minutes.
The ride is a good way to enjoy the Arrábida bridge and spot where the river flows into the Atlantic sea from a different perspective. On both banks of the river, there are several simple restaurants, with good options for local dishes, mainly fish-related.
Portuguese sandwich delight
The snack bar “Casa Guedes” is famous among Portuenses for serving some of the best pork sandwiches imaginable. Don’t expect a fancy place at all: this is a small, genuine and totally informal spot.
It’s run by a family who found an amazing (and secret) recipe for pork roasted leg (“pernil de porco”). They also have great Portuguese cooking skills which show in their soups, “papas de sarrabulho”, “alheira”, and cheese/ham plate with a selection of national cheeses and hams. All are delicious together with house wine. As the place is small, there are always queues, but don’t let them discourage you! This spot is worth the wait for any foodie.
Photographs straight from jail
If you love photography, in Porto you should go to jail… wait, what? Well, the Portuguese Centre of Photography is located in an old prison in the city center! It’s a huge dark stone building, which makes a magnificent location for this museum.
The 18th-century building was active as a prison until the 1974 revolution in Portugal. After extensive restoration, it’s one of the most dynamic museums in Portugal, and one of the ones most worth visiting. Porto actually has a pioneering tradition in Portuguese photography: it was the home of two important early photographers in Portugal, Emilio Biel and Domingos Alvão.
Not your typical student’s architecture
The building and surroundings in which the architecture students from the University of Porto have the pleasure of studying, FAUP (Faculdade de Arquitectura da Universidade do Porto), is not just for students. Though it may be overlooked by your average tourist guide, it is one of the landmarks that you might want to include in your visit.
The location provides a breathtaking (and often ignored) panoramic view over the city, with a stunning outlook over the river Douro and Arrábida bridge – a real hidden treat. The building was designed by the award-winning architect Álvaro Siza Viera. Even non-architecture-experts will definitely appreciate the beauty of this place, especially the way it incorporates the surroundings.
Watch the sun go down
If you are enjoying the city center but need a break to relax, here’s a great option. Downtown you’ll find the Jardim das Virtudes, a beautiful historical garden facing the Douro river. In front of this lies the Passeio das Virtudes, from which you can enjoy one of the best sunsets in the city.
Passeio das Virtudes is a local favorite spot to hang out with a group of friends, read a book quietly or simply cuddle with your better half, basking in the dying sunlight. And while the sunset is a must, this spot features a beautiful view during the day or at night as well, making it a must-visit at any hour.
The Casa da Música, or “House of Music”, is a non-discriminating music venue, dedicated to music of all genres, from up-and-coming artists to world-renowned ones. It provides music for all tastes, ages and styles. While the music performances have become quite popular, a facet of its identity that is less widely known is the fact that it occasionally turns into a club.
The building’s interior features clashing details – traditional Portuguese tiles coexist with edgy, minimalist decorations – and that contrast is the perfect analogy for the NOS Club experience: eclectic and memorable. The itinerary takes you from indie to electronic in no time. This experience is really cool and will feel like a new discovery every time.
Peaceful Porto park
There are innumerable green parks on offer in Porto. The Parque da Cidade (City Park) is one of the largest and most popular, but also very crowded. If you are looking for a smaller, quieter, and locally-recommended one, check out Parque da Pasteleira.
This park is very charming and fairly quiet, with a beautiful lake spanned by three lovely wooden bridges. From the highest point of the cycle lane that goes by this park, you’ll also have nice views over the Árrabida bridge, a bit of the river, and Gaia (city across the river). This park is a call for peace, where you can enjoy nature and feel the fresh air among the trees.