8 Free Things to Do in Porto

By Briana Seftel

An impressive city from all angles, Porto delights visitors with its traditional blue and white tiles, imposing churches and riverside cafes. Explore Portugal's second largest city without breaking the bank with these free things to do.

1. Ribeira

Located along the Douro River, the Ribeira is Porto's most historic and atmospheric neighborhood. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, the neighborhood is characterized by colorful ramshackle homes, lively cafes and towering churches. For one of the best views of the Ribeira, consider taking a boat out on the Douro.

2. Museums

On the first Sunday of the month from 10 am to 1 pm, all the museums in Porto have free entrance. These include the Port Wine Museum, the Serralves Foundation, Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis and the Tram Museum.

Travel tip: The Porto Card includes free admission to 11 museums, as well as other discounts.

3. Crystal Palace Gardens

Situated on a bluff overlooking the Douro River and the city itself, the Crystal Palace Gardens are a breath of fresh air and Porto's green lung. Designed in the 19th-century, the gardens contain various themed areas like aromatic plant garden, the medicinal plant garden, the feelings garden, rose garden and the forest.

4. BolhĂŁo Market

Opened in 1914 and located near Avenida dos Aliados, Bolhao Market is a great place to discover the real Porto. Open everyday except for Sunday, the market is a lively hub of fresh produce, meat, fish and flowers. Even if you're not buying anything, this market is well worth a visit to experience Porto's local flavor.

5. Beaches

You may not think of beaches when you think of Porto, but in fact, the city has several beaches along the beautiful Costa Verde coastline that are just a short tram ride away from the city center. With its wide stretch of golden sand and good surf, Matosinhos is Porto's main beach. If you're seeking a more scenic beach, head over to Senhor da Pedra, known for the little chapel that sits on a rock jutting out into the ocean.

6. Fado

If Portugal had a soundtrack, it would be fado. This traditional music can be traced to the 1820s, but its origins are probably much earlier. Known for its melancholic melody and lyrics about the sea or the lower class, fado can be heard in cafes and on the streets all over Porto. For a truly authentic fado experience, head over to the Ribeira.

7. Dom LuĂ­s I Bridge

Completed in 1886, the Dom Luis I Bridge spans the Douro and connects Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia. Designed by a student of Gustave Eiffel, the metal bridge is popular among pedestrians looking for spectacular views of Porto.

8. Portuguese Center of Photography

Housed in a former 18th-century prison, the Portuguese Center of Photography is one of the most dynamic museums in Portugal. Peruse the fascinating temporary and permanent exhibitions and see the former cell of Camilo Castelo Branco, a prolific Portuguese writer of the Romantic movement.

A note about churches:

While most of Porto's churches are free to enter, some of them like the Church of SĂŁo Francisco and the Clerigos Tower require a small entrance fee. Even if you don't want to pay, you'll find plenty of pretty photo ops from the outside.

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