While the bell towers, impressive monuments, and ornate facades of Porto attract millions of visitors a year, the steep hills and narrow streets of the city also conceal some more difficult-to-find sights that are well worth a visit. These hidden gems will show you a different side of the city and give you a richer experience of Porto and of local culture.
Jardim Municipal do Horto das Virtudes
These beautiful public gardens are definitely one of Porto’s hidden gems. A little bit difficult to find, the shady, rambling terraces of this garden offer gorgeous landscapes and views down over the city and the river, with different views at every level, and it’s a popular spot for young people to spend an evening quietly enjoying a beer and watching the sun set. It’s a perfect place to have a cool, relaxing walk above the city of Porto.
Parque da Cidade do Porto
Porto’s City Park is a natural, scenic 80 hectares of park, overlooking the ocean, and with direct access to the beaches at Praia Internacional. Inspired in part by New York’s Central Park, Parque da Cidade combines relaxing, shady spots, with spectacular, open views. It’s a fantastic spot for picnicking or birdwatching, and the park offers a range of different activites for the whole family. It contains a world-famous outdoor sculpture by Janet Echelman, a surfing school, an organic market on Saturday mornings, and is host to outdoor concerts, festivals, and educational experiences. It’s a beautiful park, well-loved by residents of Porto, and a great way to get off the tourist track when visiting the city.
Miradouro da Vitoria
This amazing spot offers the most spectacular views of Porto, and is another incredible place to watch the sun set. From this overlook atop the city, you can see Vila Nova de Gaia, the Douro, the Dom Luis bridge, the glass dome of the Palacio da Bolsa, Se Cathedral, wine lodges, the convent, and the charming homes and staircases of Porto. In the evenings, locals bring light snacks and a bottle of wine to watch the sun set and the lights of the city turn on. Often buskers and street musicians also attend sunset at Miradouro da Vitoria to provide music for the scenery. It’s an offbeat but incredible Porto experience.
Capela do Senhor da Pedra
The beautiful and picturesque Capela do Senhor da Pedra at Miramar has something of a colorful history. The site was once popular among pagans who visited this boulder to perform rituals and worship the sea. In the 17th century, this charming little hexagonal chapel was erected to reclaim the site for Christianity. Today, it’s a destination for pilgirimages of a different sort, as the combination of the small chapel, the rugged boulders, and the golden beach combine to make for beautiful scenery and an out-of-the-way detour in Porto.
São Bento Train Station
Porto is compact enough that it’s easy to explore on foot. In fact, if your time in Portugal doesn’t include train travel, you may not have a reason to visit São Bento Train Station. But, even if you don’t intend to take a train, you should still go out of your way to see this extraordinary building for its beauty and cultural significance, if not for any practical purpose. São Bento is a landmark to the blue and white characteristic Portuguese tile work, richly decorated and with ornate architecture and was a national showpiece when it opened in 1896. The tile work tells the story of the history of Portugal, illustrating famous scenes of battles, wars, and the royalty of the nation. It’s a spectacular sight, celebrating the history of the country and a rich testament to its artists and artisans.
While these sights may not be on everyone’s agenda, it’s well worth it to take some time to go out of your way and explore these hidden treasures of Porto. They offer fascinating insights into the history and culture of this vibrant city.