Top 5 Porto for the Solo Traveller

As the oldest city in Portugal, Porto has a rich history – from ship building to Port production. We look at some of the highlights you can enjoy on a visit to the city and surrounding areas as a solo traveller.

1. Exploring Porto and enjoying the views

Porto is a delight to explore, it’s a maze of narrow cobbled streets that take you up and down hills uncovering historic buildings, bustling restaurants, and incredible views across of terracotta roofed houses, the Port Cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia and the Douro River. Head to the Se Cathedral, not only is this imposing architectural delight a “must-see” but turn your back on the Cathedral for magnificent views over to Vila Nova de Gaia.

Take a walk across the Pont Luis I Bridge and wander up to the Mosteiro da Serra do Pillar, here you’ll be rewarded with views down the Douro River towards the Atlantic and across to Porto and the Ribeira district. And, talking of the Ribeira district, a few market stalls give you the chance to pick up a souvenir or two. You’ll also find a range of bars and restaurants where you can take a seat, enjoy the atmosphere with a drink and maybe a meal with new-found friends.

2. The bridges of Porto

There are six spectacular bridges that span the Douro and each an engineering masterpiece of their time. The Ponte Pensil was the first bridge to cross the valley and at 170m broke records around the world, while Gustave Eiffel (the man behind Paris’s Eiffel Tower) designed the Ponte Maria Pia Railway Bridge. The Ponte de Dome Luis I is perhaps the most iconic, featuring in many images of Porto. This double decker bridge that can be crossed by foot on either level and provides some of the best photo opportunities the city has to offer. Feeling brave? Once, the longest reinforced concrete bridge in the world, the Ponte de Arrabida offers solo travellers the chance to don a harness and climb the 70m high central concrete arch.

Perhaps the best way to see these incredible structures is a relaxing cruise along the river. Not only will you be afforded the opportunity to see each of these, but also appreciate the views of Porto’s waterfront and the iconic rabelos, wooden boats that used to transport port wine along the river.

Pastel de Nata

Ponte Luis I, Porto

3. Port Wine & the Port cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia

Head into any bar, restaurant or café in Porto and you’ll find port wine on the menu. This wine is synonymous with the region and you can enjoy a small glass of white, Ruby (a young red port) or Tawny (barrel-aged ruby port). In the UNESCO- listed Douro Valley, the grapes are harvested before being transported to the port cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia. Here, you’ll find the world-famous brands such as Taylor’s, Sandman, Grahams, Calem and Croft.

On a solo adventure in Porto you can head to one (or more) of these cellars where you can learn more about the Port production process and partake in a wine tasting.

Fun Fact: Young white port is very light in colour and gets darker as it ages. A red port starts of dark and gets lighter with age - an aged white port and an aged Tawny port will be almost identical in colour.

4. Stunning sights in the Baxia

As you explore Porto as a single traveller there are some incredible sights to take in – let’s take a look at just some of the highlights of the Baixa area. Here you’ll find the Clerigos Church, which almost acts as a beacon with its bell tower visible from around the city. If you’ve got time, why not climb the two hundred stairs of the 75m tower for unobstructed views of Porto?

Not far from here are Igreja do Carmo and Igreja dos Carmelitas. These two churches sit almost side by side but are separated by a 1-meter-wide house - although now vacant, it was inhabited until the 1980’s. You can head inside the two churches to see elegant carvings but it’s the outstanding exterior of the Igreja do Carmo that will take your breath away - it possesses an extravagant tiled façade with scenes showing the founding the Carmelite Order.

If you have spare time on your hands, also in the area is the Centro Portugues de Fotografia, this unique photographic museum is housed in an imposing building – you can explore the museum to take in the thought provoking exhibits, but perhaps it’s real draw is that this building was once the city’s prison. The cells, workshops, courtyards and chambers have all been restored into beautiful exhibition spaces – take a look out of some of the windows for grand views of the Se Cathedral.

Igreja do Carmo

Douro Valley

5. Douro Valley

Just an hour away from Porto, is the demarcated region of the Douro Valley and is a must-visit on a solo holiday in Portugal. Reminiscent of Asia’s tea plantations, the miles upon miles of wine terraces offer magnificent panoramic views of this UNESCO site. There’s a saying in Portugal that the Douro Valley experiences “9 months of winter, 3 months of hell” and refers to the climatic changes in the region that make it ideal for growing the grape varieties used in port making (although, let’s be clear – a winter in this region is warmer than what we experience in the UK). The ‘perfect spot’, identified by many of the major port houses, is near Pinhao, a pretty little town that sits alongside the Douro River, its train station is worth a quick visit to see the hand-painted tiles that adorn its exterior depicting the annual grape harvest.

Best of the rest

As usual, we can't stop at just top 5 things to see and do in Porto so here's a little more about what we love in Porto

  • Buy a freshly baked pastel de nata (egg-custard tart) from many vendors in the city - with it's crispy flaked pastry and sumptuous filling - they are absolutely delicious!
  • Porto has probably one of the most beautiful McDonalds restaurant in the world - the former coffee shop has an interior with crystal chandeliers and stained glass and was seen as excellent example of Art Deco architecture.
  • You'll have noticed, while exploring Porto, that azulejo tiles are a popular decoration - step inside the Sao Bento railway station and you'll see even more fantastic examples of this "art".
  • Keep your eyes peeled from some incredible street art - there are some amazing designs on the sides of buildings.
  • The funicular is a great way to get from the Ribeira to the upper deck of the Ponte Luis I bridge. If you're on the Vila Nova de Gaia side of the bridge, why not try the cable cars which offer more wonderful panoramas.

There is so much to see and do in Porto, that a ‘top 5’ simply doesn’t do it justice – why not experience it yourself on a solo tour of Portugal?

Let us take you there

  1. Picturesque Portugal

    Discover charming towns, golden sands and tempting local delicacies on this wonderful holiday, which includes a scenic cruise along the Douro River and visits to Porto and Lisbon.

    • Return flights
    • 7 nights in 3 & 4-star hotels
    • 9 included meals: 7 breakfasts, 2 dinners

    8 days from
    was £2,049