Explore off the beaten path with Porto's best hidden gems

Venture off the beaten track and explore the Douro with a fisherman, sip a cocktail in a historic bookshop or visit the Clerigos Tower after dark; here are the 10 best hidden gems in Porto.

There's so much to see and do in Porto. It's easy to spend days visiting the famous landmarks, exploring history and art at the museums, and dining out on delicious Portuguese food. However, you'll enjoy a much richer cultural experience if you venture off the beaten path to discover hidden gems in Porto.

This guide to hidden places will show you how to see another side of this beautiful Portuguese city. You can take walking tours to see street art or the locals' favorite food. There are some secret places, like the old prison that's now a museum, as well as little-known experiences at famous monuments like the Clerigos Tower. If you want to discover a brand new side to Porto, this is the guide for you.

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1. See the modern side of Porto on a street art tour

Modern Porto is a completely different world from the sedate monuments of the old town. Many of the city's liveliest neighborhoods are decorated with brilliantly colored murals. Street artists have turned the city itself into their canvas, and their works are a delight to see.

Highlights:

You'll see murals all over town, but a half-day street art tour is the best way to discover the best and learn the history behind the movement.

Meeting point:

Praça de Carlos Alberto 89, 4050-158 Porto. Start times vary.

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2. See an old church in a new light at the Spiritus show

In the evening, Porto's Clérigos Church is completely transformed. While the words of a beautiful, spiritual poem are read, the Spiritus show takes place with lights, music, and multimedia technology, turning the church into a remarkable, immersive venue.

Highlights:

The Spiritus Multimedia Show Admission Ticket will change the way you see the Clérigos Church, putting a fresh spin on this classic landmark.

Address and opening hours:

Rua de São Filipe de Nery, 4050-546 Porto. Start times vary.

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3. See the Clérigos Tower after dark

Most visitors to Porto don't miss the stunning Clérigos Tower, with its 225 steps to climb. However, you might not realize you can go up at night as well as by day. Visit on a Sunday, and the late evening opening will let you see Porto by night.

Highlights:

These are the best views in town, without a doubt. On a clear night, you'll see the entire city lit up in a beautiful, romantic style.

Address and opening hours:

Rua de São Filipe de Nery, 4050-546 Porto. Open Monday-Sunday, 9:00 AM-7:00 PM, and Sunday, 9:30 PM-10:30 PM.

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4. Uncover Porto's magic side with a Harry Potter tour

When you think of Harry Potter, you might not think of Porto – but in fact, the city has a strong connection with the boy wizard. JK Rowling lived here when she started writing her books, and many locations in the city inspired her work.

Highlights:

On this Harry Potter Inspiration Tour, you'll see the café where Rowling wrote her first book. Don't miss the fountain with the Gryffindor shield.

Meeting point:

Praça de Almeida Garrett, 4000-069 Porto. Tours start at 10:30 AM.

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5. Explore the city in a new way with a treasure hunt through the center

An interactive treasure hunt is a great way to discover secrets in the center of Porto. Yes, you'll see big attractions like the Clérigos Tower, but you'll also discover unusual hidden gems as you explore the city by solving riddles.

Highlights:

This Mission The Hidden Valley treasure hunt is based around the traditions and heritage of Porto. It gives you a fresh, new way to explore, testing your brain power along the way.

Meeting point:

Rua de Passos Manuel, Porto 4000-382.

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6. Learn Porto's darkest secrets at the Photography Center

The Portuguese Photography Center has far more than you might expect. This museum is set in an old prison, and there's a permanent exhibit dedicated to stories of the prisoners who served time here, often for bizarre crimes.

Highlights:

There's plenty to explore in this museum. Learn about writer Camilo Castelo, who was locked up here for falling in love with a married woman, or admire the antique cameras on display.

Address and opening hours:

Largo Amor de Perdição, 4050-008 Porto. Open Tuesday-Friday, 10:00 AM-6:00 PM, and Saturday-Sunday, 3:00 PM-7:00 PM. Closed Mondays.

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7. Explore local flavors on a Secret Food Tour

Forget the overpriced tourist restaurants of the old town. Let a passionate foodie be your guide, taking you off the beaten track to discover the hot spots where the locals indulge in their favorite foods. On this tour, you'll enjoy plenty of food and drink, as well as learn more about Porto's culinary culture.

Highlights:

Save plenty of room for the francesinha on this secret food tour. This decadent beef and cheese sandwich is the most beloved local dish in Porto.

Meeting point:

Rua de Passos Manuel, 4000-382 Porto. Tours start at 10:00 AM.

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8. Let a fisherman show you the River Douro

River cruises are a popular, fun activity in Porto. Here's one with a twist: a local fisherman will take you out on his vessel to give you an insight into one of the city's most important industries. You'll see all the major sights, but you'll also come away with a fresh perspective on fishing in Porto.

Highlights:

On this River Douro cruise with a fisherman, your guide will provide you with some local wine and snacks. Choose a sunset cruise for dramatic, stunning views.

Meeting point:

Marina do Freixo, 4300-316 Porto. Start times vary.

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9. Sip a cocktail in a historic bookstore

Most visitors to Porto call in at the famous Lello bookstore, which inspired JK Rowling. However, they might miss Livraria da Baixa, just down the road. This is another charming, historic bookstore, but it has a modern twist. It's been converted into a cocktail bar where you can enjoy a drink in truly exceptional surroundings.

Highlights:

As well as drinks, check out the menu of petiscos. These small bites are just what you need to stave off hunger.

Address and opening hours:

Rua das Carmelitas 15, 4050-546 Porto. Opening hours vary.

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10. Discover the best-kept culinary secrets at family-owned restaurants

Where do the local people go when they want traditional Portuguese food? Find out on a walking dinner tour experiencing family-owned restaurants. You'll visit restaurants and bars that have belonged to the same family for generations and try traditional, authentic dishes.

Highlights:

Make sure to bring an appetite for this tour, as you'll have a complete four-course dinner. There's also plenty to drink, including the zesty vinho verde.

Meeting point:

Rua de Santo Ildefonso 11, 4000-542 Porto. Start times vary.

FAQs

What are some lesser-known attractions in Porto that are worth visiting?

One of the most interesting lesser-known museums is the Photography Center, which is built in a historic prison. You can also visit the Livraria da Baixa bar for a fun, grown-up alternative to the famous Lello bookstore.

Are there any hidden or secret gardens in Porto that I can explore?

Try the Palácio de Cristal gardens. They are beautifully decorated and ideal for a picnic. Don't make too much noise as you enjoy the lawns, and the peacocks who live here might just venture over to check you out.

Can you recommend any hidden or secret viewpoints in Porto with great views of the city?

The Miradouro da Vitória has some of the best views of the city. One interesting way to see views is by climbing the Clérigos Tower at night. Most visitors go up during the daytime, not realizing that it has late opening on Sunday evenings. The view of the city by night is completely different.

What are some lesser-known neighborhoods in Porto that are worth exploring?

If you want to escape the crowded streets of the city center, head out to Foz do Douro. This neighborhood has a laid-back, seaside vibe and is great for people who are looking to chill out. You can also go across the river to Vila Nova de Gaia. This is technically not part of Porto, but it's still definitely worth a visit.

Can you recommend any hidden architectural gems in Porto that are not as crowded as the famous landmarks?

The 13th-century Gothic St Francisco church is one of the most interesting in the city and doesn't attract as many visitors as the Clérigos Church or the cathedral. For something more modern, check out the Casa da Música. This concert hall is a triumph of unusual, contemporary architecture.