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As a solo traveler, Portugal exceeded all of my expectations by ticking each and every box. Food? Yum. Wine? Double yum! Castles? Stunning. Beaches? Incredible.
Travelers (such as yours truly) easily fall in love with Portugal. And connecting with yourself, alone, is an experience that I highly recommend to anyone dipping his or her toes into international travel.
But Portugal is a country where you can spend months wandering from town to town. So how do you decide where to go?
No doubt that planning a Portuguese itinerary is challenging. For example, I wrote an entire guide to solo travel in Portugal on this blog, but realized that I never dedicated narrowed down enough for anyone wanting a solo city break in one compact area.
So without further ado, welcome to my solo travel post to Portugal’s “second” city: Porto.
Solo Travel Porto: My Experiences
At this moment, I look back at all my diary entries from Porto with great fondness. This trip was the first time that I used public transportation to travel from city to city (specifically Lisbon to Porto) without the help of a tour guide.
My solo experiences in Porto showed me that I am capable of taking care of myself overseas. This confidence inspired me to book several more independent trips to Europe.
I hope my own experiences inspire you to book that plane ticket for one!
Getting to Porto
You might worry about solo travel to Porto because of the language barrier or fear of getting lost on public transportation. I’m here to help quell those anxieties.
To tell you the truth, getting to Porto was very easy, even as a solo traveler who has never stepped foot on Portuguese soil.
Portugal has an efficient train system that isn’t too hard for English speakers to navigate. After traveling alone in Lisbon and seeing the surrounding area, I hopped on the train to go to Porto in the north of the country.
Use Portugal’s official website – Comboios de Portugal – to reserve your tickets to Porto. The direct train from Lisbon is comfortable and fast. They even serve tea! Not a bad way to travel at all.
Porto also has its own airport – Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport – if you’re flying directly into the city. The metro provides simple access to the city center.
Safety in Porto for Solo Travelers
Honestly, I felt very safe visiting Porto as a solo female traveler.
Usual “common sense” applies. For example, don’t wander around a deserted alley in the middle of the night. Keep a watchful eye on your valuables. Don’t drink too much with groups of strangers.
However, as far as safety goes, your belongings are more at risk than you. I don’t want to freak anyone out, but when crossing the Luis I Bridge, a young kid attempted to grab a backpack off a fellow traveler’s shoulders. He managed to scare the kid off, but regardless, if you want extra security for your stuff, then buying a Pacsafe purse or Pacsafe backpack will provide extra peace of mind.
As always, you will want to purchase travel insurance before your trip to Porto.
Making Friends in Porto
Want even more good news? In my experience, making friends was easy for a solo traveler in Porto.
At my hostel, I was able to talk to fellow travelers at a communal dinner. And on my free walking tour, I connected with other visitors and spent the entire afternoon exploring Porto.
Porto is a beautiful city. No doubt. And Porto is also a reasonably priced city.
As a result, many other solo travelers flock here for their adventures. Take advantage of this atmosphere and make new friends. After all, people create our best travel memories that last for life.
The Best Things to Do Alone in Porto
So, why should you travel solo to Porto? Ohhh, I have all your reasons here, my friend. Let’s talk about your upcoming adventure and Porto’s best attractions for visitors coming to the city alone!
Take a Historical Walking Tour
Besides staying at a hostel, walking tours are the best way to make connections with fellow travelers.
For example, I met four German backpackers on my tour, and we spent the rest of the day exploring Porto together! Awesome, right?
Porto has a lot of good tours available. Some hostels promote their own tours in the lobby, and using hostel tours can be an effective way to make close friends staying in the same dorm rooms.
If you’re not at a hostel or if your hostel doesn’t offer tours, then check out Sandemans. This company offers wonderful free walking tours of Porto that you should join on your visit. Keep in mind that free doesn’t mean 100% free, though! Your guides earn a living off tips.
Have Coffee at a Famous Cafe
Cafes and solo travel go super well together. Whenever I visit a new destination alone, melting in the hustle and bustle of a cafe makes me feel connected to the world around me.
And solo travelers will discover a particularly famous cafe in Porto: Cafe Majestic.
Cafe Majestic opened in December 1921. So its rich history is clearly seen in its elegant art nouveau interior, so beautiful that it takes its visitors’ breath away.
Bring your journal and buy an expensive coffee, and as a solo traveler, embrace feeling like a mid-century Portuguese poet. You won’t regret it.
Chill on the Cais da Ribeira
While crowded, Cais da Ribeira is one of Porto’s prettiest neighborhoods and a great place to spend time alone.
On my first afternoon in Porto, I sat right beside the Douro River and did some first class people watching.
What I loved about Cais da Ribeira was that I wasn’t pestered for tours or money, which I couldn’t say for Lisbon. It was a relaxing scene where I didn’t have to keep one eye open for trouble. Highly recommend to all solo travelers!
See the Best Views at Se Catedral (Porto Cathedral)
Porto Cathedral dominates the hill in the old center and is one of the most important buildings in all of the city.
Regardless of religious beliefs, I always find European cathedrals absolutely delightful to visit alone, simply because of the peaceful solitude that one craves after the hustle and bustle of a busy travel day.
I went to Porto Cathedral shortly after dropping off my bags at the hostel. Seeing the sweeping views and the gorgeous interior of the cathedral was a wonderful way to start my solo adventures in Porto.
Eat and Be Merry at Mercado do Bolhão
Are you like me and fear eating alone in restaurants because your anxiety has you convinced that everyone is staring at you? Yeeeeah. Meal times are rough for solo travelers, no doubt!
Mercado do Bolhão is a traditional market where you will find everything ranging from fishmongers to florists to butcher shops.
This famous market is also home to a few small restaurants. You’ll be able to grab a nice meal for a reasonable price and sit outside, without awkwardly ordering a table for one.
Perfect for solo travelers!
Cross the Luís I Bridge
Want to take a nice solo walk with all the best waterside views in Porto?
Then stroll over the Luís I Bridge to the other side of River Duorno where you will reach another city – Vila Nova de Gaia.
This pleasant and easy walk will give you time to unwind. Not to mention, you’ll discover some delicious treats on the other side of the river.
Which leads me to the next best thing to do in Porto alone …
Drink Taylor’s Port Wine
Taylor’s Port Wine is one of the finest port houses and has been in business since … get this … 1692!
I also highly recommend that all solo travelers take the guided tour at Taylor’s Port Wine and relax with a glass outside. By being alone, you can focus on the splendid flavors of the port wine and enjoy a high quality moment by yourself.
The tours are available in a variety of languages. And if you want to truly experienced Taylor’s Port Wine alone, you can opt for a guided audio tour to teach you all about the history of this prominent port house.
Fall in Love with Blue Tiles
Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am absolutely obsessed with going to art museums alone.
I’d much rather focus on the paintings and sculptures, and think about their messages, rather than have someone talking to me and distracting me from the art’s beauty.
And Porto has one of the most unique “art museums” in the entire world: Sao Bento Station.
The small central station’s elaborate blue tiles will tell you all about the history of Portugal. Go to the station, alone, savor the art, and learn all about your temporary new home.
Take a Day Trip to Guimarães
Last but not least, I recommend all solo travelers venture outside of Porto to see the surrounding area. I personally recommend a small medieval town called Guimarães.
Guimarães is home to several well-preserved medieval buildings that beg your attention. My personal favorite is the10th-century Guimarães Castle, which truly makes me feel like I’m inside the pages of an epic fantasy novel.
Now don’t worry about getting lost as a solo traveler if you plan on visiting Guimarães. Porto has several quick and easy direct train options.
As always, just make sure to validate your ticket prior to boarding the train. The machines on the platforms will quickly stamp your tickets.
Not quite sold on taking public transit alone? Then book yourself on a guided tour to Guimarães and see the town with a knowledge leader.
Essential Tips for a Solo Trip to Porto
Now that we’ve talked about all the cool things to do for a trip to Porto, let’s discuss more essential advice for solo travelers, such as the best hostels and safety tips.
Stay in a Hostel in Porto
Portugal has some of the greatest hostels in the world. And Porto? Offers plenty of wonderful boutique hostels where you can travel in style and meet new people. Win/win situation, right?
Here are some of my hostel suggestions.
- Gallery Hostel: This is a highly rated luxury hostel (yes, you read that right) located in the center of the city. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
- The Passenger Hostel: Want an incredible location on your solo trip to Porto? Go to this hostel which is located inside the iconic São Bento train station! Wow! See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
- Porto Spot Hostel: This relaxed and homey hostel is located in a cool 1930s building. Your home away from home! See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
Pack a Good Guidebook
I always recommend bringing a guidebook on all solo trips. Lonely Planet writes my favorite line of guidebooks, although others exist and may suit your travel style.
Lonely Planet recently released a Porto Guidebook that provides hyper local information about the city. It’s a relatively small book too, so you can either slip a copy in your backpack or upload the .pdf version on a tablet!
Learn A Word or Two of Portuguese
Most people you’ll meet in Porto will speak English, especially the younger generation.
However, it’s always good manners to learn a phrase or two or three of the local language on any trip overseas. A Portuguese phrasebook will help you immensely.
Seriously, folks, speaking some Portuguese demonstrates respect for the country and its people.
So, learn a bit of Portuguese! You won’t regret it.
Keep Your Devices Charged and Ready
You don’t want your camera and phone dying in Porto. Not only because you want to take alllll the photos, but it can be a safety issue if your devices suddenly die.
I always recommend bringing a portable charger with me throughout the day. Better safe than sorry!
You also want to make sure you have the proper EU electric adapters so you can charge everything you need overnight. You don’t want to wake up in the morning and then waste precious time waiting for your phone to charge.
Protect Yourself and Your Belongings
I said it once and I will say it again: Porto is a very safe city. The chances of you falling victim to a violent crime are very low.
Yet, you will want to do what you can to protect your valuables (aka your credit cards and passport) from petty theft and pickpocking.
And lastly, I cannot drive home this point enough: the best way to protect yourself is to purchase travel insurance. You will never know if you suddenly get sick or have an injury!
My personal favorite is World Nomads insurance. I always buy a policy before all my solo trips. Never regretted it!