Every city in the world has its own A-Z route that tourists follow to get to know the place. However, when you see Porto off the beaten path, you will find some true hidden gems that don’t show up on any guide books. Make sure you try these out when studying in Porto:
There are many places with a great view over Gaia and the Douro River, but few are as secluded and peaceful as the ones in the gardens of the Palácio de Cristal. Once the grounds of Porto’s own crystal palace, these gardens outlasted the palace itself when in 1951, the palace was demolished to make way for a sports pavilion. The gardens have since been well tendered and you’ll find lots of couples, young and old, enjoying a nice walk through the park. Watch out for the wild peacocks flying out of the trees, though!
When was the last time you played minigolf? Well, go to the Passeio Alegre gardens for a round of minigolf with your friends. After you’ve finished your game, take a stroll around the park and see what it has to offer: the Nasoni obelisks, the fountain, the bandstand, and even the public toilets decorated with Art Nouveau tiles and traditional British finishings (seriously!). To wrap it all up, have a snack at the old Swiss Chalet café.
Built at the top of Rua de São Bento da Vitória for the Siege of Porto, this artillery battery from the 18th century was later converted into a panoramic viewpoint, and then left abandoned for several years. The viewpoint is still abandoned, but not forgotten! The surroundings may not be as pretty as those at the Palácio de Cristal gardens, but you can be sure that the view is equally as stunning!
This old medieval part of town used to be a suburb of Porto located outside the city walls. The houses in the lower part of Miragaia are actually mostly built under the water level of the Douro, but are protected by the massive wall on which the Custom House was built. Before the wall was built, Miragaia used to be the shipyard for the boats used by the Portuguese at the height of the Discoveries Era. Thus, the winding streets of the medieval period are all very characteristic, and very much like they used to be.
You’ll have a hard time finding a better beach than Maceda around the Porto area. Not only is this beach as long as the eye can see, it’s also very peaceful and hidden from the masses. Even during summer, only a few groups of friends and families come to Maceda. And whenever you get tired of the sand, just walk off the beach into the big forest right next to it. There’s something special about walking in a forest on the dunes.
If going to Maceda just to watch the sunset is a bit of a stretch for you, then head on over to the Edifício Transparente in Matosinhos. There are plenty of lounge bars outside the building where you can sit back, have a drink, and relax watching the people surf while the sun goes down. Even watching the cargo ships slowly drift out of the neighbouring port has something special to it. Alternatively, you can walk from there all the way to the S. João da Foz fort along the seafront on the Avenida Brasil promenade and stop at all the bars for a drink here and there.
Fantasporto is Porto’s annual international film festival, and is usually held around February and March. The festival features sci-fi and horror movies, and some of the classics are usually screened too. So if you’re studying in Porto around that time of the year, make sure you attend the festival for some scary movies. ??
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What other alternative things do you like to do and see in Porto? Let us know in the comments. And remember: if you need student accommodation in Europe, you’ll find the student home you’re looking for on Uniplaces. We have rooms in Porto!