If you’re in the city for more than a couple of days, you’ll find a variety of things to see and do near Porto that don’t involve exploring the Douro Valley. Head towards the ocean instead and discover beaches, nature reserves, fishing villages and more within easy reach.
Check out this article if you’re still deciding where to stay in Porto.
Beaches and architecture in Foz
You can get to the pretty village of Foz on one of the old wooden trams (Line 1) or by bus. Either way, you’ll wind up in what was once a holiday destination for Brits in the Victorian era with pretty traditional houses clad with colourful ceramics. Although Foz has since been absorbed by Porto it’s retained its charm and personality and is a popular residential area.
Glass-fronted beach bars enable you to enjoy the seaside all year round, especially at Praia do Molhe. The sandy beaches have enough rocks to create interest although Foz isn’t the best place for swimming. Depending on how rough the sea is, you can stroll along one of the piers or venture out to the red and white lighthouse and dodge the spray of the waves as they bash into the rocks.
Get some exercise by walking, jogging or cycling along the prom towards the old fort, aka Castelo do Queijo (Cheese Castle) so-called because of the shape of the rock it’s built on. If you’d rather relax amid greenery and flowers, Jardim do Passeio Alegre is filled with palm trees, ponds and a bandstand.
Matosinhos and Leça da Palmeira
Still within easy reach of Porto by car, metro or bus, Matosinhos is the place to go for the best fresh seafood with plenty of popular marisqueiras (seafood restaurants).
The Piscina das Marés seawater swimming pools at Leça da Palmeira, designed by renowned Portuguese architect, Álvaro Siza Vieira, are another major draw. There are sandy beaches here, too, if you don’t want to pay for the man made pools.
The other side of the River Douro
Beyond the port wine lodges in Vila Nova da Gaia lie more beaches, nature reserves and traditional fishing villages.
You can easily cycle, drive or take a bus to explore the left bank of the Douro river. Continue past the port wine lodges and boat-building yard towards the river mouth where you’ll discover a world of contrasts.
São Pedro da Afurada fishing village
The small, close-knit fishing community of São Pedro da Afurada occupy a cluster of low-level houses. Their communal laundry house and washing lines by the water’s edge are still very much in use. The humble wooden fishing boats are somewhat dwarfed by the fancy pants yachts and cruisers in the luxury Douro Marina just a stone’s throw away. To learn more about the history of the community and its cultural heritage, pop into the big red shed, which is now an interpretation centre.
Nature reserves and beaches south of Porto
On the headland just past the fishing village you’ll find a sandy beach, Praia do Cabadelo do Douro, which has views of Foz. The river side of the sandy spit is part of a nature reserve so not for sunbathers or straying off the boardwalk. Once you get to the beach, be prepared to avert your gaze if you encounter nudists in the dunes. Focus instead on the antics of the surfers. Or other forms of nature such as birdwatching.
Praia da Lavadores
This is the first beach you encounter heading south along the coast. With regular buses from Porto and plenty of parking, Lavadores beach is popular with families but not overcrowded. If the sand and clumps of rounded boulders aren’t enough to keep you entertained, there’s a boardwalk promenade and kids’ play areas or you can hire bikes and water sport equipment. If you just want a bite to eat, take your pick from the range of cafés and restaurants both on the beach and set back from the road.
Capela do Senhor da Pedra at Miramar
Bizarre as it may seem, there really is a chapel on the beach at Miramar. Having survived the location since the 17th century, I imagine it will be there for a long time to come. It’s not the only draw though. The abundance of sand, wooden walkways, sun shades and a lifeguard make this upmarket area quite popular. There’s a 9-hole golf course nearby if you feel the need to swing your clubs.
Aguda nature reserve
If you’re more interested in the wonders of nature, head to the mini reserve at Aguda where you can follow the wooden boardwalks to discover protected dune plants.
These are just a few of the many things to see and do near Porto. If you have other suggestions, please leave a comment.
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