The best parks and gardens in Porto
You can go to Porto’s City Park lots of times without ever retracing your steps – you could easily feel like you’re in a whole new park each time. Established more than 20 years ago, then remodelled in 2009, it covers 83 hectares and offers loads of different attractions: a recreation of Minho’s countryside landscape dotted with big boulders, a camellia garden, a jogging track, a duck lake, romantic benches, lawns... There’s loads to choose from and it’s also a great place to set out a rug and have a picnic.
Built vertically – that is to say, on terraces – Virtudes is one of the finest places to visit if you want to escape the downtown chaos. There are several grass areas if you fancy a lie-down and want to find some quiet (or romantic) time, benches for people with insect allergies, plus superb views of the Douro river, the Alfândega area and the Gaia landscape. It’s also a perfect setting if you fancy filling up your Instagram with flawless greenery.
Once upon a time, there was a lovely palace here named after the glass and steel one built in London for the 1851 Great Exhibition. It was sadly demolished (according to legend, the metal was used to build railways), but the gardens are still among the city’s prettiest. It has a long greenery-lined avenue, beautiful rosebushes, a kids’ playground, quiet spots where you can sit and read, and several viewpoints that offer wonderful panoramic views of the city.
The Passeio dos Clérigos is the greenest garden on this list. And by ‘green’ we mean ‘young’: it’s just three years old. Right next to the Clérigos Tower, which it offers a great view of, it’s full of olive trees, which offer perfect shade for visitors on hot days. There’s a useful kiosk in the middle that sells drinks, snacks, blankets and fruit boxes, which (top tip!) you can use as improvised picnic tables.
If you want to learn about the eventful history of Porto’s Botanical Garden while you’re strolling through it, keep an eye out for several plaques dotted throughout. They’ll tell you everything you need to know. The garden has existed in several locations, seeing various renovations and reopenings. Its four hectares continue to be uniquely beautiful, with hundreds of different species, several smaller gardens and an area for succulent plants. Keep an eye out for a beautiful house in the grounds, once owned by Port specialists the Andresen family.
This gorgeous garden is a gateway to the Foz, the district where the river meets the sea. Locals (aka ‘Fozeiros’) adore this modern amusement park. It has mini-golf, some of the city’s swankiest toilets (art nouveau tiles cover the walls), a fountain, a famous kiosk popularly known as the ‘Swiss chalet’ and a bandstand that hosts live music on Sundays. If you fancy a bit of celebrity spotting, we can tell you that Sara Carbonero, the sports journalist married to Spanish goalkeeping legend Iker Casillas, is a regular here.
Yes, Porto is beautiful every day and from every vantage point. But you can always find secret hideaways where the view is even better. Our top tip is to take in perfect views of the city, the river, the Ribeira and its old houses from this spot: the Morro garden in Gaia (there’s an urban myth, too, which says that the sunrise looks its prettiest from here).
The Quinta is a private property that showcases the dedication of generations of keen botanists, with the gardens meticulously laid out to remind you of the exquisite Parque de Serralves during different eras. It has many exotic species and is a must for lovers of the camellias, of which it has many different varieties. Visits are led gby a member of the family and your trip may include a Port wine tasting.