Parks, Bridges, and Death in Porto, Portugal

Mrs. ItchyFeet in front of Porto leters

After running around this gorgeous city for over a month, I have a crap-ton of photos. I feel like I should do a photo dump just for you all. You really need to see the amazingness that is Porto, Portugal. While the city is filled with castles, churches, fortresses, and museums, my favorites are the parks, bridges, and… you guessed it!… the cemeteries! You’re welcome.

Park of Virtues

I know that my favorite park should be the Garden of the Crystal Palace because they have peacocks, but I really like the Park of Virtues, Parque das Virtudes. This is just some random small park I happened upon while wondering around. There are so many hills and flights of stairs around here. Sometimes I like to see where they lead. This is dangerous because for every step you go down, you are going to have to make that extra effort to go back up again! I got lucky with this park.

Overlook of Park of Virtues
Park of Virtues! You can see in the right corner the largest Gingo Biloba tree in all of Portugal.

The Park of Virtues was privately owned and designed by a landscape gardener in the late 19th century. Porto acquired the park in 1965 and has been working to restore it for the last 25 years. I also found out that it houses the largest and oldest Ginko Biloba tree in all of Portugal. Named “Rainha das Virtudes”, she is nearly 4.5m wide, 36m tall, and is older than the garden itself, originating in the 18th century. How cool is that!?!

They set the Park of Virtues into the cliffs overlooking the Douro River. It winds down and down via stairs and ramps and random pathways. Each level adorned with statues and/or cute little fountains. And, while I’m not a huge fan of the mozzies that crawl out of these non-bleached fountain waters, I am supper excited to see hundreds of tadpoles. Tadpoles!!! They turn into frogs! For my friends scared of small jumpy-creatures: don’t worry as I didn’t see any despite much time spent looking.

Mrs. ItchyFeet in front of stone tree sculpture
This is my favorite park, and I’m lucky to have it right by my apartment!

After wandering around for a bit and admiring the amazing views, I came to a flat grassy area. This couple was walking their dog and let her off-leash to run around. I gave a squee at this adorable tiny doggo and she came running at me like I was her long-lost bestie. She got all the skritches I could give before she discovered the acorns lying about. After that discovery, I was just another tall object in the park. Time to climb the most ridiculous hill you have ever seen to get back home!

Gardens of the Crystal Palace

This amazing park is home to the Super Bock Arena (as well as the city-letters). This cool, round structure sits on top of the cliffs overlooking the Douro River and the Arrábida Bridge. It got the nickname of ‘The UFO’ because of its unusual shape. You can pay moneys to climb to the tip-pity-top of the arena for even better views. However, I’m not a huge fan of heights and I’m on a budget, so I skipped that. Plus, the garden grounds are just amazing!

Super Bock Arena in Gardens of the Crystal Palace
Gardens of the Crystal Palace with the famous UFO! Don’t mess with the peacocks.

The best parts of the Gardens of the Crystal Palace are all the peacocks. The males are so pretty! But they are stubborn, especially during breeding season. I was very amused to watch this big male slowly walking down the middle of the road in front of a car, refusing to get out of the way. The driver politely honks to no effect. Finally, the passenger gets out to help motivate the peacock to go to one side of the road or the other. That bird did not like that. Nope. He rushed toward her, and she squealed and jumped back into the car. Ha!

Further along the hillside, you will find gorgeous fountains and a staircase down to this castle-looking structure. You would think this would be the “Crystal Palace”, but that building didn’t survive the ages. This is definitely a great place for a selfie (for the Instas!). Too bad for you, I had been hiking all morning by this time, so I skipped the added steps to the castle-structure for a view of the pond with ducks. Tadpoles! The walk happily rewarded me with baby peacocks along the way. Success!

Overlook of one of Porto's six bridges
The bridge in the background has a bridgewalk tour. You can pay to explore the dangerous parts of the bridge.

City Park

Looking at the map of Porto, the biggest park by far is the City Park. It’s also right next to this large surfing beach on the Atlantic Ocean. I’m in! I took the Metro to the closest stop to the park and immediately got lost because I thought I spotted a shortcut through the woods. It was a trail, but not to the park. My bad. Spent a bit more time trying to find the entrance to the City Park while debating just climbing over the park’s stone walls, as they aren’t very tall.

After all that, I really had to pee… like real bad. The park is enormous and there weren’t a lot of people around. I considered just ducking behind a bush. However, all the bushes are filled with blackberry brambles. I’m not crawling in there for anything! Luckily, I finally happened upon the free bathrooms (WC for “water closet”) camouflaged under a sea of ivy to not detract from the natural park surroundings. Job done, now I can finally enjoy this gorgeous place!

Beach near City Park
It is really windy. I saw a few umbrellas tumble down this beach near City Park!

The City Park is filled with ponds and fountains and hills and amazing trees. I highly recommend it if you are in the area. There is even a water museum where you can learn about all things aquatic in Portugal. It looked pretty cool, but I skipped it for a glance at the massive birds by the ponds (ducks? geese? swans? …not sure). The posted bird guide is in Portuguese, so I’m out of luck.

The surfing beach near the park is a sight to see. Lots of kids learning to surf. So many beach umbrellas blowing dramatically in the wind. I picked out this delightful restaurant overlooking all the action. I had the best time chatting with this dude from New Zealand who was here doing one of those Pilgrimage Walks that winds through Portugal, Spain, and France. This was his last stop before continuing on to Lisbon to fly back home. So fun! I warned him that the Pope was visiting, so traffic might be chaotic in Lisbon. Good luck my new friend!

Joyful Walk Garden

Yet another park near the ocean is Joyful Walk Garden, Jardim do Passeio Alegre. This one requires a bus ride, as the Metro doesn’t go that direction. I was so excited to discover that the bus is a double-decker, which means I get to climb the stairs to get the best view of the city. The bus meanders along the Douro River to its mouth at the Atlantic Ocean. The fancy tour buses take the same route and include headphones with commentary, but are significantly more expensive.

Beach near Joyful Walk Garden
I spent a lot of time looking for seastars along this beach near Joyful Walk Garden. You can see the lighthouses where I started in the background.

I spent most of the morning wandering the breakwaters, getting pictures of the lighthouses, and enjoying the fun beaches. Saw some guy accidentally toss his fishing rod over a breakwater. His doggo was very upset when the guy went over after it. Luckily, the rod landed on some rocks and the old man could retrieve it! His pup appeared very excited and relieved that he did not lose his human into the drink.

The entire neighborhood near the park is really pretty and I think this is where I will stay if I come back. I really like seeing the ocean and exploring tide pools. I saw so many sea-stars! From what I understand, this is the best place to watch the sunset in Porto. I might have to come back for that. Time for lunch.

The restaurant was amazing, but quite expensive. They have inexpensive lunch specials but not a thing on that menu was free of the glutens. Stupid autoimmune disease. I got the fish ceviche, which was so wonderful. After, I took a stroll back to Happy Walk Garden only to discover that the European Mini-Golf Tournament was happening in the Put-Put area. How cool is that!?! So fun to watch!

Maze in Parque de São Roque
How cool is this maze in Parque de São Roque!?! It looks short but I can’t see over the tops of the shrubs while wandering around.

Parque de São Roque

There are so many parks in Porto and I think I went to like all of them! This list would go on forever if I kept describing them all. One more for the road. Parque de São Roque is this adorable garden right next to the Football Club Porto Stadium (that’s soccer for all my American and Canadian peeps). Dragon Stadium! Yes, there were dragons! Not as many as I would have liked.

I took the Metro to the stadium, then walked over to the park. There were some wonderful overlooks along the way, as well as a few sets of stairs and some hills. Got to get those steps in. I was rewarded with a really pretty park with winding pathways and a pond that I’m sure contained tadpoles. I couldn’t get down there to check.

Mausoleum with melting glasswork
This mausoleum is so old that the glasswork is starting to melt!

The ultimate part of the park is the garden maze! It is so cool! I’m too short to cheat to see the easiest route to the middle fountain, so I got lost a lot. It was fun and rewarding to finally make it to the middle. What a great idea in a park! After that, I headed down to the Douro River to check out yet another palace in Porto. They are just everywhere!

The Six Bridges

Porto has six historical bridges over the river. It’s like a whole thing here. You can pay some moneys to take a boat tour of all the bridges along the Douro River. Some of those tours even offer you wine along the journey. I get seasick so wine and waterways are not in my future. I think you can walk across all of them except two, which look like they are only for trains. Don’t worry. I won’t try to walk across the train bridges like in Stand By Me!

My favorite is the Ponte Luis I connecting historic Porto with Gaia. This amazing bridge is accessible from the top and the bottom. The top is dangerous because the Metro runs right down the middle and not much separates you from the massive trains. The bottom is dangerous because of the cars and motorcycles that weave through the throngs of pedestrians. You really just have to keep an eye out for obstacles! Plus, kids jump off the bottom part, which is entertaining and distracting.

Have you heard about the bridge walk in Sydney, Australia? They have one of those here as well! I’m unsure why anyone would want to strap themselves to the dangerous parts of a perfectly good bridge, but people like to do it. I hiked under that bridge, and it is impressively tall. Nope.

Cemetery in Bonfim
This cemetery in Bonfim is just amazing!


You would not believe what I just learned about European cemeteries while visiting a few in Porto. Turns out that families rent the plots. Rent! So, when the family stops paying, the deceased gets the boot. They dig up the body and move it to a kind of community burial site so that they can repurpose the fancy site in the cemetery for the next paying guest. I found several old mausoleums with notices that the site had been abandoned with directions on who to contact before the remains are moved or, assumed, the family can pay to keep the remains there. How fascinating is that!?!

I ended up visiting three different cemeteries in Porto, each more beautiful than the last. Cemitério de Agramonte is the biggest and sits right next to Hero’s Monument, which is a really massively amazing statue. The cemetery is so big that I couldn’t even make it through the entire thing. You just get overwhelmed with all the cool stonework. It is worth the trip.

Meadow of Rest Cemetery
Here is a view of the Meadow of Rest Cemetery. You can stroll down the hill for some pretty amazing overlooks!

The smallest (and oldest) cemetery I wandered into is in Bonfim, next to this amazing church. I wanted to poke my head in to see the altar, but there was a funeral going on. This cemetery has quite a few “abandoned” signs on graves, which is what got me researching what that entails (the dead wandered off?). Must pay the bill! I think it’s because this is the oldest cemetery, on a smallish plot, and some family lines might have died off or moved away. Interesting.

Cemitério Prado do Repouso, Meadow of Rest Cemetery, probably has the best views. It sits on the top of cliffs overlooking the Douro River with two really pretty train bridges. What an amazing resting spot! One of my friends mentioned her family is from Portugal and I was thrilled when I spotted the family name right after walking in! I sent her pictures. I know it’s a bit weird to visit so many cemeteries, but they are so gorgeous. It’s like going to a free outdoor art display. Plus, it is interesting to see how a culture cares for their dead. It’s an adventure!

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