Details and Street Art in Porto

“Maggie?” I had to run to catch up with our fast-talking and fast-moving guide. “What does this mean?”

Showing her a photo I’d just snapped, she held her head back and roared with laughter. “Why, Rui Rio is the mayor of Porto, and this person has said he’s a son of a bitch!”

Lauren and I arrived to the Sheraton Oporto hotel in the city’s business district, Boavista, only a few hours before, running to catch a taxi and check in before the free tours and workshops started at the Travel Bloggers Unite conference. She got into a photo editing workshop, whereas I was rushed through the Oporto Cool tour. I imagined I’d have time in another moment to see the UNESCO World Heritage sites that crown the Duoro River, but blog conferences offer little time for anything more than social media.

No matter, though, as our tour of Fundação Serralves and the artsy backstreets of one of Iberia’s hippest cities provided the glimpse into tripeiro life I was looking for – the graffiti and details of urban living said it all.

Maggie, a native Angolean who has resided in Oporto for the better part of her life, had us disembarking in front of a stone house, once used as a farm house for a wealthy family. This was the Portugal I already knew – the exploration that gave way to commerce and a small yet fiercely proud people.

Thankfully, a quick pivot to our left and we were on Rúa Miguel Bombarda, a street with galleries every two steps and graffiti resting in between them.

Elders silhouetted the bright graffiti, hunched and making their way to nearby Alimentação for onions and water, and we followed suit. The stuck out just as much as we did, clustered next to graffiti depicting poetry and Oporto’s famed heart symbol. The warm day’s morning clouds had cleared, making us squint as we moved along the rúa.

The tour led us to a small mall, the Centro Comerção Bombarda, with bonsai gardens, chalk drawings on the floor and windows and artsy cafés. Used to the regal districts of Lisbon, seeing a city so alive with art and off-beat culture was refreshing. Named for a revolutionary who led a resistance against the long-standing monarchy, Rúa Miguel Bombarda is slowly starting a revolution of its own.

The street art even took the form of laundry, which Maggie pointing out as a way of life in Iberia: “We even think our garments are art. can you see? No secrets here. We are starting something new out of something old.” For someone who hangs her own laundry out to dry (both literally and figuratively), I had to laugh.

The rúa is also home to a number of interesting shops, displaying everything from rare sports cards to out-of-print books and even a curious shop with recycled goods. We sifted through old tiles, shoe horns and corsets. Hidden treasure was just begging to be found, but Maggie moved us right along, up towards the university and its nightlife hot spots.

Maggie led us past bookstores and bars carved out among government havens, speaking of the students’ revolution and their quest for all things bohemian. We tucked inside one of Porto’s oldest shops on Rúa Galerie da Paris, converted from a textiles mart into a gift store. I ignored everything on the tables and instead ran my hands along the worn wood of the old postal office and admire the crown molding on the second floor before being hurried out and onto a franchesinha sandwich. Old meets new when it comes to food, anyway.

Have you ever been to Porto? What were your impressions of the city?

If you are looking to rent an apartment in Porto which feels like home try MyFriendsRoom Vacation Rentals in Porto.

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. I love that photo of the man walking by the graffiti wall; the street art juxtaposes unexpectedly with the formality of his jacket.

    Also–who owned the map shoes and where can I find ’em??

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      Aren’t they insanely cool! The old man walk right into the fram – it was fate!

      The girl who is wearing the shoes told me they were hand-sewn and bought at a street market in Bogotá. I’m sure you could find something similar on etsy!

  2. I love Portugal! Only been to Lisbon and Sintra so far but Porto is on my to do list. Beautiful pictures! Have fun at the blogging conference! I really want to go to TBEX in Girona but I won’t make it this year. Maybe next year. :)

  3. Sunshine and Siestas says:

    Thanks, lady! Porto is really easy to get to from big destinations (our tickets were 40€ on RyanAir from Madrid), and it’s a city worth exploring! I’m not at TBEX right now, but wish I were, too! TBU might have an edition in Mallorca sometime in the Spring. Keen?

  4. Great photos, and such an interesting spin on Porto. The black underwear made me smile – it really was art.

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      Thanks, Micki! Have you been? I read that Matt of Nomadic Matt didn’t like it much, but I think you really need to explroe a bit more of Portugal than just the big Exploration Sites. Defo worth another weekend!

  5. Agree with the comment above about the man and the graffiti wall… Great stuff

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      Hey D.J.! I’m pretty decent with composition in my shots, but this guy just stole the show! Thanks for visiting.

  6. Love your pictures — especially the black lingerie as street art!

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      Thanks, Terry! It’s too cool a place NOT to have your camera ready! And, for the record, I hang my clothes outside to dry!


  1. […] with my last trip to Porto because we arrived the day the conference had began to save on costs. I loved the street art, and the gritty feeling of the neighbourhoods and the port, but I didn’t get to see much of the […]

  2. […] region is home to some of Portugal’s finest food, as well. Spend your first day in the region exploring Porto – the region’s largest city. Known as the country’s capital of fine dining, Porto is an […]

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