Solo female travel is on the rise, and we all want to chase the adventurous path towards our biggest travel desires. As a woman, there’s much more to consider when traveling alone than most people tend to realize.
From varying cultural norms worldwide to idealizations of what the word ‘woman’ means worldwide, it’s often difficult to navigate these specifics as a female traveler.
While there’s certainly much more of the world for me to see, I’ve traveled to 32 countries on the hunt for what makes a destination feel safe for solo female travelers. Backpacking through Spain and Portugal for over 6 weeks, I’ve found the happy medium.
It’s arduous to talk about Porto without feeling a rush of emotions as I recall spending 2 weeks solo within the charming city. While I did begin my travels solo, I ended up with a family of fellow travelers and a new place to call home.
A beautiful coastal city in the Northwest region of Portugal, Porto is an under-the-radar spot most solo travelers don’t seem to mention. With its rolling hills, medieval pathways, and vibrant Port history, the city is making its way out of the shadows and onto the passports of wanderers.
The City Itself
The moment I stepped foot in Porto, I felt an overwhelming feeling of being home. Every traveler is different, but I tend to seek out cities that are large enough to explore yet small enough to settle and get to know the people and its streets with ease.
Think Edinburgh and Seville; both remind me a lot of Porto in many ways: medieval vibes, cobblestone streets, small enough to feel homely. Traveling alone comes with many emotions, yet Porto makes it easy to navigate and become well acquainted with the way of life.
The city itself is divided into two sides: Ribeira (Porto) and Vila Nova de Gaia. Separated by a bridge, it’s fairly easy to explore both sides without getting lost.
Ribeira is the ‘main’ part of the city, filled with restaurants, local stores, and hotels. Vila Nova de Gaia is dotted with wine merchants, small churches, and food establishments. (Technically Villa Nova de Gaia is its own city, but is often considered to be part of Porto)
Depending on your comfort zone, hostels are always a surefire way to meet travelers with the same mindset. I stayed at OneFam Porto and couldn’t have had a better hostel experience. After staying in over 20 hostels worldwide, this one takes the cake.
Little did I know going in that I’d leave with several close friends who I’d end up backpacking the country with. With day and night activities, OneFam makes it easy to make new friends (without the pressure of constantly drinking).
Port tastings, Cathedral tours, family dinners, and bar crawls, there’s no doubt you’ll find at least one person you’ll mesh with during your stay here. The hostel is made up of primarily volunteers from around the world, which makes it an inviting experience from the get-go.
Location Location Location
In the Northwest of the country, it’s convenient to explore other parts of Portugal with Porto as your base. About 3 hours from Lisbon, Porto is also close to some of the best surf towns.
During my stay, I visited the quaint town of Cascais, which was also a 3-hour Flix bus ride away (and is super close to Sintra if you want to explore the palace). If you’re into surfing, other notable spots to visit are Nazare and Peniche along the coast!
Some of the friendliest people I’ve met on my travels have been the Portuguese. Porto also attracts many expats opening their own businesses, so there’s always someone to meet!
I opted to ‘slow travel’ Porto- spending more than 2 weeks in the city. After scoping out a few local spots and visiting them more frequently, many of them began to recognize me and say hello. The locals enjoy helping tourists, especially when it comes to food and wine recs.
Due to its close proximity to other spots in Europe (and its safety), you’ll often find fellow solo travelers in the streets too. I went for an early morning breakfast in the city and came back with a new friend from Costa Rica: the beauty of traveling alone.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com