The sights of Porto are carefully preserved artifacts of the past with a rich history and unique beauty.
What to do in Porto
Porto is one of the most beautiful and attractive cities for tourists in Portugal.
Architecture lovers will be impressed by the extraordinary buildings in the typical local style. The Sao Bento station, although it is no longer the main railway artery, is still crowded on it. Tourists come to see the characteristic blue and white azulejo tiles. Porto is also home to the most beautiful Bolsa Palace — the owner of a huge octagonal glass dome and rich interiors.
A trip to the local museum will be great family fun. The World of Discovery Park invites you on a journey with Portuguese navigators. The Tram Museum is perhaps the most unusual: you can not only see its exhibits, but also ride them around the city like a breeze. The Suares dos Reis Museum houses masterpieces by local craftsmen.
A walk through the picturesque areas will appeal to lovers of photography and unusual selfies. In the Ribeira quarter, with narrow streets, the spirit of the past hovers. There is also the Foz do Douro district with a chic promenade and a lighthouse — the most prestigious in the city.
One of the most beautiful railway stations in the world is built on the foundations of an ancient monastery. The majestic neoclassical building received its first passengers in 1903. The main attraction of Sant Benu is the walls decorated with azulejos. This is a special type of glazed tile, on which ornaments are applied in a characteristic Portuguese manner.
It is building to linger in front of the landmark panel of 20 thousand tiles, made according to the sketches of Georges Colas. The painting depicts the main milestones in the history of the country, for example, the Battle of Valdevez, the exploits of Egas Moniz, as well as genre scenes from the everyday life of the Portuguese.
Like any historical building, the “Prince’s House” has undergone an amazing transformation. Initially, it was a complex of several buildings: customs, a mint and utility rooms for workers. Construction began in the 14th century. In the 17th century, King Pedro II ordered the reconstruction of the building. The area of the courtyard remained the same, but the height of the towers was seriously reduced, but the main building received two additional floors and the window openings expanded.
It is believed that the famous hero, Henry the Navigator, son of King Juan I, was born in this house. A memorial plaque was installed on the facade of the building on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of this landmark event.
Palace of Bolsa
The neoclassical building was built in 1850 by order of the city’s Commercial Association. But the interior decoration lasted for 60 years. The result of such a long effort is impressive: stucco, stained glass, bas-reliefs, columns, pompous chandeliers and skillful mosaics.
You should definitely visit the Hall of Nations. Covered by a huge octagonal dome, it is literally flooded with natural light. The lower part of the structure is decorated with the coats of arms of the countries with which Portugal traded actively in the 19th century.
The “Arabian Hall”, decorated in the Moorish style, is a real realm of luxury. Ornate carvings on the walls, mosaic floor and chic glass doors with colorful carpet-like ornaments attract attention.
The residence of the Portuguese bishops began to be built in the 12th century on the initiative of the clergyman João Rafael de Mendons, not far from the Cathedral. For this, an older building, the palace, had to be demolished. Despite the fact that the work was carried out quite quickly, the customer did not live to see the completion of construction.
Due to the haste, mistakes were made in the construction of the building, and the number of decorative elements was reduced. In the 18th century, the palace was significantly altered, and elements of the Romanesque style framed by windows were supplemented with baroque details.
House of Music
Porto’s main concert hall was built 15 years ago by the innovative architect Rem Koolhaas. In addition to amazing acoustics, the building has an unusual shape, reminiscent of a spaceship from a distant galaxy. The walls of the concert hall, which can accommodate up to 1,200 spectators, are made of glass, through which passers-by can see musicians and spectators.
Fortress of Fernandina
From the once formidable fortress of the XIV century there was only a wall running parallel to the funicular. From the street Largo 1. de Dezembro you can get to the loopholes of the citadel. The atmosphere of the Middle Ages reigns in the towers of gray stone, and scenes of desperate battles come to life. And the view of the city and the Douro River is breathtaking. The entrance to the fortress is framed by a garden of orange trees. Nice setting for the adventure ahead.
Luis I Bridge
An iron two-level bridge connects the rocky banks of the Douro River at a height of 45 m. The author of the design is Theophilus Seyrig, a student of the famous Gustave Eiffel. Perhaps that is why the bridge resembles the inverted silhouette of the Parisian tower.
Cars drive along the lower span, metro trains ride along the upper one. There are walkways on both levels. At the top of the bridge there is also a boarding point for the funicular going down to the embankment.
Churches and cathedrals
Church of Saint Francis
The magnificent and only surviving example of Gothic architecture in Porto took almost 200 years to build, and received its first parishioners in 1425. The main decoration of the facade is a giant rose window above the entrance and a sculpture of St. Francis, in whose honor the temple was erected.
The interior decoration was formed during the XVI-XVIII centuries. It is notable for the abundance of elements in the Baroque style. Particularly impressive are the gold-plated wood carvings above the entrance and on the columns. The ornaments are dominated by images of birds, flowers, angels and scrolls.
Church of Clerigos
The baroque church, with huge bizarre windows, looks more like a fairy-tale palace than a religious building. Its 76-meter tower, built can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. It has long served as a guide for ships heading to the port. In addition, the temple had the status of the tallest building in Porto for several centuries.
Another interesting detail of the facade is a huge clock on the bell tower and an observation deck at the 6th floor level. To climb there, you will have to overcome 225 steps of a spiral staircase.
The main temple of the city is not at all impressive with its pomp and beauty — it was rebuilt from a harsh fortress in the 12th century. Buttresses, loopholes and thick battlements are facade elements that immediately catch the eye. The cathedral was rebuilt in the 17th century. This is how the baroque chapel appeared, which houses a massive silver altar weighing about 800 kg.
The interior of the cathedral is ascetic, but it is compensated by the views from the courtyard — the cathedral was built at the highest point of Porto.
The quaint rococo church was built in the 1750s. Carved stone ornaments wrapping around the facade are associated with fine lace. From this, the building resembles a toy dollhouse. However, this is not the main attraction.
The point of attraction for tourists is a blank wall overlooking Gomes Teixeira Square. From top to bottom, except for the foundation, it is covered with white and blue azulejos. The tiles form a single picture — the Israeli Mount Carmel and the birth of the Carmelite Order. The interiors impress with pomp: gilding, carvings and skillful frescoes.
Church of Saint Clare
The temple, located not far from the fortress walls, was erected in 1457. It was repeatedly rebuilt and modified until it acquired unique features. The church is the embodiment of the Barroco Joanino style, which originated at the beginning of the 18th century during the reign of King João V. The red marble walls, columns and ceiling are covered with the finest carvings, stucco and bas-reliefs.
Suares dos Reis National Museum
Originally founded in 1833, this museum housed religious objects from monasteries that had been abolished during the civil war. The exhibits are still exhibited in a separate room.
Over time, the museum has undergone changes — the works of the prominent sculptor António Suares dos Reis were placed in it. Then the collection expanded even more — it included works of art by recognized masters: Angelo Lupi, Portuense Vieira and others. In total, more than 13 thousand items created in the 16th-20th centuries are stored here.
The museum was opened in 1992 in the former Massarelosh depot. The collection includes dozens of trams not only from Portugal, but also from the Czech Republic, Great Britain, the USA and Italy. Most of the exhibits belong to the beginning of the 20th century, but there are also rare options — horse-drawn carriages.
All vehicles are in working order, shining with fresh paint and polished metal parts. You can sit in the car or go into the driver’s cab — all buttons and levers are allowed to be touched. The museum has a tour depot. From it, according to the schedule, rare trams leave and ride tourists through the historical and simply beautiful places of Porto.
“World of Discovery”
Portugal is a country of great navigators. An interactive themed museum invites you on an exciting journey with Vasco da Gama to pave the shortest route to India, or Pedro Alvarez Cabral, who first landed on the coast of Brazil.
Along the way, tourists (seafarers) are waiting for a storm, after landing — meetings with wild animals, acquaintance with the surrounding landscape. Walking through the stylized streets of ancient cities is a pleasant opportunity.
The museum occupies a beautiful 18th-century mansion, Quinta da Macieirinha. It is famous for the fact that members of the royal family lived there for several generations. The brightest representative was Karl Albert — the king of the Sardinian kingdom in exile. He spent the last years of his life in the mansion.
After the death of the monarch, the building was converted into a museum, in which the life of the nobility of the 19th century was recreated. Tourists are invited to view antique furniture, paintings, carpets, statues, dishes and other luxury items of the past.
The largest city park is spread over an area of over 83 hectares. This is a real oasis for walks on a hot day and romantic dates in the evening. The long alleys are planted with a variety of trees — from coniferous species and evergreen shrubs to age-old deciduous giants. Lawns with trimmed lush grass are an ideal place for picnics. There is a small semblance of a rock garden.
crystal palace park
The large and green park is named after the no longer existing palace. It was a pavilion made of glass and fittings, which was erected in 1865 for the world exhibition. Later, it was demolished and a spherical structure was built for cultural events. The park has many alleys, lawns, benches. There is a playground, bike paths, cafes and restaurants. In the center is a pond.
There are always many tourists here. The landscape is complemented by installations, antique and modern sculptures. The park is divided into several thematic areas, such as the “garden of smells”, “garden of feelings” or “garden of roses”.
The botanical garden has gone through a long evolution. Initially, it was a private park with home ownership. It went through several owners before being sold to the University of Porto. Despite the modest size of the territory (about 4,000 sq. m.), the richest collection of flora is presented here. It is divided into 8 thematic zones, and each is decorated in its own unique style:
- flower garden,
- greenhouses with tropical flora,
- orchid garden,
All zones are separated from each other by hedges. The area is very well maintained.
The noisy quarter was built up with chaotically bright buildings, which is why it looks “alive” and colorful. Narrow cobbled streets and a series of steep staircases lead to the Douro River embankment, laid right through the houses, many of which have overcome the 300-year mark.
The area is full of bars, cafes and restaurants serving authentic Portuguese dishes. The smells hovering in the corridors of houses tightly pressed against each other awaken a serious appetite.
Foz do Douro area
This is the most prestigious area in the west of the city with luxury housing and fashionable shops. The main attraction is the long paved promenade lined with palm trees. It is modeled after the famous Croisette in Nice. The promenade is complemented by a pergola, which appeared in the 1930s by order of the wife of the then mayor.
Another dominant feature of the area is the lighthouse on the protective pier. It regularly shone and was a guide for ships for more than 100 years. In 2009 it was closed. But from the stone embankment connecting the embankment and the artificial island with the lighthouse, beautiful views open up.
The main square of Porto is surrounded by mansions, expensive hotels, boutiques and restaurants. Most of them are architectural monuments of the 19th century. The square was laid in the 18th century, it was part of the town planning plan. In 1866, a monument to King Pedro I was erected in the center. The well-known reformer and author of the constitution is depicted on horseback. On the south side of the square stands the Cardozese Palace, a canonical example of the neoclassical style.
This is the most unusual bookstore not only in Europe, but perhaps in the whole world. A quaint neo-Gothic building with Art Nouveau elements was erected in 1906 by order of the Lello family. Architectural supervision was carried out by Javier Estevez. It was thanks to him that the store acquired iconic elements: multi-colored stained-glass windows and a red curved staircase.
This bookstore is said to have inspired J.K. Rowling to create Harry Potter. The writer lived in Porto for some time and taught English.
Santa Catarina street
This is the main shopping street of the city, where you can buy anything. There are numerous shops, souvenir shops, bakeries, fashion salons and other establishments that invite you to spend money. You should come here to buy cork oak products: shoes, bags, wallets, cases, belts and more.