Porto is a fascinating and vibrant city with so much history and colour. Having visited this place very briefly a couple of years ago, I was determined to return for a longer period of time. Those churches, bridges and tiles were just waiting for me to grab my camera and click away.
While I have outlined the places we visited over the 4 days, I have separated the churches into a separate blog post and will make reference to that post as I go.
Porto is located along the Douro River and is one of the oldest European cities with its centre being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.
Port wine which is produced in the Douro Valley is one of Portugal’s most famous exports, and is named after Porto where the wine was packaged and exported.
I had extensively researched Porto beforehand and just wanted to see everything. We then decided to stay right in the centre of the city and walk everywhere. We met up with some friends from the Netherlands and Spain, staying together in a large house for 4 days. So where to start. The first day was simply a walkabout, getting mesmerised by all the tiled houses, beautiful buildings, a tram or two and a visit to a couple of churches.
Day 2 – we ventured down towards the waterfront to the Ribeira area passing some well known buildings. The palatial 19th-century Palácio de Bolsa, formerly a stock market, was built to impress potential European investors. With the need for a prior booking, we didn’t make it inside. Also passed by the Ferreira Borges Market.
Meandering through the narrow streets and alleys, we came across some great viewpoints looking out across the river. Then it was down many, many stairs to the water’s edge.
The Ribeira District is the oldest district of the city, a labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets, ancient houses and lots of character. Colour is everywhere. Stalls, buskers and cafes with people sitting under the famous white umbrellas taking in the atmosphere of this unique place. Also you can catch a cruise boat to take you along the river.
After coffee and a stroll along the riverfront, we decided it would be a great idea to take the funicular back up to the city centre. Great idea as the views of the Dom Luis I Bridge from a different perspective were amazing.
We found the Porto Cathedral (Se Cathedral) but I was the only one keen to go inside. It was a quick visit but well worth it. (see Blog post – Porto Churches and Cathedrals) After that we ventured into the famous Sao Bento Railway station, not to catch a train but to look the the world-famous tiled entry. The crowds made it challenging to get a good overall view.
That’s when I like to just zoom in to specific parts of the tiles and take lots of photos. Apparently there are 20,000 painted tiles on the walls, illustrating the evolution of transport in the area, as well as some important historical events.
Walk around and appreciate the glass and iron structure of the station. Make sure you put Sao Bento Station on your “to do” list for Porto.
Day 3 – Back to the waterfront past more beautiful buildings. Called in to Sao Bento Railway Station again hoping for less crowds and more photos. Outside were some amazing rocks that were “infused” with tiles. So different.
Next our adventure of walking the famous Dom Luis I Bridge. This bridge is a double-decker metal arch bridge spanning the Douro River. It was opened in 1886 and designed by a partner of Gustave Eiffel. Crossing to the other side, one can then walk up the hill to the Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar, or stroll along the waterfront to visit the many Port houses for which that area is famous.
Our walk across the top level of the bridge was a casual stroll taking in the views along both sides of the river. There was quite a lot on the river as. Many old boats are permanently moored for tourism while several boat tours come and go.
The views were spectacular.We did end up trekking up the hill to get those well renowned views across to Porto. Make sure you look both sides of the bridge for different cityscapes.
While there, we thought we may as well take a look at the Monastery. It was disappointing as most was closed for renovation. We did get to see the courtyard though. Maybe this place would be better at night. The church had a service so I popped in for a quick look at the end. Some interesting old artefacts in there.
Our group disbanded leaving just Don and I to walk along the riverbank. Again taking more angles of the bridge, then we walked back across the lower deck to the city centre. Make sure you look through the bridge as framework for your photos.
We then meandered our way up and down streets (yes we went up, then came back down), not quite sure what we were looking for – most likely another church. The vintage trams were evident in this area.
I really wanted to see the steps of St Francis Cathedral and eventually found them. I decided not to go inside the cathedral after reading that photography isn’t allowed. For me photos are my memory and cannot always remember what I have seen without a photo. I have made this decision at a few places, but looking back, there are times when I wish that I had paid the entry fee and go in for a look.
Heading back to our accommodation we passed through the Rua das Flores, a beautiful but very old street with luxurious manor houses and apartments. It was full of buskers playing classical music adding a nice atmosphere.
Last stop was a quick visit (me, not Don) to the Clerigos church. Didn’t have the energy to climb the tower though. We managed to get lost on the way back so found ourselves in another neighbourhood with lots of different tiled houses. One can never be lost when walking in amazing cities! In saying that, it was good to get back after a very long day. Walked over 10km. So much to see.
Day 4 – Our last full day in Porto so off we trekked to see more churches and the more exclusive streets of Porto. The famous 100 year old Café Majestic is situated here. Of course it was both difficult to photograph and even more difficult to get inside to eat. Just had to suffice with some quick photos.
In the afternoon, I was able to visit the Livraria Lello, Porto’s most famous bookstore. See my separate post on this.
We sure did cover a lot of Port. In between all of the major attractions, I was always looking for something interesting to photograph. I have many photos of just tiles, doors and windows. Will edit these later and put them into another post. The many shop windows, street signs and food are always great subjects. Colour is everywhere.
Please make a point of visiting Porto when you travel to Portugal. You won’t be disappointed.
Related posts of Porto