What to do in Porto
I need to start this off by saying I fell in love with Porto. It is a city of character, art and so much blue from the water to the sky and the fantastic tiles. .
Porto is the second largest city in Portugal, it is in the north of the country in a lush provence, situated on the hills at the mouth of the Douro River. Porto has had a long history, with the usual suspects having lived here such as the Celts, Romans and the Moors but it is known for being a port town and life on the river, Baroque churches and for its Port Wine.
When the Age of Discovery began to bloom Porto became a major port in Portugal for trading and having ship yards for the ships that went on discoveries. As the Port grew, so did the Port WIne Business making it a rich town as you can now see from the exquisite Baroque Churches dotted throughout the city.
Porto was just a dream to visit, it had a relaxed atmosphere full of traditions, those summer nights down on the Douro River watching the Sunset was perfection. Here is a list of my favourite things to do in Porto.
Cais da Riberia sits on the Douro River, it is a beautiful part of Porto with its housing all stacked up upon each other in such vibrant colours. You are able to get a sense of what life would have been like as a Port especially with the Rabelo boats that a unique to Porto. There are many restaurants and cafes that sit on the River edge with delicious fresh seafood and unique restaurants. It is a great atmosphere to be apart of especially in the evenings when you can sit in a cafe or by the river enjoying the Sunset and all the lights pop up across the city, including over the other side at Gaia with all the Port Wine Cellar logos shining in the dark. As the city lights come up, the musicians come out making it a wonderful evening to spend out in Porto.
Ponte de Dom Luis I
This bridge sits in the centre of Porto joining Porto and Gaia together. It was built in 1886 by Théophile Seyrig who co-founded the Eiffel Company. It is a two level bridge with both levels you can walk on but the top is for trams and the bottom for cars. It offers great views either if you are on it or looking towards it. It is a wonderful feet of architecture.
Port Wine - Gaia
As said Port Wine is famous in Porto, all of the Port Cellars are on the other side of the River in Gaia, the cellars offer tours and tasting. We visited Calem for out Port experience, these cellars have been there since 1859 and the Port Wine was amazing, I was never a fan of Port until I drank at these Cellars. It is a wonderful museum where you are able to get a taste of what the region looks likes with the vineyards on the the steep hills. Then the guided tour takes you through the cellars that have Port maturing for around 100 years then you finish off with a tasting session where you can try a Ruby, Tawny or Vintage Port Wine there, all of them are delicious.
Visiting Calem Wine Cellars offers tours in multiple languages, with a two glass Port Wine tasting session afterwards, it cost €12,00 for this great visit.
On this side of the River is some beautiful street art, places to eat but nothing beats eating at the Market of Beria Rio, there are so many options for local food and Local women selling fruit.
Igreja de San Francisco
Back across the River is the spectacular Church of San Francisco. It is so elaborate and awing, the church was first build in the Gothic style then the interior was redecorated in the Baroque Style. I have never seen such wonderful over the top Baroque Architecture. When visited the Church you get to see the Church, a Museum, a smaller church and the Catacombs. It is covered head to toe is beautiful detailed gold, this church is a must visit, it is on my Top 10 Churches in Europe. This is a paid visit of €4 for the church including all the extra sights to visit on the property
Palacio da Bolsa
This wonderful building doesn't look like the Palace that it is from the outside but it is delicious on the inside. It was build for the Royal Family, by the finest Portuguese Artists using the best Portuguese stone and marble to celebrate the nation. By the time it was finished there was no longer a Royal family in charge to live there, it soon became the Centre of Commerce for Porto for most of the 20th Century. It is a great palace to discover, it has the finest decor from its mosaic floors, to its gilded banners of the Nations, to Manueline carvings to the beautiful Moorish Room with this as the cherry on top for this visit, honestly this description does it no justice.
The Palace is a tour visit, you will learn so much about the History of Porto and all the finery inside the Palace. You will learn about all the details that you never knew were there. There are multiple language tours costing €9,00.
Porto Cathedral (Se) sits on the highest view point in Porto, it was built in the 12th Century but its interior is Baroque but with its Gothic past still being showcase side by side. It is a calm place to visit with such delicate details to discover. Outside the Cathedral is a huge square with stunning views across the length of Porto. It is a great place to watch the world go by.
Sao Bento Railway
Arriving into Porto you would think this is just another train station in Europe. But it is a charming Art Nouveau building, one of the many in Porto. It would feel like you are in Paris if it wasn't for the vivid blue tile depicting various Portuguese Battles throughout history. It is a great place to stop inside to admire the wonderful architecture.
Capela das Almas
The Capela das Almas is located on a busy shopping street in Porto and if you rush you wouldn't see it so make sure you always look up when shopping. As soon as you look up and see the huge beautiful blue tiled wall which is breathe-taking to admire. The wall is painting with different scenes of the lives of Saints such as St Francis and St Catherine. It is such a vivid blue all edged with a sculpted stone border. It is a gorgeous church to visit, that it is hard to pick a favourite church in Porto.
Torre dos Clergios
Clergious Tower is one of tallest buildings in Porto, it is a long 225 step staircase to walk but it offers wonderful views of Porto at the top of this bell tower and the chance to get closer to all the fine 18th Century details. I have never seen such a tall Baroque tower like that so it is a wonderful sight to see for the people that love history.
Visiting Torre dos Clergios cost €5 which includes visiting the museum, you are also able to visit the tower at night to see the sunset and the city lights pop up which costs €5 too.
This was a highlight for me on this trip to Porto, I had long admired this wonderful Art Nouveau building with its twists and turns and books stacked to the ceiling and I wasn't disappointed, (my only disappointment was that no one wanted to look at the book, only to take photos). The inside there is a mixture of Art Novueau and Neo-Gothic Architecture, it has a stained glass ceiling and if you look up on the shelves you will see sculptures of the head of poets and writers. It really is a dream this shop, with great books to see.
When visiting Livraria Lello you need to buy a ticket due to the huge amount of people that want to visit. You can buy tickets from the shop on the corner just up the road from Livraria Lello called Armazéns do Castelo, tickets are €5 (but that will give you €5 off when buying a book). Tickets can be bought the day before or on the day and if you have a large bag there is storage in Armazens do Castelo to leave them there when visiting this delicate Bookshop.
It is best to visit Livrario Lello first thing in the morning and yes you will be in a queue but if you buy your ticket the day before you are sorted or Sunday afternoons are a great time to visit as it gets quiet.
If you are still in the area, there is a great Art Nouveau store next door called A Vida Portuguesa, it is a mixture of traditional Portguese homewares and vintage chic, it is hard not to spend all your money there with all its wonderful treasures. Not only is it a wonderful shop, the interior is gorgeous it will take you back to when shopping was fabulous and simple.
On Sundays great markets pop up too inbetween Livraria and A Vida Portuguesa, there are stalls to buy local artistic products from handmade bags to traditional jewellery to artwork, it is a wonderful treasure.
Igreja do Carmo & Igreja dos Carmelitas
At the top of the hill from Livraria Lello are the twin churches Igreja do Carmo & Igreja dos Carmelitas. They are joined together by the tiniest house in Porto. Igreja do Carmo is the bigger of the two with the side wall being covered in painted blue tiles, it is a wonderful Rococo Church that you can feel is the brother of the twins being more masculine in shape and decor which was the church for the monks of the Order of Carmo.
Igreja dos Carmelitas was my favourite out of the 2, it was breath taking. It is a tiny church but so ornate inside; I had never seen anything like it till that moment, it is one of the finest examples of Baroque Architecture with every face covered in gilded gold and saints in vibrant colours. You can feel that is is feminine as it was the church of the Carmelite Nuns. It is the perfect place to sit and just admire so much beauty in the world.
Porto was one of the best cities I have visited in a while, it was so beautiful every where you looked being filled with so much art from Gothic to Baroque to Art Nouveau Architecture, not to mention how kind the people where. Porto is a city I can not wait to go back to visit.