Portugal is a beautiful country, and its second largest metropolitan area, Porto, is no exception. The history of this medieval city in northern Portugal dates back hundreds of years. Its authentic cobblestone streets are flanked by colorful structures that give off the impression of being transported back in time. Fado, Portugal's traditional music can be often heard on Porto’s streets, which gives the city a unique and authentic atmosphere. For enjoyers of traditional music, entire shows exist in Porto, which makes it a necessity to visit this city if you’re looking to improve your understanding of Portuguese culture. The city is so important in all possible ways that it is sometimes referred to as Portugal's Northern Capital, which is not surprising given that Porto formerly served as Portugal's capital. There are many things to do in Porto, but you must see the city's most well-known attractions. Porto's top attractions are dispersed around the city, but they all have one thing in common: history. Explore an old market or go to the bookshop where J.K. Rowling got the idea for Harry Potter at these locations to better comprehend why this lovely European city is so unique today. In 1996, UNESCO declared its historic area, which has been continuously inhabited since at least the fourth century, as a World Heritage Site. It is also a booming industrial center. In contrast to other important towns in the country, Porto's center is more huge and granite than baroque.
If you're a reader and have ever yearned to walk across the pages of your favorite books, Porto is the city to go to, because of a place called The Livraria Lello. This bookstore has been a popular tourist attraction in Porto, Portugal since it opened its doors in 1906. It is rumored to have served as one of J.K. Rowling's sources of inspiration for her Harry Potter books, and she even visited it on a research trip. This bookshop in Porto is stunning in and of itself, with elaborate marble staircase patterns leading up to its second-story balcony, where endless rows of bookcases are packed with both classic works and more modern publications.
Because of its distinctive architecture, which was created by renowned Porto architect Xavier Esteves, the bookshop is a well-liked tourist attraction. Since 2013, the structure itself has been recognized as a significant architectural monument.
The Livraria Lello is not only a fantastic destination for vacationers, but it also has a significant place in Porto's history. It was first established as a component of a bigger bookselling business that ran from 1869 until 1894. Due to its distinctive architecture and reputation as one of the most beautiful bookstores in Europe, its popularity has increased recently.
Torre dos Clérigos
The Torre dos Clérigos, Porto's highest point, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built in 1549 as part of the convent of San Francisco and is perched on a hill. The baroque tower has three stories and an octagonal floor layout. On the top floor, there is an observation deck with panoramic views of the city and surroundings. It also has several eateries and businesses, many of which have terraces with beautiful views. It is recommended that you go early in the morning or late in the evening to enjoy them without as many people.
It's easy to get there by foot from downtown; just follow Rua dos Clérigos up through Vila Nova de Gaia until you reach Rua de Santa Catarina (which runs parallel). From here it's just about a 10-minute walk on a wide cobbled road before arriving at your destination!
Portugal, like many nations in Europe, is a Catholic nation. The Portuguese are deeply religious people who practice their religion not only in daily life but also in the cities, where there are numerous chapels, churches, temples, and other places of worship. And the Cathedral of Porto, which is revered by the city's residents, is one of the most well-known in the whole nation.
The Porto Cathedral is regarded as the principal place of worship in the city, although, due to its Romanesque architecture, it resembles a fortress more than a temple. The Cathedral has served as the city's principal focal point since it was built in the 12th century. As is typical for such structures, it has undergone a series of repairs over time. It is considerably more noteworthy since it served as the backdrop for several historical events.
The temple rooms are characteristic of medieval cathedrals because they feature little adornment and a gloomy atmosphere.
The visitor can see massive doors and rose windows, high ceilings and rough columns, ancient elements of decoration and furniture, statues of saints, and magnificent paintings in golden frames. It is on the outskirts of the Porto Cathedral where you can take a private sidecar tour that is meant to show you all of Porto’s main attractions.
Mercado do Bolhão
The Mercado do Bolhao is something you'll surely notice as you stroll through Porto's crowded streets. This market is a fantastic location to get fresh produce, food, and other items. Since there are sellers selling anything from hand-painted tiles to handmade dolls, it's also a great place to buy mementos. Tourists can eat at one of the several eateries or cafés that border this vast area's perimeter.
The market is situated in the historic district, next to Avenida dos Aliados. Except on Sundays, when it shuts at 2 p.m., it is open every day from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.The market's central atrium is constantly bustling with activity from shoppers to those dropping by one of the many food vendors for lunch. Vendors may be seen outside in front of this busy center selling everything from handmade jewelry and apparel to fresh seafood. More produce than you can think is within, ranging from apples and oranges to more exotic fruits like guavas or mangos.
Palácio da Bolsa
Palácio da Bolsa is an architectural jewel and one of the most iconic buildings in the city of Porto. Built in the late 1700s, it served as home to the city's stock exchange for over a century. The building's neoclassical style is due to its architect, Narciso dos Reis Pereira (who also designed several of Porto’s other landmarks). His design was inspired by French palaces at Versailles and Fontainebleau. Palácio da Bolsa was built on top of what was once a bullring and later used as an artillery storehouse before becoming a stock exchange during Portugal’s royal era. It underwent extensive restoration between 1999 and 2003. Today, visitors can take tours through this gorgeous neoclassical palace to get an idea of how business was conducted here during its heyday—and see why even today people consider it one of Porto's most impressive buildings!
Cais da Ribeira
The Ribeira neighborhood in Porto is distinctive, unique, and authentic. The city’s oldest and "most central" quarter is the quintessence of the ambiguity of Portugal's northern capital: a combination of beauty and ruin. It is worth distinguishing between two concepts with the same name. The waterfront Ribeira and the similarly named residential neighborhood are located on the hillside from the city center to the riverfront of the Douro. The word "Ribeira" itself can be translated as "riverside, coastal". Originally inhabited by fishermen, the Ribeira neighborhood was a lively place where the whole town flocked to buy fresh seafood, catch up on the latest news, or just talk. And there's more. Ribeira was practically the whole city in its own right.
Its colorful and exquisitely adorned façades are outstanding, and you'll discover that the remainder of the buildings higher up in the narrow winding lanes are just as charming as the charming terraced houses on the waterfront that reflect on the Douro River (which you can see better from Gaia). The ideal spot to spend your nights is in this area of town, which comes to life at night. Ribeira is brimming with little eateries with bustling patios where you can enjoy some of Portugal's famous regional cuisine while admiring the views of the Dom Luis I Bridge and Vila Nova da Gaia's illuminated cellars.
The Douro river, upon which shores Ribeira is located, has a beautiful valley that is home to many wineries, which you can visit.
Igreja de Santo Ildefonso
In the heart of Porto's historic center, close to Batalha Square, is where you'll find the Igreja de Santo Ildefonso or Church of Saint Ildefonso. A chapel honoring Saint Aliphon from the thirteenth century stood where the cathedral now stands. In 1709, a new church was erected in its stead after the decrepit chapel was demolished. In 1730 the main part of the church and the tympanum was completed, and in 1739 two bell towers and a vestibule were added, and the facade was finished. The church was built in the Baroque style, the building has the shape of an elongated octagon, as the building material used was granite. The name of the architect, whose project was used to build the church, remains unknown, although the names of the masons and carpenters who worked on its construction have survived. The interior of the church of St. Ildefonso was decorated by the Italian architect Niccolò Nazoni, who designed the Baroque retablature (altarpiece). The retablo was made and installed in the church by the architect Miguel Francisco da Silva in 1745. The church's organ was made in 1811 by the master craftsman Manuel da Sa Couto, an organ that can still be heard in the church today. The church was badly damaged during a big storm in 1819 and during the siege of Porto in 1833 by the troops of Pedro I of Brasilia. Subsequent reconstructions lost their original appearance: in 1932 the facade of the church and the side walls of the bell towers were covered with azulejo tiles and over 11,000 tiles were used to create panels depicting scenes from the Gospel and the life of Saint Ildefonso by the Portuguese artist Jorge Colas. In 1967, the stained glass windows were replaced and new stained glass windows were made by the famous Portuguese artist Isolino Vaz. The Igreja de Santo Ildefonso is an architectural monument and one of the most visited sites in the city in 1996 it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the historic center of Porto.
When you visit Porto, make sure to check out St. Francis Church. It was originally built in 1260, but it has since been rebuilt twice (in 1470 and 1604). The church is located on Rua da Escola Medica; its architecture is a mixture of Gothic and Manueline styles.
Paintings from the 16th century that portray scenes from the Bible and other holy legends are used to adorn the interior. You'll note as you move through this sacred space that it is adorned with lovely stained glass windows and stone arches that support the roofs over your head. Large wooden sculptures depicting episodes from Christ's life are also on display, as well as an ornate pulpit with figurines of Christ's disciples (such as when he drove money changers out of the temple). Remember to look up! Some beautiful, complicated ceiling decorations crafted by skilled artisans are a sight to behold.
Visiting St. Francis Church is just one of many things you can do when in Porto. Other nearby attractions include the Port Wine Museum and a small park located next to it, as well as Casa do Infante—a historic building where Prince Henry the Navigator was born.
The area around the church is home to many restaurants that provide traditional Portuguese food. You may sample meals like feijoada completa, caldo verde, and bacalhau a bras here. An alternative is to visit one of the city's well-known pastelarias, where mouthwatering pastries are made.
São Bento Train Station
São Bento Train Station is the most important and beautiful train station in entire Portugal. Located in Porto, it was built by architect José Luís Monteiro between 1892 and 1895 as a terminus for the railway line that connects Porto to Guimarães.
It is both a national monument that was established in 1990 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was constructed to house people traveling on trains from France to Portugal or vice versa, and it remains one of Europe's most stunning stations today.
São Bento Train Station has two floors with many shops where you can buy souvenirs, clothing, or snacks before continuing your trip through Portugal by train (or plane).
The train station is a very large and busy place, but it’s also one of the best places to visit in Porto. It has a beautiful and historic design that will impress you when visiting the city for the first time, as well as excellent service by staff who can help guide you around.
The station is a fantastic starting point for your exploration of Porto. It boasts a fantastic mall with a wide variety of stores, cafes, and eateries, making it simple to find something that meets both your tastes and your budget.
This is also one of the best places to visit in Porto because it’s located near some of Portugal’s most interesting attractions.
Vila Nova de Gaia
Vila Nova de Gaia is a town in Portugal's north that is located close to the Atlantic coast. The town itself is located on the left bank of the Douro River, slightly south of Porto. The nation's modern name, Portugal, is taken from a hamlet called Portus Calais that once stood there. The primary port for the export of wine is located here. Numerous companies call it home, including warehouses for cork, ceramics, textiles, food, and wine as well as a wine exchange. Contrary to popular belief, the renowned wine cellars holding Portuguese port wine are not in Porto, but actually in Vila Nova de Gaia. For connoisseurs of Port wine or people interested in the way alcoholic beverages are produced, there is an option to visit some of the Port wine cellars and learn more about one of Portugal’s trademarks. Vila Nova de Gaia is connected to Porto by one of Portugal's most beautiful bridges, designed by engineer Eiffel. The bridge is 172 meters long and is built as a tracery arc and consists of two levels given to pedestrians and drivers. The House-Museum of Teixeira Lopis is located in the city. Here you can see the works of twentieth-century masters, as well as porcelain, paintings, decor, and African art from their collections, including ivory works and sculptures of Congolese tribes. Vila Nova de Gaia is also a great starting point for your exploration of Porto itself since it offers e-Bike Tours that take you throughout both Vila Nova de Gaia and Porto, showing you all of the notable landmarks.
Casa da Musica
The Casa da Musica performance venue, which debuted in 2005, is a beloved contemporary addition to the landscape of the city. The design was overseen by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, alongside high-tech scenography and companies producing something related to music and acoustics. In the past thirty years, architects have made several desperate attempts to break free from the "shoe-box" music hall's dominance. The Casa da Musica seeks to revitalize the conventional performance hall by changing the interaction between the hollowed-out interior and the general audience outside rather than battling the unavoidable acoustic superiority of this classic shape. The Rotunda da Boavista's new Casa da Musica, the National Orchestra of Porto's new home, is situated on a fresh public plaza. In an era of too many symbols, it has a unique faceted form constructed of white concrete that is yet strong and convincing. Corrugated glass panels at each end of the raised 1,300-seat Grand Auditorium interior open the hall to the city and provide Porto itself with a dramatic background for performances. Without being didactic, Casa da Musica displays its contents while also giving the city a fresh perspective. Its unique design makes it one of the few music venues that are interesting to visit even when there are no performances. Due to Casa da Musica being relatively new construction, it offers a glimpse into the modern life of the city, contrary to the historic center.