Take a trip to Porto
Portugal’s second largest city is located in the north of the country, where the Douro River flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Porto is easily accessible by walking or using the tramway lines. The most famous district, La Ribeira, forms a beautiful historic medieval center and is a very lively area with its cafes and restaurants. You can plan a charming visit by taking a cruise on the Dom Luis Bridge and sailing on the river. The whole agglomeration has many museums and monuments. For example, the Palácio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace), a neoclassical building that serves as a chamber of commerce, the Casa da Música and its auditorium or the Torre dos Clérigos. This tower, inspired by the Tuscan bell towers, was completed in 1763 and it is from its 75-meter peak that you will have the best view of the city. Don’t forget to go to Vila Nova de Gaia, thanks to the Teleferico on the south bank, in the basements of its typical wine cellars where you can taste the famous nectar. For an excursion to the vineyards, you will have to go to the region of Régua, about 100 kilometers away.
Tour guides in Porto
Five ideas for guided tours in Porto
Porto Cathedral – Sé do Porto
The most important church in the city is located in the upper Batalha district. The Cathedral of Porto, commonly known as La Sé, dates from the 12th century. Having undergone various repairs and renovations throughout history, there is no specific style that distinguishes it. We could rather talk about a mixture between baroque, with its facade and its carved portal, Romanesque and Gothic, with its cloister and multiple azulejos dating from the 18th century. From this cloister, you will reach the treasure room, “Casa do Cabildo“, where religious relics and silverware are exposed. Climbing a staircase, you will reach the terrace and, adjacent to it, the chapter house with paintings on the ceilings.
In front of the cathedral stands a pillory where criminals were hanged.
The imposing square is a real lookout point for a bird’s eye view of the Douros and its docks.
The Ribeira suburb, according to its name, is located on the banks of the river. Long ago it lost its dilapidated appearance and became a very famous place in Porto. As a proof, it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A privileged area for tourists, everyone loves to get lost in the cobbled streets that crisscross the area. Everywhere you’ll come across richly decorated houses, painted in cheerful colors where the laundry hangs from the balconies. The reflections around the quays are sparkling, go and admire them on top of the Dom Louis I metal bridge, the work of a disciple of Gustave Eiffel. In the evening, you can relax in one of its many bars and typical restaurants. We advise you to hire a local guide in Porto in this area, because the most important sites are very close to the Ribeira.
To experience Porto’s soul, head to the Mercado do Bolhão near the Avenida dos Aliados. Since 1914, when the place was inaugurated, merchants from all over the region have been coming to sell all kinds of products (fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, cheese, olives…). You will enjoy strolling through this neoclassical building with an authentic atmosphere. The market is composed of two floors and we advise you to taste in the friendly stalls the culinary specialties: the inevitable cod acras, seasoned sardines or other soups caldo verde.
Porto-São Bento Train Station
The Porto-São Bento train station, built on the site of an old convent with the same name, is without a doubt the most beautiful in the country and is a tourist attraction unto itself. The construction was completed in 1896, but it was only inaugurated two decades later. The architect in charge of this project created it like a masterpiece, taking his time and refining every detail. So much so that he forgot about the ticket offices. Although the discovery of its large facade in the center of two towers is truly impressive, the interior will dazzle you even more with the Hall decorated with no less than 20,000 blue tiles telling the story of Portugal. Made shortly after the opening of the station, in 1903, they are the work of the painter Jorge Colaço. The stylish building is designed on three floors and, at the top, there is a huge glass roof that overlooks the platforms.
Lello & Irmao Bookshop
You will find the famous Lello & Irmao bookshop, considered the most magnificent in Europe, inside a neo-gothic building dating from 1906. You will take a trip back in time. In the heart of the store, slowly climb the twisted staircase of lacquered wood. On each side, imposing wooden shelves support the tens of thousands of books rising to the ceiling. As you look up, a large, colorful stained glass window lets in natural light. You will feel as if you have been transported into a magical world. It is not for nothing that this setting was the inspiration for some scenes in the Harry Potter movie. This comes at a price and crowds flock from all over the world to see this jewel. It is said that there are nearly a million visitors a year, so the entrance fee (5 €) will be refunded if you buy a book.