It wouldn’t be right to characterize Porto by simply choosing one of the factors that make this destiny more and more attractive. One is divided between the richness of its architecture and heritage, its ever growing artistic and cultural expression, the growing liveliness downtown, night and day, its gastronomy and excellent wine, and its charming hospitable genuine people.
- Gastronomy and Wines
Porto Historical Centre
In the city, you must dive in the old skeleton of Porto. Classified as a World Heritage Site since 1996, Porto historical centre contains a monumental and landscape richness where you can see several urban conceptual solutions varying from the medieval times to early modernity.
You cannot miss a visit to the Church of São Francisco, go to the Hard Club and feel Ribeira’s heartbeat. Inside the church, enjoy the Gothic rose window and the niche with the figure of the saint, on the main façade, the woodwork from the 17th and 18th centuries, the frescos and painting on wood in the main chapel and transept, as well as on the 16th century graves.
In the show room – Hard Club was settled in 2010 in the old Mercado Ferreira Borges – take a break at the cafeteria while enjoying the architectural iron reference built in 1885.
Take a walk in Ribeira do Porto and allow yourself a longer walk beyond the pier. Although the esplanades facing the river Douro and the sightseeing are tempting, you must lose some minutes wandering through the local alleys, with their thin and lively buildings of darkened granite contrasting with the clean clothes drying in the sun.
Palácio da Bolsa
Opposite the side wall of Hard Club, Palácio da Bolsa deserves a special chapter. Built between 1842 and 1910, the building, which belongs to Porto Commercial Association, is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city and offers guided visits.
The visit starts at the beginning, in the old cloister of Convento de S. Francisco – named today as Pátio das Nações - , whose ruins were donated by the Queen D. Maria II to the association founded in 1934, so that the town businessmen might have a place to meet.
Leave the best to the end. The Salão Árabe was built as an Arab balls danceroom, very fashionable in the 19th century, and inspired by Palácio de Alhambra in Granada.
Leave the palace and cross D. Luís bridge towards the Port wine cellars. The 19th century monument was designed by some students of the famous French engineer Gustave Eiffel and started to be built in 1888. On the southern bank of River Douro there is a viewpoint with stone benches which will offer you a privileged view to the bridge and where you can see and take some photos of the houses at Ribeira do Porto before leaving to discover the wonderful world of Port Wine.
Port Wine cellars
On the bank of the river you can visit Sandeman (Largo Miguel Bombarda, 3). In Ramos Pinto Avenue, you find Ramos Pinto (no. 380) and Ferreira (no. 70).
In the neighbouring streets, as you go up to a higher spot, you will find other Port Wine cellars. Graham’s cellars, in Agro street, 141, where you can visit an interesting museum and taste the best Port Wines in modern testing rooms, besides having the opportunity of following a guided visit through the barrels and tunnel corridors. In Graham’s it will be worth to know the restaurant and Vinum wine bar, a partnership between Symington family and Sagardi Spanish group, where cooking is based on regional, seasonal, fresh and excellent products and the dishes were intended to be shared.
Normally between May and October these spaces are open between 10 am and 7 pm, and between November and April the closing times will be one hour earlier.
In Diogo Leite Avenue you can decide to visit the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Piedade, a saint who is supposed to protect the fishermen and the men who crossed the river with the Port Wine barrels some time ago. At the cellars zone, you may also go up by cable car to the Garden of Morro, where you can climb to the Monastery of Serra do Pilar or catch the underground back to Porto downtown.
What to do
- In Port Wine cellars zone, the complex Cais de Gaia concentrates more than 25 commercial spaces, among restaurants, shops, cafés, bars and discos
- Next to Port Wine cellars, you can embark on a cruise along Douro River.
The City Centre
This area has suffered an incredible change the last three years. In fact, the city centre is still changing. With the help of a growing night life and a consistent planning by some art galleries, the city centre embracing Aliados Avenue, Torre dos Clérigos and Palácio de Cristal has enlarged its own way of life.
This is home to fashion designers and cake designers, of small urban markets and regular handicraft fairs. It has wine shops with the best Portuguese wines – with Douro and Dão references, alongside with Alentejo nectars, and wine bars for after-work drinks. Likewise, it has brought together the traditional commerce and cosmopolitan business shops.
It is the ideal place to have lunch – or dinner! There is a wide range of options for every purse, from restaurants with traditional cuisine and family atmosphere to gourmet spaces, and signature restaurants. Generally, all of them have special menus and prices at lunch time.
After a coffee at one of downtown esplanades, look for the Lello bookshop. Situated in Carmelitas street, this bookshop was considered the third most beautiful bookshop in the world by the British newspaper The Guardian. Its iconic staircases are thought to be the first example of use of concrete in Portugal.
In the first years of its life the bookshop inaugurated in 1906 was named Chardron – the original name is still held on the frontage -, because its founders, Lello brothers, wished to maintain the publisher’s name they had bought together with the space.
Lello has already been the scenario for cinema, having been closed for two days for the shooting of “Baker Street Xangô” (2001), a film based on the novel of the Brazilian humorist Jô Soares.
At another time, it was once almost robbed by a priest. The priest had already put the first volume of a philosophy book in his suitcase when the bookshop assistant politely warned him that he had forgotten the second volume… The man went back and fetched the volume which was missing and paid for both.
Torre dos Clérigos
One of Porto landmarks, Torre dos Clérigos, was built between 1754 and 1763. Designed by Nicolau Nasoni, it was first thought of in 1731, when the Clérigos Pobres Brotherhood decided to have a building for their service. It is a six-storey building and it is 76 meters high. The visitors have to climb 255 steps to reach the top but the view is rewarding. Price? Just 2 euros. In winter, you can climb to the top of the tower between 10 am to 12 am and between 2 pm and 5 pm. In summer, opening hours are from 9.30 am and 1 pm and from 2.30 pm to 7 pm. The last admission will always be half an hour before closing.
You will like
- To choose the right language to visit Palácio da Bolsa with a guide. You just have to try to be one of the first two people booking the activity.
- To visit the National Museum Soares dos Reis, the Centro Português de Fotografia and the Palacete dos Viscondes de Balsemão
- To visit the Transport and Communications Museum, situated within the old building of Alfândega do Porto and Port Wine Museum only a few minute walk from Ribeira do Porto.
In the evening give your legs a rest and enjoy some “rabanadas” enveloped by secret and delicious “ovos-moles” from Majestic, the historical café in Porto, born as Elite in 1921 and known for its literary gatherings and attended by many famous artists of the time.
Located in the busy Santa Catarina Street (where most main fashion and accessories shops are), this is one of the most iconic spots of Porto city. The building dates from 1916 and it is one of the best examples of Art Nouveau in the city.
Majestic “rabanadas” cost 4 euros, but you can choose a 7 euros menu which will include a 10-year-old Porto Majestic Tawny glass. The café opens every day, except Sundays, from 9.30 am to 12 pm.
Casa da Música
Casa da Música is the first building in Portugal exclusively dedicated to music and, in spite of being inaugurated in 2005, it is a child of Porto 2001 event – Cultural European Capital.
In the beginning, the house of music was a strange surprise. Rem Koolhaas’s project was contested by many of those who could not understand the architect’s idea of casting that kind of rough diamond in that city area.
Once the problem matters were solved, the theatre became a dynamic centre for national and international music from a wide range of areas, from classical music to jazz, from fado to electronic music, from the great national production to the most experimental projects.
There are free shows for you to enjoy during the visit to the building.
The Museum of Contemporary Art of Serralves, whose entrance is made through D. João de Castro Street, 210, is the most important museum of Porto and one of the best in the country.
The museum, whose building was planned by architect Siza Vieira, was inaugurated in June 1999. It contains a representative collection of Portuguese and international contemporary art and showcases temporary, group or solo exhibitions, which are also part of the Casa building, a unique model of architecture whose final project was signed during the transition to 1940’s decade by Marques da Silva.
However, Serralves is not only about art. Penetrate deep into the beautiful gardens and park, an ancient land of the 2nd Count of Vizela, the aristocrat of textile industry Carlos Alberto Cabral.
Walking towards Parque da Cidade, some metres after the intersection between Marechal Gomes da Costa and Boavista Avenues - an access way to Serralves – enjoy the Vodafone building. The strange building that conveys movement signed by José António Barbosa e Pedro Guimarães, won the prize of building of the year in 2011 in the category of institutional architecture granted by ArchDaily, the most visited architectural site in the world.
What you need to know
- The Andante Tour was created having in mind those who visit Porto: the Andante Tour 1 is valid for 24 consecutive hours after the first validation; as for the Andante Tour 3, it is valid for 72 consecutive hours after the first validation.
- In the underground station of Trindade, there are some lockers where you can keep your luggage for a maximum period of 36 hours. This service is available from 6 am. to 1.30 pm and prices vary according to the size of your luggage.
- Lello bookshop will be open from Monday to Friday, between 10 am and 7.30 pm, and on Saturday from 10 am to 7 pm.
- Majestic will be open every day, except Sundays, from 9.30 am to 12 pm.
- Normally, between May and October, Port Wine cellars will be open from 10 am to 7 pm and between November and April, closing one hour earlier.
- Learn more
Parque da Cidade
The green lungs of the city. Parque da Cidade has 83 hectares of green areas, footpaths and varied sports equipment, it is the largest park in Porto.
The first phase of the park, planned by the landscape architect Sidónio Pardal, was inaugurated in 1993. The plan would only be completed in 2002 with the building of the maritime front and the connection to the beach.
In 2000 it was selected by the Portuguese Chamber of Engineers as one of “100 most notable masterpieces built in the 20th century in Portugal”.
It is a pleasant place of about 10 km of paths and rich and varied fauna and flora.
Finish your day eating a francesinha in Edifício Transparente, watching local surfers, or visit the Lota de Matosinhos and have some charcoal-grilled fish or some shellfish.
How to get there
There are flights to Porto, low cost , for example, London (Stansted and Gatwick), Paris (Beauvais, Orly and Charles de Gaulle Vatry), Marseille, Lille, Tours, St. Etienne, Bologna, Bordeaux, Lyon, Toulouse, Madrid, Barcelona El Prat , Tenerife, Valencia, Venice and Palma de Mallorca.
In the summer there are low cost companies flying from Liverpool, Las Palmas, Carcassonne, Rodez and Nantes.
With normal fares from London - Gatwick, Madrid, Barcelona and Paris - Orly.
The best way to reach the center of Porto from the International Airport Francisco Sá Carneiro is by metro. The trip takes about 30 minutes.
From Porto to Guimarães, you can reach in about 30 minutes by motorway A7 and A3.