I booked this trip somewhere in December 2017 which in Belgium was the darkest month since 1934 and I needed sun, so with some days left to book from my previous year vacation days, I decided to spend some days in Porto. Here what I've seen & done
1. Getting there
Porto is connected by Metro to the airport and it takes about 30 min to reach the city once in the metro. You can buy a Z4 ticket or at least this is what the people from my accommodation recommended. It's the purple line.
2. Where to stay?
I always spend a lot of time searching for the best accommodation as it needs to be affordable, in the old center if possible as I like to walk, close to restaurants & supermarkets. I general aim for apartments or hostels rather than hotels. This time I booked via booking at City Breaks Apartments - Coliseu, you can normally access it via this LINK
3. What to see?
I always start by creating a route from the location I stay, it makes visiting more efficient and in a hilly city like Porto less stair climbing helps. Anyway, here what I captured
3.1. Capela das Almas
"On Rua Santa Catarina stands the strikingly ornate, azulejo-clad Capela das Almas. Magnificent panels here depict scenes from the lives of various saints, including the death of St Francis and the martyrdom of St Catherine. Interestingly, Eduardo Leite painted the tiles in a classic 18th-century style, though they actually date back only to the early 20th century." (Source)
3.2. Cafe Majestic
I read everywhere that you have to pass by Cafe Majestic as it is one of the most beautiful Cafes in the world and so on, so I passed by as it was on the way to my accommodation and then I thought to myself, I am sure I can do better with my time than queuing to have a coffee in a packed place. I did take a shot on the outside one morning and had a look through the window inside, it looks super classy. Maybe it is something for you, so I added it to the list ;)
3.3. Church of Saint Ildefonso
"Completed in 1739, the church was built in a proto-Baroque style and features a retable by the Italian artist Nicolau Nasoni and a facade of azulejo tilework. The church is named in honour of the Visigoth, Ildephonsus of Toledo, bishop of Toledo from 657 until his death in 667" (Source)
"Approximately 11,000 azulejo tiles cover the facade of the church, which were created by artist Jorge Colaco and placed in November 1932. The tiles depict scenes from the life of Saint Ildefonso and figurative imagery from the Gospels" (Source)
I read in Lonely Planet I think, that if there was to visit only one church this should be it, well I beg to differ as I think that Porto Se or even the Clerigos Church seemed to me more special. Anyway here have a look at what you can expect.
3.4. Red telephone box
I am not exactly sure why there are this British telephone boxes in Porto, but in case you are a fan might want to get a picture of them ;)
3.5. Porto Cathedral (Se Cathedral)
Somehow I ended up seeing this cathedral a lot of times at different times of day as it was on my way to everything :).
"Porto's Cathedral, the Se, is an historic landmark in the old center, where the city was born. In fact, Morro da Se is the oldest district in Porto. Its characteristic neighborhood and its residents are the most genuine part of the city." (Source)
"The Cathedral itself is a 12th Romanesque structure. It was built by Bishop Hugh, a French nobleman who came to Porto even before Portugal's independence, and ruled the city from 1113 to 1136. Despite its Romanesque roots, you will see that the cathedral, all over the centuries, has been suffering many changes of different architectonic styles, like the baroque roofs of the turrets next the front door, or even the loggia outside the north wall of the building, designed by Nicolau Nasoni, in the 18th century." (Source)
"Inside the cathedral, you may like to see the silver altar that holds a curious story: in 1809, when Napoleon's Grande Armee entered the city, a local resident painted the altar to hide the silver. The French troops never noticed that and leave the silver alone." (Source)
And you have quite a nice view from up there as well.
3.6. Dom Luis I Bridge
The first proposal of the bridge came from Gustave Eiffel (the architect of the Eiffel Tower in Paris) but it was rejected as it was not in line with the growing population in the city. Later on, the project was won by a Belgian company and they have assigned Theophile Seyrig to be the lead architect of the bridge. Construction took almost 5 years and was it was finally inaugurated 31 October 1886.
"The iron bridge has two decks, of differing heights and widths, between which develop a large 172.5 metres (566 ft) diameter, central arch supporting these upper and lower decks. Both decks are moored to the riverbanks by means of masonry piers. Those in the upper deck, are rectangular with a trimmed cornice finish, consisting of two staggered registers separated by cornice and interlacing struts. The lower deck is based on large foundations supporting molded cornices and wedges linked together by a felled arch, and framed by interlacing beams." (Source)
3.7. The Riviera neighborhood
"Riviera square is a historical square in Porto, Portugal. It is included in the historical center of the city, designated World Heritage by UNESCO." (Source)
3.8. The other side - Villa nova
If you want a perfect picture of the colorful houses from the Riviera neighborhood, just cross Ponte Luis and there you have it
3.9. Stock Exchange Palace
"The Stock Exchange Palace, better known even to foreign visitors as Palacio da Bolsa, is one of the most valuable tourist sights of Porto. The construction works started in 1842, only to be completed some 30 years later, and the reason for building a venue of this kind was, at least as far as Porto was concerned at the time, to boast of its economic power and to draw the European businessmen to make investments in the city." (Source)
"Given both its age and architectural virtues, the palace was declared a national monument and listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Thus, the palace is the expression of a mix of architectural styles, with prominent neoclassical elements which prevail across other influences." (Source)
3.10. Statue of prince Henry The Navigator
"Prince Henry (Infante Dom Henrique)(1394-1460), the third child of King John I of Portugal, was responsible for the early development of European exploration and maritime trade with other continents, reason for which it was called Henry the Navigator." (Source)
3.11. PORTO signs around the city
3.12. Clerigos Church & Tower
"The church was built for the Brotherhood of the Clerigos (Clergy) by Nicolau Nasoni, an Italian architect and painter [...]. Construction [...] began in 1732 and was finished around 1750 [...]. The main facade of the church is heavily decorated with baroque motifs [...] and an indented broken pediment. This was based on an early 17th-century Roman scheme. The central frieze above the windows present symbols of worship and an incense boat." (Source)
The entrance ticket to climb in the tower is 4 Euro and the visit is structured in such a way that you can also visit the church inside and see it from upper up, interesting view.
"The monumental tower of the church, located at the back of the building, was only built between 1754 and 1763. The baroque decoration here also shows influence from the Roman Baroque, while the whole design was inspired by Tuscan campaniles. The tower is 75.6 metres high, dominating the city. There are 240 steps to be climbed to reach the top of its six floors. This great structure has become the symbol of the city." (Source)
3.13. Lello Bookstore
They say that this library is the one that inspired the Harry Potter Hogwarts...and if it is the case, i can actually what made J.K. Rowling use this bookstore as inspiration.
Since the moment you open the door you enter a magic world, this place is absolutely gorgeous. Offering books in several languages (but mainly Portuguese) it is hard to leave the place without buying at least one book. I ended up buying my first book in French "Le petit prince" Lello Bookstore edition (just started studying).
I have to add some pictures of the beautiful staircase & ceiling, it's GORGEOUS!
And of course you can find all the Harry Potter Books
Note: the entrance is not free anymore, you can get the tickets from up the street at the corner shop. The price of the ticket you can deduct for the price of a book if you decide to buy.
3.14. Sao Bento Train Station
The most beautiful entry hall i saw in a train station. It's covered in azulejos.
"There are approximately 20,000 azulejo tiles, dating from 1905-1916, and were composed by Jorge Colaco, an important painter of azulejo of the time. The first tiles were placed on 13 August 1905." (Source)
The walls show different scenes but I will not go into the details, sharing though some pictures.
3.15. Plaza de los Aliados
"The square has its origins in the beginning of the 18th century. It was in 1718 that a project for the urbanisation of the area begun, which resulted in the creation of new streets and an ample square, known as Praca Nova (New Square). The square was initially limited by the medieval walls of the city and by urban palaces, all of which are now lost." (Source)
"In 1866 a monument dedicated to King Peter IV, a monarch closely linked to Porto, was inaugurated in the middle of the square. The monument, by French sculptor Anatole Calmels, consists of a statue of Peter IV riding a horse and holding the Constitution that he had fought to protect during the Liberal Wars." (Source)
"Porto City Hall is an imposing building that dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. Also note worthy is the solid 70m high tower with a carillon clock." (Source)
"You won't need to do much research to agree with this statement: this is the most beautiful McDonald's restaurant in the world!" [...] This McDonald's restaurant in Porto was inaugurated in 1995. [...] The final restoration work is a result of a cooperation between two architects ateliers: Archange and A. Burmester. The idea was to give it a fresh look, maintaining the iconic features and recovering the social gathering spirit once so lively here." (Source)
"Ardina" (newspaper seller) or "The Paper boy" done in 1990 by Manuel Dias. It represents the old times in Porto when there was no television or internet.
4. What to do?
4.1. Go to the beach
Hop on the bus 500 leaving from across the train station. It's a 30-40 min drive. You'll know when to go off the bus.
We went till Matosinhos and then walks back on the beach.
And we got to see a super amazing sunset in the ocean
4.2. Listen to Jazz
MiraJazz organizing Jazz afternoons on their terrace. Hope for good weather as it's the perfect way to spend the second part of the day., their wine and snacks are also very good. There are for sure other places that organize similar events.
The views from this place are also pretty cool
You can have wonderful food it Porto, so make sure you schedule in your busy itinerary some time to explore the local cuisine. I'll share of course my experience in a separate post about food in Porto.
4.4. Go out
Porto seems to have a great nightlife. We went to this place called Plan B Club which has 2 separated rooms downstairs with 2 different music styles (pop/disco and electronic). You can get cocktails at the ground floor, which clearly don't lack alcohol ;). We had a great time over there and fully recommend it.
4.5. Walk the streets
And trust me, at the end you'll feel almost like after a HIIT workout ;)