Porto: Top 10

(continuer en français) – Published: February 7, 2023

The capital of northern Portugal continues to capitalise on the image of the wine produced in its hinterland. But there is much more to discover during a stay in Porto, such as the abundance of azulejos and the baroque architecture in the churches. I would have liked to add the Lello bookshop, which I missed due to time constraints. To make sure you see the essentials, here are my ten other suggestions.

01. Dom-Luis Bridge

The bridge is at the heart of Porto’s urban landscape, with this old city rolling down to the bank of the Douro where it faces the need to cross it. Construction was completed in 1886, copying an 1877 bridge built by Gustave Eiffel just upstream. There is also a second carriageway on the lower level, the bridge is now only used by trams and pedestrians.

02. Quays of the Douro

Once dedicated to commerce, the quays have become a major tourist area for Porto. Restaurants and cafés stretch out their terraces endlessly, while cruises on the Douro embark their lines of passengers waiting under the scorching sun. Along the banks, bright rabelos give the illusion that they are being used, swaying as the motorboats pass by.

03. Cathedral

Originally built in the 12th century, the cathedral has undergone modifications, notably with the addition of a cloister whose walls are covered with azulejos. Its fortified exterior can still be seen when it was part of the city’s defences. The interior has a large 18th century baroque altar, richly decorated with twisted columns.

04. Pillory

In Portugal, the pillory is an attribute of the cities, of their privilege to exercise justice in their territory. In the past, the convicts were sentenced there, exposed to the shame of the inhabitants. Nowadays, they perpetuate the symbolism while becoming a work of art with a refined sculpture. It is located on the square in front of the cathedral, which forms a terrace over the city.

05. Episcopal Palace

The prominent place of the palace in the urban landscape says a lot about the weight of the Catholic religion in the life of Porto. Rebuilt in the 18th century, the palace is still inhabited by the Bishop of Porto. Part of the building can be visited, showing a refined décor with quality furniture. From the windows, the view overlooks the Douro Valley in a delightful way.

06. Serra do Pilar Monastery

The former 16th century monastery stands out in two ways. Firstly, it dominates the historic city centre of Porto from the opposite bank. Secondly, the round shape of its church, an unusual shape that catches the eye once you reach its platform. From there, a complete panorama of the city centre unfolds below, including the Dom-Luis Bridge in the foreground.

07. St. Francis Church

Porto has many churches, often covered with tiles, but the decoration of the Franciscan church stands out. The sobriety of the exterior contrasts with the interior, the ornamentation is an explosion of baroque exuberance. From the 17th to the 18th century, several gilded wooden altarpieces embellished the nave, while in the 19th century the church was converted into a warehouse.

08. Port cellar

A visit to a port wine cellar is one of the almost obligatory moments of a stay in Porto. There are various options in terms of cost and organisation, and everyone can adjust their time. Above all, it is an opportunity to learn more about the production and trade of wine that made the city so rich. To combine the clichés, a fado demonstration can also be offered.

09. Stock Exchange Palace

Given the importance of commerce in the history of Porto, its Chamber of Commerce is one of the most prestigious monuments. It was built in the 19th century on the ruins of the Saint Francis church cloister. Early on, its role in arbitrating conflicts between wine merchants favoured the development of commercial law, which was later extended to the whole of Portugal.

10. City Hall

The high tower of the City Hall stands out above the roofs of the old town. Compared to other monuments, it is relatively recent, being built only at the beginning of the 20th century, and stands at the end of a long square. It is possible to reach the top of the tower via the stairs, but there are other viewpoints in Porto.

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    • The bridge is even more impressive from the ground. The first time I went to Porto, cars were still passing on the upper part. I was taking photos and this probably distracted a driver who crashed into another car. Nothing serious, but taking a photo sometimes has unintended consequences.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Definitely want to visit Porto, having never been but having heard many good things about the city. This post makes us want it even more…we may even get there in 2023. I’ve heard good things about travelling by road (or was it rail?) up into the vineyards and then back by boat on the Douro….have you done that trip too?

    Liked by 1 person

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