The ancient Portuguese city of Porto, which gave its name to an entire country, is an inexhaustible treasure of Portugal. It is so atmospheric and unique, versatile and authentic that every visitor will find something to see in Porto. Walk endlessly through its labyrinthine narrow streets and explore ancient architectural masterpieces, colorful houses with dark red tile roofs, numerous museums, pompous Baroque churches and other many attractions in Porto.
Of course, visitors will always find something to see in Porto in 1 day, but it takes at least about a week to enjoy the enchanting atmosphere of the ancient port city. The following overview will help you choose the most interesting places to discover Porto in the most enlightening and impressive way.
As a rule, this is where organized tours in Porto begin. It is here that the introduction to the national color of Portugal begins - in the medieval cobbled streets, replete with vivid monuments of antiquity. The sounds of the many taverns and restaurants on the coast of Ribeira merge into a chorus that lasts from early morning until late at night. The old colorful houses of Ribeira reach the age of three hundred years, and each of these structures is original in its own way.
The main square of the city, surrounded by mansions and administrative buildings decorated in a laconic Art Nouveau style, makes a very striking contrast to the motley and chaotic variety of Ribeira. All the buildings surrounding the square were built in the same architectural style, according to the same plan. The square is crowned by a 19th century monument erected in honor of King Pedro IV.
This street is one of the key tourist attractions in Porto and is the first thing to visit for any first-time visitor to Porto. This is where everyone can shop for quality merchandise and memorabilia - a walk along Santa Catarina is like a visit to a museum, with colorful and creative shop windows as exhibits. The neighborhood remains buzzing with activity until well into the night, as first-time visitors endeavor to visit as many souvenir shops, boutiques, and local patisseries and cafes as possible.
One of Porto’s main attractions is the Majestic Cafe, soon to be over a century old. It is truly an iconic establishment that reflects Portugal’s coffee culture to the fullest. Both exterior and interior decoration of the cafe is a true masterpiece of art. Carved ceilings, sculptures, furniture made from solid natural wood - all this fascinates with its beauty and subtlety of execution. Visitors of the cafe can order fresh aromatic pastry and one of the many kinds of the best Portuguese coffee.
Official website: https://www.cafemajestic.
Today, when looking for a place to visit in Porto, tourists visit this famous place not only to buy a book, but also to admire the beautiful architecture. The founders of the store in 1894 were the Lello brothers, who commissioned one of the talented architects of the time to design the premises of the future library. The result of this work can be admired to this day: the artistic wood carvings, the curved staircase, the stained glass mosaics on the ceiling glass and the luxurious Art Deco facade are impressive.
Official website: https://www.livrarialello.
Located in the heart of the city, on a hill near the cathedral, the Bishop’s Palace was built in the Middle Ages, and until the 19th century it served as the residence of the bishops. What the palace looks like today is the result of a thorough reconstruction of the former Romanesque structure. In the 18th century, the building was considerably enlarged, and its architectural execution acquired Rococo and Baroque features.
In the historic district of Porto is another palace, the Exchange Palace, built on the ruins of a Franciscan monastery that burned down in the 19th century. It didn’t take long for local merchants to appropriate what was left of the structure. As a result, a neoclassical building grew up on the site, and its interior interiors have survived in perfect condition to this day and today draw the genuine admiration of visitors. Thus the business building has become a real palace, which houses a museum with a collection of sculptures and paintings.
Official website: https://palaciodabolsa.com
The following recommendations will touch on a landmark that has a very unusual architectural appearance. A deconstructivist building in the historic center of Porto is none other than the House of Music, which opened its doors very recently, in 2005. Today the building, thanks to its unconventional appearance and cultural significance, has become one of the city’s new symbols and serves as a concert hall. Inside, there is a hall with a capacity of about one and a half thousand people, as well as a restaurant, a cafe, a music store and rooms for rehearsals.
Official website: http://www.casadamusica.com
It is the city’s main train station, where trains arrive from all over Portugal, but this is not the only thing that has made it an important tourist destination. Sao Bento is an important landmark in Portugal, which emerged on the site of a burned-out Benedictine monastery in the early 20th century. It is also one of the most picturesque train stations in all of Europe, because all of its walls on the inside are lined with azulejos, which depict famous episodes from Portugal’s glorious history.
Official website: https://www.cp.pt/passageiros
At the highest part of Porto, in its historic center, rises the city’s cathedral. The cathedral was rebuilt and enlarged many times, and so its appearance has lost architectural unity over time. Its exterior, dominated by leaden-gray shades, is austere and even a bit harsh, which makes an even more striking impression on its visitors. The recognizable decoration of the facade is the window in the form of a Romanesque rose, and the main jewel of the cathedral is the 800-kilogram silver altar walled in the altar niche.
Another attraction of the ranking is the Carmelite Church, united in a single ensemble with the Carmo Church. These two structures, erected during the late Middle Ages, are located in the historic part of Porto. The facade of the Carmo church is a mixture of Baroque and Rococo style, while the Carmelite facade is an example of the Classicist style that characterizes many Portuguese churches. The interior of the churches surprises with its incredible abundance of gilding and other elements of skilful decoration.
The Clerigos Tower is another recognizable symbol of Porto. This tall structure can be seen from anywhere in the city, so it is a great landmark for tourists arriving in Porto, and in past centuries it was also a landmark for ships arriving in Porto. In fact, the tower is the bell tower of the Clerigouche temple. This complex was built in the 18th century and the church is still open for Catholic services. The Baroque façade is lavishly decorated with statues and relief paintings, and a staircase with figurative balustrades leads to the main entrance.
Official website: http://www.torredosclerigos
With the appearance in Porto in the 13th century of the order of beggars founded by St. Francis, the construction of the church, which has become an important landmark in Porto, began. The foundations of the church were laid then, but construction continued until the 15th century, when King Ferdinand I made a substantial financial contribution to the completion of the building. The exterior of the church is an example of the austere Gothic style, while the Baroque interior is astonishingly rich and luxurious - for example, more than 300 kilograms of solid gold went into the decoration of the interiors.
The 18th century chapel was once a simple and inconspicuous chapel until the entire façade was covered with enormous panels of traditional azulejo tiles. The blue-and-white panels depict important scenes from the lives of St. Francis and St. Catherine, in whose honor the chapel was erected. The interior of the chapel is decorated in the same manner. Guides in Porto will confirm that no other building in the city is as lavishly decorated with Portuguese tiles.
The main attractions of Porto are summarized by the museum in the premises of the Carrancas Palace. It is one of Portugal’s most popular museums and houses a rich collection of national art made by Portuguese masters. The collection once began with works by court masters and works confiscated from monasteries. An essential part of the exhibition is the work of António Soares dos Reis, the sculptor after whom the museum was renamed.
Official website: http://www.museusoaresdosreis
Porto’s treasures are so numerous that even after visiting many of the farthest corners of this city, there is always something else to see. Other attractions in Porto, pictures with names and descriptions can supplement your leisure time, if the main attractions of the city are already thoroughly studied and stored in the memories for many years.
For almost all of its existence, Porto has been a haven for great artists. It wasn’t until the 20th century that a new generation of architects in the city decided to create a museum of contemporary art in the Serralves Manor. The museum building was designed by Alvaro Siza Vieira in a modern minimalist style. In 1999, the museum opened its doors to its first visitors, who could explore a collection of contemporary creations from 1968. Every year the museum hosts exhibitions of works by many of Portugal’s contemporary artists.
Official website: https://www.serralves
On the grounds of one of the oldest wineries in Portugal, in the Alto Douro region, there is a Port Wine Museum dedicated to the famous local wine, Port Wine. Feedback from visitors to this museum suggests that the history of the drink, its production, and many of the devices used in the winemaking process are explained in great detail and interest during the tour. In addition, guests can always visit the tasting room and taste the most different varieties of high quality port.
Official website: https://tour.calem.
Dragao is the home stadium of the Portuguese soccer club, built especially for the 2004 championship and has become an important landmark. It is the second largest stadium in Portugal, where the national team currently plays its matches. It seats more than 50,000 spectators. The very name of the stadium comes from the dragon, which is depicted on the emblem of the Portuguese club.
Official website: https://www.fcporto.pt/en
Portugal has many bridges crossing the country’s many rivers, but one of the most memorable is the Luis I Bridge, built back in the late 19th century. The bridge connects Ribeiro and Vila Nova de Gaia and is easy to reach if you pass through the Ribeiro area. The bridge is a gigantic metal structure with two levels, the first of which is for cars and the second level is for the metro. You can walk across the bridge and be impressed by the grandiosity of the construction - there are separate paths for pedestrians.
Due to the high altitude difference in the area where Porto is located, you can’t do without diverse and even somewhat exotic transportation, such as the funicular railway. The only cable car available in Porto connects the two urban areas - the famous touristy Ribeira on the sea coast, with the famous Porto hotels and restaurants, and the more modest Batalha, located in the highlands. A capacious carriage with transparent walls moves on a monorail for 280 meters in 3 minutes.
A trip to Porto is memorable in the heart of every visitor for years to come. The old houses, centuries-old walls and narrow streets of Ribeira strike the imagination, the high-class port wine warms the blood, a walk along the waterfront brings a thoughtful and detached mood, the nourishing and varied Portuguese cuisine gives new gastronomic experience, and getting to know Porto becomes one of the brightest events in the life of each of you. Read also about Lisbon attractions and be inspired for your future journey in Portugal.