Porto is one of the smaller great cities of Europe and slightly off the tourist radar, perhaps because it’s a bit isolated at the northwestern end of the Iberian peninsula. I think it’s a more interesting city than Lisbon, although it shares some similar physical characteristics, such as being located on a river and close to the Atlantic Ocean.
We spent a couple days in Porto, visiting sights in the city and the surrounding area. I’ve listed below a few things to see in Porto. In my next blog post I will cover some of the surrounding area.
Interior of the Porto S. Bento Train Station – art work is everywhere you go in Porto.
Be warned, Porto is a hilly town and you will get your exercise walking up and down the city streets!
One of the many narrow streets in Porto.
Douro River Cruise
The Douro River is a major feature of Porto, dividing the city into two halves – north and south. The river is a transportation hub and much of Porto’s restaurant scene and nightlife centers on the river front. After arriving in Porto and getting settled in our apartment, we strolled down to the waterfront and chose one of several available river cruises for the evening. The cruise was about an hour long. It’s a great way to get a feel for the city and life along the waterfront.
A typical river cruise boat on the Douro Rive (part of Porto’s old city wall is visible on the hillside).
A view of Porto’s river waterfront, looking north. Porto’s cathedral sits above and behind the construction crane.
One more view of Porto’s riverfront, note all the little booths selling food and trinkets along the bank.
A beautiful sunset frames the famed Dom Luís I Bridge which crosses the Douro River in the heart of Porto, connecting the north and south sides of the city.
Close to the Dom Luís I Bridge on the north side of the river are many restaurants. Just across the river on the south side are the famed Porto wine cellars. Admittedly, it’s a little touristy around here, but there’s a fun ambiance and it’s a great place to spend an evening.
Near the Douro River, restaurants get set for another evening of busy service.
There are a number of beautiful churches in Porto, many of which date from the early – mid 1700’s. They are easy to spot with their blue decorative tile exteriors. With our tourist map in hand, we explored about a half dozen churches, a few of those are shown below.
Straight ahead is the Igreja dos Congregados, one of the many decorated churches in Porto (S. Bento train station is on the right).
Exterior of Igreja de Sto Ildefonso. Many of the churches from the early 18th century have beautiful tile work on the exterior.
Side view of the Igreja do Carmo, another 18th century church in Porto.
The somber exterior of Igreja de San Francisco (which dates from the 14th century), does not give any clue as to what awaits the visitor inside.
Interior of Igreja de San Francisco, with some of the most ornate Baroque decorative woodwork I’ve seen in a church anywhere.
A close-up of one of the altars in Igreja de San Francisco.
Exterior of the Irgreja e Torre dos Clergios, which also dates from the early 18th century. The church and tower, as the name implies, are connected and both are well worth a visit.
Interior of the Igreja e Torre dos Clérigos.
A view of the Torre dos Clerigos, which dominates the Porto skyline. It can be climbed for great views of Porto.
View from the Torre dos Clerigos. The 12th century cathedral is in the center of the old town.
The Porto Cathedral, which dates from the latter half of the 12th century.
Interior of the Porto Cathedral.
View of a portico of the Cathedral, with decorative tiles that were added in the 17th century.
General City Views and the Dom Luís I Bridge
The Dom Luís I Bridge connects north and south Porto and was built in the late 1800’s. One of the bidders on the project was none other than Gustave Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame, although he did not get the job. This bridge is the signature landmark of Porto and dominates the riverfront views of the old city.
A view of the Dom Luís I Bridge and Douro River, looking to the old part of Porto, on the north bank.
The bridge can be walked on either the upper or the lower level. The upper level provides great views of the city for the pedestrian (and carries trains across the river), cars use the lower level as well as pedestrians.
A night view of the Dom Luís I Bridge, looking south. The building behind the bridge is the Serra do Pilar Monastery.
Livraria Vello Bookstore
The Livraria Vello bookstore is another famous landmark of Porto. It dates back to the late 1800’s, and is one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal and is considered one of the top three bookstores in the world. I’ve read that it served as inspiration for the Harry Potter books, as the author lived in Porto for a period of time and spent time here before writing the famous story.
Inside the Livraria Lello Bookstore, 2nd level.
The famed staircase inside the Livraria Lello.
Another view of the Livraria Lello Bookstore.
Due to the store’s popularity, you have to get a ticket to visit the bookstore at a specific time, these can be purchased online. Also nearby is a fun gift shop with a whole variety of nicknacks.
Porto Souvenir Store
Our Apartment in Porto
As usual, Robyn found us a great place to stay in Porto, an apartment right in the old city on the north side of the river and close to all the sights.
Robyn on the balcony of our apartment in Porto, which was a 5-10 minute walk to the riverfront.
The kitchen of our apartment in Porto.
Looking out on the street from our apartment in Porto.