Leading up hill from Douro River the ancient historical quarter of Ribeira featuring narrow alleyways, sidewalk cafes, and stunningly beautiful and crumbling buildings. Walking through this beautiful area gives you an appreciation for why it has been appointed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A distinctive feature of this area is seeing all the laundry hanging out to dry from balconies. You get a real sense of the old world ways that are still prevalent to Porto’s daily life.
Places to Visit in Porto
- Cafe Majestic is the most popular attraction in Porto
- Bolhao Market
- Crystal Palace Park
- Torre dos Clérigos
- Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar
- Vila Nova de Gaia
Unique Things to See in Porto
- Sao Francisco Church – interior is covered in gold
- Cais Da Ribeira – world heritage riverfront in the medieval district
- Palacio da Bolsa – the stock exchange palace
- Sao Bento Station to see the huge tile murals
- Avenida dos Aliados – for a walk down an architecturally inspiring street
- Lello & Irmao bookstore…it has to be the inspiration for J.K. Rowling
Venturing up hill from Ribeira, you’ll find the most spectacular structure in all of Porto- the Stock Exchange building- Palacio de Bolsa (directly translated into the palace of the purse). Built in the 19th century, it is a magnificent collection of interior designs meant to impress. Most awe-inspiring is the Arab Room designed by Gustavo Adolfo Conclaves e Sousa. Adored with Moorish mosaics, the glitter of this room is sure to excite even the novice of art.
One of the main attractions that has pulled in travellers for years is the Sao Francisco church. Constructed in 14th century, from the outside bears typical Gothic ornaments, but inside the interior will take your breath away. Once inside your eyes will not know where to turn- it is coated with pure gold. As you walk through the church you can get a real sense of the days when Portugal was the world’s largest force. The grand archways, the intricate details carved into woodwork, and just general grandeur. One little bit creepy thing about this church is that it is also a cemetery with believed to be over 30,000 bodies stored in the catacombs below. The church no longer runs a Catholic service, but visitors are allowed to walk around the catacombs and church.
No wine lover could resist the exploring Porto’s reputation for the being one of the top wine destinations in the world. Across the Duoro River into the area of Gaia is where you’ll discover their secrets of Port wine. Many wineries and cellars, blend together their sweet creations from the grapes produced up river in the Duoro Valley. With over 50 traditional wineries and cellars to choose from a guided tour will walk you through the cellars and the history that made Porto the international source it is today.
Getting around Porto
The main way around the city of Porto is by 3 trams lines, metro lines, and funicular lines. The funicular system connects two areas: Batalha and Ribeira.
The bus lines are run by STCP. The service is good and offers nighttime hours between 1am to 5:30am. These routes only operate once an hour, but there is service which is great because this can be a lively city at night. Tickets cost 1.50Euro, and can be bought on the bus.
The Metro line only offers 3 lines (Linha A, B, &C) which are colour coded. The service is fast and great way around the city. The lines are not open all night and typically shut down around 1am.
The Andante Card is great for tourists and highly recommended. Once you get your card you can reload and use it over and over again. Plus it allows you to transfer between the tram, metro, funicular, and most bus lines. It costs 0.50Euro and is good for one year.
Did you know…?
That Porto city is where sweet Port wine originates from.
Did you ALSO know…?
That the Portuguese love their sweets. While in Porto you have to try a Leitaria da Quinta do Paço- which are eclairs with different kinds of of toppings. Unbelievably yummy.
Best time of year to travel to Porto
Porto is best visited in the summer when the temperatures are warm- anytime between May and September. Porto is farther north than Lisbon which now has direct international flights, which means for Europeans it is a great weekend destination. For those travelling from farther away, you will want to pair this visit with Lisbon. Both are coastal towns and experience cool Atlantic winds, so bring layers for the evenings.
Ready to plan your visit to Porto? Check out these popular guides and trips.