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Top Places to see in Porto: your Travel guide + map

November 28, 2016

porto-city-guide

Porto is one of my favourite cities in Europe, I’ve spent more almost two months exploring its streets, churches, restaurants and wineries. Now I’ve prepared a walking tour of all the must-sees and dos in this unique town, along with some unknown and unforgettable places. Here’s everything you need to see in Porto – and more!

Walking Tour map:


Just to let you know, Porto is on the hills so you need to pack some good shoes. And now, prepare yourself to see a lot of azulejos and drink enormous amount of wine!

Porto Walking Tour:

Let’s start off in a not-so-typical place: Jardins do Palácio de Cristal, the Crystal Palace Gardens. There’s no Palace anymore, just a sports hall, but the park is a neat place for a relaxing morning in the city. The views of Douro river, along with a dozen colourful peacocks strolling around the Jardins, will instantly improve your day.

jardim-do-palacio-do-cristal

Next, let’s go towards the centre of the city, to Parada Leitao square. There are two churches there, Igreja dos Carmelitas and Igreja do Carmo. The second one is covered by blue azulejos tiles and is one of the most picturesque attractions of Porto, take a photo there! Opposite to the church is a nice wine shop called Garrafeira do Carmo. They have a wide choice of local wines, you can taste any of them and the owner will help you choose the best wine (they’re often from tiny, family-owned wineries).

From there we stroll to Praca de Lisboa which is newly restored, modern plaza. The upper level is a neat park, the lower is full of shops and cafes. There you’ll find Porto’s most popular place, Livraria Lello bookshop. Its beautiful stairs, stained glass ceiling and wood carvings have inspired the Harry Potter series, you should absolutely visit it!

By Praca de Lisboa sits Clerigos church, climb the Torre de Clerigos and see beautiful views of the city (I highly recommend going there during sunset). The church isn’t that interesting, but take a look at a shop called Casa Oriental in front of it with a… somewhat unique representation of Portuguese colonies.

casa-oriental-porto

The Casa Oriental

The view from Torre de Clerigos

The view from Torre de Clerigos

livraria_lello

Livraria Lello

The streets surrounding the square, like rua da Galeria de Paris or Praca de Gomes Fernandes are definitely worth your time as well. They conceal some nice cafes and shops, I highly recommend an eclair shop Leitaria Da Quinta Do Paco and an amazing souvenir shop A Vida Portuguesa (seriously, this place has beautiful souvenirs, they’re all made in Portugal and the interior is amazing). Some of the streets around also host weekend markets.

Let’s continue! Stand on the steps of Clerigos church, take a photo of Rua dos Clerigos and follow that street to Praca da Liberdade and Avenida dos Aliados. It’s a place where all official buildings are, including banks and the town hall, which itself dominates the Avenida.

The town hall on Avenida dos Aliados

The town hall on Avenida dos Aliados

Go towards the town hall, take a third right and then take the Rua Formosa. There’s a lot of shops there with typical Portuguese produce, including salted cod bacalhau, olive oil and wine. Further down is the Mercado do Bolhao market with fresh produce of Portugal. I always find this place fascinating, as it’s still very much local, contrary to places like La Boqueria in Barcelona. In Mercado do Bolhao you’ll meet regular people shopping and loud Portuguese vendors selling anything from fish to flowers. It’s also quite cheap there, so if you need some fresh cooking ingredients, this is a place to go (it’s usually open until 1 pm, closed on Sundays).

Cross the Mercado, then take a right and suddenly you’ll see the Capela da Almas, another beautifully decorated, white and blue church. It’s situated on Rua Santa Catarina, which is Porto’s highstreet, full of famous brands and shops. Take a walk down Santa Catarina and don’t forget to visit the Majestic Cafe. It’ll probably be very crowded there, but you don’t often get a chance to drink coffee in an Art Nouveau cafe, right?! If you’re hungry though I recommend a new and hip place on Rua Ateneu Comercial, not far from the Majestic. The place is called Food Corner and it’s a four-storey building, each floor hosting another type of restaurant.

capela-da-almas

Capela da Almas

majestic-cafe

Majestic Cafe

Next, continue on rua Santa Catarina, pass the Santo Ildefonso church covered in azulejos and go to the Se Cathedral. It’s a very local place where you can start to feel the atmosphere of Ribeira, the old river district of Porto. Kids sometimes play football in front of the Cathedral and people will curiously watch you from their balconies. Oh, if you have some time to spare, there’s a really amazing and completely unknown Igreja de Santa Clara just 3 minutes from the Cathedral, it’s free to enter and its whole interior is completely covered in gold!

Se Cathedral

Se Cathedral

There’s another place for azulejos lovers not far from the Cathedral, Sao Bento train station. I must say this is probably the most beautiful station in the world, with 20 thousand tiles depicting scenes from Portuguese history. Absolutely a must-see.

After you’ve seen the Bento station, take Rua das Flores and go towards the river. This street was recently closed for traffic and it was a great decision, as the alley is now blooming with new businesses, small cafes, restaurants and bars. You might want to stray into one of the side streets and find some hidden alleys and gorgeous spots.

Sao Bento station

Sao Bento station

Miradouro da Vitoria

Miradouro da Vitoria

At the end of Rua das Flores take left and go downhill to Palacio da Bolsa. It’s a historical stock exchange building, decorated lavishly with Arabic motifs and gold. Totally worth a visit!

palacio-da-bolsa-porto

Palacio da Bolsa

Not far from the palace is the San Francisco church and its interior consists of gilded wooden sculptures. Apparently they used 700 kg of gold on this place and I belive that, the church is pretty glamorous.
If you’re a fan of creepy experiences, you should visit the crypts underneath the church. You get to walk on graves there (yay.) and there’s even a big hole filled with human bones. One of the worst experiences in my life but hey, maybe you will enjoy it!

Igreja de S. Francisco

Igreja de S. Francisco

Now we’ve come to the best part! From the Igreja de S. Francisco you can go towards the river Douro and the Dom Luis Bridge. On your right is one of the most important rivers of Portugal, on your left: the oldest part of the city, the Ribeira district. This is where Porto’s port once was. Ribeira’s long been a desolate place, with some of the buildings ruined but now it’s gradually being restored and the steep narrow streets start to look great again. Don’t hesitate to explore this fascinating place!

Ribeira in Porto

Ribeira in Porto

Ribeira

Ribeira

After the walk by the river you have to (absolutely have to!) cross the bridge and go to Vila Nova da Gaia. It’s technically another town and it’s well known around the world for its wine produce. The grapes are grown up the river Douro, made into juice which is then transported to wineries in Vila Nova. There is where the wine matures for decades, finally emerging as sweet and strong port wine. You can take a tour in some of the wineries (I’ve visited Ferreira and Graham’s, the first tour was much more interesting) where you’ll learn about the winemaking process, the Douro valley, the history of wine in Portugal and why the hell all the wineries have English names. Each tour must be obviously followed by wine tasting!

Ferreira winery

Ferreira winery

Most of the tours end at 6 pm but if it’s a little later don’t fret, you can easily find a nice wine bar and chill over a glass of port, while enjoying the view of port in Porto… It’s called porto no porto no Porto in Portuguese, neat right?! If you prefer ruby port, try ordering Cockburn’s, tawny lovers will enjoy Kopke.

On the river Douro you will see traditional boats called rabelos. They were used to transport wine from the upper Douro to Vila Nova da Gaia. By these boats is one of the best views of Porto:

things-to-see-in-porto

Another nice viewpoint is Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar, which is also in Vila Nova. From up there you can see the whole river, the wineries and Porto’s old town. If you don’t feel like climbing there, take a cable car!

While you’re returning to your place in the evening, take some time to stroll around Ribeira. It’s monitored by the police and they’ve installed lights everywhere so the place is quite safe and very pleasant to walk (please don’t be careless though and remember you’re always the easiest target as a tourist).

porto_villanovadagaia

Villa Nova da Gaia and Dom Luis bridge

Foz do Douro i Matisinhos – you’re going to love the ocean

Not many tourists care to visit Porto’s seaside, don’t make this mistake! The promenades in Foz and Matosinhos are vast, cool and beautiful, a perfect way to recharge after a full day of sightseeing. The locals just walk on the promenades, drink coffee or surf, it’s a wonderful place you will love and never forget.

The lighthouse in Foz do Douro

The lighthouse in Foz do Douro

To experience all this, go to Foz do Douro, the estuary of Douro river. You can get there by bus 500 or one of the tourist yellow trams (their first station is near Igreja do Carmo, then they pass Ribeira and follow the river to the ocean).

There’s a São João Baptista da Foz fort, near it a pier with a lighthouse. This place is an absolute joy. From there you can follow the promenade along the ocean, even walk to Matosinhos (it’s about 2 km from Foz but the walk is wonderful). Stop for some coffee and/or port in one of the cafes by the ocean. If you feel tired at any point, you can take the same bus 500 back to the city centre or to Matosinhos.

I highly encourage you do to the latter, as Matosinhos is the best secret of Porto. Why? Well, it’s a relaxed town known for surfing, but also the main port of Portugal. Which can only mean one thing: extremely fresh fish. In the morning you’ll meet seamen strolling in Matosinhos and the shops offer freshly caught fish.

Surfers in Matosinhos

Surfers in Matosinhos

And here’s the best thing about Porto: Rua Herois da Franca. This is a street full of restaurants, with grills standing just outside and chefs preparing the freshest fish and seafood you can get in Portugal. Even if you’re in Porto just for a day, go to Matosinhos in the evening, try the amazing food and just fall in love with this place, this country, this culture. You will always cherish your memories from Porto.

Amazing fish in Palato restaurant

Amazing fish in Palato restaurant

Have fun in Porto and consider sharing this guide if it was useful. Thanks! ❤️

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