Two hours flight from Paris, Porto is a city that charms all visitors with its old-fashioned scenery, its pleasant atmosphere and a delicious art of living. From the historic district to the banks of the Douro River, you can be surprised by a UNESCO listed architectural heritage that displays different styles, most of which are decorated with azulejos. Porto is certainly worth a visit, but it is best enjoyed at the restaurant table, in its many bars and around the cellars where Port wine tastings are organised, produced a few miles away, in the Douro valley.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, Ribeira is the historic district of Porto, its cradle and for many the soul of the city. Its intertwining of medieval alleys tumbles down to the Douro River, the colourful facades of the old buildings give it a unique charm. It concentrates the most beautiful monuments: the Sé Cathedral, the Sao Benito station and its hall covered with azuleros, the Torre dos Clerigos, the golden church of São Francisco, the Stock Exchange Palace, Santo Ildefonso... Do not hesitate to stroll in the wind and let yourself be surprised by its cachet of yesteryear.
Built in the 13th century, Porto Cathedral has kept the massive appearance of the fortress church it was originally. Nevertheless, its Romanesque construction has evolved over time: in the 14th century the façade was pierced by a Gothic rose and a very refined cloister was added. In the 18th century, transformations graced the interior with the baroque style of the time, which you will certainly notice thanks to the altar covered with several hundred kilos of silver. From its square, the view over the whole city can be enjoyed.
The Bolhao market is one of the most remarkable buildings in the city, and was listed as a Historic Monument in 2006. Inaugurated in 1914, it boasts a neoclassical architecture surmounted on two floors and arranged around an open-air square. The building suffers a little from the workings of time but its outdated side gives it a lot of charm. The inhabitants still come to buy fish, meat, vegetables, spices and flowers for three times nothing and in a very friendly atmosphere.
Church and Tower of Clerigos
Designed by the architect Nasoni and built between 1735 and 1748, Igreja dos Clerigos is a baroque church overlooked by a high tower: the emblem of Porto. More than 75 metres high, the Clerks' Tower is now the highest in Portugal, once used as a bitter place for boats. Climbing up its 200 steps, you come across 49 bells that make up a large carillon. From its summit, the view is magnificent and offers panoramic shots of Porto.
Stock Exchange Palace
Owned by the Porto Commercial Association, the Palácio da Bolsa is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. During the guided tours, you will discover its sumptuous interiors such as the room of the former commercial court, the golden room or the former ballroom called the Arab lounge. This piece is a masterpiece of neo-Moorish art inspired by the decorations of the palaces of the Alhambra in Granada. Pay attention to the finesse of the details and in particular to the stained glass windows and carved wooden arabesques
Monastery of Serra do Pilar
The monastery of Serra do Pilar de Gaia, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996, dates back to the 16th century, although it took more than a century to build. It still has an astonishing church and a cloister with circular plans like no other in Portugal. The church is a replica of the church of Santa Maria Redonda in Rome, so it is topped by a hemispherical vault. Opposite it is a viewpoint where the view extends to the confines of the Douro River.
Opened in 1906, the Lello Bookstore has been classified among the most beautiful bookstores in the world as if to salute its splendid neo-Gothic architecture. Its carved woodwork preserves incredible collections of books stacked from floor to ceiling, a setting that would have inspired novelist J. K. Rowling to write Harry Potter. It is true that we recognize the atmosphere of the Hogwarts witchcraft school... a similarity that has made the place so successful, it is now necessary to pay an entrance fee to visit it.
Sao Francisco Church
It is better to keep your sunglasses when you enter the Sao Francisco church: ,nearly 500 kg of gold were needed to literally cover your interior! This church bears witness to all the ostentatious splendour of the Baroque period, which can be recognised by the abundance of wood covered with gold leaf, a process quite common in Portugal. The altars, walls, pillars, statues, vaults... everything shines in a somewhat surrealist atmosphere.
Museum of Photography - CPF
Located in a former prison, the Centro Português de Fotografia (CPF) has cultivated the memory of its past functions by leaving the building in its original state. Thus, it is in a setting of barred windows, lock doors and austere corridors that one comes to admire a large permanent collection of photographic equipment. The temporary exhibitions honour well-known photographers from Portugal, and some international artists... But it is above all for the building that it is worth visiting the CPF.
The cellars of Porto
Port wine is the city's ambassador throughout the world, who in turn hurries to visit its many cellars where many tastings are organised! In a setting of wooden barrels, you can taste the different varieties of Port wine while listening to its history and processes from the harvest to the vinification stages. Ramos Pinto, Sandeman, Ferreira...: some cellars are well established but do not hesitate to get off the beaten track to escape the queues of tourists.