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Qua | 20.05.20

Weekend itinerary: two days in Porto

 

The Portuguese Undefeated City is growing more and more beautiful and surprising. Every time I go there, I discover something that I had not yet seen and, even so, much more remains yet to be discovered. This is the reason why I am now suggesting you an itinerary to visit (or revisit, why not?) the highlights of the welcoming and many-faceted city of Porto.

Versão portuguesa

 

Day 1

 

We will start this first day early at the very heart of the city, where many Porto dwellers celebrate New Year’s Eve and other events: Avenida dos Aliados. At the top of this avenue, we can see the beautiful City Hall. Did you know that the construction of this iconic building began in 1920 but only ended in 1955? The splendid central tower is 70 metres high and has a carillon clock, and in front of the building there is an impressive bronze statue of Almeida Garrett, which was placed there in 1954 to celebrate the centenary of the death of this famous writer born in Porto. The whole architectural ensemble of this avenue is magnificent and still well preserved, although the vast majority of its most striking buildings are now occupied with everyday businesses.

Paços do Concelho

Avenida dos Aliados

Avenida dos Aliados

At the end of the avenue, at Praça da Liberdade, we cannot resist stopping at the coffee shop Arcádia to buy their famous chocolates (produced in an artisanal way since 1933), or drink a coffee accompanied by one of their varied and delicious “quindins” or a similar treat. After all, we must gain energy for the several kilometres that we are going to walk today.

Arcádia

We turn right and head up to Clérigos church, designed by Nicolau Nasoni and symbol of Porto. This is a must-see, although it will be necessary to climb the 225 steps of a spiral staircase to reach the top, since it is from its 75-metre-high tower of dark granite that we are rewarded with a unique 360-degree view over the whole length of the city. This tower is home to the Museum of the Brotherhood of Clérigos (the visit is included in the ticket price), which holds a diversified legacy of religious works of art dating back to the 13th century, and it also gives us the possibility of seeing from a high viewpoint the inside of the harmonious Baroque church, where pink marble and gilded wood are predominant.

2 Torre dos Clérigos

3 Igreja dos Clérigos

Torre dos Clérigos
http://www.torredosclerigos.pt/pt/
R. de São Filipe de Nery, 4050-546 Porto
Opening hours: 9 am-7 pm (different times on 24th, 25th and 31st December and on 1st January )
Information: telephone 220 145 489  email: info@torredosclerigos.pt 

 

On the opposite side of Praça de Lisboa, another must-see building: Lello Bookstore. Here, we must be very patient to face not one, but two queues. The first one is for buying tickets, at a shop located next door, where we also have lockers to leave backpacks and large bags (they are locked with a coin, which is returned at the end), items that are not permitted inside the bookstore. Once in possession of tickets, we will have to wait in another queue until we are authorised to enter the store and the duration of this wait will obviously depend on the number of people - which is always large. Gone are the days when Lello was “simply” a wonderful bookstore known for its Neogothic façade and whimsical Art Nouveau interiors, which include the famous wooden staircase with red-carpeted steps. Even so, although always bursting with visitors, it still maintains a special atmosphere, with its walls totally lined with books and its unique stained glass ceiling.

4 Livraria Lello

5 Livraria Lello

6 Livraria Lello

Lello Bookstore
https://www.livrarialello.pt/pt-pt/
Rua das Carmelitas 144, 4050-161 Porto
Opening hours: 9.30 am-7 pm (different times on 24th and 31st December; closed: 1st January, Easter Sunday, 1st May, 24th June and 25th December)
Information: telephone 222 002 037  email: info@livrarialello.pt

 

Turning the corner, we are at Praça de Gomes Teixeira, with the Lion Fountain in the middle, the Art Deco building of the store Cunhas, and the curious twin churches of Carmelitas Descalços and Carmo, the side wall of this second church totally covered with blue and white tiles.

Armazéns Cunhas

Igrejas gémeas dos Carmelitas Descalços e do Carmo

We go back to Clérigos and down to Rua das Flores, one of the most iconic streets of Porto, once inhabited by the urban aristocracy, whom we have to thank for beautiful buildings such as Cunha Pimentel House (numbers 2 to 12), Maias House (numbers 21 to 39), Sousa e Silva House (numbers 79 to 83), or Constantinos House (number 139). 

7 Rua das Flores

It is also on this street that we find the Church and Museum of Misericórdia, our next stop. Despite its Baroque façade (also designed by Nasoni), the interior of the church is much “lighter” than expected, with its tile-covered walls, white-painted woods with gilded woodcarving details and two compact, bright chandeliers. The Museum has a superb collection which, unlike what we would expect, does not only consist of sacred art items. Its various collections are well organised in the exhibition rooms, thus our visit to this Museum is never boring.

Igreja da Misericórdia

8 Igreja da Misericórdia

Museum and Church of Misericórdia of Porto
http://www.mmipo.pt/pt-pt/
Rua das Flores 15, 4050-265 Porto
Opening hours: Summer (1st April to 30th September) 10 am-6.30 pm / Winter (1st October to 31st March) 10 am-5.30 pm (closed: 1st January, 24th and 25th December)
Information: telephone 220 906 960  email: geral@mmipo.scmp.pt

 

Rua das Flores leads to Largo de São Domingos in front of Palácio das Artes. Going down Rua Ferreira Borges, we see on our left the Market which bears the same name, an unmistakable building made of wrought iron painted in red, which dates back to the end of the 19th century and is currently a concert hall. On the right, when we reach Praça do Infante, we find Palácio da Bolsa. In this also iconic building of Porto (not as much for its exterior but rather due to its interiors), tours are guided and it is necessary to previously book our visiting time at the ticket office. The subsequent waiting time will certainly be sufficient to visit the famous Church of Saint Francis, which stands right next to the palace and is a one-of-a-kind example of religious architecture in the city. It has a Gothic façade with some additional Baroque details, but it is the inside of the convent’s church that is truly impressive: walls, ceilings, columns, altar pieces, everything is completely covered with gilded woodcarvings – reportedly, 400 kg of gold were used in the decoration of this national monument.

Igreja São Francisco

Churches and Museum of Saint Francis of Porto
http://ordemsaofrancisco.pt/igrejamuseu/
Rua do Infante Dom Henrique, 4050-297 Porto
Opening hours: November to February 9 am-5.30 pm / March to June and October 9 am-7 pm / July to September 9 am-8 pm
Information: telephone 222 062 125  email: museu@ordemsaofrancisco.pt

 

We go back to Palácio da Bolsa. It is a Neoclassical building that belongs to the Merchant Association of Porto; its construction began in 1842 but was only totally concluded in 1909. The decoration of its various rooms and corridors took 50 years and everything was conceived to impress those who visit – from the lobby, the Hall of Nations, with its magnificent dome made of iron and glass, to the Arab Room, the most fabulous room of the palace (inspired by the Alhambra), a wonder where almost 20 kg of gold were used and that took 18 years to accomplish. This guided tour takes about 45 minutes.

Palácio da Bolsa

Palácio da Bolsa

Palácio da Bolsa

Palácio da Bolsa

Palácio da Bolsa - Salão Árabe

9 Palácio da Bolsa

Palácio da Bolsa
https://palaciodabolsa.com/
Rua Ferreira Borges, 4050-253 Porto
Opening hours: November to March 9 am-1 pm and 2 pm-5.30 pm / April to October 9 am-6.30 pm
Information: telephone 223 399 013  email: turismo@cciporto.pt

 

The rest of our day will be spent on the banks of the Douro River. We stroll down to Ribeira, with its refurbished houses, painted in vivid colours, always bustling with people. We cross the river via the lower deck of the Luiz I Bridge and follow along Cais de Gaia, watching seagulls and the typical “rabelo” boats passing by, nowadays busy taking tourists or moored for decorative purposes, then we have a look to see the “Rabbit” sculpture of Bordalo II at Rua Dom Afonso III, and finally we stop at an open-air terrace to rest, while we enjoy an aperitif and watch the sun set on the horizon behind Foz.

9 Ribeira

10 Porto visto do Cais de Gaia

12 Coelho de Bordalo II

Cais de Gaia

One last note: it is possible to buy, at any of these attractions, a joint ticket to visit Clérigos, the Museum of Misericórdia and Palácio da Bolsa. It is much cheaper than buying all three tickets separately and we are not obliged to visit them all in the same day.

 

 

Day 2

 

Walking in Porto means a great deal of ascents and descents. Although our first day’s stroll was essentially downhill, we will begin this second day in the opposite direction. Starting from Ribeira, we are going up to Batalha. But you need not worry for now, because we will not climb the steep staircase which connects these two spots: the Guindais funicular is at our service. Designed in 1891 by Raul Mesnier, it was shut down just two years later, due to an accident that occurred, and did not function again for over a century. Its operation was resumed in 2004 under the management of Porto Metro, once totally refurbished, and although the trip only takes a few minutes it is well worth doing. The slow ascent of the carriage follows along a section of the Ferdinand Wall (“Muralha Fernandina”) with direct views to Luiz I Bridge, and then enters a tunnel to finally leave us at Rua Saraiva de Carvalho.

Funicular dos Guindais

We proceed by foot to Avenida Vimara Peres, from where we access the upper deck of the bridge – which can only be crossed by pedestrians, bicycles and the Metro trains. From here we are offered different perspectives over the city, its rooftops forming a quilted blanket in shades of orange, with a handful of bright-coloured boats standing out on the bleak grey waters of the Douro River.

13 Porto visto da ponte

14 Porto visto da ponte

At the end of the bridge we enter the territory of the town of Gaia. We pass by the cable car terminal and Morro Garden and climb the street leading to Pilar Monastery, another privileged viewpoint over Porto. The Monastery complex was built in the 16th century and it is another one-of-a-kind religious monument, with its circular church and cloister, designed in the Mannerist style.

15 Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar

Monastery of Serra do Pilar
https://www.culturanorte.pt/pt/patrimonio/mosteiro-da-serra-do-pilar/
Largo de Aviz, 4430-329 Vila Nova de Gaia, Porto
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday - Summer (1st April to 30th September) 10 am-6.30 pm / Winter (1st October to 31st March) 10 am-5.30 pm (closed: public holidays and 2nd weekend of each month)
Information: telephone 220 142 425  email: patrimonioanorte@culturanorte.gov.pt

16 Porto visto da Serra do Pilar

We return the same way and then head to the Cathedral, one of the oldest monuments in our country. The original building dates back to the 12th century and despite the successive alterations carried out over the centuries, today we are still able to see some features that reveal its earlier Romanesque style and its robust, almost military character. Inside the Cathedral, the nave’s dome is supported by impressive flying buttresses, which contrast with the plethora of gilded woodcarvings of the high altar and chapels, and the galleries of its Gothic cloister are lined with panels of tiles decorated in white and blue, some of them portraying religious scenes.

17 Sé Catedral

Porto Cathedral
https://www.culturanorte.pt/pt/patrimonio/se-do-porto/
Terreiro da Sé, 4050-573 Porto
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday - Summer (April to October) 9 am-12.30 pm and 2.30 pm-7 pm (cloister: 9 am-6.30 pm) / Winter (November to March) 9 am-12.30 pm and 2.30 pm-6.30 pm (cloister: 9 am-12.15 pm and 2.30 pm-5.30 pm) (closed: Sundays and religious festivities, including Christmas and Easter)
Information: telephones 226 197 080 and 222 059 028  email: geral@culturanorte.gov.pt

 

Further up on the same street, the hall of the São Bento Railway Station is a must-see place. Its walls are totally covered with decorative tiles (“only” 20,000…); some are white and blue and represent historical and ethnographic scenes; others are more colourful and placed in a frieze, which tells the story of means of transport.

18 Estação de São Bento

Turning right onto Rua Sá da Bandeira, we pass by the theatre and the Bolhão Market, which is still being revamped. The temporary market is operating further up the street, at the premises of the La Vie Shopping Centre, near the small (also covered with tiles) Chapel of the Souls.

 

Capela das Almas

Right next to the chapel, we see the famous Rua de Santa Catarina, which we are going to stroll down. When we reach Rua Formosa, we take a small detour to see (at number 279) “Pérola do Bolhão”, a grocery store which has been continuously open to the public since 1917 and still maintains its exquisite and original Art Nouveau façade manufactured by Fábrica do Carvalhinho, a tile factory in Gaia.

Pérola do Bolhão

We continue to head down Santa Catarina, passing by shops and uncharacteristic buildings mingled with more interesting ones, and we reach our final destination: the Majestic Café, another Art Nouveau jewel in Porto – and also another “victim” of the growth of tourism in this city. It was once a café that was slightly more sophisticated than others, but nowadays it is a fashionable place, expensive, with security guards at the door and sometimes with long queues of people who wish to get in. However, it is worth opening your purse and visiting this café, even if only to drink something. Open since 1921 and refurbished between 1992 and 1994, the Majestic Café is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most beautiful coffee shop café in Portugal and one of the most beautiful in the world. Its façade grabs the attention, but the inside is much more exuberant, with mirrors on the walls and intricately carved wood decorations. Having a coffee or tea, or even eating a more substantial meal (it is also a restaurant) surrounded by the unique, sophisticated atmosphere of the Majestic is an experience to enjoy at least once in a lifetime – in addition to all the other experiences that Porto has to offer.

20 Majestic

Majestic Café
https://www.cafemajestic.com/pt/Utilidades/Homepage.aspx
Rua Santa Catarina 112, 4000-442 Porto
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 9 am-11 pm
Information: telephone 222 003 887  email: info@cafemajestic.com
Reservations: reservas@cafemajestic.com

 

Getting to know a city as exciting as Porto will obviously take much longer than two days. There is much more to see and do, but I would like to leave you with one more suggestion. If you have an additional free day, save it for Serralves. The museum, the house and especially the park are fascinating and deserve an extended visit. Serralves is another one of the many charms of Porto.

 

 

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You may also like to read: O mundo de Serralves

 

Other posts with itineraries in Portugal:

Itinerary in Madeira

Roteiros de fim-de-semana em Portugal

Roteiro de fim-de-semana: entre a natureza e a História

Roteiro de fim-de-semana: das Terras do Demo à Serra da Estrela

Da Figueira a Aveiro, pela costa

À volta do Tejo

Regressar à pré-história no Alentejo

Um roteiro no Alto Alentejo

Trás-os-Montes, a terra fria que é quente

Histórias da água e da pedra na Beira Baixa

Segredos do Ribatejo

Um pedaço do Douro

Bruxarias transmontanas

 

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Two days in Porto