Self Guided Walking Tour of Porto (with Maps!)
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Prepare to be mesmerized by the enchanting city center of Porto, a true gem of Europe that has been bestowed with the prestigious title of a UNESCO World Heritage site. Your journey begins at the magnificent Clérigos Church, standing tall with its towering 75.6 meter structure. As you embark on this captivating exploration with your knowledgeable local guide, keep your cameras poised to capture the wonders that lie ahead.
Your path will lead you past the cherished Porto Cathedral, a splendid testament to architectural grandeur. Marvel at the intricate beauty of the renowned São Bento station, adorned with exquisite tiles that recount stories of the city’s rich history. Traverse the ancient city walls, dating back to the 14th century, and feel the weight of time as you absorb the atmosphere of this storied place. A visit to the world-famous Lello bookstore awaits, where you’ll discover the fascinating connection it shares with the magical realm of Harry Potter, elevating it to the ranks of the most sought-after bookstores worldwide.
As you venture beyond the city center, winding through the labyrinthine alleys, a breath-taking panorama unfolds before your eyes. Behold the awe-inspiring views that stretch as far as the eye can see, and encounter the majestic Douro River. This iconic waterway proudly showcases the Dom Luís I bridge, an architectural masterpiece crafted by the protégé of the renowned Gustave Eiffel, Théophile Seyrig. Moreover, it is on the banks of the Douro River that Porto’s world-renowned Port wine industry finds its home, exuding a sense of tradition and craftsmanship that has captured the hearts of connoisseurs around the globe.
São Bento Railway Station
The São Bento Railway Station holds a significant place within the Historic City Centre of Porto, acknowledged as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and designated as a National Monument of Portugal.
Construction of this remarkable building commenced in 1904 under the architectural guidance of José Marques da Silva, and it took around twelve years to complete. One of the station’s most captivating features is its vestibule, adorned with magnificent panels of azulejo tiles crafted by Jorge Colaço. These exquisite tile compositions, framed by pilasters, were finalized in 1916, just in time for the station’s grand inauguration.
Impressively, there are approximately 20,000 azulejo tiles adorning the walls of the São Bento Railway Station. Among them, the larger panels vividly depict significant moments from Portuguese history. These captivating scenes include the Battle of Arcos de Valdevez, the Conquest of Ceuta in 1415, the legendary meeting between knight Egas Moniz and Alfonso VII of León in Toledo during the 12th century, the ceremonial entrance of King John I and Philippa of Lancaster on horseback to Porto to celebrate their wedding in 1387, and many more.
At the station’s entrance, on the border wall, smaller tile panels showcase rural scenes, depicting a bustling cattle fair, a pilgrim camp, picturesque vineyards, bountiful harvests, the transportation of wine down the Douro River, and even a charming watermill. Additionally, the pilasters that separate the entry doors feature a series of smaller tile compositions, adding further artistic allure to the space.
Above, near the ceiling, a captivating blue and gold frieze embellished with stylized flowers catches the eye, while below it, another polychromatic frieze in an Art Deco style depicts the captivating history of transportation in Portugal.
Location: São Bento Station, Praça de Almeida Garrett, Porto, Portugal
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Praça da Liberdade
Located in the vibrant lower town or Baixa district of Porto, on the southern side of the grand Avenue of the Allies, lies the expansive Liberty Square. Spanning over three square miles, this area, originally known as New Square, emerged as a result of Porto’s urbanization movement in 1718.
In 1788, the religious order of Saint Eligius, the esteemed Patron Saint of veterinarians, horses, goldsmiths, and blacksmiths, established a convent on the southern edge of the square. This remarkable neoclassical structure, known today as the Cardosas Palace, replaced a section of the medieval city wall, symbolizing a harmonious blend of past and present.
In 1866, a majestic monument was erected in honour of King Peter IV, a remarkable figure who held the titles of both King of Portugal and Emperor of Brazil. Renowned for his unwavering dedication to preserving the liberal constitution in Portugal and safeguarding liberty in Brazil, Peter IV’s statue, sculpted by Anatole Calmels, depicts him mounted and clutching the constitution he valiantly fought for during the Liberal Wars.
The square experienced a transformation in 1916 with the construction of the modern Avenue of the Allies, which extended northwards from the square. Today, the buildings surrounding Liberty Square are adorned with banks, hotels, offices, and restaurants, epitomizing a bustling hub of commerce and culture. Standing proudly at the centre, the monument dedicated to Peter IV commands attention and dominates the vast expanse of the square. Noteworthy landmarks in the vicinity include the esteemed Bank of Portugal and the stately Cardosas Palace, preserving the legacy and allure of this remarkable square.
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the McDonald’s located in Praça da Liberdade, renowned as one of the most stunning McDonald’s establishments worldwide. This particular location holds a fascinating history, once serving as the grand Cafe Imperial. The remarkable conversion of the space preserved its magnificent art deco elements, such as the stained glass mirrors and lavish chandeliers, allowing visitors to admire the opulence of the past while enjoying their meal.
Location: Praça da Liberdade, Porto, Portugal | Hours: 24 Hours | Price: Free
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Torre dos Clérigos
The Torre dos Clérigos, or Clérigos Tower, is an iconic landmark located in Porto, Portugal. It stands tall in the city’s historic centre and is considered one of the most recognizable symbols of Porto. The tower is part of the Clérigos Church and was designed by the Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni in the 18th century.
Construction of the Clérigos Tower began in 1754 and was completed in 1763. It reaches a height of 75.6 meters (248 feet) and consists of six floors. The tower’s architectural style is predominantly Baroque and incorporates elements of Rococo and Neoclassical design.
Visitors can ascend the tower by climbing a narrow spiral staircase composed of 240 steps. The effort is well worth it, as it offers breath-taking panoramic views of Porto’s cityscape. From the top, you can admire the historic centre, the Douro River, the tiled rooftops, and the surrounding landscape, providing an incredible perspective of the city’s beauty.
Location: Torre dos Clérigos, Rua de São Filipe de Nery, Porto, Portugal | Hours: Every day: 9 am – 7 pm. | Price: Church: Free entrance. Tower and Museum of the Brotherhood: General entrance € 5 (£ 4.40)
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Livraria Lello & Irmão
Renowned as one of the most stunning bookstores worldwide, Livraria Lello is nestled in the heart of Porto, along the historic Rua dos Clerics. It beckons visitors with its captivating Art Deco design, inviting them to embark on a mesmerizing exploration of this iconic establishment. Interestingly, the store has been under the management of the same company, Lugan & Geneliousx Sucessores, throughout its history, preserving its legacy.
The Art Deco style, known for its symmetrical lines and geometric patterns inspired by ancient Egypt, adorns the bookstore. Since its opening in 1906, Livraria Lello has captivated visitors with its splendid stained glass ceiling, intricate wooden staircase, and lavish embellishments. The visionary architect and engineer Xavier Esteves designed the bookstore to withstand the test of time, ensuring its enduring grandeur. The façade of the building blends elements of Art Nouveau and Gothic Revival, adding to its allure.
The meticulously carved wooden shelves, stretching from floor to ceiling, are a sight to behold, inviting book enthusiasts to peruse the treasures they hold. The same exquisite craftsmanship adorns the wooden staircase, with its intricate details and remarkable artistry. Moreover, the glass ceiling adds a fascinating dimension to the space, diffusing warm and enchanting light throughout the entire building.
N.B Unfortunately, the bookshop is no longer free to visit. To regulate the crowds in the bookstore, you must purchase entrance tickets which you must do online through their official website.
Location: Livraria Lello, Rua das Carmelitas, Porto, Portugal | Hours: Monday – Saturday: 10am – 7pm.| Price: Entrance fee: € 5 (£ 4.40) (if you buy anything you will be refunded the ticket price). | Website
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Carmo and Carmelitas churches
Situated in Praca Gomes Teixeira, there are two neighboring churches that capture attention: the Carmelitas Church, dating back to the 17th century, on the left, and the Igreja do Carmo (Carmo Church) on the right. Nestled between these two churches is an intriguing sight—the narrowest house in Porto, measuring just a little over a meter in width. This unique house was built due to the belief that churches should not have adjacent neighbors.
When visiting the area, make sure to admire the impressive side of the Igreja do Carmo. It is adorned with a magnificent large painting crafted entirely from azulejo tiles. Created by the artist Silvestro Silvestri, this artwork is a true visual marvel.
Location: Igreja do Carmo, Rua do Carmo, Porto, Portugal
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Cais da Ribeira
The exact origins of the settlement in Ribeira remain somewhat mysterious. Over time, a riverside community emerged near the confluence of the Vila River and the Douro River. Roman mosaics dating back to the fourth century have been unearthed in the area, hinting at its ancient roots. In the 13th century, Ribeira grew alongside Porto, particularly along the banks of the Douro River and the slopes of Penaventosa hill.
Two distinct settlements took shape. One nestled on the elevated Penaventosa, near Porto Cathedral, while the other flourished below in Ribeira, on the picturesque waterfront of the Douro River. Until the late 14th century, these settlements were interconnected by a labyrinthine network of narrow and confining streets, making navigation quite challenging. The need arose for a new street to penetrate this maze.
Under the initiative of King John I, a new street was created, aptly named “Rua Nova” or New Street. It served as a striking contrast to the intricate web of passages in Porto. Notably, Rua Nova was designed to be straight and unusually wide for its time. It quickly became a prestigious address, attracting the bourgeoisie, clergy, and business class.
The district of Ribeira entices visitors with its enchanting charm. Medieval streets and alleyways lead to the bustling Ribeira Square, a lively waterfront plaza. Adjacent to the Ribeira Wharf, remnants of the 14th century wall serve as a reminder of the district’s historical significance. Beyond this point, the steep and winding paths of Barredo unfold.
As evening sets in, the clubs along the Ribeira Wharf promise a vibrant nightlife for romantic wanderers. In bygone days, this riverside district bustled with commerce and trade. Ribeira Square is adorned with numerous shops and cafes, while a grand fountain graces its northern section. The Ribeira Wharf commences on the western side of the iconic Luis I Bridge, tracing the riverside path to Ribeira Square.
An elevated walkway offers additional shops and cafes, preserving remnants of the old city walls that were once patrolled by vigilant medieval soldiers. Take a seat, indulge in a drink, and watch the river flow, just as they did centuries ago. Time glides by effortlessly, mirroring the tranquil current of the river itself.
Location: Praça da Ribeira, Porto, Portugal | Hours: 24 hours | Price: Free
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Funicular dos Guindais
The Funicular dos Guindais in Porto is a charming transportation system that provides a unique and scenic way to travel between the riverside area of Ribeira and the bustling Batalha neighbourhood, located at a higher elevation.
The funicular was inaugurated in 1891 and was originally steam-powered, serving as an important mode of transportation for the locals. Over the years, it underwent several renovations and modernizations to ensure its continued operation and safety.
The funicular is a short but enjoyable ride, offering passengers breath-taking views of the Muralhas de D. Fernando (Porto City Walls), Douro River, the iconic Dom Luís I Bridge, and the picturesque cityscape of Porto. As the carriages ascend or descend the steep slope, visitors can marvel at the charming architecture and vibrant colors of the surrounding buildings.
Location: Funicular dos Guindais, Rua da Ribeira Negra, Porto, Portugal | Price: € 3.5
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Sé Catedral do Porto
In the year 868, Vimara Peres, a nobleman hailing from Asturias and born in 820, successfully conquered the Moorish-held territories situated north of the Douro River. Among the towns he captured was one known as Portus Cale. Over time, Portus Cale evolved into Portucale, the county that Vimara Peres would rule, eventually giving rise to the city of Porto. The highest hill within Portus Cale, named Penaventosa, became the chosen site for the construction of Porto Cathedral.
Previously, the hill had been home to a Suebian Church. In the 12th century, efforts commenced to build the cathedral, albeit with intermittent progress along the way. Eventually, in 1737, the construction was deemed complete. Porto Cathedral stands as an awe-inspiring example of Romanesque architecture within the city. Positioned atop Penaventosa, it assumes a fortress-like position, commanding a view over the town below.
The cathedral is characterized by twin square towers, each reinforced with buttresses and crowned with a cupola. Its western façade showcases Gothic ornamentation from the 15th century. Additionally, an impressive Gothic cloister, created in 1736 by Nicolau Nasoni—an architect originally from Tuscany who settled in Portugal—enhances the cathedral’s grandeur.
Towards the northern side of the cathedral, a baroque porch and a Romanesque rose window can be found beneath a crenelated arch, further accentuating the fortress-like ambiance. The nave, covered by a barrel vault, possesses a modest width. Noteworthy elements within the cathedral include the baroque apse adorned with paintings by Nasoni and the intricately designed altarpiece of the chapel by Santos Pacheco. The south transept captivates visitors with its embellishment of blue azulejo tiles, a characteristic feature of Portuguese tilework.
Entrance to Porto Cathedral itself is free of charge, allowing visitors to explore its grandeur without any cost. However, there is a nominal fee required to access the Sacred Art Museum and the breathtaking Gothic cloisters that are connected to the church. These additional areas offer an opportunity to delve deeper into the cathedral’s historical and artistic treasures.
For those seeking an adventurous ascent, it is also possible to climb the tower, although it’s worth noting that the steps are steep and plentiful. The reward for those who make the journey upward is a magnificent panoramic view, encompassing not only the immediate surroundings but also providing a closer look at parts of the cathedral that may be hidden from sight at ground level.
Location: Porto Cathedral, Terreiro da Sé, Porto, Portugal | Hours: April – October: 9 am – 6:30 pm. November – March: 9 am – 5:30 pm | Price: Cathedral: Free entrance. Cloisters €3
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Ponte de Dom Luís I
The banks of the River Douro boast a sturdy foundation of granite. Notably, there are two bridges spanning the river, situated less than a mile apart: the Luis I Bridge and the Maria Pia Bridge, named after King Luis I of Portugal and his royal consort, Queen D. Maria Pia. Both bridges share a striking resemblance, featuring impressive iron webs and arches that support the passage across the river.
The reason for their similarity is quite straightforward. The D. Maria Pia Bridge was masterfully designed by Gustave Eiffel, renowned for his iconic tower in Paris. In the case of the Dom Luis I Bridge, its design was entrusted to Teophile Seyrig. Seyrig had previously collaborated with Eiffel on the construction of the D. Maria Pia Bridge as well as the illustrious Eiffel Tower. The Luis I Bridge spans a distance of 564 feet, with a height of 146 feet.
A distinguishing feature of the Luis I Bridge is its unique two-level structure. One level crosses over the highest point of the arch, while the other hangs beneath it. Initially, both levels were intended for road traffic. However, in modern times, the top level serves as a passage for Metro trains, alongside pedestrian walkways. Walking across the upper level of the bridge provides an exhilarating experience that should not be missed.
From this vantage point, the views are unparalleled. One can behold the magnificent Porto Cathedral and the Tower of the Clergymen, which prominently dominates the old Porto skyline. The combination of architectural marvels and the picturesque riverside setting creates a captivating panorama for all who gaze upon it.
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Serra do Pilar Monastery
Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996, the Serra do Pilar Monastery is situated in Vila Nova de Gaia, on the opposite bank of the Douro River from Porto. Majestically perched on a lofty outcrop, it overlooks the iconic Luis I Bridge and the bustling city center. Access to the monastery is convenient, as visitors can reach it via public transportation using the Porto Metro’s D line, disembarking at the Garden do Morro Station.
Originally, the monks of the Dominican Order in Grijo found themselves in need of more space. Their existing monastery in Grijo had fallen into disrepair, prompting the construction of a new monastery with cloisters, which was completed in 1583. However, even this new space proved insufficient, requiring further expansion. Finally, by 1700, the present-day Serra do Pilar Monastery was completed, providing the much-needed room for the monks.
Throughout its history, the monastery played significant roles in various military endeavours. It served as a vital military outpost for General Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, during the Peninsular War. It also served as a stronghold for the Liberal faction during the civil war in 1833. In the 19th century, the monastery was fortified and continued to be utilized by the military. In recognition of its historical importance, the site was declared a National Monument of Portugal in 1910.
Architecturally, the monastery features a circular design, encompassing both the church and the cloister, with a rectangular choir and chapel separating the two. The north side is home to the bell tower and the monks’ dormitories, while the south side houses the sacristy and refectory.
To enter the church, a small admission fee is required. Additionally, guided tours are available, offering visitors the extraordinary opportunity to ascend to the dome of the tower. From this vantage point, a truly breath-taking and unparalleled view of the Douro River and the city of Porto unfolds, leaving an indelible impression on all who experience it.
Location: Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar, Largo Aviz, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
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Jardim do Morro
To reach this hilltop park, you can either take a cable car ride or cross the upper level of Ponte de Dom Luís I. As you ascend, you’ll be surrounded by lush gardens adorned with swaying palm trees. However, the true highlight of this park is the mesmerizing view it offers.
From this vantage point, Porto reveals its breath-taking charm. On one side of the Douro River, you’ll be treated to the sight of Ribeira’s picturesque pastel-hued houses. The river itself winds its way below, creating a captivating scene.
The gardens in this hilltop park provide a serene atmosphere, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the stunning panorama. The combination of natural beauty and the city’s architectural splendour is truly awe-inspiring. It’s a place where you can take a moment to soak in the mesmerizing view and appreciate the unique allure of Porto.
Vila Nova de Gaia cable carconnects Jardim do Morro to Praça de Super Bock at Cais de Gaia in a distance of 560 meters.
The Gaia Cable Car operates between 10:00 am and 6:00 pm in winter and 10:00 am and 8:00 pm in summer.
Location: R. Rocha Leão 10 70, 4430-999 Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal | Hours: 24 Hours | Price: Free
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Espaço Porto Cruz
Nestled within a meticulously restored 18th-century building by the riverside, this upscale port-wine establishment exudes a sophisticated ambiance, celebrating the essence of port in all its glory. Step inside and discover a world of indulgence and refinement.
The main attraction is a stylish shop that not only offers a curated selection of port wines but also serves as a venue for tastings. Immerse yourself in the flavors and aromas as you sample a variety of port wines, with options available by the glass starting at €3, or indulge in a trio of ports for €9.50. Each sip is a journey of sensory delight.
For breath-taking panoramic views, ascend to the rooftop terrace, where you can revel in the beauty of your surroundings while savouring the finest port wines. The idyllic setting provides a perfect backdrop for moments of relaxation and contemplation.
Location: Espaço Porto Cruz, Largo Miguel Bombarda, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal | Website
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A shortcut back over the river cold be by river taxi. They cross the Douro from the quay by the tourist office with adult tickets costing €3.5.
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