Porto is a fascinating and vibrant city. It is the most northerly village on the Silver Coast. The city boasts an extensive history, interesting tourist attractions, a buzzing nightlife and outstanding facilities. There is a lot to discover in Porto and this diverse city has endless appeal. The region is famed for the production of Port, which is still stored and matured in the vast cellars that stretch along the banks of the Douro River. The Ribeira District is full of character and is the oldest district of the city. A labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets and ancient houses all create an ambiance of a traditional Portuguese lifestyle just waiting to be enjoyed.
Things to do in Porto
Dom Luis I Bridge
The Dom Luís I Bridge is a double-deck metal arch bridge that spans over the Douro River, between the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia in Portugal. In 1879, Gustave Eiffel presented a project to construct a new bridge over the Douro, with a single deck in order to facilitate navigation. This project was rejected to the present double-decker project due to the dramatic growth of the urban population, which required a re-thinking of the limits of a single-deck platform. It’s worth making the crossing on the upper level, above the waters of the Douro to enjoy what might be the most beautiful views of Cais da Ribeira and Vila Nova de Gaia.
It is probably no coincidence that the bridge passes more than a fleeting resemblance of its neighboring bridge, the Dona Maria Pia bridge. Both bridges consist of vast and complex ironwork frameworks with a great arch supporting the transitway. This should come as no surprise as the D. Maria Pia bridge was designed by Gustave Eiffel of Paris tower fame!
The Lello Bookstore is located in the northern part of Porto and considered by many to be the World’s most beautiful bookshop. Along with Bertrand bookstore in Lisbon, it is one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal, built in 1906, and frequently rated among the top bookstores in the world (placing third in lists by guidebook publisher Lonely Planet and The Guardian). The bookstore was frequented by English writer JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series when she was visiting Porto and this library was an inspiration for her writing.
Livraria Lello is a living access door to its history: for preserving the building, for maintaining its original function as a bookshop, for the role of ambassadress of culture and for expanding the cultural dynamics of the city. For more than a century, Livraria Lello has been a main showcase for Portuguese literature, both nationally and internationally, helping export Portuguese literature to the rest of the world. In the last decade, Livraria Lello has been officially recognized as “one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world” by the magazine Time, The Guardian, and the travel guide Lonely Planet.
The Porto Cathedral (Sé do Porto in Portuguese) is the most important religious edifice in the city and has been declared a National Monument. It is situated in the upper part of Porto. The construction of the Cathedral began during the twelfth century, but it was rebuilt and renovated numerous times throughout the centuries. This explains why the Cathedral is a mix of architectural styles.
The temple is predominantly Baroque in style, although its façade and the nave are Romanesque and its cloister and one of the chapels is Gothic in style. Of note is the fortress-church aspect with a façade flanked by two towers and the beautiful rosette over the main façade. It underwent modifications in the Mannerist and Baroque periods.
Declared a National Monument, it is visited by tourists, students, and architecture lovers, due to its architectural blending between, the Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque styles.
The Porto Cathedral and its cloister are two of the best attractions in Porto and a definite must-see when visiting the city.
Capela das Almas (Chapel of Souls)
Almas Chapel or Santa Catarina Chapel has its origin in an old wooden chapel erected in praise of Santa Catarina. The construction of the building that exists today dates back to the late 18th century when the Brotherhood of Souls and Wounds of San Francisco passed from the Santa Clara Monastery to the Santa Catarina Chapel. Its exterior is one of a kind. Built in the early eighteenth century, the Soul’s Chapel is one of the most beautiful churches in Porto. Its exterior works are one of a kind. In 1929 the church’s exterior facade was decorated with tiles representing moments in the life of Saint Francis of Assis and Saint Catherine.
On Rua de Santa Catarina stands the strikingly ornate, azulejo-clad Capela das Almas. Magnificent blue-and-white panels here depict scenes from the lives of various saints, including the death of St Francis and the martyrdom of St Catherine. Interestingly, Eduardo Leite painted the tiles in a classic 18th-century style, though they actually date back to the early 20th century.
São Bento Railway Station
This railway station is considered by many visitors to be not only one of the most beautiful train stations in Portugal but one of the most beautiful in the world as well! Built in 1916, beside the 16th-century Benedictine monastery. The station was designed by a local architect called José Marques da Silva, with heavy influence from french Beaux-Arts style.
The walls of the São Bento Railway Station in the historical city of Porto, Portugal have a story to tell. Although the train station is striking from outside, the real beauty lies inside. The main hall is breathtaking with over 20,000 tiles that reflect the history of Portugal.
Jorge Colaço spent over 10 years painting the epic scenes that are included in the Battle of Valdevez (1140), the meeting of the king Egas Moniz and Afonso VII of Leon (12th century), also the arrival of King John I and Philippa of Lancaster in Porto (1387), and the conquest of Ceuta (1415). São Bento Railway Station is in the city center, so you’ll probably walk past it several times during your stay. Don’t miss discovering its main hall.
Clérigos Tower (Torre dos Clérigos in Portuguese) is the tallest campanile in Portugal. It stands 249 ft (76 meters) tall and climbing its 200 steps will give you a privileged view over the city and the river.
When you climb up you’ll come across 49 bells which form a large carillon and that can give you quite a fright if you’re in the bell tower when they ring. You’ll see that the effort of climbing all those steps will have been worthwhile once you reach the top and look out from the tower’s observation deck over Porto. This is also a great place to take photos.
This eighteenth-century complex was commissioned by the Brotherhood of the Clérigos in the old town, on the “hill of the hanged men”, where the executed prisoners were buried.
We recommend climbing the steep steps to get a breathtaking view over the old town and the Douro River. The architectural complex of Clerics, considered a National Monument since 1910, is one of the main points of interest for its Tower, Museum, and Church, and a must-see location for all those who visit the Porto.
Cais da Ribeira
Cais da Ribeira is one of the must-see areas when you’re thinking of visiting Porto. Pictures of this part of town are in postcards spread all over the world, and even more now with social media. It’s one of the liveliest districts in Porto’s historical center and by night you can have dinner and a drink facing the Douro river. Here, you’ll find typical restaurants, some with terraces, where you can savor delicious typical Portuguese dishes and a sip of Port Wine. All of this while you enjoy the view over Dom Luís I Bridge and Vila Nova de Gaia on the other side of the river.
A little chaotic and great fun to explore, Porto’s riverside area is a very picturesque piazza where tourists and locals mingle.
You’ll have a perfect shot of the iconic Luís I Bridge from here, and if you duck through the arcades there’s a confusing maze of steep streets and stairways between pastel-painted houses in varying states of repair.
San Francisco Church
If you visit one church in Porto, make it this, one of its few remaining medieval buildings with an astonishing Baroque interior. Founded in the late 1300s as part of a Franciscan monastery, it took centuries to complete, despite its relatively simple architectonic structure. The west facade has a lovely Gothic rose window, but its main portal was given Baroque touches in the 17th century. From about the same time, over several decades, the interior was done out by expert local craftsmen in carved and gilded wood, like the inside of a jewel box.
Your ticket also gives you access to the catacombs. In a well-kept, brightly lit underground space that looks much like a wine cellar, drawers contain human remains dating back to the middle of the 19th century. Note how your steps echo on the worn wooden floor: underneath is a chamber where unidentified monks are buried. In one of the last crypts, a grille on the floor (now covered with a glass-panel) reveals the bones packed just below visitors’ feet.
World of Discoveries museum
See the world through the eyes of Portugal’s great explorers in World of Discoveries Interactive Museum and Theme Park that reconstructs the fantastic odyssey of Portuguese navigators, who crossed oceans to discover an unknown world.
The Discoveries launched humanity into an era of globalization and forever changed our relationship with the planet. Portugal has played a leading role in this process for centuries, creating new ocean lanes and bringing people, animals, and plants into circulation around the world.
This space is therefore about meeting cultures and reaching the ambitions, ideas, efforts, and innovations that made them possible. Take on the adventure that has changed the world through our twenty great permanent theme areas.
“Such a great empire! So many crossed seas, so many dangers vanquished, so many discoveries experienced!” in Caravelas, The Golden Century of Portuguese Navigators, Olivier Ikor.
Paiva Walkways are located on the left bank of the Paiva River, in Arouca municipality, Aveiro, Portugal. They are 8 km that provide a walk the untouched nature, surrounded by the unique beauty of landscapes, in an authentic natural sanctuary along the brave waters downhills, quartz crystals and endangered species in Europe. The route extends from the river beaches of Areinho and Espiunca, lying between them, the Vau beach. A journey that will remain, of course, in heart, soul and in mind of any nature lover.
The Paiva River is one of the cleanest rivers in the world and was considered in the 1990s the least polluted river in Europe. Although much has happened since then, the Paiva River continues to have a very clean flow, with pure water in this section and is considered by many of the nature lovers, the most beautiful river in Portugal. This year Arouca will also have the Largest Suspension Pedestrian Bridge in the World. 516 meters long suspension bridge hanging 175 meters over Paiva river, inspired by the Inca bridges that cross the deepest valleys of the Andes, but build with glass floor.