What to see and photograph in Porto
The historic city of Porto is a UNESCO world heritage city. Porto is also the home of port. Notable points of interest in Porto are;
- UNESCO historic center
- Dom Luis I Bridge and Maria Pia Bridge
- Monastery of Serra do Pilar
- Porto City Hall
- Lello Bookstore (Livraria Lello)
- Porto Stock Exchange Palace (Palacio da Bolsa)
- Sao Bento railway station
- Porto Cathedral
- Port at Vila Nova de Gaia
- Carmo and Carmelitas churches
- Porto Sign
Hotels in Porto are great value. You can walk around the whole city so can stay wherever has the best offer.
Porto UNESCO historic center
The historic center of Porto is a UNESCO heritage site. If you want a true Portuguese experience then Porto will deliver. You’ll find colorful houses and narrow Portuguese tiled streets. There are several buildings covered in the famous blue Portuguese tiles known as azulejos. The locals are surprizingly friendly towards foreigners for such a big city.
Foodies will love Porto with the tables outside on the streets. These restaurants can also make a good place to enjoy a cold local beer such as Super Bock or Sagres. As you are in Porto you may enjoy a glass of the worlds best port as you watch the world go by.
Dom Luis I Bridge and Maria Pia Bridge
The historic center of Porto is connected to Vila Nova de Gaia by several bridges. These bridges are crossing is the river Douro. The most famous bridge in Porto is the double decker bridge of Dom Luis I. Originally this bridge was going to be a single decker crossing designed by the famous Gustave Eiffel. The population of Porto was growing quickly when the bridge was being planned in the late 19th century. Due to the growing population they chose a double decker bridge designed by Theophile Seyrig who learnt his trade from Mr Eiffel.
There is a Gustave Eiffel bridge you can visit in Porto. Two bridges to the east of the Dom Luis I bridge is the Maria Pia bridge (above left). The bridge is no longer in use but is of interest as it was designed by Mr Eiffel.
Monastery of Serra do Pilar
The monastery dates back to the 16th century. The church and its cloisters are laid out in a circular design which is unique to Portugal (above). If you walk from the historic town on the top deck of the Dom Luis I bridge you’ll have wonderful views of the monastery. You see good views of it from the other side of the banks of the Douro river too.
The views of the city, river and bridges are incredible from the monastery.
Porto City Hall
Completed in 1957, the Porto City Hall is a relatively young building. It’s located in the center of the historic city on a huge promenade. You see many hotels and high streets shops in this area. There are huge classic Portuguese buildings lining each side of the street.
You can get a wonderful reflection shot of the City Hall using the pond in front of it.
Sao Bento railway station
Sao Bento train station is located in the center of the historic city. It’s located in between Porto Cathedral and the Town Hall. Even if you’re not arriving or leaving Porto by train it’s worth checking out the interior. The walls are decorated with the Portuguese tiles (azulejos). There are no barriers so you can explore as much of the station as you wish. It’s a wonderful location for your Instagram shots.
Porto Stock Exchange Palace (Palacio da Bolsa)
The Porto stock exchange palace was built during the 19th century. It was built to increase the prosperity of Porto during that time. You can visit the interior and it is said that it was inspired by the famous Alhambra in Granada, Spain. Today the palace holds conferences and exhibitions.
Lello Bookstore (Livraria Lello)
The Lello Bookstore is the most beautiful book store in the world. I would completely agree with this statement if there were not hundreds of people visiting the place. To enter you must buy a €5 gift voucher to spend in store. Once you have bought the gift voucher you then join the huge line waiting to go inside. If you look at pictures on Instagram of the interior it is a truly stunning book shop. But will your pictures be as stunning when the book shop is full of tourists? I doubt it. The whole process of buying a coupon, lining up, waiting and going inside seems to be a huge tourist trap. If you did pass and there was no-one lining up with few people inside then I have no doubt that it would be a worthwhile experience.
Porto Cathedral (Sé do Porto)
Porto Cathedral is one of the oldest structures in the city. The architecture is a mixture of Baroque and Roman. On the square in front of the cathedral you get some good views of the colorful houses of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia.
From the cathedral it’s a steep walk through colorful narrow streets to the banks of the river Douro.
Carmo and Carmelitas Churches
The Carmo and Carmelitas churches are stunning on the exterior with their typical Portuguese tiles (azulejos). You’ll see a lot of Instagram poses being made in front of the azulejos.
Another church in Porto that photographs well is the Church of Sao Francisco. This photographs amazingly from the interior.
Porto Sign at Crystal Palace
No visit to Porto is complete without getting a photo in front of the Porto sign. When I was in Porto the sign was in the gardens of Crystal Palace. The sign does move though as it has been in front of the town hall before.
Port tasting at Vila Nova de Gaia
Along the banks of the Douro river on the Vila Nova de Gaia side there are lots of port bars. You can visit the caves of the major Porto port companies. On a cave tour you’ll learn about the ageing process of port.
I decided to sit in the outside bar of Sandeman and learn about port by drinking it. If you order a few different glasses and tell the waiter you want to learn about port he’ll be happy to help you best learn. If you’re not a port fan they also serve ice cold sangria. The view from the Sandeman bar is the Douro river and colorful houses of Porto. Would you prefer to be enjoying a glass of port or waiting in line to visit the over crowded Lello Bookstore?
Photography and Instagram worthy locations in Porto
It’s best to explore Porto on foot. I’d definitely recommend visiting all the points of interest I’ve listed. As you are walking between the points of interest you’ll see so many Instagrammable, colorful and classic Portuguese subjects. If I could recommend one city which sums up Portugal it would definitely be Porto.
How to get from Porto to A Coruña by bus
The bus from Porto to A Coruña, Spain takes around 6 hours. This is on a very convenient direct bus which you can book online. It would make sense to stop at Santiago de Compostela on the way. The reason I didn’t stop there is because I am saving this destination for when I walk the Camino de Santiago in the future.