The historic city of Porto is a UNESCO world heritage city. In addition, it’s also the home of port. Here are a few things to do in Porto;
- 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
- Drink Port at Vila Nova de Gaia
- Carmo and Carmelitas churches
- Porto Sign
- Visit Porto Stadium
Hotels in Porto are great value. In addition, there’s an excellent Metro system. As a result you can choose whichever hotel has the best deal for your budget.
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. Additionally, there are several buildings covered in the famous blue Portuguese tiles known as azulejos. Finally, in Porto the locals are surprisingly friendly towards foreigners for such a big city.
Pastel de Nata – Custard Tart
One of the famous Portuguese pastries is the pastel de nata. Therefore, you should try one in their home. You can buy a pastel de nata in almost every bakery. However, I can confirm this store will serve you very tasty natas. When the bell rings it signifies that new natas are ready and this is the best time to buy them.
Dom Luis I 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. However, the population of Porto was growing quickly when the bridge was being planned in the late 19th century. Due to the growing population they created a double decker bridge designed by Theophile Seyrig. Theophile did in fact a student learn his trade from Mr Eiffel.
Dom Luis I Bridge at Sunset
Firstly, you can cross the Dom Luis I Bridge anytime of the day and you’ll be rewarded with incredible views. If you’re lucky enough to have a strong sunset the view can become majestic.
Maria Pia Bridge
Did you know there’s a bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel himself in Porto? Two bridges to the east of the Dom Luis I bridge is the Maria Pia bridge. The bridge is no longer in use but is of interest as it was designed by Mr Eiffel. As a matter of fact, the road which connects the two bridges is Avenida Gustave Eiffel.
Monastery of Serra do Pilar
The monastery dates back to the 16th century. Its church and cloisters are laid out in a circular design which is unique to Portugal. When you walk from the historic town on the top deck of the Dom Luis I bridge you’ll have wonderful views of the monastery. In addition, there are good views of it from the other side of the banks of the Douro river too. Finally, views of Porto, the River Douro as well as the bridges are incredible from the monastery. Even more so at sunset.
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. This is an excellent place to stay in Porto as many hotels and high streets shops surround the huge plaza. Photographers will love the huge classic Portuguese buildings lining each side of the street. Lastly, you can get a wonderful reflection shot of the City Hall from 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 in between Porto Cathedral and the Town Hall, adjacent to Congregados Church. Even if you’re not arriving or leaving Porto by train it’s worth checking out the interior. The walls are decorated with the famous Portuguese tiles known as Azulejos. Moreover, there are no barriers so you can explore as much of the station as you wish. If you do take a train, Lisbon is a popular destination.
Azulejos in Sao Bento Train Station
When you explore Porto you’ll see thousands of Azulejos. The interior of Sao Bento Train Station is arguably home to some of the finest azulejos not only in Porto but in the whole of Portugal.
Stock Exchange Palace Porto (Palacio da Bolsa)
The Porto Stock Exchange Palace was built during the 19th century. It was built to increase the prosperity of Porto at 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 as well as being a popular tourist destination.
Lello Bookshop (Livraria Lello)
In my opinion, the Lello Bookshop is one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world. What’s more, it was the inspiration for the Harry Potter library at Hogwarts. Yes, J K Rowling lived in Porto for several years. However, the bookshop has become a victim of over tourism. If you don’t mind there being hundreds of other tourists and a long line to enter, you’ll be fine. Alternatively, try visit off season or at non peak times such as early morning or just before closing time.
Read about other Harry Potter locations as well as the coffee shop where Harry Potter was written in my Edinburgh Landmarks travel blog.
Porto Cathedral (Sé do Porto)
Porto Cathedral is one of the oldest structures in the city. The architecture is a mix of Baroque and Roman. On the square in front of the cathedral are some excellent views of the colorful houses of Porto as well as Vila Nova de Gaia. If you’re walking the Camino Portuguese, you must visit the Cathedral for your pilgrim stamp and passport. Furthermore, you can also get a stamp in the Tourist Information office opposite. Finally, 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). As a matter of fact, you’ll see a lot of tourists posing for pictures in front of the azulejos.
Carmo and Carmelitas Churches – Interior
Another reason to enter the church would be to get a stamp in your Pilgrim Passport. That’s if you’re on the Camino Portuguese of course.
Even if you’re not interested in Clerigos Tower, you can’t help but notice it towering over the historic center. It is in fact a Baroque style tower built in the 18th century. Furthermore, it’s the tallest campanile in the whole of Portugal. Climb the 200 steps for panoramic Porto views.
Adjacent to Sao Bento Train Station is Congregados Church. It’s free to enter but best admired from a distance.
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 Porto Town Hall before.
Vila Nova de Gaia
Vila Nova de Gaia is the only place in the world where you can produce port. For this reason, there are several port companies in this area. Moreover, most of them have tours which show you the port making process. Usually they end with port tasting. Alternatively, you can enjoy a port whilst you dine at one of the many restaurants.
Port tasting at Vila Nova de Gaia
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 advise you. Most importantly, the view from Sandeman bar is the Douro river as well as the colorful houses of Porto.
Cable Car over Vila Nova de Gaia
If you want an aerial view over Vila Nova de Gaia then I recommend the cable car. This takes you over several port buildings to a park adjacent to the top level of the Dom Luis I Bridge.
Firstly, the famous piece of street art in Porto is a rabbit made from trash on the side of a house. It’s a couple of blocks from the Douro River in Vila Nova de Gaia. Here is the exact location. The Porto street art photographed above is adjacent to Trindade Metro Station. Keep your eyes open for street art as you discover Porto.
I mentioned the street art but you must also appreciate the Porto trams. For photographers, these historic trams can seriously enhance Porto photography.
Photography and Instagram worthy locations in Porto
It’s best to explore Porto on foot and I definitely recommend visiting all the points of interest listed above. 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. Lastly, read about more Instagram worthy locations in Portugal.
Porto Stadium – Estadio Do Dragao
Porto is arguably to most successful Portuguese football team. In fact, they are certainly the most successful in Europe with both a Champions League as well as a Europa League victory. What’s more, they have a modern stadium which has the culture of Porto built into it. Read more about a Porto Stadium Tour on my Portugal Travel Blog.
How to get from Porto to A Coruña
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. Maybe, you could also consider a stop at Santiago de Compostela on the way.