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10 things to do and see in Porto

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10 things to do and see in Porto

Since Ryanair added Porto as one of its destinations, Porto has become a better city. Who has visited Porto before this reorganization, could prefer the old city even if it was in decline. The city in fact, far from the touristic places, is characterized by dirty walls and streets.

Synthesis of this double soul is the Ribeira district which overlooks the Douro River. A shining city in its most photographed corners, but with back alleys in bad conditions. The whole city, excluding the suburbs, is well worth a visit. Porto is cozy, cheap and quite safe. You can visit it in two days and it is the ideal destination for a weekend far from the popular European routes.

In this page we suggest you 10 things to do and see during a holiday or a weekend in Porto.

If you are looking for a hotel in Porto, we suggest you to choose among those offered by Booking.com. There are about 260 hotels with prices, pictures and comments of guests already stayed there. Go to Booking.com

The District of Ribeira in Porto

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We suggest you to start  the visit of Porto from Ribeira, the distric along the Douro river. It is on the list of World Heritage sites.

The District of Ribeira in Porto
The District of Ribeira in Porto

A maze of narrow cobbled uphillstreets, low houses with colorful façades, tree-lined squares, balconies with flowers, clothes hanged out to dry, old people sat outside their homes, bars, restaurants and craft shops help to create a unique urban landscape. In the lower part of the Ribeira there is the iron bridge Dom Luis I (see point 3) linked to the twin town of Vila Nova de Gaia, world famous for producing the best Porto wine of Portugal. Around the bridge and along the banks of the Douro you can see the barcosrabelos, vessels  carrying the barrels that for centuries have used to transport the port wine from the production cellars to the warehouses. Today are mainly used to take tourists for a ride along the river and enjoy Porto from a different perspective.

Sao Francisco Church in Porto

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From the outside it could look like an usual church, inside is the most beautiful religious buildings in Portugal and one of the most richly decorated churches of Europe.

Sao Francisco Church in Porto
Sao Francisco Church in Porto

A visit to the Sao Francisco church is the opportunity to admire the technique of TalhaDourada, inlay work on gilded wood that is typical of many Baroque churches built in Portugal during the 18th century.Among the “all gold churches”, Sao Francisco is the most beautiful and opulent one. Sure it can be funny if you think that to build this church,dedicated to “Poor Man of Assisi”,  have been used more than 100 kg of gold! Once inside your eyes will get used slowly to the golden reflexes illuminated by the light through the windows and you begin to see floral motifs, plants and animals

When: November to February 9 am – 5 pm, March-October 9 am – 7 pm , July-September 9 am – 8 pm

Ticket: €  3.5 including a visit to the catacombs and the Museum of the Treasury.

Dom Luis I Bridge in Porto

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The students of Gustave Eiffel, the author of the famous tower in Paris and Statue of Liberty, brought his teachings in many parts of the world.

Dom Luis I Bridge in Porto
Dom Luis I Bridge in Porto

It was one of these, TeophileSeyrig, to design the Dom Luis I, the iron bridge of Porto connecting the Ribeira district to its twin town of Vila Nova de Gaia. A few years earlier he collaborated withEiffel to the construction of Ponte Dona Maria. He worked alone in the design of the Dom Luis I and judging by the result, Seyrig had learned quickly and well Heiffel’s teachings: the scenic effect of the bridge, especially at dusk or at night is spectacular. It was built in 1881 and opened in 1886. Today, on the top floor run the train of the new subway, while in the lower floor buses, trams and pedestrians. A walk along the 170 meters of the bridge is one of the things to do absolutely in Porto.

The Cathedral of Porto

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The Sé, the Cathedral of Porto, is an austere building with a large central rose window and two twin towers with domes on each side.

The Cathedral of Porto
The Cathedral of Porto

Built starting in 1200 on the ruins of an existing building, it is one of the most important examples of Romanesque architecture in Portugal.

The interior is simple, with three naves and baroque chapels. There’s a splendid Gothic cloister with walls decorated with blue and white tiles (azulejos) that tell of Marylife  and Ovid’s Metamorphoses. From Terreiro da Sé, the space in front of the Cathedral, you can admire a beautiful view of the Ribeira and the Douro River, including the town of Vila Nova de Gaia. The column in Manueline style in the center of the square is an ancient stocks used for a long time as a place of exhibition and torture of the condemned. From the square starts the staircase that leads into the lower part of the Ribeira and directly at the pedestrian level of the Ponte Dom Luis (see point 3).

Where: RuaTerreiro da Sé
How to get there: by feet from Ribeira. By Metro São Bento 400 by feet uphill.
When: every day from 9 am to 7 pm . Never: Easter and Christmas.
Ticket: Cathedral Free entrance. Cloister 3 euro.

SãoBento station in Porto

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It does not happen very often to get into a station just to admire the architecture. The simple façade of the São Bento railway station (St. Benedict) does not reveal the beauty of the atrium that leads to the tracks.

São Bento station in Porto
São Bento station in Porto

More than 20,000 azulejos (tiles), painted in blue and white dating back the beginning of ‘900 by Jorge Colaco, the most important Portuguese decorator. Built  in 1600 the station is now one of the most visited tourist attractions of Porto. As you enter you will enjoy the blue colour of the tiles depicting the history of transport in chronological order, from the beginnings up to the appearance of the train. The large panels tells  the history of Portugal including the solemn entry of D. João I in Porto, with the bride, D. Filipa de Lencastre.

Where: Praça Almeida Garret
How to get there: by feet at the end of Avenida dos Aliados. Metro – SãoBento station.

Mercado do Bolhão in Porto

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The crisis in Portugal has left its signs even in the Mercado do Bolhão, the most famous of Porto. Many benches are empty and to the traditional decadence of the place has been added the negligence in  cleaning. But it is always worth a visit because it has never become a tourist spot as the Boqueria in Barcelona.

Mercado do Bolhão in Porto
Mercado do Bolhão in Porto

If you want to find out how do the inhabitants of Porto live, what they eat and how they behave, it is the ideal place. Flowers, vegetables, fruits, fish, meat, cold cuts, cheeses: nothing is missing for those who want to take this opportunity to organize a quick lunch  in one of the restaurants in the central part of the market. Beautiful atmosphere but also interesting iron neoclassical structure divided on two floors.

Where: RuaSá da Bandeira
How to get there: by subway Bolhão Station
When: Monday to Friday: 7 am – 5 pm ; Saturday: 7 am – 1 pm ; Never on Sunday

The library Lello e Irmão in Porto

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Considered by many people the most beautiful bookshop in the world, “Lello eIrmão” attracts tourists, not for the books but for the extraordinary atmosphere and architecture of the place.

The library Lello e Irmão in Porto
The library Lello e Irmão in Porto

Considered a real “book Cathedral”, it  was built in 1800 on Portuguese engineer and politician Francisco Xavier Esteves. The magical atmosphere, a fusion of Gothic and Art Nouveau of the place and a good use of wood, is been used as set for some scenes of Harry Potter. Extraordinary the central staircase, with the infinite symbol  shape, that leads to the upper floors where there is also a café where you can sit to enjoy the show. No less interesting is the external facade in neo-Gothic style. Theoretically in the library is forbidden to photograph, but it seems that managers are quite tolerant!

Where: Rua das Carmelitas, 144, upper side of Ribeira
How to get there: Metro Aliados
When: Every day 10 am – 7.30 pm

Palácio da Bolsa in Porto

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Looking at it from the outside, the Palácio da Bolsaof Porto can be unnoticed, as one of the many palaces of the Portuguese town.

Palácio da Bolsa in Porto
Palácio da Bolsa in Porto

Some travellers, therefore, ignore the majesty and eclecticism that characterize the indoor. Built starting in 1842 by the will of Porto traders, it was to represent the commercial power of Portugal and to welcome the representatives of foreign nations in a majestic place.

Over the centuries, then, it was adorned by sculptors, painters, decorators and craftsmen who worked on the different rooms creating a complex of different styles but well mixed. The most important room is the Arab one , in neo-Moorish style inspired by the Alhambra in Granada. This room fully deserves the title of “Noble” room of the palace. No less monumental are the other rooms, but stands out for its beauty the Hall of Nations, built where there was once a cloister. This large space of 500 square meters is topped by an iron dome of 19 meters high from which enters the natural light that enlighten the façade of several doors and windows. The space around the dome is decorated with the national coat of arms of the countries with which Portugal had relation of friendship and trade.

Where: Rua Ferreira Borges
How to get there: downward the Ribeira
When: Summer time (April to October) 9 am – 6.30 pm  (Monday to Sunday)
Winter time (November to March) 9 – 12.30 am  / 2 – 5.30 pm (Monday to Sunday)
Never: 25th December and 1st January.
Ticket: € 7 single ticket

Things to eat in Porto

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The inhabitants of Porto are also called tripeiros (from tripe) so this should already show you what is the main dish of the Portuguese town.

Things to eat in Porto
Things to eat in Porto

The tripe, along with the traditional salt cod cooked in 100 different ways and franchesina, toast invented in the ’60s are the main courses of Porto. Of course, we assume that those who visit Porto take home a few litersof the wine, famous throughout the world whose most important wine cellars are located in the town of Vila Nova de Gaia, across the river.

Where to sleep in Porto

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Since it has become a destination for cheap flights, Porto has become a little bit crowded. The most expensive hotels are located in Ribeira, in the historic center, a few steps from the most important monuments and in the heart of Porto’s nightlife.

Where to sleep in Porto
Where to sleep in Porto

In this area the average price of a 3-star hotel is approximately 80 EUR per room per night. Of course there are others in the more external  areas (from 20 euro up) but you have to consider the time (never too much during a weekend) to move toward the center. The busiest periods are from late spring to early fall, so we recommend you to book in advance.

If you are looking for a hotel in Porto, we suggest you to choose among those offered by Booking.com. There are about 260 hotels with prices, pictures and comments of guests already stayed there. Go to Booking.com