I shall not lie to you. I am a little biased when it comes to the beautiful city of Porto, my once adopted home city.
Porto is a colourful and vibrant city with a laid-back and peaceful vibe that can only come from its inhabitants. The good citizens of Porto are some of the kindest people I have ever met. Before I spend the next ten minutes explaining why I love Porto so much, I’ll let you make your mind up by sharing the history and things to do and see in the beautiful city of Porto.
Remember, many people choose to spend extra days in Porto so you can take your pick from the many attractions below if you only have 24 hours in this city.
History Of Porto
The origins of Porto can be traced back to a pre-Roman settlement called Calle or Portus Cale. There is evidence to suggest that the city was founded in 417. Since then, Porto has been ruled over by various groups: the Suevi, the Goths, and the Moors.
Portugal and Porto had an important role in European affairs during the “Age of Discoveries.” Porto became a major trading port and in the 15th and 16th centuries the city experienced significant growth due to the export of Port, the fortified wine that Porto is most famous for.
Porto is considered the most impressive city in the north and was awarded the classification of a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
There is no better way to appreciate this colourful and historic city of Porto than by taking in the views from Clerigos Tower: one of Porto’s most celebrated buildings and the third most visited landmark in Portugal.
At more than 75m high and a climb of 225 steps to reach the top, the Clergios Tower dominates the entire urban landscape of Porto with specular 360-degree views of the entire city.
The most important religious building in Porto, the Cathedral was built on the highest point of the city in the Morro da Sé district in the 12th-century. Overlooking the Rio Douro with stunning views over the city, the square that the cathedral stands on has a history going back to medieval times.
For Camino pilgrims, the Cathedral is the major starting point of their Portuguese Camino de Santiago. You can visit the Cathedral to purchase your Pilgrim Credential and receive your first Camino stamp.
Read more at Visit Porto – The Se (Cathedral) Do Porto
Cais da Ribeiro, Ponte Dom Luis & Rio Douro
Cais da Ribeiro just might be one of the most beautiful places in the world and the perfect spot to watch the world go by. Ribeira means riverside and Cais da Ribeira is the district on the banks of the Douro River that runs up into the heart of historic Porto’s UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Ribeira is filled with restaurants, bars, and little shops for your pleasure.
The Ponte de Dom Luis is an iconic bridge in Porto that crosses the Rio Douro from the Cais de Ribeira to Vila Nova De Gaia. Completed in 1886; at the time it was the longest iron arch in the world. On the upper level, you can walk along the pedestrianised path or take the metro across the bridge.
Enjoy an easy afternoon or evening on Ribeira and watch the world go by.
Sao Bento Railway Station
For those of you who love the beautiful things in life, Sao Bento Train Station, one of the most beautiful railway stations in the world, is a place for you to visit in Porto.
While the facade of the building is a pleasure to view on your approach to the building, the real treasure lies inside the main hall.
The dramatic azulejo panes of historical scenes designed by Jorge Colaco are the real attraction. Made with over 20,000 azulejos (hand-painted Portuguese tiles), the hallway depicts the history of transport together with historical battles.
Read more at Visit Porto – Sao Bento Railway Station
Port Caves In Via Nova De Gaia
A visit to Porto would not be complete without taking a tour of the Port Caves of Vila Nova De Gaia, located just across the Rio Douro from Porto’s Ribeira.
You can take a tour of one of the many lodges of the Port producers such as Calem, Offley or Taylor’s. Just head across the Ponte Dom Luis Bridge or hop on the wooden river taxi that crosses the river from Cais de Ribeira and take your pick.
Read more at Visit Porto – The Port Caves Of Vila Nova De Gaia
The Majestic Cafe & Rua de Santa Catarina
Not only is the Majestic Café one of the most beautiful cafe in Porto, it’s also on the Top 10 list of the most beautiful cafes in the world.
The cafe opened in 1921 under the name of Elite on Rua de Santa Catarina, the main pedestrian walkway in the city. You can’t miss it, not just because of the beautiful facade, but due to the number of tourists that queue up to visit the cafe – don´t be put off. It is worth the time to visit to see the beautiful interior that takes you back to another time and place.
Livraria Lello Bookstore
Considered to be one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, visitors come to Libraria Lello in their droves – not just for the books but to view the stunning building.
Designed in the neo-gothic style, the book store was purpose-built and opened in 1881 by the Lello brothers, Jose and Antonio. The store became a meeting place for intellectuals, book lovers, and for social gatherings. Indeed, JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series was once a resident of the city and used to visit the coffee store in the building on a regular basis.
Porto is definitely a cultural hot spot and has numerous museums offering displays and exhibitions on all manner of subjects.
While the cathedral (see above) is the most important religious building in Porto, there are so many other religious buildings to explore.
Jardim do Palácio de Cristal
The gardens of the Crystal Palace in Porto were designed in 1860 to complement the Crystal Palace, an iron and glass structure which imitated the famous London Crystal Palace. Located on a hill above the Rio Douro, the gardens feature sports facilities, a modern multi-media library, auditorium, cafeteria, the Romantic Museum and tree-lined paths with views of the river.
The beautiful gardens have a lake, flowerbeds, peacocks roaming across the lawns and great views of the Douro River. They are divided up into thematic areas including a herb garden, medicinal plants, a rose garden, and a sensory garden.
If you plan to walk the Portuguese Camino de Santiago and need a little helping hand preparing for your journey, why not let me take care of the mundane, leaving you to enjoy the magic? I offer Camino Itinerary Planning on all Camino routes.
Want to learn more about the Camino de Santiago? Check out my book, A Wild Woman’s Guide To The Camino de Santiago. I share everything you need to know before you begin your Camino. Read at A Wild Woman’s Guide To The Camino De Santiago or click the link below.
(c) Samantha Wilson 2019. All Rights Reserved.