When in Portugal, make sure to visit the beautiful coastal city of Porto. Famous for its beautiful architecture and port wine, there is plenty to explore in this fine Portuguese destination. In the riverside district, known as the Ribeira, you’ll find quaint cobblestone streets filled with houses and cafes. In this city you can visit architectural and cultural gems such as the São Francisco Church and the Palácio de Bolsa, a nineteenth century palace built to impress European investors.
Make sure to visit the Clérigos Tower, a baroque bell tower which is part of the church of the same name. The Dom Luís Bridge was built in the late 1880s and you can cross over the river to the port wine quintas of Vila Nova de Gaia. There is so much to see in Porto and we’ve listed several locations that are excellent places to add to your itinerary.
Palácio da Bolsa
This historical Porto gem was built in the 1800s as a Stock Exchange center. It was built by the Associação Comercial in the historical center of the city and is a UNESCO world Heritage Site as well. In 1842, construction began under the architect Joaquim da Costa Lima Júnior, who designed the palace in the neoclassical style. While the palace construction was finished in 1850, many artists contributed to the interior design which took another 60 years to complete.
Dom Luís I Bridge
This iconic bridge is a double decker arch bridge that crosses the Douro River. The 385 meter bridge connects the Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia. Construction began in 1881 under the engineer Théophile Seyrig. The upper deck was completed in October 1886 and the lower deck the following year.
The upper deck as been closed to private motor traffic since 2003 and pedestrians can enjoy spectacular views of the city, Douro River, and port wine caves from the walkway. The bridge has a Property of Public Interest status according to the by Portugal’s IGESPAR (Institute for the Management of Architectural and Archaeological Heritage)
Nearby lies the Maria Pia Bridge, which often is confused with the Dom Luís I Bridge because of the resemblance between the two.
Church of Sao Francisco
Located in the center of Porto, the Church of Saint Francis is also one of Portugal’s World Heritage Sites. The church’s was built in the Baroque and Gothic styles and its interior is remarkable.
The church was first built in 1244 along with a convent in dedication to St Francis of Assisi. From 1383-1425 construction of a larger building took place and the church was styled in plain Gothic design.
In the early 1700s, most of the interior such as walls, side chapels, the roof, and pillars were laid with gilt work in the Baroque style.
Some notable artwork in the churches interior includes a granite statue of Saint Francis which is one of the remnants from the original 13th century church.
Another remarkable part of the church is the chapel dedicated to St John the Baptist designed by the architect Diogo de Castilho in the mid 1500s. Covered in gorgeous Manueline style rib vaulting, the chapel includes a Baroque altarpiece and stunning portal.
This landmark structure is a 76 meter high bell tower of the Clerigos Church of Porto. The Tower was built in 1754 with its construction lasting until 1763. The architect Nicolau Nasoni designed the tower, as well as several other important structures in Porto. Visitors can climb the steps (230 of them!) to the belfry for spectacular views of the city.
This neo-gothic structure is one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal (as with Lisbon’s Bertrand bookshop). Most of the interior and façade reflect the Art Nouveau style and some Gothic Revival added as well. Also known as Livraria Chardron, this world renowned book store is located in the center of Porto. The shop is named for the Lello brothers (José and António) who opened the shop in 1906.
JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame was a regular visitor at the Livraria Lello and is said to have drawn much inspiration from the bookshop.
Casa da Música
This Rem Koolhaas designed music venue in Porto is also a major cultural institution popular for 3 its orchestras, Orquestra Barroca, Orquestra Nacional do Porto, and Remix Ensemble. The iconic structure was built in 2001 as part of Porto being named the European Culture Capital and was completed 4 years later. This light-filled concert hall has walls made of glass and 1,300 seats in its auditorium. There is a large and small auditorium as well as a restaurant at the top of the building.