The Douro, the cobbled and sloping streets of the Ribeira, the baroque churches and the famous wine known all over the world ... The crazy and somewhat old-fashioned charm of Porto leaves no one indifferent. To succumb to the attractions of Portugal's 2nd city and discover the best, we bring you our 10 favorites. Boa viagem!
La Ribeira: stroll through old Porto
Porto is a treat for urban walkers. Of the bank of the Douro which runs along the city, the Porto historic center, listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site, is spread over the steep sides of the river, veined with alleys and topped with its cathedral. Starting from the quays of Ribeira district, with its smart houses and welcoming cafes, we stroll happily, quietly, towards the upper town, to the train station of São Bento or cathedral (Sé). The walk can also be done in the other direction, from the upper town to the lower town.
We venture randomly down the sloping cobbled streets of another age lined with buildings with facades covered with azuleijos. Don't miss the rua das Flores, pedestrianized and lively, which descends towards the Palácio da Bolsa. It is here, where the city's maritime memory seems almost palpable, that we discover a secret and endearing Porto, both popular and timeless.
Note: from São Francisco church, tram n ° 1 leads to the mouth of the Douro.
The Palacio da Bolsa, jewel of Porto
In the heart of the Ribeira, this imposing monument, built in the 19C, is a splendor. Former headquarters of the Stock Exchange, the neoclassical building houses rooms of extravagant luxury that transport us to the golden age when Portugal ruled the seas of the globe. The Cour des Nations, designed as a well of light, dazzles, but not as much as the great Arab Salon, decorated in the Moorish style. This luxurious room, inspired by the Alhambra in Granada, took 18 years to complete. A splendor.
The shopping port, around the praça da Liberdade
After the Ribeira, explore the upper town! It is the beating heart of Porto, between the Liberty Square Praça da Republica, San Lázaro Pass, to the east, and, to the west, the rua Miguel de Bombarda. A more modern district (but not too much ...) and above all very lively where the town hall is located, the shopping streets Santa Catarina, do Loureiro ou Cimo da Vila and Bolhão market. Another high point of the district, the Galeria do Paris, lined with cafes and musical bars, attracts night owls on weekdays. To explore the upper town, do as in Lisbon: take the tram, like line 22, which gives a nice overview of Porto.
Lello and Irmão, one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world
An exceptional place to recommend to all bibliophiles, but not only. Founded in 1869, the Lello and Irmão bookstore is considered the most beautiful in Europe, if not the world! Its modernist-style white facade has been listed. Inside, a wooden double convolution staircase evokes galleons from the Age of Great Discoveries. Its finely carved wooden shelving is impressive. A true temple of very photogenic literature.
The treasures of Baroque Porto
Porto inherited from the golden age of Portugal a beautiful heritage where the baroque holds the top of the bill. For example in churches like San Francisco where the interior, very richly decorated, accumulates curves and gilding, with a magnificent and incredible Tree of Jesse of biblical inspiration. Dos Clérigos church, with the highest tower in the country, amazes with its monumental dome and very theatrical boxes. Casa Particular in Santa Clara is a fine example of the talha dourada technique, a style combining finesse of sculpture and gilding. Even the Sé (cathedral) has embellished its original Romanesque style with baroque touches. In Porto, nothing is too magnificent for the divine ...
Casa de Musica and MAC: Contemporary Porto
Porto is not just about nostalgia for a bygone past, far from it. Elected European Capital of Culture in 2001, this agglomeration of nearly 2 million inhabitants is a vibrant city, where contemporary-style buildings provide an attractive counterpoint to the venerable buildings of the Ribeira. For an overview of current Porto, visit the Centro Portugues da Fotografia or Fundacao Serralves, the ultramodern Museum of Modern Art, designed by Alvaro Siza Vieira, Pritzker Prize in 1992. Finally, emblem of the modern city, the Casa da Musica, the glass, stone and concrete concert hall built by architect Rem Koolhaas, proves that Porto does not fall asleep on its laurels.
Matosinhos: Porto by the Atlantic
The center of Porto, “the port” in Portuguese, is located on the edge of the Douro, about ten kilometers from the Atlantic. The city extends to this ocean front that can be reached by bus (n ° 500) or metro (line A). It is Matosinhos, the maritime, seaside and port district of Porto. You can swim on the large beach of the same name. Further north, it is the invitation to travel with the freighters and cranes of the port itself. Among the attractions of this neighborhood which is both residential and popular, the small restaurants around avenida Serpa Pinto allow you to feast on grilled fish in clouds of smoke.
Learn about Port wine in Vila Nova da Gaia
You will surely go to Porto for that too… to taste the local nectar, the Port wine, which is not produced in Porto, but in Vila Nova de Gaia, in the cellars located on the other side of the Douro. The oldest cellars date from the 18C and contain kilometers of old barrels where this precious nectar ripens. To get there, take the spectacular Dom Luis iron bridge, which spans the river and dominates the old town. Enchanting!
- Calem, Taylor's, Ferreira or Graham's houses open their doors to you with several guided tours per day, followed by a welcome tasting. So now is the time to learn about the subtleties of tawnies, rubies, colheitas and other vintage late bottled! After or before the visit of the cellars, enthusiasts can go to the Port Wines Institute, which houses a small museum dedicated to viticulture.
Read also our article on Port wines
Cruise on the Douro from Porto
Porto can also be visited from its river. The city occupies an exceptional site in a deep valley joining the Atlantic, a few kilometers to the west. Cruises, which depart from Praça da Ribeira quay, allow to appreciate all the beauty of the place. The Six Bridges cruise (about an hour) offers a superb overview of the Ribeira and the city. You can also opt for long cruises of one or two days that go up the Douro to Pinhão, in the Upper Douro valley (see below).
The upper Douro valley to Pinhão
Finally, know that you can reach by train or boat the magnificent landscapes of the upper Douro valley (read our report), where the vineyards of the famous Portuguese nectar are located! A day trip, very easy to do. Along the way, we admire the hills covered with terraced vineyards, fields of olive, orange and almond trees and, at the bottom of the valley, the Douro, the main artery of this valley blessed by the gods.
The valley, whose landscapes are classified as World Heritage by Unesco, stretches back to the pretty town of Pinion, where you should not miss the station covered with polychrome azuleijos. Superb views of the Douro and the surrounding vineyards. Casal de Loivos, Valença do Douro and Provesende are among the most beautiful villages in the valley.
Find all the tips, addresses and practical information in the Porto Routard in bookstores.
Consult our Porto online guide
Portugal Tourist Office
Porto and northern Portugal tourist office
Read also our articles Porto and Minho, green Portugal and Discovering Port wines
How to get there ?
Direct flights with TAP Portugal, Transavia, EasyJet, Vueling from Paris-Orly and other French airports. Book your plane ticket.
Where to sleep ?
- Cats Hostel Porto: rua di Cativo 26-28. Superb private AJ, arguably one of the most beautiful in Europe! Splendid terrace with a view in the heart of the Ribera district, dormitory and well-equipped double rooms, kitchen, laundry, restaurant, nothing is missing!
- Grande Hotel de Paris: Rua da Fabrica, 27-29. In a beautiful building from 1853, this charming hotel, located in the heart of the city, has beautiful rooms with retro decoration. Hearty breakfast in a magnificent dining room opening onto a pleasant garden.
Find and book your hotel in and around Porto
Where to eat and have a drink in Porto?
- Confeitaria do Bolhão: rua Formosa, 39. Opposite the market of the same name, a pastry shop in a beautiful Art Deco room. We love sandwiches, quiches and cakes, at pre-war prices. To eat inexpensive bacalhau (cod), go to Abadia do Porto (rua do Ateneu Comercial), a large, popu and noisy canteen located a stone's throw away.
- Cervejaria Brasão: Ramalho Ortigao Street, 28. In the Town Hall district, a local institution with good value for money. Main courses € 7-15.
- Escondidinho: rua Passos-Manuel, 144. Classic decor, even classy, for a restaurant that exudes the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie, Portuguese version. The cuisine, with all the great local classics, is up to the standard. Count 30-35 € for a meal.
- Café Majestic: rua Santa Catarina, 112. The most famous café in the city, with turn of the century architecture. Classy and intellectual atmosphere, ideal for sipping uma bica (a coffee) while daydreaming.