I didn’t travel to Porto for its wine, nor did I travel to Porto for its delicious sea food, or its beautiful churches and towers all covered in Azule tiles.
I traveled to Porto mostly because I had an image in my mind of colorful low-rise buildings streaming down the hills all the way to the river ; an image I had to see in my own eyes and shoot with my camera. (like the one above)
An IMAGE…This is what photographers are mostly after… The rest is just a bonus.
But don’t get me wrong. I loved the wine! – I drank three kinds of Port wine in one lunch and one dinner. I loved the food! – I ate in Rui Paula’s DOP gourmet restaurant a five-fish dish, which I had to eat only clockwise and I loved the Azulejo tiles! – I didn’t stop shooting them.
But Porto mostly fascinated me for its magical atmosphere of an old mysterious or gothic (as my friend called it) city.
There was something quite special about this city. When I climbed to the top of the hill where the Cathedral is located and overlooked the red roofs of the old crumbling buildings, I instantly felt there are few sides to Porto; The Porto of the top-level, with the old churches and the bell towers and the one of the low-level, with the residential colorful buildings. I stayed in Infante Sagres, a five-stars hotel in the center of the city, but I could hear through the windows the seagulls in the sky and the church bells beaming in the background. I felt as I was on an island.
Although it is not an island, walking along the Riberia of Porto, which is one of the oldest parts of the city and was classified as World Cultural Heritage by Unesco, might give you the feeling you are on one. The river front and the dotted ships on the Douro river are really close.
Porto DOES have all the right ingredients for a perfect long weekend or a short vacation in Europe; Its gastronomy is a mirror of its cultural diversity and there are a lot of great chefs’ oriented restaurants in the city. The Port Wine, which stands out from ordinary wines thanks to its huge range of variety. The different kinds of architectural styles; from the Neoclassical to Art Nouveau (I specially loved the variety of the signs fonts) and of course, the comfortable weather.
When you book your next Porto vacation, I highly recommend to follow O Porto Cool blog. It covers almost every corner in the city and it is very up to date. I checked it on a daily basis and it really made my visit more enjoyable, knowing where to go, on a specific time of the day.
There are so many things to do and see in Porto. A long weekend that lasts for three days obviously will not be enough, but beside the beautiful churches, the marvelous castles and other iconic buildings, here are some highlights I recommend not to miss.
Might be one of the most beautiful train stations in the World, Sao Bento Railway Station was opened to the public in 1916 and is well known for its walls covered with 20,000 splendid azulejo ceramic tiles which describe the History of Portugal. It took Jorge Colaço, the artist, 11 years to complete this building. The railway station is located in the Almeida Garret Square, in the centre of the city. I happened to be there on a Saturday rainy morning, while I was looking for a place to hide from the heavy rain. It was quite interesting watching the people’s dynamics, which might look the same in every major Railway station, despite its location. This place is beautiful all year around and probably most hours of the day. Indulge in this beauty and pay attention to the little details.
Address: Praca Almeida Garrett
This is a great spot for a Weekend brunch, especially if it is raining outside. (At least that what happened to me). I loved the contrast between the raw grey industrial walls and the warm chocolate-colored wood furniture and the green plants. The furniture and accessory have that vintage touch, which I found quite unique and surprising. The place serves as a restaurant and a bar, where at the back of it, there is a minimalistic clothes store.
And then, there is the guest house, which is designed in the same atmosphere of the restaurant; grey industrial walls and minimalistic wooden beds. I love that Miss’Opo is a multi-functional space that can offer both food, style and accommodation in style. It is definitely one of the great spaces that Porto has to offer to a young and hype crowd.
Address: Rua dos Caldeireiros nº100 (restaurant)/ Rua de trás nº 49 (guesthouse)
Casa da Música, designed by Rem Koolhaas, is the first building built in Portugal which is dedicated entirely to music in various aspects; presentation of music (concerts), education of music and creation of music. The building was intended to be finished on 2001, to mark the year in which Porto became a Cultural Capital of Europe but eventually Casa da Música opened its doors to the public on April 15th , 2005. I first heard about Casa da Música when I read my travel guide about Lisbon and Casa da Música was a suggestion for a weekend getaway. The VIP Room grabbed my attention right away and I knew it was something I had to shoot. It is a multifuncional space, mainly used for sessions for small groups, installations or ceremonial occasions. The room pays an homage to Portuguese tiles and each of its panels is a reproduction of an original panel to be found in different museums in Portugal and the Netherlands. When I got to the building I was quite surprised to discover that the next time I can see the room was at 4pm. Mind you, it was only noon, but eventually (thanks to my Journalist pass) I had the chance to be in the VIP Room by myself and shoot it as much as I want. When you plan your visit in Casa da Música, plan it wisely time-wise. And treat yourself to a concert. It is worth it.
Address: Avenida Boavista 604
Another known architectural jewel in Porto is Livraria Lello, a bookstore well-known for its red stairways that look like a giant tongue. This beautiful bookstores, which was opened in 1906, was chosen one of the ten most beautiful bookstores in the world. The store was designed by Xavier Esteves and it is the flagship store for one of the most important Portuguese publishing houses. Co-owner Antero Braga is usually around, knows the Portuguese book market in and out, and will be glad to help you find exactly what you want even when you don’t have a clue about what that may be. Photography inside the store is not allowed but if you flash your Journalist card again and show up just before the store is opened, than taking pictures might be an option.
Address: Rua das Carmelitas 144
Speaking of books, Book Restaurant (which is next door to Infante Sagres hotel) is designed as a library as well and reflects the connection between literature and gastronomy in a very contemporary way. The architect is Pedro Trindade and the chef is John Mendes serving Mediterranean cuisine. I first saw the restaurant from the outside and was curious to see the decor. When I got in and sat down, the waiter handed me the menu inside The Historia da Filosofia book. I knew my dinner couldn’t be better than that!
Address: Rua de Aviz, 10
Era Uma a Vez em Paris, Once Upon a Time In Paris
One of the busiest and fashioned streets in Porto is Rua Galerias de Paris, which, no wonder, is spotted by some cafes and restaurants that remind you of Paris. There is a cute cafe called Galeria de Paris which was quite busy during lunch time, and next door there was Era Uma a Vez em Paris, a dark cafe with great green lamps that grabbed my attention right away to get inside. When I got in, I could easily think I entered a Bohemian Parisian cafe back in the 20’s. No wonder. Era Uma a Vez em Paris, which means ‘Once Upon a Time in Paris’. I loved the decor. The dark room with the red walls, the velvet heavy sofas and the velvet green lamps transformed me immediately. Really recommended during night time, when the place becomes more intimate.
Address: Rua Galerias de Paris 106
Might be one of Portugal’s most famous cafes with a beautiful interior, Majestic Cafe is one of the best historic cafes in Europe and one of the most beautiful ones in the World. The façade, same as the interior, enlightened the street with its Art Nouveau decoration, designed by architect João Queiroz. It has a great atmosphere and not only a touristic attraction. Come with your cameras because pictures are allowed but also sit down for a coffee and a Portugese cake.
Address: Rua Santa Catarina 112
More recommended locations:
B & B hotel is a great alternative for the budget traveler. The hotel, which was opened in the end of 2011, is located right in the city center in an Art Déco building that used to be cinema “Águia d’Ouro”. The hotel has stylishly furnished rooms and a modern design and despite its luxurious facade, it offers an econo-chic concept with good price for travelers.
A Vida Portuguesa is a concept store I first discovered in Lisbon. I was quite happy to find a similar store on Rua Galerias de Paris and get some hand made olive oil soaps with funny wrapping. Definitely, get a glimpse inside the store.
DOP Restaurant which stands for ‘tasting and daring in Oporto’, is a gourmet restaurant owned by the chef Rui Paula, who combines traditional Portuguese cuisine with international flavor. The restaurant is located in Palácio das Artes (Palace of Arts), an original building from the 14th century, which used to be a youth foundation but recently was reconstructed and reopened as a restaurant. Highly recommended and preferred to book in advance.
De Castro Gaia Restaurant is located in The Porto Cruz Space just acros the river of Porto. The chef Miguel Castro Silva, unites the Porto Cruz wines with the culture of gastronomic Portuguese cuisine. Better take your drink to the rooftop of the building and sip it while looking at the beautiful view of Porto.
Porto is by far, a very fascinating city to visit. You can see it by bike, on foot and even by boat. Take advantage of the great touristic information and plan a great vacation with Porto Card. It will make everything much easier.
Lovely pictures. I’m planning a trip to Portugal (with Porto) in June-July. Will keep this post to help me with my planning:)
So beautiful!! It brings up memories from my honeymoon there. Love the writing, and gorgeous photos!
Thanks Naomi for all the tips you gave me!
This was very nice to looking at – and read about..
and..what a railwaystation.. and som nice placec for lunsh..
Never been in the city – yet:)
enjoy your week, and thank you for sharing..
Thanks Pål Thomas. Maybe you should go! After all, it’s Europe :-)
oh.. I should and I will..:)
Portugal seems like a very spesical, historic and warm country.. I have only been to Madeira.. and it is nice there as well…
I have a dream about my own little hotel some day, some where… What would we be without our dreams..
Oh I am absolutely in love with your pictures!! Porto really seems magical for a photographer. I must admit I have never been in Portugal and will have to do this sometime in the future. Especially the book café looks so lovely!! The hotel looks lovely on their website. Did you enjoy it?
Thanks so much for all the tips and the pictures!! Hope to hear from you soon. Yours, Thea
You should go to Porto. Especially since it’s in Europe.
You would enjoy MissOpo for sure. It has a Berlin’s feel
Being from Porto, I can recognize the truth in your every word…
Next time (and I bet there will be a next time) maybe I can show you around the hidden secrets ;)
Thanks. Till next time…
… maybe you should come again!
Glad you liked my city. :)
As you said Oporto is not only wine, but the wine allows us to see the city with more charm and warmth.
I’m glad you liked my city.
You are always welcome.:):)
Thank you for the invite!
Hope I can visit Porto in the summer
Nice pictures from my city :)
I just missed some pictures from Serralves and the City Park.
It’s a reason to come to Porto again :)
Once you tasted you will repeat. The city is like the wine, we should eat it.
I totally agree! It’s addictive
Im glad you’ve enjoyed my city!
I’ve noticed you’re from ny city, right? Lucky girl!
And ntw, I loved your blog =)
Kisses from Portugal
Thank You Eva for following!
You can´t forget to see Porto Stadium!
And the beatch!!! :D
I’ll have to leave something for next time then
For someone like me, who is away from is country, reading my city the way you wrote it brings old memories. No Portuense can truthfully say that he knows every inch of the city… Porto is much more than the places, the wine or the food. Porto is a moos, that often changes with its own colors, able of exquisite romantism, of almost extreme melancholy and of course of glamorous joy.
A few things not mentioned on the blog: The Lelo bookstore the is the 3rd most beautiful in the world, The Francesinha hot sandwich, rated in the top ten best of the world, The Clerigos tower, the Christa Palace gardens, The Serralves Gardens… and the most recognizable trace of Porto… The Douro River and its beautiful 5 Bridges, 3 of them symbols of theindustrial revolution…
Thank You for this small trip around my city…
Thanks for sharing so many beautiful pictures about our beloved Porto city! There are so many places and small corners to discover that sometimes we need to read travellers notebooks to remind it …
Next time you need to experience a douro cruiser and I’ll be much glad to invite you to do so!
Thanks so much Ana Torres
Thanks Maria, I will correct the address.
Thanks, Silvan, for sharing with the world your photos and views about my city of Porto. But I’d like to point out a little mistake you made when you wrote the address of the very nice “book restaurant”: in fact, its address is: RUA DE AVIZ, 10 and not Rua Tenente Valadim. I´m sorry but I thought I should tell you this. Please, come again to this wonderful place that Porto is, because there’s still a lot to see.
You must come back and shoot so many interesting places as ancien shops …but thank you any way !
Thanks for liking my city, it’s really fantastic and have not seen everything.
Until the next
Thannks for “see” to Porto the way you did.
Apart from the comments of other Portuenses, I also add the area of Foz…where the river meet the sea and you also find nice restaurants by the sea.
The place where you can have some fantastic sunsets
You should comeback… asap !
Thanks! The first opportunity I have, I will come back to explore more of your beautiful city :-)
Thanks for following
Muchas gracias por tanta información tan buena. He tomado nota de todo y me tomaré un generoso oporto a tu salud el próximo Agosto.
I love this place.
If your want to walk the Camino Portuguese I’ll choose this place!
p.d You were lucky, I couldn’t take a picture inside the Livraria Lello
Thanks! I got a special permission to shoot inside Livraria Lello. Isn’t it just beautiful?
Vraiment très sympa votre article.
Porto est vraiment une magnifique ville, et ton article donne beaucoup d’idée, merci!!
J’ai moi aussi crée un ptit article pour planifier et connaitre les bons tuyaux de porto:
-Comment se rendre dans le centre ville une fois arrivé à l’aéroport
-Où se loger
-Où se restaurer
Si ça intéresse quelqu’un!
Loved your post!
I’m from Porto and usually when I read descriptions and advices of things to do in Porto on magazines and alikes, I find them lacking many places and, mostly, don’t think they capture the essence of it. Though your article is surely missing some places, I know you can’t compare a short visit with living in the place, and I completely think you manage to capture the essence!
I would add an information to your Book restaurant description, that I don’t know if you are aware of, it used to be a bookshop and that’s the reason for its theme.
Thank You Mariana. I wish I had few extra days in Porto. It is such a beautiful city.
hey there, nice pictuers. What camera do you have can I ask??
I’m using Nikon D90 and Nikon D600
I lived in Porto for nearly a year (and I aim to go back for good) and go there often, never, never tiring of it.
Just one thing: the restaurant Book is not set as a library, it used to be a bookshop that went out of business, and they have maintained some of the shelving, etc.
Thanks Daniela for clarifying about Books and for following my blog
Great review of my beloved city!
It was even a bit hard for me to read and see these pictures, (as I am from Porto but I had to move out to another country to seek for better professional oportunities) I miss being there every single day, we have river, sea, beach, modern and historical architecture, nice food, good wine,…oh what a list..!!
Congrats for the review and pictures, but mostly for understanding this..”But Porto mostly fascinated me for its magical atmosphere” which is what most of Porto inhabitants feel about their city and might not be as easy to get it when you come from “outside”.
This is such a compliment to have from a local of Porto like you.
Thanks for following my blog, and hopefully you be back in Porto soon
I live in Australia but I´m originaly from Porto and it feels great to read your words. I would just add, if you allow me, for people not to forget the Atlantic side or Foz and Matosinhos area. Walk along the beaches, seat on a esplanada and why not go for some surf ;)
hiii! I am currently living in porto and I love this writing about porto. and also those pictures you took. Incredible! I am happy that I ended up to this blog of yours.
I am writing some about portugal and europe in general if you want to take a visit on http://bhellabhello.wordpress.com/
Thanks Nabila. I will take a look
You do need to visit Douro then, we did make a small weekend regarding this trip and you would for sure take a better picture than us :):)
Thanks so much for the link, Liveoporto, Hope to be back soon
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