One way to do Porto

Porto is a delightful, easy to navigate, small city to visit and more and more opportunities to visit this popular and historic Portuguese port are on offer.

For cruisers there are generally two options: either with an Ocean cruise ship or by taking a river cruise along Portugal’s ‘River of Gold‘, The Douro, which generally start and complete in Porto.

River cruise passengers can generally look forward to at least one complimentary guided tour/excursion of Porto and possibly one overnight stop.

Cruise ships usually dock at Matosinhos with a shuttle bus ride of around 15mins.  Shuttle buses drop their passengers near the Natural History Museum, on Rua do Dr. Ferreira da Silva

…which is an ideal starting point for a walking tour.

For those visitors who wish to have  a more leisurely tour of Porto there are plenty of options…

Trains…

…which depart near the shuttle drop-off point.

Trams…

Porto’s trams are all old-school tramcars that look as though they belong in a museum. There are three routes around the city and a number of combinations how you can use them – getting around the city in old fashioned style; combining journeys with museum trips or buying tourist packages that give you access to sightseeing buses as well. The bog standard tram trip will set the visitor back a mere €2.50.

There are, of course, the  ubiquitous Ho-Ho buses in different colours…

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…and not forgetting a must while in Porto, a boat ride along the Douro…

 

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My preference is, as nearly always, to explore on foot and with that in mind where better to start than on the far side of the Natural History Museum and take a look at the fascinating Church of Our Lady Carmo…

The Carmo Church or to give it its full Portuguese title,  Church of the Venerable Third Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, was built in the second half of the 18th century in the baroque style of the times.

The side facade is covered with a grand panel of tiles representing scenes from the founding of the Carmelite Order and Mount Carmel.

Retracing our footsteps to the intersecting street where the shuttle coach dropped us off took us to Rua das Carmelitas and the Lello & Irmão Bookstore…

 

Considered to be the third most beautiful library in the world the store has an excellent neo-gothic façade with  two figures painted by José Bielman, representing the Science and the Art. The outer  facade is only surpassed by its stunning interior, nicely shown by this Youtube clip…

A stones throw from the Lello & Irmão Bookstore is the Clérigos Church and its tall bell tower, the Torre dos Clérigos, which can be seen from various points of the city and is one of its most characteristic symbols of Porto…

It is worth noting that the Yellow Ho Ho bus route starts at the Torre dos Clérigos.

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The challenge was on, to see Porto from the top of the tower…

No problem, and what a view when at the top…

Across the Roofs and the Douro...

A zoom into the Cathedral and Episcopal Palace…

Once again over the natural History Museum…

…and our next route, along Rua dos Clérigos  towards  Praca Liberdade, or Freedom Square…

Not for the first time while climbing church towers, I had the pleasurable experience of a right-up-close peal of the tower’s carillon…

 

Some 10 minutes walk, all down hill to the lower town area, and we were in  Praca da Liberade (Freedom Square)…

In 1866 the monument dedicated to King Pedro IV, the monarch most closely linked to Porto, was inaugurated in the middle of the square. The monument consists of a statue of Pedro IV riding a horse and holding the Constitution he had fought to protect during the Liberal Wars.

At the top of the square, which has many shops, restaurants and cafes lining its sides, is the City Hall…

…while on either side buildings  are offering fine examples of Neo-Baroque architecture…

On the corner of Liberty Square there is another famous statue that is easily missed. It is a statue of an Ardina (newspaper seller)…

On the front page it reads “Ao Ardina memória do esforço que faz correr as noticias” which means “To the Newspaper sellers in memory of the effort of running the news”.

Diagonally opposite the state of the Ardena is Porto’s São Bento Railway Station

The most notable aspect of São Bento Station is the large, magnificent tile  panels in the main hall. Indeed, there are some 20,000 tiles dating from the period 1905–1916 and they are the work of a Portuguese painter Jorge Colaco.

The panels depict landscapes, ethnographic scenes as well as historical events such as battles, royal gatherings and political landmarks…

Just behind the station is the Praca da Batalha and that square is rather dominated by Igreja de Santo Ildefonso…

an 18th Century church built in a proto-Baroqueo style that features internally  a retable (framed alter piece) by the Italian artist Nicolau Nasoni  and a façade of granite and azulejo tiles.

Twin bell towers include decorative cornices and each tower is topped with masonry spheres, a stone cross, and a metalwork flag.

Returning to the railway station we can see from its front, a short distance on the hill, Porto Cathedral …

Located in the historical centre of the city it is one of the city’s oldest monuments and one of the most important Romanesque monuments in Portugal…

 

The entrance driveway is headed by an imposing statue of the Christian Warlord, Vicars Peres…

The entrance to the Cathedral is sited on a large square…

…and is flanked by  the Episcopal Palace

The square affords more excellent views over the Douro, certainly  for those for whom maybe the climb up the Torre dos Clérigos was a step too far.

The square also boasts this rather intriguing Manueline Monument

I mentioned the views over the Douro from the Cathedral Square. They are good but not exactly panoramic. There is another gem of a view to be had just another short walk from the cathedral that not that many visitors frequent, Muralha Fernandina, the Port Walls.

The remains of Porto’s medieval outer wall which is now a national monument is accessed from Rua Saravaiva Carvalho, the street that leads directly across from the Cathedral approach drive.

And here is that other view…

 

…of the  Monastery of Serra do Pilar and the far side of the Luis I Bridge.

Time marches on and here was a good point to descend to the Cais da Ribeira  to explore Porto’s river-front…

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…and sample some of the great food on offer from the many waterfront restaurants on and around the Praca da Ribeira

The waterfront and Ribera Square are locations that actually exceed expectations when you see them for the first time: especially if it’s a beautifully sunny day.

The colourful façades of the old riverside buildings, an overdose of pavement cafés, roving Fado buskers, passing river boats and the monolithic Dom Luis I Bridge dominating the skyline all contribute to this UNESCO World Heritage Site being a high point of any visit: as is the food on offer….

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All together an excellent day and there was still some time left to cross the Luis I Bridge and visit one of the wine lodges on the  Cais de Gaia side of the Douro…

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For those lucky enough to have an overnight in Porto – usually those on a Douro river cruise – I would highly recommend making the effort to head over to Cais da Ribeira for the evening…

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…when there is usually additional entertainment and many market stalls…

I hope my readers have enjoyed this insight into Porto. A truly enchanting city with plenty to do and see.

If you have enjoyed this port review of Porto and would like to be amongst the first to hear of new reviews including port reviews ( which will soon include The Shetlands and Cartagena,  as well as a number of Australian ports of call)  and forthcoming cruise reviews of Queen Mary 2 and Viking Hermod why not join the many other followers by clicking on the ‘Follow’ link on the front page.

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4 responses to “One way to do Porto

  1. This is really great Richard as we will be visiting Porto on QE in September, our first time and looking forward to it, especially now that we have such a good insight into the places of interest etc.,. Many, many thanks.

  2. I am so pleased to have found this very informative review site. I have cruised many years and love to see ports of call I may have missed out on. Such beautiful photos and very interesting reviews.
    I shall make a point following your travels. Many Thanks.

  3. Pingback: One way to do Porto | Eby Online Business·

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