When most people think about visiting Portugal, they immediately think about Lisbon. After all, it's the capital of the country and Portugal's largest city. However, in the North, there is another city that is becoming increasingly popular as a tourist destination, both for international visitors and people who live here!
One of the reasons is that this city has one of Portugal's main airports, with regular flight connections to several European capitals. But its fame is due to more than just easy access! Here, you will find all those wonderful things that Portugal is famous for: authentic neighbourhoods filled with tradition, delicious food, amazing landscapes and historical sites everywhere you turn.
If you're guessing that city is Porto, you're right!
In 2019, tourism in Porto and the North of Portugal recorded a historic growth, with more than ten million overnight stays in the region.
Find out why this city in Northern Portugal is so popular and the top 10 places to visit in Porto:
#1 - Lello bookstore
More than a century old, Livraria Lello is considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. Featuring gothic details, a red staircase and stained glass, many Harry Potter fans believe the author J.K.Rowling was inspired by this famous bookstore in Porto to create some places in the popular book series.
Since Lello bookstore attracts so many visitors, you will need to pay for a ticket to get in. Tickets cost 4 euros and you can visit from Monday to Friday between 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. The bookstore is also open on Saturdays and Sundays between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.
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#2 - D. Luis I bridge (Ponte D. Luís I)
D. Luis I bridge is one of the most iconic structures in Portugal. Connecting the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia, it rests over the Douro river, offering a breathtaking view of both margins and the traditional Porto wine boats.
Conceived by Gustave Eiffel, D. Luis I Bridge was built in 1886. While on the lower deck there is a road, the upper deck accommodates a metro railway line. You can also cross the bridge on foot!
#3 - Famous churches in Porto
Porto also boasts several amazing churches worth a visit, especially if you like architecture:
Porto's Cathedral (Sé do Porto)
Built in the 12th and 13th centuries, Porto's Cathedral — also known as "Sé do Porto" — is classified as a National Monument.
Some of its most notable aspects include the main chapel’s frescoes, the Gothic cloister, the medieval portrait of Our Lady of Vandoma (the city’s patron saint) and the Teixeira Lopes sculpture at the baptistery.
To visit inside, you will need to buy a ticket. The price is 3 euros and you can visit from Monday to Saturday between 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and between 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Igreja de São Francisco
Igreja de São Francisco is also incredibly beautiful, with its 18th-century Baroque design.
Prepare yourself for the amount of gold used! From the columns to the pillars and the high altar, everything is covered with beautiful gilded woodcarving.
You can also visit the ancient catacombs underneath this church.
Igreja do Carmo
Also built in the 18th-century, Igreja do Carmo features a striking facade of blue and white Portuguese tiles (azulejos). But there is also plenty to see inside, namely the amazing gilt carvings that decorate the interior of this church.
Igreja das Carmelitas
Since you're in the area, you may also want to check the other side of Igreja do Carmo, where lies another church: the Igreja das Carmelitas.
#4 - Clérigos tower (Torre dos Clérigos)
Clérigos tower is the city's most visible landmark. Featuring 75 m tall, it was built in the 18th century and designed by Nicolau Nasoni.
Although you will need to climb more than 200 steps to reach the top, it's worth the effort to enjoy a breathtaking view of Porto's coastline, the river and even the Douro Valley.
Next to the tower, don't miss the Baroque-style Clérigos Church.
The Clérigos Tower is open every day between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.
#5 - Wine cellars on the margins of the Douro river
On the other side of D. Luis I Bridge, you can visit some of Portugal's most famous Port Wine cellars, such as:
Sandeman — famous for its iconic man with the black cape — is located in Largo Miguel Bombarda, 3.
Taylor's, located in Rua do Choupelo, 250, also features the highly-rated restaurant "O Barão de Fladgate".
Cockburn’s, where you can enjoy a picnic in Rua Serpa Pinto, 346. This famous Port brand was created by Scotsman Robert Cockburn, in 1815.
There are also plenty of wine tours in Porto that include boat trips in the Douro valley (where the Port Wine grape varieties are cultivated), visits to wineries and even wine tasting experiences!
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#6 - Ribeira
Ribeira is one of those places you absolutely must experience when visiting Porto! This popular neighbourhood is part of the city's Historical Centre, classified as a World Heritage Site.
Ribeira faces the Douro River and it's a true feast for your senses when it comes to colour and flavour!
One of the things that makes this area of Porto so unique is the many colours of the buildings, from where the locals hang out their clothes to dry in the sun and there is always someone at the window to see who is passing by. It can't get more typically Portuguese than this!
Ribeira is also an excellent spot for foodies! Filled with traditional restaurants and cafés, you'll not only get a great meal and amazing view, but also an incredibly friendly vibe.
#7 - São Bento railway station (Estação de São Bento)
While it may seem odd to visit a railway station, the truth is that São Bento is not your regular railway station!
One of the things that make this station different is that it was formerly a convent. The best part is that it still incorporates architectural details from that time. From the iconic interior decorated with 20,000 painted tiles to the Belle Epoque facade, its building is filled with history.
#8 - Casa da Música
If you enjoy cultural programmes, you'll be glad to know that Porto usually has several events taking place all around the city. Some of these are held in Casa da Música.
Designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, Casa da Música is an incredibly modern building that offers options for all musical tastes.
#9 - Palácio da Bolsa
Built in the mid-19th-century, Palácio da Bolsa (the stock exchange palace) was originally a Franciscan Monastery. Inside the Palace, you'll find several amazing rooms and salons, each one with a unique appeal. The most amazing rooms include the Portrait Room, the Golden Room, the Chairman's Room, the Court Hearing Room, the Hall of Nations and the Arabian Room.
#10 - Café Majestic
Featuring an Art Nouveau facade, Café Majestic is one Porto's most popular tourist spots and also one of Portugal's most famous cafés.
Inside, you will find the original carved wood chairs and marble-topped tables that deliver a bohemian style to the décor. On the walls, huge flemish mirrors give the final touch to this historical café.
At Café Majestic, you can enjoy a cup of coffee and a sweet from the huge pastry selection, or even lunch or dinner.
Whatever your itinerary for visiting Porto, make sure to take your time, wander slowly through the streets and immerse yourself in the unique atmosphere of this amazing city in Northern Portugal. After all, the simple pleasures of life are what truly make the trip worthwhile!