Porto Travel Guide
Introduction to Porto
An old port city (hence the name) dating all the way back to the 4th century AD, Porto’s location at the mouth of the River Douro has given it what it is world famous for in the present day.
Due to the fertility of the soils upstream that proved to be perfect for the production of wine, Porto became the distribution point for Portugal’s contribution to the viticulture industry.
While the port houses will no doubt be a fixture on your itinerary here, don’t ignore its other attractions, which are expanded upon in detail in our travel guide below…
Cultural Experiences in Porto
Begin your tour of Porto at the Palácio da Bolsa, which once served as this city’s commercial trading hub. Built in the 19th century and lavishly decorated to appeal to wealthy merchants and international dignitaries, the one place you’ll want to see within this UNESCO recognized building is the Arab Room. Designed in the Moorish Revival style, its exotic nature is thought to be one of the more spectacular examples of this type of architecture in the country.
Continuing on to another of Porto’s most beautiful structures, the Clérigos Church is a Baroque style house of worship that stands out on the city’s horizon, as its bell tower soars 76 metres above pavement, which made it the tallest structure in Portugal at the time it was completed.
While the church is beautiful enough on its own to warrant a visit, many come to climb the 240 arduous steps up the tower to get one of the best vantage points of Porto from above.
When you are done checking out the views from the top and the intricately carved pillars and arches, take a few moments to breeze through a photography museum featuring some of the oldest photos taken of Porto, which date back to the late 19th century.
Wondering where J.K. Rowling summoned the inspiration to begin writing the Harry Potter series of books? It all started at a bookstore in Porto called Livraria Lello & Irmao, a large building filled with floor to ceiling with texts old and new.
Graced with a giant stained glass skylight, and style elements from the Art Nouveau and Gothic Revival schools of architecture, we can think of no better place in Europe to curl up with a new fiction or non-fiction book and escape into your own imagination, if only for a few hours.
Other Attractions in Porto
Are you traveling to the Porto area during the months of March through November? If so, make arrangements to cruise on, drive, or take the train alongside the River Douro.
The valley created by one of Portugal’s largest rivers is home to countless port wineries, granting the opportunity for an evening filled with fine alcohol, excellent food and epic views.
Even if you aren’t into the wine aspect of this popular day trip, the geography of the steep cliffs that pop up alongside the river in places makes this splurge well worth the expense.
Not leaving the city, but still looking for great views of Porto and the River Douro? Head out for a walk along the Dom Luis I Bridge, which was the longest iron built span in the world when it was completed in 1886.
From the pedestrian decks along this lengthy bridge, great pictures of the city and river can be had, so take your time to find vantage points that will give you unique shots of Porto’s cityscape – there are plenty of excellent ones to be had!
When you finish crossing over to the north side of the River Douro, you’ll find yourself in Zona Ribeirinha, a charming part of town that contains many port houses where you can sample the fine bounty from the vineyards upstream if you don’t have time to go upriver to taste them from the source.
Together with tons of cafes, restaurants and bars, most with excellent views of the waterfront, it is the perfect place to end your time in Porto before moving on to other destinations in Portugal, Spain, or Europe.