Porto, also known as Oporto, is set on the Doura river estuary in northern Portugal and claims the title of the second-largest city in Portugal. It’s a city that prides itself on baroque architecture, its famous drink (port, of course!) and a thriving creative scene.
Not content with living in the reputation of its famous digestif, there is much more to Porto to discover including great museums, beautiful churches and the Ribeira district filled with narrow alleyways and pastel-colored houses.
Igreja de São Francisco is the most prominent Gothic church in Porto with an exterior that doesn’t allude to the magnificent interior adorned with sculpted wood, golden cherubs and columns decorated with floral motifs. Don’t miss the museum and catacombs below with artefacts from the monastery and bones from those awaiting Judgement Day.
Climbing the 240 steps of the Clérigos Tower for a birds-eye view over the city, you will understand why this landmark was used as a guide by ships arriving to the Cais de Ribeira. Afterwards, head to the Cordoaria Gardens with lovely gardens dotted with statues, or the Centro Portugues de Fotografia, a small museum housed in the old prison with vintage camera displays and temporary photography exhibitions.
A must-visit when in Porto, the Serralves Museum is an attraction not to miss with contemporary art displays, sculptures in the grounds and the striking Casa de Serralves, a pink Art Deco building. If you visit Porto in late May or early June, ensure you catch some of the annual Serralves em Festa festival hosted by the Museum that celebrates art and culture.
For a glimpse into Portuguese art, make sure you visit the Museu Nacional des Soares dos Reis housed in an 18th century palace. This small museum has fine paintings, sculptures, ceramics, jewellery and furniture and there is a cafeteria which opens to a patio in fine weather. The museum is closed on Mondays – we recommend you time your visit for a Sunday when museum entrance is free.
An attraction in its own right, São Bento Station is Porto’s central station and was built on the site of a former convent. Designed in a French Renaissance style, you’ll be speechless at amazing tile murals in the atrium where over 20,000 tiles demonstrate Portuguese history including Prince Henry the Navigator conquering Ceuta in Morocco, and a representation of the Battle of Arcos de Valdevez.
Mingle with the locals at the slightly shabby market Mercado do Bolhão as they shout out their orders to the vendors for chestnuts, fresh vegetables and octopus. Buy some spicy Portuguese sausage or sample a francesinha, a local sandwich of ham, beef and cheese.
Just 45 minutes’ drive south of Porto is the postcard-perfect town of Aveiro, nicknamed the ‘Venice of Portugal’ due to the network of scenic canals. Take your camera for shots of the paintbox-hued moliceiro gondolas and Art Nouveau buildings.s-tinted Art Nouveau buildings
Around 100 kilometers from Porto lies the World Heritage-listed Douro Valley, an area of natural beauty and significant to Portugal’s wine industry. Enjoy the vistas over the river, visit one of the quintas (wine estates) in villages like Barcos or Provesende and photograph the unique rabelo boats that were used to transport wine to the cellars near Porto.
Braga, an hour from Porto, is best known for the multitude of churches including the Santuario do Bom Jesus do Monte where you’ll be left breathless after walking up the steps to the cathedral. Our tip for a hidden gem in Braga is to visit Livraria Céntisima Página, a bookstore that multi-tasks as a coffee shop and art gallery with a lovely garden.