If there is anything that the city of Porto by the Douro River is famous for, its port wine. You will see many vineyards growing on the steep stone terraces of the Douro Valley in Porto. In fact, Porto is the inspiration behind the country’s name as well as that of port wine.
Torre dos Clerigos
The Clerigos Church is a Baroque church built in the 1700s for the Brotherhood of the Clerigos in Porto. The church was built by Porto’s famous architect, Nicolau Nasoni, and is also his final resting place. He is buried in the crypt of the Clerigos Church, but nobody knows where his grave is exactly located.
The most distinctive feature of the church is its bell tower known as the Torre dos Clerigos. One of Porto’s most iconic landmarks, this needle-shaped bell tower can be seen from different parts of the city.
Palacio da Bolsa
Located in Infante D. Henrique Square, the Palacio da Bolsa represents the historical center of Porto. Essentially the “stock exchange”, the palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Porto. It was built in the 19th century by Porto’s Commercial Association.
At the time, Neoclassical architecture was undergoing a change. It was incorporating Palladian architectural elements, a style inspired from classical temple architecture of the Ancient Greeks and Romans. This infusion gave rise to the Neopalladian architectural style, which was used in the construction of many buildings in Porto, such as the Palacio da Bolsa.
Visiting the Palacio da Bolsa does require an admission fee, but like the budget traveler that I am, I made a list of all the freebies in Porto.
As soon as you enter the palace, the front hall and the adjoining library can be seen for free. It’s only the inner halls and chambers that you have to pay for (though you can see a wee bit from the entrance itself).
Walking through downtown Porto can be quite the workout. Working our way up to the Porto Cathedral seemed to take forever, and my legs were beginning to hurt. As our hike slowly took us on to higher elevation, you start to get some really great views of the city rooftops.
Finally, the Porto Cathedral! Also known as the Se do Porto, the Romanesque cathedral stands in stark contrast to the completely granite city. One of Porto’s oldest historical monuments, the cathedral is also the city’s largest place of worship.
Flanked by two square towers and devoid of any decoration, the Porto Cathedral gives the impression of a fortified building. The only beautiful feature of this otherwise cold facade, is the Romanesque rose window.
Inside, the Porto Cathedral reveals its pioneering implementation of architectonic features. They include the barrel vaulting, the arching buttresses, and the stone roof.
During the Baroque era in the late 17th century, the altar was greatly modified by Portuguese artists to include marble, painting, silverwork and bronze artisanry. The opulence of the altar stands in jarring extremes with the Porto Cathedral’s austere external facade.
It was sunset time in Porto and the views of the city were beautiful. At this height, you kind of tower over all the other buildings. You can also see the Torre dos Clerigos from here, standing prominent and tall against Porto’s skyline.
Strolling through the Rebeira embankment seems to be everyone’s idea of a lazy afternoon in Porto, and a perfect way for me to relax after all that walking uphill. The UNESCO recognized riverside quarter has been around since the Middle Ages, and was once the center for the robust cargo trade in Porto.
Today, the waterfront or Cais da Ribeira is a magnet for tourists in Porto. Cafes, restaurants and shops have sprung up along the riverside in response to the tourism, and at any point of the day, the place is always bustling with activity.
From here, you have a great view of Porto’s famous Dom Luis I Bridge. At the time of its construction in the 1880s, the Ponte de Dom Luis I was the longest double-deck metal arch bridge in the world. Quite a way to put the industrial city of Porto on the map!
You can also see the port houses of Vila Nova de Gaia on the opposite bank. Once single storey warehouses, these old buildings in Porto form a row of colorful, somewhat faded structures.
Sitting here on the Ribeira, I can see the boats traveling up the river, bearing the weight of the world’s supply of port wine. There are the many cruises carrying bucket loads of Porto’s tourists, all clamoring as much as the hungry gulls surrounding me. The breeze is cool and refreshing. A great way to end my day trip to Porto.