7 Must See Places In the Magical City of Porto

with 42 Comments

Porto is a magical city. Modern, yet still clinging to the old ways, it fascinated us beyond any expectations. We spent a day by the ocean, visited the uncounted for gilded churches, took a boat tour on the Douro River, and went for a wine tasting. But we also visited the following 7 places and we think no visit to Porto is complete without them. A city with charming and colorful, yet decaying architecture, with buildings ruled by the seagulls as the owners moved to quieter villages along the coast, Porto remains for us by far the most beautiful city in Portugal.

Café Majestic

Café Majestic

Café Majestic is Porto’s emblematic café. It opened back in 1921, during the Belle Epoche and it proudly  keeps its charm to this day. Located in Santa Catarina Street, one of the busiest pedestrian streets in Porto, it is definitely a must stop for the 20s enthusiasts like myself and one of the rare occasions one is granted in this life to have a cup of coffee, or grab a bite in a gorgeous setting no longer in fashion. However, Café Majestic is not the only beautiful café in town, nor the cheapest, and if you just go outside the touristic center, you would find plenty of restaurants and cafeterias teeming with locals, and having ridiculously cheap prices.

Bolhao Market

Bolhão Market

Walking around Bolhão market you get the feeling that you have stepped back in time, or that time has stood still for many, many year. Yet, the time was less gentle with the merchants and the closed stalls give you the impression that this market is about to disappear. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not the day after, but the only generation that keeps this place alive doesn’t look like is going to be around much longer. Bolhão reminded me of the East European markets, except that while those are still thriving, this is a dying market. But you can still find fruits, and fish, freshly cut flowers and souvenirs, plastic house plants and decorative sea shells here. The variety it still tremendous, but the corporate supermarkets seem to have finished with it before time.

Lello Bookshop (see more pics here)

Lello Bookshop

Lello Bookhop is a total surprise. Behind a beautiful, but not so out of this world Neo-Gothic façade squizeed between two buildings, you will encounter one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world. You just have to bother to open the door. I could have spent hours just looking around, having a cup of coffee upstairs next to the camellias, contemplating the stairs, one of the most intriguing ones I’ve ever seen… They sell books in quite a few languages, including English.

Sao Bento Train Station

São Bento Train Station

This is one of the most interesting train stations you will ever see. It’s small and busy and it is located just in the middle of the city. It was inaugurated at the beginning of the last century and just as you enter it, there are these huge walls covered in azulejos, blue and white tiles depicting important moments from Portugal history. I also found the platforms pretty interesting. They are few, but immediately after the train leaves the station, it cuts through the mountain. On top of the mountain are some pretty houses covered in ivy. I just can’t stop gasping in amazement every time I think about Porto’s architecture, how the locals shaped the rock to suite their needs and how the mountain generously accommodates them. 
The Stock Exchange Palace (Palacio da Bolsa)

The Stock Exchange Palace

One visits the Stock Exchange Palace to see the Arabic Room. But the other rooms are quite interesting too, though they have a completely different character. I walked around this palace constantly exclaiming an ‘Oh!’ or an ‘Ah!’. Though on the outside the Stock Exchange looks austere, symbolizing the seriousness of the business conducted inside, the interiors are lavishly decorated, symbolizing the richness and prosperity of the merchants. It took three generations of Portuguese artists to complete this building and the end result is simply stunning. Finding more lavishly decorated rooms will be impossible in Porto.
Porto’s Town Hall

The Town Hall Square

The huge square in front of the Town Hall and the Aliados Avenue has undergone a modernization project in the last years. It is a beautiful open space lined with trees and flanked by some of the most majestic buildings in the city. Lots of Porto’s hotels are also to be found around here. 
Sunset from the Crystal Palace Park

Crystal Palace Park

The Crystal Palace Park offers some of the most beautiful panoramic views over the city, both up and down the Douro River. And the best Porto sunsets can be watched from here too. Many locals come here for jogging, like the eternal up and down the hills of the city wouldn’t keep them fit enough. When we visited at the beginning of March the magnolias and camellias were in bloom and the park was incredibly beautiful. There are lots of peacocks and ducks running around freely (or resting) and the Crystal Palace, the pavilion in the middle of the park, is the landmark with a green dome that you can see from almost anywhere in Porto.

42 Responses

  1. Emma
    | Reply

    Very nice list, thanks for sharing! To feel all the atmosphere of Porto every tourist should take a tram in Porto at least once. Their vintage tramcars are unforgettable and nice. I haven't anything like this anywhere else except in Portugal. Similar trams I've also seen in Lisbon. These yellow small trams are so adorable.

  2. Alonso
    | Reply

    Great selection of must see places in Porto!

    • Laura
      | Reply

      Thanks, Alonso! Porto has some quite unique attractions, don't you think?

  3. Berry
    | Reply

    Nice list of places to visit in Porto. Porto truly is a magical city.

    • Laura
      | Reply

      Porto has an incredible array of great attractions 🙂

  4. Sofie
    | Reply

    I'm planning a trip to Porto in June/July. Good thing I have some of these places already on my list:)

    • Laura
      | Reply

      Yeap, it's always helpful to research beforehand what to see in a place. But don't forget to get lost on purpose when in Porto. It might surprise you 🙂

  5. turismo en Portugal
    | Reply

    Really nice article, we love it 🙂

    • Laura
      | Reply

      Glad you liked my picks for Porto's must see places 🙂

  6. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Wow!

  7. Vicky
    | Reply

    Bookmarked for my trip in November – thank you!

    • Laura
      | Reply

      Yay! Thank you! I'm sure you will love Porto!!!

  8. Filipa
    | Reply

    It's my hometown… so what can I say… yes, it's an amazing city with a lot to offer who wants to visit it…
    I'm really glad you liked it!!
    XOXO

    • Laura
      | Reply

      Porto is wonderful and it's home to some of the friendliest people we've ever met. Need I say more? 😉

  9. Suzy
    | Reply

    Loved Porto when I visited over a year ago. I missed some of these spots so looks like I need to go back. That staircase is beautiful!

    • Laura
      | Reply

      That is always a good excuse 🙂

  10. Siddhartha Joshi
    | Reply

    The pictures are great, all of them. I will keep the list in mind if I do visit the city…

    • Laura
      | Reply

      I hope you will visit Porto someday. It's a great city!

  11. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Well, fantastic comments on my beloved city…and you know it's all true! But I even add some tips: A Casa da Música (Music House, an astonishingly modern concert hall), The Dragon Stadium (home of the well known F.C.Porto, also used during the Euro 2004), our Town Park between Boavista and the seaside, and of course our fantastic special sandwich, the so called "Francesinha"!
    Fernando, from Porto

    • Laura
      | Reply

      Great tips, Fernando! We would have loved to go for a concert at Casa da Musica, but unfortunately we didn't, as our time in Porto was limited. Tried the 'Francesinha' though. A unique experience!

  12. Alexa Meisler
    | Reply

    Great photos! These places are like going back to a magical time int he past. Everything is so grand and intricate. I am in awe. Thanks for sharing!

    • Laura
      | Reply

      Yet the city has some very modern infrastructure. It's the perfect combination of old and new.

  13. Wow take me there now please!!!

    • Laura
      | Reply

      LOL Andi, I would go back to Porto anytime too 🙂

  14. Lena Miranda
    | Reply

    Well I am a Portuguese born lived in Porto. I know the City well I would encourage anyone to visit at any time of the year. Specially in June when we celebrate Sao Joao Saint John. We celebrate all night no one sleeps. Please! experience it once in a life time.

    • Laura
      | Reply

      Thank you Lena, we'll keep that in mind. WOW, party all night long! That's cool!

  15. ecoTours Portugal
    | Reply

    All magical places indeed! Porto is a truly amazing city… Thanks for the read…

    • Laura
      | Reply

      One of the friendliest cites in Europe 🙂

  16. José Pedro Faustino
    | Reply

    I live in Porto and it's such an honour to read an article like this.
    Thanks for sharing the best of the city. However, I must say that Porto has much more to see 🙂

    You're all welcome!

    • Laura
      | Reply

      Thanks José. That is so true, Porto has many more other places worth visiting. We are definitely going back. 3 days is not nearly enough to visit this wonderful city.

  17. Kerri
    | Reply

    Wow, the book shop looks like a very special place 🙂

  18. restlessjo
    | Reply

    I need a rainy day for the bookshop and Stock Exchange, and a sunny one for Crystal Palace Park. Really enjoyed your post, thanks. I'm hoping to spend a few days around the Duoro in September and am at the planning stage so it was very useful. I knew about the bookshop and Sao Bento of course, and plan to do Taylor's wine tour and a train/boat trip on the Duoro. Getting SO excited just thinking about it!

    • Laura
      | Reply

      Yay! Good for you! We've only had 3 days so we didn't get out of Porto, but we are so planing another trip to Porto and want to include a boat tour on the Douro Valley too. It's supposed to be spectacular.

  19. RyukyuMike
    | Reply

    Beautiful photos! Thanks for sharing.

    • Laura
      | Reply

      Glad you liked them, Mike 🙂

  20. Don Faust
    | Reply

    The train station looks like a palace too. Very nice!

    • Laura
      | Reply

      Oh, but the whole city is an enchanted place 😀

  21. Andrea
    | Reply

    Wow – we missed so many of these. I loved Porto – such an fascinating and beautiful city.

    • Laura
      | Reply

      Well, as I always say, you have new reasons to go back 😉

  22. Alan
    | Reply

    . . this city really is something else – I never realised. The interiors are just wonderful, in particular the bookshop. Your photos brought it to life.

    • Laura
      | Reply

      Thanks Alan! We didn't realized how special Porto was till the very day we set foot in the city.

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