The very first adjective to use to describe Porto has to be colorful. Yes, the city has a lot of history and quite a few significant monuments and points of interest – which is the main reason why it as a whole is a World Heritage site – but it’s the color variety of the building façades that will be your overriding impression. Nowhere that is better illustrated than in this fairly iconic shot of the Ribeira district from the opposite side of the Douro river.
The elegant tower on the left is that of the Clérigos church. We will see it again on several occasions and even climb to its top.
For once I did not bother to remove all of the construction cranes in the shot. They well illustrate the amount of renovation and reconstruction going on in the city center. Just on the street that we called home for our few days of stay, there were no less than half a dozen active construction projects going on at the same time. If all those works come to an end eventually, the city undoubtedly will be even more striking to the eye.
And a wider perspective from the same point.
The stand-out white building on the right is the Episcopal Palace, which actually does not feature as a top point of interest despite its prominence in the city landscape.
It was opened in 1887; at the time of construction it was the longest arch bridge in the world (nowadays, not even in the top 100 anymore). The upper level carries trams but is mostly used by pedestrians. The shorter lower level is a two-lane road with narrow sidewalks.
All of the above shots suggest high density of buildings with barely any wide perspectives inside the city center. In fact, there are quite a few wide-open spaces found in Porto. This is, for instance, the Cathedral Square, with the 12th-century Sé as the obvious highlight.
The manueline column in front – called pelourinho – features in legends going back to medieval times but the recent incarnation is less than 75 years old.
Campo dos Mártires da Pátria is headlined by the former prison, Cadeia de Relação, which now houses the Portuguese Center of Photography.
The grandest of all public places, Praça da Liberdade, which together with Av. dos Aliados is the commonly accepted center of town, populated by impressive buildings in a variety of styles and crowned by the neoclassical Town Hall.
The picturesque Jardim do Infante Dom Henrique just above the Ribeira waterfront, with the monument to the seafaring prince in the middle.
On the right is the local chambers of commerce, Palácio da Bolsa, one of the most impressive sights in town to visit. Here are a few interior shots of it, starting with the main atrium, Nations Courtyard, decorated with the coats-of-arms of the countries with which Portugal had most important commercial ties in the 19th century.
A fragment of the ceiling above the grand staircase.
The Tribunal Room.
And a fragment of the Moorish Revival Arab room, which is simply jaw-dropping beautiful.
Another fetching plaza, Praça de Gomes Teixeira, headlined by the Fountain of Lions and the azulejo-decorated church of Carmo.
Churches adorned with azulejo tiles depicting various biblical and historical scenes are among the most eye-catching sites in Porto. Among most striking examples are church of Santo António dos Congregados…
… or church of Santo Ildefonso.
Less exuberant façade decorations are quite attractive as well. This is the church of São Nicolau.
A perspective from the Clérigos church that best illustrates how hilly the central Porto topography is. We are standing just a few steps above the street level seemingly on the same level as the church of Santo Ildefonso on the next hill.
And roughly the opposite perspective towards Clérigos.
Another look at the Clérigos tower through an opening between the buildings.
The platform at the top of the tower is very small, easily gets crowded, and is very marginally worth the investment of time and money to climb up to it. Nonetheless, anyone who normally enjoys elevated views over cities is going to find a few sweeping views to their liking. This perspective is centered on the cathedral and the Episcopal Palace, with the Monastery of Serra do Pilar behind the latter at the top of the opposite bank of the river.
And shifting the angle just a bit to the left, our view is now centered on the colorful São Bento/Cardosas area.
Porto São Bento, the main train station in the city, is another work of art, beautifully decorated with tiles.
Tiles of various hues often feature in the façade decorations of the regular houses as well – they are a big part of what makes Porto so colorful.
And oftentimes it is just the convergence of neighboring buildings that provides the eye-catching palette with balconies acting as accents.
One example of a building in a completely different, later style. It stands near to Igreja do Carmo whose fragment we have seen before on Praça de Gomes Teixeira, providing quite a visual contrast.
Elsewhere in Porto one can find a number of phenomenal unique building decorations. Here are a couple of examples.
Finally, a few nighttime shots. I am nowadays entirely too lazy to bother with a tripod to attempt to capture exceptional shots at night, but my fairly advanced camera covers up many flaws in my photography remarkably well.
São Bento train station and the already seen church of Santo António dos Congregados.
Also seen already – Igreja de Santo Ildefonso.
The Episcopal Palace as seen from the bridge of Luis I.
Vila Nova de Gaia, also seen from the bridge. The lighted signs are of the major wine producers and distributors – all of the famous Porto wine caves are on that side of the river.
And the Ribeira waterfront.
We stayed four nights in town but spent only a full day and a half exploring the city. It was probably not enough. We will be back.