Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Portugal - Porto I

Porto is Portugal's second largest city, and one of Europe's oldest cities dating back to the 4th century. Porto's historic centre was designated a World Heritage site by Unesco in 1996.
The city is located along the estuary of the Douro River . It's also known as the home of Portugal's most famous export - Port wine.
Porto was elected "The best European destination" in 2014 and 2017, by the Best European Destinations Agency.

I had last visited Porto probably about 15 years ago and was quite amazed at the renovation that has taken place and how vibrant the city has become. It's got quite a few steep cobblestone streets, which gives you quite a workout if you intend to walk, but it's a very charming city with lots of beautiful shops, restaurants, amazing architecture and quite a few interesting bridges.

Sign at Sao Bento Station

Because we decided to drive to Porto one day before we were due to go, I had to call the owner of the apartment I had booked via Airbnb, to find out if he could accommodate us 1 day earlier.
He couldn't, but said he could call a friend who worked for a company that had apartments in the city centre. We accepted that, and even though it was only a studio apartment for the 4 of us, it would be for one night only anyway.

Located on the first floor of an old but renovated building, the BNloft apartment was super modern - it was an open space with a sofa bed, 2 single beds, a table for 4 whose chairs fit flush with the table, and a cubic unit that enclosed the kitchen that opened up and had everything one needed and a small bathroom. Best of all it was within walking distance to most tourist spots.

BN loft apartment in Largo dos Loios, Porto

After dropping our bags, my daughter and I went to park the car in a nearby garage recommended to us.
When we returned, the four of us wandered around the area admiring the buildings, and eventually started walking towards Porto's riverfront promenade, the famous Ribeira (Riverside), one of Porto's favourite tourist spots.

Ribeira old houses facing the river Douro, Luis I bridge
The Ribeira Square was formerly the area where a long time ago people sold fish, meat, bread and other goods. After a fire destroyed the area in 1491, the houses facing the river were rebuilt with arcades on the ground floor and the Square was paved with stone slabs.

On the north side there is a 3 storey high fountain built in the 1780's decorated with the Portuguese coat of arms. A modern statue of St John the Baptist occupies the niche.
A cubic sculpture, nicknamed Cubo da Ribeira (Ribeira's cube) was erected over the remains of a 17th century fountain.

Ribeira Square - the fountain, St John Baptist statue and the Cube sculpture

Fountain, Cube scultpure & Ribeira riverfront

The Ribeira area is packed with restaurants and bars facing the river, and at night time it's wonderful to sit and watch the night lights shining on the river from the Ribeira side and from Gaia side across the river bank.
Soon it was dinner time and we got a table at a restaurant on the first floor, so we could have some great views.

São Bento Station and  St. Anthony's Congregation Church

After a very enjoyable dinner we walked back home via the Sao Bento train station and the Church of St Anthony's Congregation, so we could see them all lit up. They were on the block just behind our building, so from there it was just a 5 min walk home.
Sao Bento station and St. Anthony's Congregation Church

The next morning, my husband and I woke up quite early and left to have breakfast at a coffee shop just across from Sao Bento station, but decided to visit the station first. 

Considered to be one of the world's most beautiful train stations, Sao Bento station was started in 1903 and completed in 1915, and is a 3 storey symmetrical U-shaped building reminiscent of a Parisian building. The walls of the central hall are covered in 20,000 azulejos (tiles) representing Portuguese historical events , work scenes and the history of transport. 
The tiles were composed by Jorge Colaço, an important painter of azulejo.

View of the station hall

Some of the historical scenes in Sao Bento's station hall

The top freeze of tiles depicts means of transport, bordered by tiles with geometric patterns in browns and yellows. It certainly is a most beautiful station worthy of a visit!
Arch into the station platform, platform and statue outside of station to the architects of this station

After breakfast, we visited the Church across the street - St. Anthony's Church was completed in 1680 and built on the site of a former chapel dedicated to St. Anthony.  
The facade is of baroque influence, and was ornamented with tiles by Jorge Colaço (the same artist that painted the tiles at Sao Bento station) in the 20th century. The pulpits and lateral altar in gilt carving are from the 18th century.
Church of St Anthony's Congregation

Praça da Liberdade and Avenida dos Aliados
Right around the corner from the church is what is known as the heart of Porto - Praca da Liberdade (Liberty/Freedom Square), is the hub of important events in Porto - sports, political and cultural.
A statue inaugurated in 1866 of King Peter IV riding a horse and holding the Constitution, sits in the middle of the square.
After 1916, the modern boulevard Avenida dos Aliados (Allied Avenue) was built to the north of the square. It's lined with beautiful buildings from the 20's and 40's occupied by hotels, banks, restaurants, cafes and offices and it has a central area that is often used to host festivals or street performers.
It was named to honour the Allies of World War I, and if you have the time it's a beautiful avenue to stroll through while admiring the architecture, or to do some people watching while you sit at on the esplanade of one of the Cafes.
At the top of the avenue is the Town Hall, made of granite and marble, and with a 70mt high bell tower.
Liberty Square with Statue of King Peter IV and Allied Avenue, with the Town Hall at the top end

Some of the architecturally beautiful buildings in the Allied Avenue
King Pedro IV Statue from 1866

I also found an interesting statue around the corner from the church leading to the Liberty Square - "The Paper boy" done in 1990 by Manuel Dias. It reminded me of the olden days in Portugal when men sold the newspapers while shouting out the front page news.

The Paper Boy

It had started to drizzle and we took shelter under umbrellas at a Cafe at the Avenue, and  sat there while my husband had a coffee. 
About 15 minutes later the rain stopped and we went back to the apartment. It was time to join our daughter and partner and pack up our belongings so we could leave the apartment by 11am, onto our next destination.

The Tuk-tuks in front of apartment building in Largo dos Loios

Hope you enjoyed the first part of my 4 day stay in Porto.


  1. Wow, that is some cool loft apartment there!
    And Ribeira Square is quite an impressive view - and that is even topped by the lightfull churches, amazing! But I reckon Sao Bento station topps even that.
    "The Paper boy" is just another highlight. And the Tuk-tuks take me back to Cuba...
    Looking forward to the next days/adventures/beauties!

    1. I was quite impressed with that apartment too Iris.
      The Tuk-tuks are quite popular in Portugal now.

  2. You were really lucky accomodation wise Sami. I am enjoying your trip very much, we will have to catch up soon ☺

    1. We were Grace, all the places we stayed at were wonderful!
      Yes, sure give me another week and I will contact you.

  3. It sure is a beautiful city. I love the architecture.

    1. Thanks Lois, they do have fantastic buildings!

  4. There was some good about staying a distance from the central area when we visited, but I rather wish we stayed within walking distance of the Ribeira area. The station is very impressive. It's a pity your great photos had overcast skies. Can't do anything about the weather.

    1. The station is indeed impressive Andrew. We had 3 days of overcast weather and just the last day got sunny. Porto's weather is generally cooler than Lisbon's too.

  5. A fabulous city! So many historically beautiful sights & you made the most of the views at the restaurant. The train station is magnificent!
    Great tour, Sami!

    1. Thanks Christine, we really enjoyed our time there, it was much better than what I had imagined.

  6. A beautifully documented visit.
    Porto is a gorgeous city!
    Looking forward to the next pictures.
    : )

    1. Thanks Catarina, I was impressed with Porto and will have to visit again as there's lots we didn't get to see.

  7. Sou um apaixonado pelo Porto.
    A cidade e o clube.

    1. Obrigada Pedro, e realmente uma bela cidade.
      Quanto ao clube, sou Sportinguista, mas nao ligo muito ao futebol 😄.

  8. It's amazing what one can do with a tiny space like that studio you all stayed in the first night. Great use of the enclosed area and a feeling of spaciousness in the rest of the space.

    Ribeira Square and the nightlife looks bustling. I can almost feel the energy in your photos.

    Whether night or day, Sao Bento station was beautiful. Those tiles were out of this world. And the architecture is fabulous. You couldn't have asked for more beautiful architecture if you tried.

    I was in awe of The Paper Boy, and the way it was placed near the mail box. It was a fun and different piece in contrast to the statue of the King.

    I'd never seen a Tut-Tut before, but they look like they would be fun to ride in. Thanks for sharing this part of your journey in Porto.

    1. The studio was fabulous Elizabeth, I loved it!
      Sao Bento station is a work of art! I liked the Paperboy statue and the fact it was next to a mail box on the street corner too, just as they would be in the olden days. I might be wrong but I think Tuk-tuks were originally used in Thailand and some of the other Asian countries, they are very practical as they are fast and don't take up much space. They are fun to ride too of course!

  9. O Porto é uma cidade muito bonita e a estação de comboios é uma maravilha.
    Um abraço, boa semana.

    Dedais de Francisco e Idalisa
    O prazer dos livros

    1. Obrigada Francisco, sim a estacao do Porto e uma autentica maravilha, uma obra de arte!
      Bom feriado para si e para os Portugueses.

  10. Welcome back - the trip looks amazing. What a huge number of friends and family you have. The architecture is stunning, as always, it's the heritage isn't it after the Aussie cities? I'm looking forward to following your travels!
    Wren x

    1. Thanks Wren. Yes I do have a big family and it was great to have been able to get them all together this time!
      The history of the cities, architecture, etc is amazing, and it's one of things I miss in Australia, being a "new" country doesn't have all that. But it has other things I like too of course!

  11. So lovely to see all of your photographs ...

    All the best Jan


I would love to hear from you, please leave a comment.