Walking tour of Porto: Seeing the soul of the city on foot

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Porto, Portugal, is a beautiful city and significantly smaller than Lisbon with less inclination which makes it perfect for walking. Taking into consideration that most streets are quite narrow and most of the notable landmarks are in the heart of the city they are also best accessible by walking. Plus, you can do some shopping while you’re at it. Our starting point was near Bolhao Station. The rest of the stops are all based on proximity to one another on foot.

Begin with the Chapel Of Souls, located in the middle of Rua de Santa Catarina. This street is one of the best for shopping in the city. This chapel and the exterior tile represent moments in the life of Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Catherine. The street is pretty busy so you quite literally stumble upon the chapel between the shops. The beautiful tile, of course, is a good indicator that you’ve reached your destination. 

Note: To get the full view of the chapel you’ll need to cross the street, on either side. 

Next is the Church of Saint Ildefonso which you are not likely going to miss either because it stands in the middle of a fairly large square. This eighteenth-century church had a rough start. It took 30-some years to be built, suffered damage from artillery fire, and generally has undergone a large number of structural modifications over the years. Today it still stands strong in all of its worn out by time glory.

A bit further and down a set of steep steps through a narrow alley you will walk around to Porto São Bento Station. The train station is fully operational and is in great standing. The tile art here is absolutely stunning, which draws an additional crowd into the station daily. Altogether there are approximately 20,000 tiles, created by Jorge Colaço (famous Portuguese painter), dating from 1905–1916. But don’t try counting them. 

Note: There are two São Bento stations, the metro station and the train station, which is the one you’re looking for. 

Around the station and up the hill you will arrive at the Igreja da Misericórdia. A large church and a museum built in the 1540s. The surrounding area offers great views of Porto while the church itself is Porto’s most important Renaissance monument. The exterior is notable for its carved, arched doorway, and inside you will find a beautifully tiled chapel.

Walking tour of Porto: Seeing the soul of the city on foot - street view of curved houses

Looping back down the hill through narrow alleyways you will come out onto the opening that surrounds Torre dos Clérigos. This is the Baroque church with a bell tower which you saw from Igreja da Misericórdia courtyard. Built by an Italian architect and painter, Clérigos Church is one of the most visited landmarks in the city. The journey to the top of the tower will first loop you through the building and around the chapel. The hike up is as expected: steep, dark, and circular. The observation area is also quite small but the view is amazing! 

Note: From the top, you’ll notice a patio to the side. You need to cross the street and walk up to this area once you are down. Here at the Base patio you can rest up and have a beverage (see the image of this view at the bottom).

Now onto Livraria Lello, you may have seen it online as that arched staircase red library. Whoever snapped that photo was very skilled with their positioning. Lello is a functional bookstore and is very small. The famous decor brings in a lot of people creating lineups of people along the neighbouring shops. 

Note: The tickets are sold in the corner shop, you need to purchase them before lining up.

Aside from those noted you will come across a lot of other smaller churches and historic monuments but the above are a great guiding point. To wrap up the day we walked down to Cais da Ribeira, a small waterfront neighbourhood. There are many colourful houses lining up the street with patios at their base. Here you get a great view of the other side of the river. You can also catch a boat for a river tour, and walk up to Luís I Bridge, from which you get a great vantage point on the shore houses.

Depending on what time of day it is you could stay and grab dinner here. But considering how popular the area is with tourists the food quality in Cais da Ribeira is a bit subpar. So instead we had a drink on one of the patios and then caught an Uber to a restaurant in the city.

Bonus: Bolhão Market, located just off Rua de Santa Catarina (your first stop). This is a market where you can purchase fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, and some miscellaneous souvenirs. Bolhão ended up being where I shopped for breakfast and charcuterie ingredients. Best. Charcuterie. Ever.

To see the trip on Instagram look up #xoPortugal17and#xoPorto17 for Porto specifically.

I only brought an iPhone with me on this walk and the weather was all over the place, so the photos are a bit rough. Sorry 😔

Walking tour of Porto: Seeing the soul of the city on foot: view of the city from a tower

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