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

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Porto 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 were all based on proximity from one another on foot.

Begin with the Chapel Of Souls, located in the middle of Rua de Santa Catarina, one of the best shopping strips in the city. This chapel was built in 1929 and the exterior tile represents 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 off course, is a good indicator that you’ve reached your destination. 

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

Next is Church of Saint Ildefonsowhich you are not likely going to miss because it’s located in the middle of a fairly spacious square. This eighteenth-century church had a rough start, took 30 some years to be built, suffered damage from artillery fire, and generally has undergone a large amount of structural modifications and improvements over the years. Today it still stands there in all of it’s worn out by time glory.

A bit further and down a set of steep steps through an narrow alley, which bares a variety of street art murals (cover), you will walk around to Porto São Bento – São Bento train station, the one that’s been blowing up Instagram for a few years now. The train station is fully operational and is in great standing. The tile art here is absolulty stunning, which draws additional crowd into the station daily. All together there are approximately 20,000 tiles, created by Jorge Colaço (famous Portuguese painter) and 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 built in the 1540s. The surrounding area offers great views on Porto while the church itself is Porto’s most important Renaissance monument. The exterior is notable for its carved, arched doorway, while inside you will find beautifully tiled chapel.

Looping back down the hill through narrow alleyways you will come out onto the opening that surrounds Clérigos Tower, a Baroque church with a bell tower which you saw from Igreja da Misericórdia court yard. 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, circular. The observation area at the is also quite small but the view is absolutely stunning. Note: from the top you’ll notice a patio to the side, which you’d need to cross the street and walk up to, great stop for a break and a drink at the Base (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 in deception. Lello is a functional book store, and is very small and obviously crowded with lineups of people along the neighbouring shops. 

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

A Single Stop for European Rail Travel

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 with colourful houses and waterfront patios. Here you get a great view on the other side of the river, can 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 here is a bit subpar, so instead we had a drink on one of the patios and than caught an Uber to a restaurant in the city.

Bonus: Bolhão Market, located just of off Rua de Santa Catarina (your first stop), a market where you can purchase fruits, vegetables, meet, 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.

Side note: 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 😔

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