Drown in all the colors of the rainbow at Porto

Don’t you dare overlook Portugal’s second city…


This 4th-century port and commercial centre founded by the Romans at the mouth of the river Duoro, actually lent its name to its country, and rightly so. Look deeper and you know how Porto (or Oporto) is the very essence of Portugal. Its a hilly town sans the elan of European cities. It gives the impression of being old and neglected. But its magnificent mansions, opulent churches and a picture-perfect riverside captures the heart. Old Portuguese women cheerfully advertise roasted chestnuts outside colourful building facades, classic tramlines run through broad hilly boulevards and iconic black-white mosaic calcada (flooring) adorns streets and there’s ornamental tile-work everywhere you look. So how about a colour theme to explore this quintessentially vibrant Portuguese city?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Out of the blue

Believe it or not…this town is painted blue. Large blank walls in monuments are dressed up with intricate and detailed wall murals, using antique hand-painted ceramic tiles (azulejo, meaning ‘small polished stone’) in blue-white tones, the fashionable colour palette of the Gothic times. Delve into this Moorish tradition from the 13th-century, trying to decipher incredible artwork that narrates stories from history, religion, and culture. Best examples? San Bento train station entrance lobby, the modest Santa Catarina church and the outside cloister of the dramatic twin-towered Se Cathedral. Breathless with awe? There are countless azulejo walls to go.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Red carpet treatment

An ornate Neo-Gothic façade, a sumptuous interior with art-deco elements, swanky wooden walls, a drool-worthy stained glass ceiling and a palatial stairway swathed in a plush red carpet. Stare away, its almost a norm here. No royal residence or museum this. Lello & Irmão Bookstore is the most marvellous bookstore in the world and a magnet for literature fiends since 1906. It whipped up all your Harry Potter fantasies, didn’t it? Worth lining up in that long queue with a 3-euro entry ticket. Not seeing red now, are we?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

White-it-out

Board a quaint old tram from Ribiera for a lovely 30-minute coastal ride to Foz.  Snail pace, sudden jerky brakes and one compartment crowded with 20 people…all oozing old-world charm. Ambling along a fashionable tree-lined promenade, admiring all the river-view properties, joining walkers, joggers and bike riders till you lose track of time. Destination: Pergola, a pristine white neoclassical structure built in the early 20th century by the mayor for his wife besotted by the Promenade des Anglais of Nice, France. Perch on the pretty curved balustrade with its elegant columns, under the overhead planks. Bathe in a spectacular sunset and lose sight of reality.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All that glitters is gold

Be blinded by the gilded arabesque motifs, exemplary woodwork and fine stained-glass work at the Arabian Hall of the 19th-century Stock Exchange Palace (Palacio da Bolsa). A unique national monument and Unesco World Heritage Site built to promote Porto’s economic power, is now wowing millions of visitors. Don’t miss the grandiose staircase and stunning bronze chandeliers suspended from the astounding cupola.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Next door, resist the temptation to scratch at the 400kg of gilt-covered wood carvings and statues inside the ostentatious 15th-century Church of St. Francis. Gold, gold and more gold carvings everywhere! Too much glitter? Venture into the nondescript underground catacombs that are home to thousands of eerie tombs. (Read a previous post on the catacombs here).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Tickled pink

The Ribeira district of Porto is a Unesco World Heritage site, perfectly preserved from the Middle Ages. Cobbled streets with cramped, narrow houses in muted colors, most grimy, many empty, run-down abandoned mansions, few with cracked glass windows and tattered curtains. Rough, unpolished, makings of a ghost town? In the center of a lively square where tourist are milling, find the emblematic bronze cube surrounded by café tables. The house of Porto’s greatest native, Casa do Infante (House of the Prince Henry the Navigator) stands right here even today. So this is where he launched his expedition against the Moors, and initiated the famous voyages of exploration. Classy hotels, traditional Portuguese cafes and lively bars celebrate this historical site today.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Straddling the Duoro river is the iconic Dom Luís I Bridge designed in the 1880s by a protégé of Gustave Eiffel. On the other side is Vila Nova de Gaia, a city is known for its port wine and home to many port cellars and producers including Sandeman. From behind the docked Rabelo flat boats, the nautical vehicles that once transported wine barrels from Douro valley vineyards, find a spot by the river and wait patiently for the most flawless sunset of your life. This is Instagrammable Porto…a dream town bathed in soft peach and blush colors, that seem to grow in vibrance as the grey clouds lift and the sun spreads its glow. Creating a painting with ever-changing colors. The camera will take over…you won’t be able to stop clicking.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And later, as you satiate your taste buds with delectable apple cake and aromatic coffee at the legendary Majestic Cafe, sit back on the plush leather-engraved upholstery and steal glances at the tainted wall mirrors, remind yourself what a fabulous idea it was to come to Portugal’s second city. Planning a second, longer visit, aren’t you?

Porto Majestic Cafe .jpg

 

Pin this post for later!!

Don’t you dare overlook Portugal’s second city

Advertisements

91 thoughts on “Drown in all the colors of the rainbow at Porto

  1. What a beautiful city with the blues! And the gold in the Arabian Hall of the Stock Exchange Palace is an incredible sight. I must admit, Portugal has been one of those places I just never seem to get to when I’m in Europe. Thanks for reminding me to get there and soon…and to be sure Porto is on the itinerary!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love Porto and fell in love with the city straight away. My favourite thing to do was to take in the riverside walks and sitting outside the cafes. Love the buildings here. This post sure brought back a lot of memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have been to Lisbon several times but never to Porto! You’ve convinced me to go next time I get to Portugal. Thanks for the wonderful descriptions and the great pictures. J

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I haven’t been to Portugal at all! Lisbon is very much in my wishlist! Porto looks gorgeous too! I love these blue toile wallpapers that’s everywhere both here & Lisbon! The Arabian Hall is such grandeur!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Beautiful architecture, colorful buildings, nice atmosphere… I definitely don’t want to miss it when visiting Portugal! Thanks for sharing 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The blue of the Portuguese tiles is what screams Portugal to me for some reason. I absolutely love all the tiles in Portugal and hope that they always remain. Porto is an amazing city and you’ve certainly picked up many of the highlights.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. We have 4 freezing cold wet days in Porto last October but still we fell in love with the city. The train station is gorgeous, but really all the tiling in the city is beautiful. We found some fantastic street art hidden away in back streets too. We hope to return in warmer weather one day for a second visit.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh my gosh, how beautiful is Porto?! I haven’t made it to Portugal yet, but it’s been high on my list for a while. I love seeing all there is to do in Porto other than wine… Not that wine is bad. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Porto comes to life in all its multi-coloured hues in your post. What a lovely place and your words and pictures ensure that the reader stays riveted and has a virtual and immersive experience of the place.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I think Porto was my favourite city in Portugal. It’s a great city with so much to see and do, I explored for days. It’s also great that the beach is so near, I loved having a beach day there too.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Porto was my highlight so far this year. I think you really caught the spirit of this city 🙂 As a food/travel blogger, Porto is just a piece of heaven! I wish we had more time in this amazing city. Btw, i think second cities are often more awesome than the capitals

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks a ton! Porto’s spirit just gets to you without you realizing it. I agree with the point you make about second cities..probably the lower expectations have something to do with that 🙂

      Like

  12. This is bringing back so many memories of the week I spent in Porto! A friend encouraged me to go (I hadn’t really known about it before) and I was floored by how fabulous it was. Lello & Irmão Bookstore was the highlight, and I love the angles of the staircase that you photographed here!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I absolutely loved Porto, and I think I will just go mad walking there, and making pictures! And I can drown in those traditional Portuguese cafes 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I love Porto too. We were just talking about it yesterday, actually. We only got to spend 3 days there and it just wasn’t enough. The port houses alone could take 3 days to properly explore, and then there’s all those beautiful buildings, and the food!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Palacio da Bolsa looks so grand with all it’s gold architecture. Porto is such a beautiful place. Apple cake and coffee sounds delicious. The train ride, the colours, the cobbled roads all give Porto it’s unique identity. You have painted such a beautiful picture, I would love to visit!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I loved Porto, visited for the first time last October and just fell in love with the city. As you say, it’s so colourful and vibrant, it has history but also a modern side, it’s bustling and friendly and delicious! I love your colour-based post, what a fun way to present the wonders of Porto!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s