Europe · Travel

Porto, Portugal – Charming Its Way Into Our Hearts

On day two we lost all the sunshine and blue skies that we had the day before.  It was cloudy throughout the day and we even got rained on a few times in the afternoon.  Luckily we did manage to walk around in the center of Porto (more steep hills!) and visited several famous landmarks.

Chapel of Souls – Also known as the Chapel of Santa Catarina.  It is one of the most unique buildings in Porto as its entire exterior walls are covered with Portugal’s famous hand painted azulejo blue and white ceramic tiles.  The paintings on the tiles depict scenes from Christian history.

Camara Municipal – Porto City Hall/Town Hall with its 70 meter high central bell tower.

Avenida dos Aliados – Avenue of the Allies.  This area is usually regarded as Porto’s city center and the avenue starts from the city hall down to Liberdade Square.  It is lined with grand and ornate buildings on both sides and is a stark contrast to Porto’s historic center.

Statue in Liberdade Square – King Dom Pedro IV on horseback

Sao Bento Train Station – This busy central train station is also a major tourist attraction.  It was constructed on the same site as a former convent, Convent of Sao Bento de Ave-Maria.  Its main features are the azulejo paneled tile murals depicting some  famous historic figures such as Prince Henry the Navigator and some famous battles.

Carmo Church – This large building is in fact consisted of two separate churches, connected by a very narrow one-meter wide house in the middle.  On the left is the Carmelitas Church and the bell tower.  It was built in the 17th century as part of a convent.  One the right is the Carmo Church that was built in the 18th century, and on one side of its exterior walls is once again covered with the beautiful tiles.

Clérigos Tower – The tower stands beside the Clerigos Church and is about 75 meters in height.  It was constructed in the 18th century and was the tallest structure in Portugal at the time.  For many years the tower was used as a landmark for ships coming into port.

Our original plan after walking around the historic center was to go back up to the round church view point and watch the sunset, unfortunately we had to scratch the idea since the weather did not cooperate.  Luckily it did clear up later in the evening so we ventured back out to climb the steep hills for the nth time to admire Porto at night, and this wrapped up nicely our little 2-day visit in this lovely city.

In addition to the popular attractions, what I really love about Porto is its rustic character that can been seen from all over this charming city.  From the bright red roofs to the decaying buildings.  From the beautiful blue and white tiles to the broken windows and walls.  From the captivating wall murals to the random street arts and graffiti.  It may seem chaotic but somehow everything just seems to fit perfectly together.

(The Clérigos Tower can be easily seen from afar)
 
(random rocks on the sidewalk covered with beautiful tiles too)

Even with such a short visit, I think that all of us fell in love with Porto and it will always have a special place in our hearts.  It could be because it was the starting point of our crazy new adventures, or because of its beautiful scenery, or because everyone felt so relaxed and wandered around freely without worrying about getting lost or having any time constraint.  Whatever the reason(s), the friendly locals definitely have a part in it.  Everyone we’ve encountered was so friendly, especially our Airbnb host, who was hands down the most generous and enthusiastic host I’ve ever interacted with.  We can feel his genuine love for his city and the desire to share that with his guests.  It was truly infectious.

(view from our Airbnb apartment)

Compared to a lot of other European cities, I think Porto in general is a pretty reasonably priced destination.  We also stayed on the south side of the river in Vila Nova de Gaia so the lodging is probably cheaper than that in the historic center.  The only regret from visiting Porto was that we only stayed for 2 nights.  We did not have enough time to fully appreciate this interesting little city and we sure hope that we’ll have a chance to return one day. ❤

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