Porto Walking Tour
Our walking holiday in Portugal’s Douro Valley takes you to finish in the up-and-coming city of Porto also known as Oporto. The Portuguese city is divided by the river Douro and Villa Nova de Gaia on the other side is well worth a visit too.
Perhaps ahead or at the end of your trip, you want to extend a few days to discover why the city’s historical core is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are so many things to do in the town and this shortened Porto walking tour may be a good start to go out and explore.
© Manuel de Sousa
Join us on this short trip on foot that includes 11 things to see in Porto. We start at the Feitoria Inglesa, near the hotel that we normally use on the Douro Rambler trip. It was designed by British consul John Whitehead in 1786 and is also known as the British Factory House. It is one of the most fabled buildings in the Ribeira district of Porto and stands where Rua do Infante Dom Henrique crosses Rua de São João.
Casa do Infante
© Manuel de Sousa
With your back to the Hotel Carris, turn left and follow the road to the Casa do Infante. Porto-born Henry the Navigator, who was a prominent figure during the Age of Discovery, reputedly was born in this house. The house is now a museum about Oporto and a visit is certainly something to do when in Porto. Learn about the city’s history since the Roman colonisation of what was then ‘Portus Cale.’ Through diagrams, videos and historical artefacts, this castle-like history book teaches you about Porto’s people, growth and activities through time. It's an interactive and interesting way of getting to know one of the most charismatic cities of Portugal - and its free.
Praça do Infante Dom Henrique
© jad99 from Graz, Austria
Follow Rua do Infante Dom Henrique to Praça do Infante Dom Henrique. A statue of Prince Henry the Navigator graces this square. Highlight of the square is the Igreja de São Francisco, which originally was a Gothic church. Its adjacent museum once was the property of a Franciscan monastery. The church boasts the most lavish, spectacular church interior in Oporto – and competition is fierce! It is one of a kind with arcades in front of the church that are a typical blend of Gothic and Moorish elements. The single nave gives a wide impression and is the largest nave of this kind to be found in Portuguese churches. The altars in the transept are decorated with gilded sculpture work framing 16th century panels, probably painted by Flemish artists.
Rua das Flores
We follow our Porto walking tour on Rua Ferreira Borges west and veer north to Largo de São Domingos. At the top of this square, continue northwest along Rua das Flores (Street of Flowers). Some visitors consider this the most romantic street in all of Porto. It has long been known for the quality of its silversmiths, but what makes the street so architecturally striking is its wrought-iron balconies. This charming street eventually opens onto Praça de Almeida Garrett, with the Sao Bento train station (1896). Its grand main hall is decorated with large tiles tracing the historical events of transportation in Portugal.
Igreja dos Congregados
© Diego Delso
We now head up Placa de Almeida Garrett and turn left in front of the blue tiled church that is called Igreja dos Congregados. The church was built in 1703 with renovations done in the 19th century followed by the exterior of the church in the early 1900s. This is when the tiles of its façade were done by Jorge Colaco.
Placa da Liberdade
You then arrive at Placa da Liberdad, which has its origins in the beginning of the 18th century. It was in 1718 that a project for the urbanisation of the area began and this included the creation of new streets and an ample square, known as Praça Nova (New Square). In 1866 a monument dedicated to King Peter IV, a monarch closely linked to Porto, was inaugurated in the middle of the square. During the 19th century, several factors increased the importance of the square and the town hall moved to a building on the northside. Towards the end of the century, facilities like the D. Luís Bridge and São Bento Train Station were opened nearby. Liberdade Square was a political, economic and social centre for Porto and remains an important attraction of the city.
Tower of Igreja Torre dos Clerigos
© António Amen
The church was built for the Brotherhood of the Clérigos (Clergy) by Nicolau Nasoni: an Italian architect and painter who did extensive works in the north of Portugal during the 18th century. The church was finished around 1750 and the main façade is heavily decorated with baroque motifs (such as garlands and shells) and an indented broken pediment. The monumental tower of the church, located at the back of the building, was only built between 1754 and 1763. The whole design was inspired by Tuscan campaniles. There are 240 steps to be climbed to reach the top of its six floors and with its 75.6 metres in height, the tower today still dominates the city. This great structure has even become the symbol of the city.
Placa de Gomes Teixeira
Just beyond the church there are pleasant cafes and a small garden called Pc. Da Cordoaria. Closeby are the Photographic Museum and the Natural History Museum. Continuing on from the church, you soon arrive at Placa de Gomes Teixeira, a large cobbled square with Fonte Ledes (fountain of lions) within it. This is one of the nicest squares of Porto and a must-visit. It got its name on 1936 in honour of Francisco Gomes Teixeira, a well-known professor at the University of Porto. Some of the buildings around the square belong to the university, explaining the students in long black gowns that you are likely to see. There are also a lot of interesting shops and cafes in the vicinity as you would expect from a university area.
Carmelitas & Carmo Churches
© António Amen
Across the square, look carefully and what looks like just one big church are actually two connected by what is one of the world's narrowest houses: just 1 metre wide. The house that separates the two churches was inhabited until about 25 years ago. It was built due to a law that stated that no two churches could share a wall, while also ensuring chastity between the monks of Carmo and the nuns of Carmelitas.
Return back towards Sao Bento, but before entering the road with the station, continue along Rua de 31 de Janeiro to shortly reach the top of another square, the Placa da Batalha.
From the Batalha square you can walk along Rua de Cimo de Vila and straight on through Rua Cha to visit the modern tourist office. If you continue along the road which becomes Avenue Vimara Peres, you can walk right across the top of the iconic Ponte Luis I bridge (by Gustave Eiffel) to get some great views over Ribeira and Villa Nova de Gaia. Just beyond the bridge, you can take a road up left to a further viewpoint: the Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar. The 16th Century fortified monastery is one of the best things to do in Porto if you are interested in panoramic views. The cloister is just beautiful. You can visit the church on a guided tour only for about 3 Euros, so check the times. You go up to the top of the church in the company of a soldier: this place is under military ownership and therefore does not get any UNESCO funds despite being included in the world heritage area.
To continue our Porto walking tour, take the steeply descending street under an arch behind the cathedral, this is another one of our favourite streets in Porto.
Continue along Rua de Dom Hugo, a narrow street that curves around the eastern side of the Sé (square), until you come to some steep steps. These were carved through remaining sections of the town walls that existed in the Middle Ages. The steps bring you into one of the most colourful and poverty-stricken sections of Porto, the Ribeira district. The backstreets of this historic neighbourhood have much charm. The area abounds with arcaded markets, churches, museums, monuments, and once-elegant buildings. Locals come here for the low-cost tascas (taverns) and seafood restaurants, and if you’re interested in fado music, there are several places to go.
From the Cais da Ribeira you can take in the port-wine lodges across the Douro at Vila Nova de Gaia. If you want to visit the port lodges, you can do this as a separate walk or continue from where you left off.
If you are interested in combing a visit to Porto with a Douro Valley walking holiday, or if you like to learn more about this part of Portugal, you can easily get in touch with our team of travel experts via this website, phone or email.