Last month, I had the chance to visit Lisbon and Porto in Portugal. I didn’t do much research in advance of my trip, but I was pleasantly surprised that the work conference I attended brought me to some of the must-visit spots in Porto. If you have a chance to visit, here are the 7 things you must see in Porto Portugal.
1. Palacio Da Bolsa
The Palcio da Bolsa is a historic building and the stock exchange palace. It was built in the 19th century and is a neoclassical style. It is located in the city center and is a really gorgeous building. I had the chance to visit the space because our conference had a formal dinner in the space. The inside is absolutely breath-taking, with amazing high ceilings, intricately detailed architectural elements inside and gorgeous murals throughout. If you get a chance to walk around inside, make sure to go up the grand staircase to the second floor. There was one room, in the far corner that was especially grand, with gold leaf on nearly everything.
2. Capela do Senhor da Pedra
I didn’t have much free time while I was in Porto, but I had one free afternoon where I took a short Uber ride to see the Capela do Senhor da Pedra, the Chapel of the Lord of the Stone. This Chapel was built on the rocks of Miramar beach in 1686. The history of the structure suggests it was built by pagans who worshiped nature. Two parishes still do an annual pilgrimage to the Chapel on the Sunday of the Holy Trinity.
I’m not a religious person, but this chapel is totally worth a visit. The way it sits on top of these giant boulders as the waves crash on the rocks, it is just seriously breathtaking. I hopped over the railing and spent a good 30 minutes just sitting on the big rocks, watching the waves crash, with the chapel right beside me. By far, this was the highlight of my trip to Porto. I absolutely loved watching the waves roll in while I daydreamed about the people who built the ancient building behind me.
3. Capela das Almas also called Capela de Santa Catarina
I didn’t know about the Chapel of Souls before I visited it. I was actually searching for the famous Porto bookstore when I saw this gorgeous church just a little ways up the hill. What’s so amazing about this church is the gorgeous exterior tiles. The exterior walls are covered in blue and white ceramic tiles that depict the death of Saint Francis of Assisi. The tile work was done in the 1920s by Eduardo Leite. This is a must-visit because the tile work is unlike anything I’ve seen.
4. Monumento a Dom Pedro IV
The Monument of Dom Pedro offers gorgeous plaza view of the downtown area. I enjoyed looking at the city skyline and just people-watching for awhile as I walked past the statue to reach the city hall.
5. Livraria Lello Bookstore
The one thing I knew about Porto before I arrived was that the city has this amazing bookstore and somehow that had something to do with Harry Potter. It turns out that the Lello Bookstore is one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal and is also rated one of the top bookstores in the world. It has a really interesting staircase and some gorgeous stained glass throughout the space. The bookstore’s major claim to fame is the fact that JK Rowling used to frequent the store when she taught English in Porto. The bookstore is apparently the inspiration for her writing. It cost four euros to enter the bookstore, but it was totally worth it to walk around the really unique space, go up the cool staircase and see the beautiful stained glass ceiling. I definitely enjoyed my time.
6. Miramar Beach
There are several beach communities just outside of Porto. I am partial to Miramar beach because it is where the Chapel on the rocks is located. This beach is very big and the water was very warm when I visited in June. It was full of people enjoying the sun and the water. It also had a lot of big rocks along the coast, which are very gorgeous, especially watching the aqua water crash over them. The only thing to warn you about is that the sand is not at all soft. It is actually pretty grainy. Some parts of the beach have little stones instead of sand (I mean, sand IS rocks, but just very small). The pebbles are pretty difficult to walk barefoot on, so just be sure to wear sandals or tennis shoes.
7. Porto City Hall
You can view city hall from the Monument of Dom Pedro and if you get the chance to go inside, you should. I was lucky enough that my conference held our opening reception in the space and I was blown away by the architecture. There were also some pretty cool sculptures and statues in the space. We were able to enter a balcony overlooking the plaza and the city center in front of us. The architecture is definitely worth a quick trip inside.
Overall, my time in Porto was very enjoyable. I spent much of the time in a conference center (the Alfandego do Porto), but I was lucky they brought us to some of the best architectural sites in the city. If you get the chance to visit, you should definitely take a day trip to Miramar. Also, make sure you have time to tour all the amazing architecture of the city.