Photo Essay: Discovering the old world charm of Porto Portugal

At sunset, the banks of the Douro are buzzing with activity.

I arrived in Porto on the longest day of the year, June 23, 2013. Tradition dictates that this day – Festa de São João do Porto – is celebrated with fireworks and grilled sardines, and that people greet each other with toy hammers. Welcome to Porto.

The second largest city in Portugal, Porto is a maze of orange-tiled rooftops. It is the birthplace of Port wine and home to many stunning baroque-styled churches. I came to Porto to sample the wine and photograph the Douro river that runs through the city, but my most memorable moments were the quiet ones: sipping coffee street-side in Porto’s historic center, admiring blue and white tiles at the train station, and listening to the gentle splash of the river against the docks.

Porto has gained popularity in recent years as a travel destination. But even in a sea of European tourists, I still felt a sense of mystery in this charming city. Quietly tucked away in the north of Portugal, Porto is a destination waiting to be discovered.

Read on for my top 10 attractions in Porto.

#1. The Douro

1 Porto Portugal by Tracy Zhang
The Douro river splits Porto in two. One side of the riverbank is Porto’s historic center – the Ribeira district, while the other is home to wine producers like Sandman and Taylor’s.

#2. Sao Bento Railway

2 Porto Portugal by Tracy Zhang
Located in the center of Porto, Sao Bento Railway station has stunning visuals. Its front hall is covered in 20,000 ceramic tiles, took 11 years to complete and depicts the historic battles of the 14th-century monarchs, King João I and Queen Philippa of Lancaster.

#3. Church of Saint Francis

3 Porto Portugal by Tracy Zhang
The church of Saint Francis was originally built in 1245 and merges gothic and baroque styles. Its extravagantly decorated interior is said to contain more than 300 kilos of gold.

#4. The Porto Cathedral

4 Porto Portugal by Tracy Zhang
This Romanesque cathedral is one of Porto’s oldest monuments and provides a great view of the city.

#5. Iglesia São Lourenço

5 Porto Portugal by Tracy Zhang
Built in 1614 as a Jesuit seminary, this church stands watch over the city with its tall facade.

#6. Authentic Port Wine

6 Porto Portugal by Tracy Zhang
At Graham’s, one of the original families that has been producing port wine since 1820, I sampled 3 glasses of port and learned how the wine is aged.

#7. Livraria Lello

7 Porto Portugal by Tracy Zhang
This is one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal and is arguably among the world’s premiere booksellers. Its beautiful interior is accentuated with a stunning staircase in the middle of the store.

#8. Caldo Verde

8 Porto Portugal by Tracy Zhang
Don’t miss this traditional Portuguese soup made with potatoes, collard greens, and olive oil.

#9. Clérigos Church

9 Porto Portugal by Tracy Zhang
Standing out among the orange rooftops of Porto is the tower of Clérigos Church, which, at 75 meters tall, has become a symbol of the city.

#10. Festa de São João

10 Porto Portugal by Tracy Zhang
If you can, try to visit Porto during Festa de São João. Families fill the narrow streets near the Douro River, waiting for the evening fireworks.

About the Writer

Guest writer Tracy Zhang

Tracy Zhang is a travel photographer who loves to capture the natural beauty of her destinations.

Tracy has lived on three continents and traveled to 25 countries, but she still finds time to relax in her quiet suburban home in Vancouver, British Columbia.

To see the world through Tracy’s lens, make sure to check out her blog, Just In Time Travels. You can also follow her adventures on Twitter at @tracyzhangphoto.

Tracy traveled to Portugal as part of a Kensington Tours-sponsored press trip.  

Have you been to Portugal?

Share your favorite attractions in Portugal by leaving a comment below! If you are reading this via email or RSS feed, click on to leave a comment.

About Guest Writer

This guest post was written by a Downtown Traveler contributor. If you are interested in writing for us, visit the "contacts" page.