Porto: A City of Many Faces

One reason I love to travel in Europe is discovering the various cultures of each place. No two are really alike. There’s the sophistication of Paris, the multi-culturalism of London, the history of Rome — and the appreciation of its past shown in every city by the care and protection given to its old structures. Like many European cities I have visited, Porto Portugal displays its history on its streets — the centuries when the city was rich and and the ones that were not. Here’s a quick archaeological tour that displays Porto across many centuries.

I saw no visible signs of Roman Porto, nor did I read of any I might have missed seeing.  The romanesque cathedral, shown above, is said to be the oldest building in the city.  It was begun in the year 1110.

The tallest structure in the city is the Torre Clerigos. It’s attached to a church built ca. 1750. Visitors climb the 240 steps to the top for spectacular views — although not I! I did have a glass of wine on the terrace of the modern shopping mall seen at the bottom of this photo.

This rococo beauty is a church that proudly announces on the carving above the door that it was built in 1750.

In the mid-1700s artistic tile work became very popular in Portugal. The word for these tiles in Portuguese is “azulejo.” Usually blue and white, images are painted on each tile and put together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. They are still seen on a great many building, both grand and humble, all over the city.

Shown here is the exterior of the block-long, 3-story market I wrote about a few days ago. It was built ca. 1850.

The San Bento train station, built in 1903, is considered by many to be the most beautiful station in Europe because its walls are covered in azulejo tiles. (This photo borrowed from packafork.com, a travel blog.)

In 1903 the famous Lello bookstore was created. Long a favorite of visitors to Porto, it has become a very famous site since it was featured in a Harry Potter movie. Now anyone wishing to see the interior (which is spectacular) must buy a ticket for €5.50 and join the line at the door.

Porto’s beautiful city hall is shown here. It is sited at the top of a blocks-long plaza which was brought into the 21st century a few years ago.

On either side of the plaza before the city hall grand office buildings and banks line the way. This picture shows only a one end of one side of these buildings. These buildings and the city hall were built in the 1920s.

In the latter years of the 20th century Porto began to grow and to build new housing and business buildings. This view from the steps of the Cathedral is of the south side of the Douro River.


As the new millennium began, Porto celebrated the opening of the symphony hall named Casa da Musica. New age, new look. (This photo from VisitPortgal.com)

This building with the sun shining on it caught my eye as I walked out of the marketplace. It appears to be an old department store. I felt sad that it was abandoned. Later I walked on the back side of this block and discovered it was all in the process of being demolished.

Porto remains filled with old, really old, homes. I have read that in the recent past the population of the old city has dropped by 100,000 people as young families move to newer homes on the edges of the city. I saw so many abandoned homes but I also saw a great many that appear to have been updated. I hope many of the beautiful old homes will survive for another hundred years.

The “Ribeira” section of the city along the waterfront has many old apartment homes, as it has had for centuries.











Porto’s Market

Markets are my favorite places to visit in European cities. Except for a few places in America (Philadelphia and Seattle come immediately to mind) we don’t have the traditional large markets that are found in Europe. Porto’s marketplace is unlike any other I’ve visited.  It is a covered (indoor) market, a city block long and three stories high.

As in many markets, shoppers can find a wide variety of produce and goods in the marketplace. The photos below give you a good example of what’s on offer there.

One of the most interesting sights I found there yesterday and again today was a man playing an old organ-grinder’s instrument. He was accompanied by his young daughter who sits beside him patiently biding time. Look closely at these photos to see the three birds they bring with them including what I believe is an albino chicken.

The produce in this market looked especially appealing. I suppose that has something to do with the time of year it is now.  It made me wish for a kitchen.

More tomorrow,




Exploring Porto, Portugal

Porto is a town with a reputation for being lively and fun and that it is. It’s also very historic, filled with beautiful buildings that are centuries old. People have lived in Portugal since before history began. The Porto cathedral was begun in the year 1110 AD but there may have been a bishop here since the 6th century.

Although the exterior of Porto’s cathedral is a plain, romanesque style, the interior has many areas covered in gold, such as the main altar and the choir, shown here.

Porto lies on the river Douro a few miles inland from the Atlantic, in the northern part of Portugal. Port wine is made up-river and Porto has been its trading port for hundreds of years, making it sometimes a very rich town. But not always.

Boats made for tourists today are modeled after the very old small craft used in centuries past for bringing port wine to ships bound for Britain and the rest of the western world.

The 20th century wasn’t so good here, it seems. Many — perhaps a majority — of the old homes and business buildings are derelict and abandoned.  There are workmen and cranes to be seen everywhere, but I think for every old beauty being brought to life again there are many who are still neglected and empty.

A typical narrow, medieval street in the oldest section of Porto, near the river.

There’s a wide variety of ways to spend time in Porto. I’ve been walking all day, every day, seeing all I can. Many people spend the day at the nearby beaches and the evenings in the city. It’s a very affordable place to visit.  I’ve been paying just €1.50 for a glass of wine and no more than €10 for dinner in a nice restaurant.

My birthday delights!

I’m staying in one of the best AirBnB rentals I’ve had, located just off a main avenue about a mile from the river. Yesterday was my birthday (one of those terrible ones for an age ending in zero!) and my lovely “landlady” brought me a box full of delicious Portuguese pastries.  That was so nice.

More to show you and tell you in the days ahead.


These 70-year-old feet have walked 30.6 miles in the past seven days according to my iphone and boy, are they tired!!!