Porto, Portugal – Walk with Me (Part II)

My first post on Porto, Portugal took us through the vibrant and historic waterfront area of Ribiera. You can find it here: Porto Portugal – Walk with Me (Part I). In part II, we’ll begin our visual stroll north of Ribiera and take in a few sights as we work our way down to the riverfront.

Starting near the Campanha train station. The first landmark is a 19th century church, Igreja Santissima Trinidade.

A block south of the church is the breathtaking plaza called Avenida dos Aliados which is filled with architectural gems lining both sides. Statues, hotels, government building, cafes, retail stores, and restaurants make this a popular area in Porto.

Looking south down Avenida dos Aliados
Looking north at Porto City Hall

At the southern point of Avenida dos Aliados is a monument for King Pedro IV erected in 1866. His story is fascinating as he was in front and center during a period of significant upheaval in Portugal’s history. As the King of Portugal, he was forced to flee Portugal after the French (Napoleonic-era) invasion and conquest of Portugal in 1807. He took up residence in Brazil (Portugal’s wealthiest and most successful colony). He ruled over Brazil and eventually returned to Portugal with an army to regain control of Portugal in the early 1830’s. A lot happened in between his departure and return but that is a story for another day.

Next on my loosely penned itinerary is to locate the Clerigos Tower. Situated on the highest point of historic Porto. I know the view of the city will be one of the best available. I head east from the Avenida dos Aliados and up a steep street to arrive at the Clerigos church. Getting to the top will require a spiraling 250-step ascent but promises a fantastic 360-degree panoramic view of the city. Count me in!

Entering the church, I’m unexpectedly taken back by its splendor and pause for a few photos before getting to the tower.

As I begin my ascent into the tower, I notice the top of a building (image below) that is an actual park. So bizarre to see people laying in the grass surrounded by olive trees…on the roof of a building. This space is known as Jardim das Oliveiras.

Jardim das Oliveiras
Looking out from inside the tower.
Mission accomplished – view from top of the Clerigos Tower

Taking in the city view from the Clerigos tower is incredible. You are able to walk all the way around the top and get a 360 degree view. I was able to identify a few of the landmarks I wanted to see and get a general sense of the city’s layout. After leaving the tower, I know everything is downhill to the river. However, there is a famous bookstore (connected to Harry Potter) to visit first.

The Livaria Lello & Irmao is the bookstore where J.K. Rowling is said to have written parts of Harry Potter and inspired aspects of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts.

Around the corner from the Livaria Lello & Irmao bookstore is a plaza featuring the Fountain of the Lions and Igreja do Carmo. The church was built in the late 1700’s and features azulejos – ornate ceramic tiles – on the exterior. I haven’t mentioned this yet but azulejos are everywhere in Porto (and Portugal in general). Sometimes they are simple patterns covering the exterior of homes and at other times they form grand, detailed mosaics. Azulejo was introduced in the 13th century when the Moors (people from region today known as Morocco) controlled much of Iberian peninsula (what is now Portugal and Spain).

After this fun diversion, I set off down the narrow cobblestone streets of Porto towards the waterfront.

Porto is filled with steep streets. Wear comfortable shoes for walking.
Rio Douro ahead…I made it!

To see photos of Porto’s riverfront, please checkout Porto Portugal – Walk with Me (Part I).

Porto, Portugal – Walk with Me (Part I)

Coming in at #5 on Travel & Leisure’s “Top Cities in Europe to Visit” readers’ survey for 2019, Porto is a travel destination on the rise. If you visit Porto, the Praca da Ribeira is the must-see location and this is where I’ll start my series of posts on Portugal.

Nestled in along the river front of the Rio Douro, Ribeira is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Porto’s historic city center. It is filled with vibrant architecture, winding cobblestone medieval streets, cafes, and restaurants.

As you can already see in the photos above, Porto is not built on flat terrain. And, if you enjoy exploring on foot, you’ll need to wear very comfortable shoes and be prepared for a leg workout. I began my journey north of Ribeira and take in a few other landmarks before walking down towards the Rio Douro.

The Rio Douro is getting closer.
Arriving at the bustling center of Ribeira along the Rio Douro.
A look back shows the slope of the streets and the vibrant buildings.
Facing the river and looking left, there are more riverfront cafes.

Once in Ribeira by the river, there are a few things that are going to command your attention. One is the massive steel bridge – the Ponte de D. Luis. This bridge was designed and constructed by a former student of Gustave Eiffel (designer of the Eiffel Tower). 

Ponte de D. Luis

I am drawn in for a closer look. The bridge has a pedestrian walkway on the lower level and this level is also used by cars. The top level is for a train but also has a pedestrian walkway. I cross on the bottom level with plans to return on the top level.

In the images below, I have crossed the river and we are now looking at Ribeira from the other side of the river.

My main reason for crossing the Douro river, in addition to wanting to experience the bridge up close, was to have a glass of port wine. Porto is where port wine originated and a large part of the riverfront across from Ribeira is lined with port cellars. The area (a separate city) is called Vila Nova de Gaia. You can arrange for tastings (on land or boat cruises) or sample the varieties in one of the many restaurants along the waterfront.

Port wine in the land it originated – Porto

Ribeira is breathtaking and every turn is filled with architectural eye candy. But, be sure to cross the Ponte de D Luis and look at Ribeira from across the river with a glass of port. It is a view you don’t want to miss.

I hope you enjoyed this visual stroll. In my next post, we’ll get a view from the top level of the Ponte de D. Luis and take in some of Porto’s other landmarks in Ribeira and beyond.

Porto, Portugal

Historic Ribeira highlighted