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In just one city you will find the stunning Se cathedral, the impressive Palacio de Bolsa, a number of outstanding churches such as Igreja de Sao, buildings designed by some of the world’s leading architects and a selection of monuments that are all worthy of time during any visit to Porto. Aside from this there are interesting museums, for example the Fundacao Serralves and of course the world famous Vila Nova de Gaia that is responsible for the production of the fortified port wine, even the Sao Bento train station demands a visit to see the striking tiled murals adorning the walls. It is not surprising to see why UNESCO declared this a World Heritage Site in 1996 and deservedly so.
If you are planning on visiting a number of the main attractions during your short break to Porto then it may be a wise investment to purchase a Porto Card. This will give you free or discounted entry to the city’s museums, monuments and main attractions as well as providing additional discounts at related show, tours, cruises and restaurants. In addition you receive free access to all the city’s main public transport providers including the metro, bus and funicular, while you may even find that certain shops provide special offers to card holders. Cards can be bought to be valid for between one and three days and can prove a very cost-effective way of exploring the city.
Read more on this destination in the AA KeyGuide to Portugal.
Must-see attractions in Porto
Vila Nova de Gaia - Here you can discover the long and rich history of Portugal’s most famous ‘liquid asset’. Many of the port houses offer free guided tours of their lodges (warehouses), wandering through the ancient, cobwebbed corridors walled with barrels of port ageing in oak.
Se - Porto’s austere, grey cathedral, where King Joao I and Philippa of Lancaster were married in 1387, dates from the 12th century, when it was a fortress as well as a place of worship. the interior was completely re-vamped in baroque style during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Fundacao Serralves - The Serralves Foundation museum of modern art is housed in a striking post-modernist building in the grounds of the 1930’s art deco Casa de Serralves. There are some outstanding contributions by contemporary Portuguese artists, as well as works by Picasso and Warhol.
Igreja de Sao - The church of St Francis is one of the most amazing churches in Portugal, and to most tastes infinitely more beautiful than the Se. Dazzling and intricate gilt work extends from ceiling to floor; it is said that there are over 400kg (880 pounds) of pure gold inside.
Museu de Soares dos Reis - Porto’s principal museum occupies an 18th century neo-classical house, which later served as the headquarters of the Napoleonic forces during the Peninsula War. It is said the Wellington and his officers, having defeated the French and ousted Marshall Soult in 1809, ate their dinner here. The spectacle was probably rather more arresting than this somewhat down-at-heel museum, which displays 19th and early 20th century Portuguese art.
Palacio de Bolsa - The fine 19th century granite and marble palace once housed the city’s parliament and judiciary as well as the stock exchange. The guided tour of the palace takes you from echoing hall to sumptuous salon. It includes exhibits illustrating the history of Porto and makes an excellent introduction to the city.
Torre dos Clerigos - The soaring, rocket-like 75m high (245ft) granite tower of the Igreja dos Clerigos has been the main feature of the Porto skyline since the building was completed in 1749. The exhausting climb to the top is up a spiral staircase of 225 worn steps and is rewarded by fabulous views over the city.
Sao Bento Train Station - This stunning stations walls are adorned with series of blue and white tiles that create a stunning effect, creating pictures that details great events that have taken place throughout the city’s history.
Cais da Ribeira - This district is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is quite possibly the most picturesque place in the city with traditional boats resting by the quayside against a backdrop of ancient townhouses.
Dom Luis I Bridge - This iconic bridge opened in 1886, with the upper level for the metro and the lower level for cars and pedestrians to cross the Douro river, linking the centre of Porto with the municipality of Vila Nova de Gaia.