In September 2022, I walked the Camino de Santiago Portuguese Coastal route from Porto, Portugal, to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. But before I set off on the long walk, I spent a few days in Porto having a look around. Here are some of the highlights.
Walk along the Douro River on both banks
On the north bank of the Douro, walk along Cais de Ribeira and check out the lively street stalls, restaurants, and bars, or take a boat trip.
Cross over the Luis I Bridge (on the pedestrian walkway) and then walk on the opposite side along the Cais de Ribeira de Gaia to visit the port houses or listen to live fado music.
Visit Porto Cathedral
Constructed over hundreds of years, the original buildings date from 1110 and the cathedral was expanded up until 1737.
It has a Gothic nave with a Baroque altar.
I love to stand at the crossing of the arms of any church and look up to the vaulted ceiling.
The Baroque style is common in Portugal and Spain.
The cloisters are Gothic in architecture with traditional Portuguese azuelo tiling.
The plaza in front of the cathedral is the starting point for the Camino Portuguese heading north. This is the first waymarker.
The plaza also has views across the river to the port district of Gaia. Porto is hilly with some steep streets and narrow walking paths down to the River Douro from the cathedral.
Visit the Igreja e Torre dos Clérigos and climb the Tower
You can visit the church without a ticket, but the most interesting aspects lie behind the ticket gate and are well worth it for a few euros.
There are great views back down into the nave and toward the altar, as you climb up.
There’s an icon museum section where you can stand behind the statue of Jesus and look back into the church.
It’s quite a narrow climb up the Tower, so if you’re claustrophobic, don’t do it. But otherwise, it’s worth the views, even on a rainy day when I visited.
Visit the Livraria Lello
Just down the street from the Torre is the Livraria Lello, considered one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world. The only problem is that you need to book a slot in advance or join the (very long) queue.
Visit the catacombs under the Igreja Sao Francisco
The church itself is a Baroque spectacular with crowded icons, frescoes, statues, and lots of gold!
But for a memento mori experience, check out the catacombs under the museum.
As I was in the city to walk the Camino pilgrimage, I didn’t do any of the port houses or day trips to the Douro valley, but they are on my list for next time.
I definitely recommend the walk to Matasinhos along the river and the coast if the weather is good.
If you love Portugal, check out my long weekend in Lisbon, and you might also like my interview with historical fiction author, Richard Zimler, traveling through the eyes of faith.