Porto may get overlooked in lieu of Lisbon, but Portugal’s second city has just as much to offer as the country’s capital. From gilded Belle Époque cafés to historic train stations covered with azulejo tiles, contemporary art and music destinations to what’s quite possibly the world’s most beautiful bookshop — here are the places every design lover should visit in Porto.
Step inside this 1916 French Beaux-Arts train station and you’ll be stunned not only by its beauty…but also that it’s still a bustling transportation hub. One could spend hours gazing up at the 20,000 handpainted azulejo tin-glazed ceramic tiles and following the storylines representing Portugal’s history.
Porto is blessed with hundreds of charming cafés, but none are as beautiful to behold as the Majestic. The café is open from Monday through Saturday from 9:00 AM to 11:00 PM. That means you can drop in for morning coffee, lunch, afternoon tea, a slice of cake, dinner, or a nightcap while you soak in the Belle Époque grandeur.
When you step inside the majestic Livraria Lello in Porto, Portugal, you may feel like the bookstore has instantly transported you to a magical world. And you’re not alone. J.K. Rowling lived and worked as an English teacher in Porto in the early 1990s while conjuring the first chapters of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. And the shop’s beautiful Neo-Gothic façade and majestic Art Nouveau interior with a breathtaking crimson staircase are said to have inspired the author’s depictions of both the Grand Staircase at Hogwarts, and the Flourish and Blotts bookshop in Diagon Alley. Take one step inside and you’ll immediately see why the bookstore is widely proclaimed to be one of the most beautiful in the world.
Dom Luís I Bridge
There are six bridges spanning the Douro River in Porto, but one of the most notable is the double-decker Dom Luís I Bridge, which was built between 1881 and 1885 by a protégé of French civil engineer Gustave Eiffel.
This gilded 19th-century neoclassical palace — a UNESCO World Heritage Site —was built on the ruins of the Saint Francis Convent. The “jewel of the Palace” is the Arab Room, which was designed in the Moorish revivalist style, inspired by Spain’s famous Alhambra Palace in Granada. Now known as Porto’s opulent “drawing room,” it’s welcomed monarchs, presidents, and ministers from almost every country over the years, and is the most visited monument in northern Portugal.
This striking architectural landmark is a music hall and cultural center that sits on Rotunda da Boavista. Go for a concert or other cultural performance and allow for some extra time for shopping in the area.
The Serralves Contemporary Museum
This museum specializing in Portuguese and international contemporary art is run by The Serralves Foundation. It’s situated within 45-acre of gorgeous gardens that include a pastel pink Art Deco villa, so go early to stroll the dreamy grounds.
Don’t leave without stopping by the museum shop for exclusive signed author editions, jewelry, works by emerging artists, and other chic souvenirs and gifts.