Quem És, Porto? Who are you, Porto?
Around the corner from São Bento train station, which is famous for its tiled interior depicting Portugal’s past, is a more modern take on azulejos. Covering the whole facade of a building on Rua da Madeira 182 are answers to that question – who are you, Porto? – submitted anonymously by city’s residents.
That combination is exactly how Porto seems like, at least to me – the allure of the past enhanced by the energy of the present. And even though the old tram was converted to a tourist attraction, or tiled facades of Capela das Almas and Igreja do Carmo are now top Instagram spots, Porto still does feel honest.
Mercado do Bolhão
Mercado do Bolhão &around has got to be my favourite area in the morning. A proper old market hall – good for fresh food, with an added bonus of excellent people watching.
When I’m there, I also like to step into one of the old stores on Rua Formosa, just across the street from the market hall. Confeitaria do Bolhão – a bakery/cafe/grocery store/restaurant – holds a special place in my heart. And in my stomach.
Though not exclusively Portuguese, azulejos really flourished here. From Instagram-famous walls of São Bento train station, Igreja do Carmo and Capela das Almas to many, many unnamed buildings throughout the city, there surely in no shortage of them.
There’s even a workshop on Airbnb where you can paint one yourself.
And there’s the last thing – THE LIGHT. That hazy warm glow that adds magic to what you see.
See for yourself at Porto’s prime golden hour spot – Miradouro da Serra do Pilar, just above the famous Ponte Luís I. You, and just a few other photographers. No more than 100, I promise my friend! Best deal in the city!
Tips & Tricks
- first things first – it’s a city with coffee for under 1 EUR!
- for sipping, no-milk types like me I’d suggest you try ‘um abatanado’ – a long black. For others – a good guide on Portugal’s coffee.
- this is also a city of hills and miradouros – take advantage. From the ones I’ve been to, I like Miradouro da Serra do Pilar, da Vitoria and the area around Sé Catedral the most.
- great local blog on Porto
- make the time to spend time on the coast. My suggestion: Foz do Douro for the ‘angry ocean’ weather, and the lighthouse. Catch Flor do Gás while you’re there – it’s a small boat taxi connecting Foz do Douro with Afurada, a fishing village on the other side of the river. And of course there’s Miramar for sunset, with a chapel on the beach.
- next to Palácio da Bolsa, and in sharp contrast with its spread, is a strikingly red industrial Mercado Ferreira Borges. When I was there someone started spontaneously playing on a piano inside, but that might not be guaranteed 😉
- have you heard about La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires? Cemitério do Prado do Repouso has a similar atmosphere. With addition of azulejos and a legend of the grave no. 177/33 from 1868, about a rich prostitute and her unusual love memento.
- if you’ve already seen Rua das Flores, go to Rua do Almada for a walk.
- and lastly, here you can get 25 EUR off your first stay through Airbnb, and here is one-time offer for 12 EUR on Booking.com. Personally, I use both websites.