You know what? I am really sick and tired of this gray version of London, where it is still raining and raining! Everything is grayish now. Gray sky, gray streets, gray buildings and I’ve also became gray with it. I do not even remember when the sun was shining for the last time! The worst thing is that while hiding under umbrella and hood, I would totally have missed the spring! Don’t be surprised then, that today I am going to serve you another portion of attractions of sunny and beautiful Porto! In this city you really cannot get bored! It is worth looking literally in every corner. There are, however, such attractions that you absolutely cannot overlook! Today I am going to show you another bunch of them in the second post about what to see in Porto.
Here we go!
Crystal Palace, peacocks, roosters and two churches that grew into one
The next day in Porto has started with the gardens of the Crystal Palace, or Jardins do Palácio de Cristal. These pictures come from my December trip, so you also can see how beautiful is Porto during the winter time. As for the palace itself, unfortunately now there are only ruins remaining. However, it is worth strolling around the surrounding gardens in the colorful company of the peacocks and roosters – two national Portuguese birds living here.
From the gardens you can also admire the beautiful views of the Douro River.
From the Crystal Palace, we are heading along Rua da Manuel II, on the way, taking a glance at the impressive building of Santo Antonio hospital. Through the small park of Jardim do Carregal we are reaching to de Parada Leitao square, location of Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto, as well as the beautiful church of Igreja das Carmelitas.
In fact, there are two churches: Igreja do Carmo and Igreja dos Carmelitas, which are separated from each other by a very narrow, 1-meter house unoccupied until 1980. An interesting story is connected with it, because this house was built only to prevent contacts between nuns living in Igreja dos Carmelitas and monks from Igreja to Carmo.
The church is decorated with white and blue azulejos tiles, flagship symbol of Porto. In turn Parada Leitato Square is quintessence of Porto with a palm tree in the middle and a Baroque fountain with stone griffins.
Livralia Lello, the most magical bookstore in the world
Parada Leitato Square is just a stone’s throw away from two interconnected squares: Praça da Cordoaira and Praça de Lisboa. It is here where the Livralia Lello is located. This famous bookshop was the main inspiration for J.K. Rowling to create the magical interior of the Hogwarts castle with moving stairs, magical passages and library full of dusty volumes. By going to the bookstore, you will understand exactly where these analogies come from!
The floor-to-ceiling interior is filled with shelves full of books and unusual wooden stairs leading to the upstairs gallery give the impression that they are moving themselves! The ceiling has been designed to resemble wooden bas-reliefs. Worth noting is that Livralia Lello is considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. Just look at the Lonely Planet and The Guardian rankings.
Admission to the bookstore is 4 euros, but you can spend them on your books purchases. You can carefully look through the shelves, because there are some pretty cool items here, also in English. I wanted to have one copy of The Little Prince in English version, unfortunately it was already sold out …
After leaving the library, it is nice to take a walk around Praca da Lisboa, climb to Torre dos Clerigos to admire the magnificent panorama of the city (4 euros for admission), or simply sit in a park usually full of students relaxing here. You can also take a stroll along the lower level of the square along Rua da Galeria de Paris full of fashionable boutiques.
Palacio Bolsa, Igreaja de S. Francisco
Next, we went along Rua da Bardosa Castro towards Palacio da Bolsa in the meantime visiting two miradouros: Fonte de Virtues and Mercado Ferreira Borges.
Palacio da Bolsa is a historic stock exchange building built in the neoclassical style. Unfortunately, we were unlucky and during our June’s visit the building was under renovation. Apparently the interior is stunning! Well, there’s nothing else left to do but visit the palace by the next time.
From the palace we headed toward Igreja de S. Francisco, impressive church with interiors covered with real gold, and the basements from the top to the bottom full of catacombs. There is a place inside where you can see a pile of bones. Literally! Brrrr ….
Evening in Vila Nove de Gaia: a paradise for wine lovers
From the church we walked towards Ribeira and the Ponte De Luis bridge already mentioned before. You can read about it in my previous post here. You can climb the stairs or take the elevator (of course that we chose the stairs ?) and this time we cross the river to Vila Nova de Gaia, a paradise for all wine lovers!
Administratively, Vila Nova de Gaia is another city known worldwide for the production of port wine. It is full of wine cellars offering tours combined with wine tasting. Over the centuries, many English merchants lived here, as the trade with Portugal was much more profitable than with France selling their wines at inflated prices. Especially during the Napoleonic wars, when trade was completely stopped. You can see this influence in the names of wineries, which are often English-speaking, i.e. Sandeman, Offley or Taylor.
Being in Porto, you must visit the wineries and taste their wine! If you do not want to visit the vineyards, you can also opt only for a tasting just like we did. One glass is only 2 euros, so visited the Offley, Ramos Pinto and Augusto’s wine cellars. The white Tawny turned out to be the most delicious for me. Yum!