Looking out the window as I took the metro from the airport into town, I saw something special about Porto, and loved it. The charm, the tile, the everything– I knew during that ride I was about to cherish every moment over the weekend.
Armed with a Google map ready and dotted with markers at every site I wanted to visit, I had walking routes planned, tickets pre-paid and my walking shoes ready.
I’m a sucker for good views, and I found plenty on the hilly city along the water. Here are the seven I drooped over:
- The top of the Saint Louis I Bridge
This is a classic, and you’ll read it on every website. While I try to stay away from the typical destinations you can find elsewhere, the bridge’s angle is positioned perfectly, and the panorama of the waterfront houses, wineries and boats is captivating.
While I highly recommend climbing to the top for the splendor, the bottom of the bridge where the cars drive is nice too.
2. Top of the stairs
Whether you’re actually taking the stairs, or just looking for a good photo spot, near the chair lift descending the hillside, the stairs peer between crooked buildings and laundry lines down to the water, with a glimpse of the magnificent bridge.
The spot is quiet and peaceful and demands a moment to soak it all in. The colors, the breeze, the sunshine and the town’s character. While it doesn’t offer the sprawling panoramas and ocean zen, the walk down peeks into the dilapidated and abandoned homes once sheltering families, and now growing wild gardens.
3. Crystal Gardens
Although I visited on a hazy morning, the tree clearing looking down into town is delightful. Surrounded by trees, grass and flowers, the distance and angle offers an alternate perspective, but also a lovely walk around it in the meantime.
There are several points around the garden that are worth a moment to walk over and enjoy. The park’s landscape slides down the hill, creating smaller garden terraces within Crystal Gardens.
Walk around the paths and down into the terraces. Sit on the benches and look out at the red roofs and chugging boats. These are the moments we remember.
4. Farol Molhe do Douro
This beautiful beach at the end of the Douro River opens into the mouth of the Atlantic ocean. While most of the view is of the sprawling ocean ahead and classic white lighthouse, the small Porto communities line the river and ocean’s beaches as they’re weathered by the ocean breeze.
The beach is an easy 20-minute ride on a historic trolley, line 1. The trolley picks up near the water in front of Monument Church Of St Francis (Igreja Monumento de São Francisco), and is only €3 for each direction. Take the trolley to the end, and you’ll be dropped off only about 10 minutes walking from the ocean. It’s also a great way to see more of the town.
5. Fonte das Virtudes
A nice park near Church of Nossa Senhora da Vitória (Igreja Paroquial da Vitória), marvel at the beautiful night skyline of Porto. Both sides of the river light up with humble city lights, bringing the place to life.
The bridge and buildings’ reflections magically sparkle in the night, and the Douro River’s ripples dance. It’s a breathtaking and moving experience.
6. The Six Bridges Cruise
For a completely different perspective, go down instead of climbing higher, and turn your head up into the skyline. Drift under the bridges shadows while marveling at the varying buildings, all architecturally different, but creating their own comprehensive style altogether.
The colors, age and shape of every building is unique, and nothing helps you realize Porto’s diversity than to sail down the river upon which it was built. Looking up the mountainside will change your perspective for the better.
7. Porto Cathedral (Sé do Porto)
Last but not least (on the contrary, my favorite), the plaza outside the town Cathedral. Nothing made me oo, ahh, and squeal like a child than these views.
This spot, to me, encapsulated everything I love about Porto in one place. Not only because the panorama displays all of Porto from one place, but it also combines the miraculous architecture, depleting buildings, colorful façade tiles, laundry lines, crooked roads, river views and every ounce of charm.
Maybe one of the most wonderful places on Earth, and maybe one of my most favorite cities, I am in love with Porto. I hope to visit again soon, but until then, I’ll keep revisiting my photos and getting lost in her beautiful views.