Portugal: A Day in Porto

Our second day in Portugal was mostly spent in the nearby city of Porto. As with previous trips abroad, we signed up for a ‘free’ walking tour of the city to get our bearings and learn a bit about the history of the city.

This time we went with a company called Porto Walkers. Our tour guide was called Daniel who had come to work with the company as his best friend runs it. He is also a theatre actor, a career that only helped make the tour more enjoyable. Personally, he really reminded me of a much younger Peter Capaldi though I appear to be the only one to have that opinion.

We started off in Liberty Square, originally known as New Square. It was home to a statue of Peter the Fourth, a more liberal king who was responsible for Brazil gaining independence in 1822. At the far end of the square sat Trinity Hall, a building deliberately designed to overshadow Trinity church that had gotten in the way of the construction of a 5km avenue similar to the one in Paris. We then moved over to the Porto São Bento train station which was meant to be the ‘Grand Central Station’ of Porto. However, a stubborn old nun refused to die (The last of her order), delaying it’s construction and resulting in another station taking on the mantle.

We then walked up to Battle Square that houses the National Theatre, a place naturally close to our tour guides heart. The splendour of the building was somewhat overshadowed by the abandoned independent cinema, a ruin of the culture crisis the country went through a few years ago. We then went down to St Clare’s church, a building hidden from the public eye. Though it may be hidden it is far from modest. The interior of the church is covered in €18 million worth of Brazilian gold. We were fortunate enough to see it in all its original glory before it under goes some much needed renovation in October.

Before a quick stop, we went part of the way across a bridge to admire the view. However, during a city-wide party on the 23rd of June thousands of people cross the bridge which causes it to move around a little bit like spaghetti. As you can expect, this gets mixed reaction from the people on it (Personally, no. Just… No).

We continued our tour, after a pit-stop, up towards the cathedral of Porto. Here our tour guide highlighted some buildings and monuments that he disliked. The first was a statue installed by the dictator, Antonio Salazar. The 800th anniversary monument for Portugal’s independence also carried problems, resembling a structure that would have been used to hang and whip people. Salazar had a negative impact on Porto in general, the Cathedral surroundings showing only a small part of this.

After our visit to the Cathedral we made our way down to the waterfront via the old neighbourhood. Along the way we stopped at a bakery that Porto Walkers have a special arrangement with meaning we get to try desserts not available to the ordinary public. I tried the chocolate cake, it was delicious. We then concluded our tour by the banks of the River Douro.

After the tour my family and I went for lunch at RIB, a nearby steak restaurant that overlooked the river. We had some wonderful food with a gorgeous view of the water and bridges (See above). Definitely worth paying a visit if you are looking for a great meal with a view. I recommend the lemon meringue pie if you do go, it was fantastic.

If you are paying a visit to Porto in the near future, Porto Walkers is a great way to see the city though if you don’t enjoy walking I would advise using the bus or boat tours available. I can’t say much about the other tour guides but Daniel delivered a great tour about a city he clearly loves. If you have any thoughts or questions please feel free to leave them in the comments. Thank you.

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