Porto is the second largest city in Portugal after Lisbon and in recent years has been recognized as one of the top destinations to visit in Europe. The core area of Porto is fairly compact and similar to Lisbon consisting of many hills, alleys, etc. It doesn’t take long to explore Porto and it’s easy to see most of the city in two full days.
Photography in the City
I’ll begin by saying that I was in the city for three days and during two of those days it rained so I can’t say I had the time for a thorough review of the photography opportunities here but there are some must-see spots in Porto that are easily found. Walking is the best way to experience the city, and you will definitely want to cross the Luís I Bridge. This bridge, an icon of the city, consists of a lower deck for pedestrians and road traffic as well as the upper deck which is where the majority of visitors are found. The upper deck is for the metro route in addition to pedestrians and gives the best views of Porto. You will find people along the entirety of the bridge including the path of the metro which makes it both interesting and somewhat dangerous with hundreds of people crossing a metro path, although the metro progresses slowly. The bridge provides the best views of the riverfront which contains restaurants and cafes and bright-coloured buildings as well as various boats in the water.
Other nice sites in Porto include churches to admire the exteriors which include both the Igreja de São Francisco and the Igreja do Carmo. I mention exterior because photography is prohibited in at least one (Igreja de São Francisco) although phone photos without flash seem to be tolerated.
Abandonment in Porto
Porto is a city with some beautiful, classic architecture but also a city containing a lot of abandoned homes and other structures. These structures are not concentrated in specific areas and can be found throughout the city including popular areas that could be considered prime real estate in most cities. It is estimated that one in every five buildings in Porto is in some state of derelict. There is no single factor that contributed to the decline of these buildings as it was a combination of global events, historical reasons, messy inheritances, and the overall cost of redevelopment. But these abandoned buildings in Porto can make for some impressive photos as they add to the character of the city.
Summary and Quick Stops
Porto is a city that has become one of the must-visit destinations on a lot of people’s travel lists. It’s an interesting city with a storied and difficult history, one that should be experienced on foot. Similar to Lisbon, the terrain can be challenging especially in wet weather - have some comfortable shoes with good traction.
There are a lot of intriguing areas in Porto but my time in the city allowed limited exploration. I’d recommend checking out the Majestic Cafe; it will probably be very busy inside but taking a walk by and checking out the exterior is worth it and probably within close walking distance as it’s in the most commercial area of downtown Porto. The same goes for visiting the Livraria Lello Bookstore. This bookstore is recognized as one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world and an influence for some scenery of Harry Potter as author JK Rowling used to live in Porto. As a result of its popularity, it gets very busy and if you are expecting to go into the bookstore expect 200-250 other people waiting to get in as well.