Porto, an architectural jewel in danger

Porto is not a museum city. It subtly combines the baroque treasures of the past, the softness of Art Deco coffees and the graphic design of contemporary and audacious works. She lives, she is loved, as much as she is abandoned.

She is beautiful enough to fall under her spell, but she does not suffer from an icy, impeccable beauty… In short, suspicious.

No traveller can miss the incredible abandonment of the city’s buildings or buildings, even in the heart of the city’s history. Imagine that in Paris entire streets around a châtelet were deserted… We looked for an explanation. Years ago, the state-regulated rents in Porto, thus imposing a ceiling. The owners, receiving rents that have become very low with inflation, have stopped maintaining their properties. As the latter deteriorated, the Portuguese preferred to settle in the new homes of Villa Nova de Gaia. And the vicious circle began. Today this ceiling no longer exists, but investments to rehabilitate buildings are such that only large tourism-related projects are interested. As if that were not enough, a sensible idea sometimes has disastrous side effects. This story also explains the very popular atmosphere in the centre of Porto.

It would be illusory to list exhaustively the number of monuments, buildings or buildings of interest as there are so many of them. So I chose a small selection to give you an idea. A map locating the various points of interest is at the end of the article.

From Baroque to Art Deco, Neoclassical to Contemporary, Porto can be discovered through an architectural chronological frieze.

Porto and Romanesque architecture

The cathedral of la Sé (Terreiro da Sé) was one of our favourites. She’s very imposing. Today its square allows you to admire its grandeur, but it seems that at the time (as they say), it was surrounded by houses, so much so that its entrance was through a small alley. The building was not clear and its architecture could not be enjoyed at all. The cloister is worth a visit. The azulejos that compose it are really beautiful. Take a look at the episcopal outfits of the adjoining religious objects museum, the embroidery work is to be dropped.

Porto and Baroque architecture

Baroque art is one of the major styles found in Porto. This type of architecture, which was created in the 17th century, is characterised by its opulent ornamentation (numerous sculptures, stucco decoration, rockery, frescos, etc.), but also by its theatricality. The altars are staged. This new movement was made possible thanks to many technical innovations.

Among the buildings representative of this current are:

  • The church of dos Grills (Largo do Colégio)
  • The dos Terço church
  • The Guerra Junqueiro House Museum (32 R. de Dom Hugo)
  • The Episcopal Palace (Terreiro da Sé)
  • The Church of Carmo (10 Praça de Gomes Teixeira)

Its facade is a fine example of the excessive use of decorations.

  • The church and the tower of Los Clérigos

It is impossible to miss this monument because it is the highest bell tower in the city. You will, therefore, see it many times during your walks. It is possible to climb to the top for a 360° view of Porto.

  • The Sao Francisco Church (Rua do Infante D. Henrique)

To see all the baroque and rococo potential of the Sao Francisco church, you will have to push the door and visit its museum specialized in this artistic movement.

If you want to discover more about Baroque, you can visit the city of Braga, about fifty kilometres from Porto. This city is accessible by train from Porto, so you can easily spend a day there. A thematic tour on Baroque art is dedicated to him. A leaflet lists the 30 baroque places in the city (church, palaces, houses…).

Porto and Art Deco architecture

Art Deco is a movement born before the First World War, built-in opposition to Art Nouveau. The shapes are geometric and the use of concrete is frequent. Buildings in this style are generally imposing.

  • Batalha Cinema (60, Praça da Batalha 60)
  • Sao Joao National Theatre (Praça da Batalha)
  • Coliseu do Porto (137 R. de Passos Manuel)
  • Mc Donald’s (Praça de la Libertad)

No, you’re not dreaming, I invite you to this famous fast-food chain. It is located in an old art deco style café. I’m not telling you to go eat hamburgers, but taking a look inside is interesting.

  • Confeitaria do Bolhao (339 R. Formosa)
  • This confectionery, which is located behind the market of the same name, is a good example of this style and a very nice place for a gourmet snack.
  • Café Guarany ( 85/89 Av. dos Aliados)
  • Amazon’s Cunha’s (14 Praça de Gomes Teixeira)
  • This old store with its imposing and rectilinear facade leaves no doubt about the style of this building. Pure art deco!
  • A building at 131 and 596 Miguel Bombarda Street
  • An old laboratory at 362 rue da Restauração

Porto and neoclassical architecture

The neoclassical style appeared after the Baroque and Rococo periods. He is in total opposition and suggests more simplicity. By taking up the codes of classicism and Greek and Roman inspirations, it is more refined.

  • Mercado do Bolhao (214 R. Formosa)
  • This market is an institution in Porto. Personally, he did not leave us with an unforgettable memory. Forgotten, he must have lost some of his beauty. However, it remains one of the classics of Porto.
  • Palacio da bolsa ( R. de Ferreira Borges)

The Stock Exchange Palace is one of our favourite buildings in Porto. We arrived by chance and fell under the spell of its imposing hall topped by a glass roof. Simple but effective! More unusual, you will see a Moorish lounge particularly rich in decoration. Careful, it stings your eyes.

Porto and Art Nouveau architecture

  • At Pérola do Bolhao (279 R. Formosa)
  • This grocery store has a charming facade that pushes us to sink into the sin of greed.
  • Lello Bookstore (144 R. das Carmelitas)
  • The famous Lello Bookstore that inspired JK Rowling for his Harry Potter books is also a must. Its facade is in Gothic Art Nouveau style. As for the interior, it is rich in decoration and details, such as superb stained glass windows or wrought iron lamps.
  • Café majestic (112 Rua Santa Catarina)
  • Coffee A Brasileira (116 R. do Bonjardim)
  • Reis & Filhos Boutiques and Librairie Leya an Latina at 1 and 10 Catarina Street

In many streets of Porto, if you have an eye, you can find Art Nouveau inspired facades. This is the case for these two shops located opposite each other.

Also look at n°77 and 129 de la rue de Cândido dos Reis as well as the facades n° 28, 56 and 106 de la rue Galeria de Paris.

Porto, resolutely contemporary

I would not engage in a description of all the trends in contemporary architecture. But, among the buildings accessible to the public, I do not think we should miss the Casa do music (Av. da Boavista 604-610).

You don’t need to be an expert to recognize the modernity of the building.

In a style that I haven’t been able to define and in the unusual style, take a look at the garden of the Palacio do cristal. You will see a building that looks like a gigantic flying saucer of glass and concrete!