TOP 5 STREETS IN PORTO
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Landing at the airport Francisco Sá Carneiro, the city of Porto starts to show its beauty and colors for those who wish to visit it. It's only a short distance, by metro or bus, between the airport and the historic center, classified by UNESCO, in 1996, as World Heritage. Yet, Porto, one of the oldest cities in the country, has a few emblematic and iconic streets where locals and visitors intertwine every day. From shopping streets to charming and local cuisine quarters, learn where to go and what to see before planning your vacation in Portugal.
1 – Santa Catarina Street
Looking for the trendiest shopping street in Porto? Look no more. The Street of Santa Catarina has a diversity of shops and stores to buy last and local souvenirs, as well as international clothing and perfume brands.
An 18th-century half-pedestrian street, built with the goal to connect suburbs in Marquês with the old town, and ensuring a shopping area for the locals with the Bolhão Market, nowadays you can stroll throughout this fashionable street and recognize the brands of Nike, Pull & Bear, Zara, Massimo Dutti, Fnac and much more to do especially in your last day in Porto. Aside from shopping, from early morning, cafes and restaurants start to open their doors to invite you with the delicious odor of hot coffee and Pastel de Nata and sit outside enjoying the upcoming sunny day.
Not to miss out are a few important and picturesque landmarks throughout this commercial street: the Capela das Almas (Chapel of the Souls), a beautifully tile-decorated Baroque church poses right outside of the metro station, forcing you to pull out your camera for the best picture. The Bolhão Market, was fully renovated and reopened its doors last year. Wander inside the local shops, and taste different types of cheese, wines, cured hams and pastries. If you’re interested in learning more about the local food of Porto or Portugal, this food market is your perfect choice to spend a couple of hours indulging your senses. Last, but not the least, is the Parisian Art Nouveau Majestic Cafe. Be warned that prices are a bit high for Portuguese standards, but its interior is worth of drinking an expresso, while admiring the mirrors, chandeliers, and open space area that takes us back to the Roaring 20s. In the Harry Potter lore, this cafe serves as a beacon for the wizard fans who served as a place where the author wrote the first part of the first book, while savoring Portuguese coffee.
2 – Santana Street
Undoubtedly, one of the oldest streets in Porto, The Santana Street is a traditional street from the Roman times located right at the heart of Porto’s downtown.
Nowadays, you may encounter many city tours, especially Jewish walking tours, passing by this hilly street, but 900 years ago, during the Dark Ages, it housed the first Jewish quarter in Porto. Curiously, the previous name was the Jewish Quarter Street, emphasizing the area where the Hebrews used to live. As time goes by, the street remained almost unscathed and untouched by time itself, it was only in the 19th-century the first change happened, the door on this street, connected to the Medieval wall, was demolished.
Local artisans with hand-made jewelry, wine stores, and Airbnb’s decorate this street, just 5 minutes from the Cathedral. Still, a few of these houses are from the Middle-Ages with very small studio-sized rooms and a shop downstairs. This architectural concept was demanded by the bishop due to no Jewish house could ever surpass the magnificence of the Cathedral, the ultimate Christian beacon in Porto.
If you’re doing the famous pilgrimage/ Camino to Santiago de Compostela, right at the end you will see on the ground carved the insignia of the Camino, due to
being one of the mandatory streets for pilgrims. Ready your legs and take time to walk through this traditional and narrow street.
3 – Ouro Street
Take a break from the hustle and bustle of Porto’s city center, and head to the Western side of the city. From Ribeira, on the way to Foz, by bike or using Tram 1, you will pass through a seaside boulevard street where the river keeps you company until you arrive at the Atlantic Ocean and the beaches of Porto.
The Ouro Street is filled with river views, viewpoints, cafes, and even small houses that used to belong to fishermen. The name refers to gold, but its origins are quite hard to uncover; it is most likely related to an abundance of gold that came from a caravel during the age of the Portuguese Age of the Discoveries (15th and 16th centuries) and unloaded its cargo on these shores. Another explanation lies in the connection with its parish – Lordelo do Ouro.
Not far, there are a few activities to do and sites to visit. The main attraction is the Porto Bridge Climb for those who are not faint of heart and wish to climb the Arrábida Bridge, a colossal monument from 1973. Interested in doing a dancing workshop? The MXM Art Center doors are open for artistic dancing, dance choreography, or even filling your appetite with some tapas facing the Douro River. On the weekend, after this street, make sure you don’t skip one of the most delicious brunch restaurants in Porto – Camelia Brunch Garden – a safe haven with a vibrant and modern atmosphere, as well as delicious hot cappuccinos.
4 – Galerias de Paris Street
As the name suggests, when dusk settles and the night is about to come, on weekends this street gets crawled with the nightlife of Porto.
Behind the iconic “Harry Potter” Bookstore, all architecture is from the late 19th-century with the aim to establish a gardened avenue around the Church of Carmelites and Carmo. At night, it’s where this bohemian street bursts to life, where many pubs and bars start tuning up music from the 80s & 90s, alternative, funk, and electro. Many of these bars, including one with the namesake of the street, after two years of lockdown and confinement are still getting back on track.
For the 80s and rock ‘n roll lovers, take a look at the Era Uma Vez Em Paris with decoration aspects from the 50s to the 80s and music until 2 am. Plano B is an alternative disco for those who enjoy mostly funk and Latino music, and wish to jump to the dance floor. Be aware, it gets crowded after 11 pm, and sometimes you need to wait in line just to get inside and have a drink. If you enjoy ambiance music, and would like simply to relax and have a good time while talking to your friends without any loud music, Casa do Livro is a must. It used to be an old bookstore converted into a bar, famous for lounge and jazz music with a casual and modern environment.
During the daytime, with most of the pubs and bars closed, the upper floors turn into coworking places for digital nomads, IT & marketing offices and shopping areas to purchase different and international brands of clothing. On the ground floor, if it’s day with warm weather, many of the shop sellers set a few chairs, tables, and umbrellas, inviting you to have a glass of green wine or a refreshing beer.
5 – Flores Street
Similar to the Santana Street, but a little bit recent, the Flores Street is almost obligatory to visit during your vacations in Porto due to its 16th-century old architecture from the Renaissance times.
Once the most important street that was opened in 1521 by King Manuel I, where the wealthy bourgeoisie settled their local business with jewelry shops. It was the main street that connected the uptown with the waterfront of Ribeira. The name Flores – Flowers – is related when the royal family decided to travel to Porto for any political business, and the locals only of this street, in order to confer a heart and warmly welcoming, decorated their windows and balconies with flowers as a royal parade to welcome the monarchy.
Now, on par with Santa Catarina, it’s one of the liveliest streets filled with delicious brunch restaurants such as Mercador and Floresta Cafe by the franchise Hungry Biker. A few jewelers can be found, showcasing at the store windows the golden filigree of earrings, necklaces and bracelets, still honoring the old and wealthy bourgeoisie.
Fancy and luxury hotels were developed here. Since 2019, many of these four and five-star prime buildings took seized this exquisite location, renovated and refurbished old and historical buildings, to host guests who would like to stay at the very own heart of the city. The Casa da Companhia is one of these examples, where a 16th-century manor house was turned into a luxury hotel with a tucked-away pool after a day exploring Porto.
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