For some reason despite my little bit of research before arrived I had not quite realised that Porto is a city made for two feet. The few guidebooks I had looked at did suggest a few walking itineraries but all of them were all for discrete areas. Consequently I had presumed, as I had failed to look at the scaling, that each itinerary would take a full day. Didn’t take me long to realise the error of my ways. And by the end of our self-guided orientation stroll on our first day we had taken in the historic centre, Baixa, and Boavista. We’d also enjoyed stunning views of the Douro, found some rather wonderful places for coffee and lunch and I had rather a lot of photographs.
My 200 saved photographs are probably a little bit much for just one post. So today I thought I’d outline the stroll we took and share a few highlights. I’ll return another day (or maybe multiple days) with a focus on the areas where the camera and I really got carried away. Our walk began almost the moment we left our AirB&B apartment on Rua Mouzinho da Silveira, from here we headed uphill and meandered our way around the many back streets until we found ourselves behind Centro Português de Fotografia. Once a prison this is now as you may have gathered from its Portuguese name now the Portuguese Centre of Photography. Apparently it is an excellent museum, and if it had been raining I would gone inside. However my eye was already drawn to the Jardim da Cordaria opposite as I was on a mission to photograph some of Porto’s amazing tile panels. The panels cover the outside of Igreja do Carmo and as with many churches in Portugal pay tribute to Nossa Senhora (Our Lady).
It wasn’t the only thing that caught my eye around here, there was also a stunning Art Deco peacock, the trams and of course everywhere you looked Porto’s colourful and sometimes very narrow buildings. A treat for the eyes no wonder I was smiling!
Jardim da Cordaria is a rather lovely park and not far away is Torre dos Clérigos but I wanted to find the Botanical Gardens and so we continued on our way following our noses. It probably would have been better if we had referred to the map more frequently than we did as we were meant to be heading west at this point but instead we took a rather long detour north. However it did mean we found a rather lovely cafe for morning coffee, and discovered this tiny park, a church and schools.
Eventually we realised we were adrift and so out came the map to work out which way we should be heading if we were ever to find and explore the botanical gardens. Fortunately we hadn’t actually gone that far off and best of all our unusual approach to the gardens meant we discovered another local cafe. I can’t recall what we ate but I do remember it was a delicious lunch!
As you can see the gardens are rather beautiful and the views from here simply stunning even on a somewhat misty day. We spent quite a while here digesting our lunch and enjoy the splendour. And it was with some reluctance we headed back out on our stroll. I wasn’t reluctant for long though after we found ourselves back in Jardim da Cordoaria. I’d spied these earlier so was delighted we had found them again. The work is called Thirteen Laughing at Each Other, and were created by the Spanish sculptor Juan Muñoz in 2001 when Porto was the European City of Culture.
The next area I wanted to explore was some of the more interesting shopping areas. Not because I was in the mood for shopping but I had read somewhere that there were a couple of streets which were full of street art and also some unusual shops.
By now it felt like tea time but then we spotted a rather wonderful ice-cream seller in Praça de Carlos Alberto. And yes if you have a map of Porto out or know the city well we were weaving around quite a bit, and were aware there are far more direct routes. However we were enjoying wandering, and if we had arrived here more directly I would not have wanted an ice-cream! Feeling revived, there was now just one final section I wanted to achieve on our orientation stroll and that was the imposing Avenue dos Aliados. However before we could get there, we had a few more back streets to lose our way in and lots more buildings to photograph.
Finally we found ourselves on Avenue dos Aliados. An incredibly wide road with a central pedestrian area. It is considered by many to be one of the top five places to visit in Porto. It is certainly impressive and a great place to promenade, however I think I prefer Porto’s narrow and colourful buildings to the grandeur of these.
We were now only moments from where we started, just enough time to photograph another tile panel, a rather enormous public water ‘tap’ and some pigeons!
I don’t think there can be many cities where nearly every building deserves to have its photograph taken, and where you spend half your time looking directly up. Nor can there be many where nearly everything is within easy walking distance. No wonder Porto is repeatedly chosen as Europe’s best destination. The downside of course it can be very crowded, particularly down by the river. However on our first full day we managed to avoid the crowds and thoroughly enjoyed our explorations. I loved it, and thought this urban stroll might go down a treat with Jo and her Monday walkers!