What to See (and Eat) in Porto, Portugal – Part 1

Churches with Tiles:

Igleja do Carmo

Situated kitty-corner from the University of Porto, this Late Baroque/Rococco style church is built in the second half of the 18th century. The front façade is crowned with sculptures of the four Evangelists.


The side wall is lined with a large panel of hand-painted tiles illustrating legend of the founding of the Carmelite Order.


Dated 1912, the composition was designed by Silvestre Silvestri, painted by Carlos Branco and executed in the factories of Senhor do Além and Torrinha in Vila Nova de Gaia. The interior of the church is highly decorative, with seven altars lavishly gilded with gold.

Capela das Almas

Walking down Rua Sainta Catarina, the main shopping thoroughfare in Porto, you won’t miss the Chapel of Souls with its magnificent tile façade.


The 360 square meter wall is covered with 15,947 tiles painted by Eduardo Leite, dating back to 1929,


They depict scenes from the lives of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Catherine.

Igreja de Santo Ildefonso

Further along Rua Sainta Catarina, about 550 meters from Capela das Almas, in Batalha Square is the church of Igreja de Santo Ildefonso. It is known for its tile façade – created in 1932 by artist Jorge Colaço, illustrating scenes from the life of Saint Ildefonso and figurative imagery from the Gospels.


And a retable designed by Italian artist Nicolau Nasoni, installed by Miguel Francisco da Silva in 1745.

Sé Cathedral 

Finally, speaking of tiles, the Porto Cathedral has them




and out.


Its Gothic cloister is decorated with baroque-style tiles by Valentim de Almeida, depicting the life of the Virgin Mary and Ovid’s Metamorphoses.


And if you are “lucky”, you get afternoon sunlight playing tricks


Highlighting various sections of the scene.


Are these two identical? Look closely 🙂


The upper level terrace features Vital Rifarto’s 18th century masterpiece tiles depicting scenes from the Song of Songs.

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Inside the cathedral, the “Silver Altar of the Holy Sacrament” is not to be missed. It is made with about 1500 pounds of silver. In 1809 when Napoleon’s troops invaded Porto, a local resident painted the altar white, the soldiers went right by it without noticing all that treasure.


Churches without Tiles:

Igreja de São Francisco

If you think that the Church of San Francis looks plain from the outside


Step inside for some of the best gilded wood carvings in Portugal.

The most significant of all is the Tree of Jesse –  a genealogical tree of Jesus Christ.


The work represents the passage – the end of material life and the beginning of the eternal spiritual life.

Igreja dos Clérigos

Another influential work by the Italian painter and architect Nicolau Nasoni is the Baroque style Church Igreja dos Clérigos.


Its bell tower is widely recognized as the symbol of Porto.


To reach it, first walk through the middle section of the church


Then a 225-step climb through a spiral staircase sweeps you to this spectacular bird’s eye view of the city.

Be prepared to wait in lines.

Just steps away from the Clérigos Tower is A Sandeira do Porto, which serves arguably the BEST sandwich in Porto.

There’s usually a line out the door. But the server keeps everybody honest and things  in order – first in line -> first to sit -> first to order -> first to be served – no cheating 🙂 . We ordered the S. João sandwich with tomatoes, pickled peppers and sardine, garnished with parsley


And S. Nicolau salad with prosciutto, avocado and walnuts


Both were made with fresh ingredients and perfectly seasoned, very tasty and for just a little over 10€. We seldom eat at the same place twice when we travel unless it is extraordinary, and A Sandeira do Porto is!

Coming up next in the Travel section: What to See (and Eat) in Porto, Portugal – Part 2.

30 thoughts on “What to See (and Eat) in Porto, Portugal – Part 1

  1. Wonderful post! In a couple of months we will be starting a bike ride in Porto to Compostela de Santiago. I have just written down all of these churches, bell tower and the sandwich shop for when we visit. Thank you SO much!!!

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I’m so excited! The only thing I’m worried about is that since we have to ride to a different town each day that we won’t have enough time to see everything. But hopefully it won’t be a problem. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I’m sure either way it will be an amazing trip. I did my day bike ridding with ‘withlocals’ theres a guys called Anselmo, he was great. If you looking for a guide, i can definitely recommend

        Liked by 3 people

  2. I am almost overwhelmed by all of the beauty and architectural details in your post! I’ve never seen churches covered in azulejo tiles like that before — nor did I know that the locals painted the altar white to protect it from Napoleon’s marauding troops. And those food shots … YUMMY. Wonderful post!

    Liked by 3 people

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