What to See (and Eat) in Porto, Portugal – Part 2

Palácio da Bolsa

The Stock Exchange Palace was built in the 19th century by the Commercial Association of Porto in Neoclassical style. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a spectacularly decorated interior.

On the ground level is Hall of Nations – a courtyard covered by a large iron dome fitted with glass panels, designed by Tomás Soler. The lower part of the dome is flanked by painted coats of arms of all the countries with which Portugal held commercial relations in the 19th century.

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Coats of arms of Greece, Mexico, France and the United States

Do take note of the beautiful mosaics

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On the floor.

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Leading up to the first storey is the Noble Staircase, built in 1868 by Gustavo Adolfpho Gonçalves e Sousa. The two chandeliers, by Soares dos Reis, serves as a reminder that this building was among the first in the city of Porto, to be electrified.

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On the upper level, there are several rooms worth examining.

The Commercial Court Room, decorated in French renaissance style

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is where the Port Wine Brotherhood was founded.

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In the Portraits Room finds an exposed table by the Portuguese wood carver Zeferino José Pinto.

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The tabletop is made of not one but numerous pieces of wood painstakingly fitted together like tiles. This composition took three years to complete and received an honourable mentioning at the universal exposition of Paris in 1867.

The Golden Room displays paintings of the former presidents of the association. It has a stucco ceiling laced with gold chandeliers.

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The General Assembly Room is where the general assemblies of the association is held twice a year.

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The whole room, excluding the chandelier, weighs only one ton.

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This is due to the optical illusion created by craftsmen, who made the plaster look like solid woods.

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The crown jewel of the Bolsa Palace, however, is the Arabian room.

Inspired by the Alhambra palace in Granada, the walls are designed in Moorish style, gilded with 18 kilograms of gold.

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Nowadays the Arabian Room is used as a reception hall for heads of state visiting Porto.

Note:To visit the Bolsa Palace you must join one of the guided tours offered in Portuguese, English, Spanish or French. The tour lasts 45 minutes. Book ahead during peak season.

Livraria Lello

Built in 1906, Livraria Lello is considered one of the world’s most beautiful bookshops. The main facade is of Neo-Manueline (Portuguese late-Gothic) style featuring semicircular arches. The two painted figures, by Professor José Bielman, represent Art (left – holding a sculpture) and Science (right – with a symbol of anthropology).

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The interior of the bookshop is nothing short of astonishments.

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From the impressive ceilings treated with painted plasters, to make it look like carved wood

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A technique that was also applied elsewhere in the shop.

To the Art Deco stained glass carrying the motto (of the bookshop) – Decus in labore.

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The most stupendous of all is the Staircase.

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Author J.K Rowling frequented the bookshop when she was working as an English teacher in Porto, wherein she wrote the famous Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Legend has it that much of Livraria Lello can be found in her books and the subsequently adapted movies – from the grand staircase of Hogwarts Witchcraft and Wizardry to the Flourish and Blotts bookshop in Diagon Alley.

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Although to this date, the only confirmed reference by the author is the name of professor Salazar Slythrine. He was named after the Portuguese fascist dictator António de Oliveira Salazar.

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Regardless, Livraria Lello is beautiful to visit. And if you are lucky, you could be invited into a special room to make acquaintance with some very rare and precious books of Portugal.

Note: To visit the bookshop, one must buy a voucher of 5€, which can be used towards the purchase of A book in the shop. The voucher can be purchased either online or at Armazéns do Castelo, three storefronts from the bookshop. You must also store your bag in a locker there, with the deposit of 1€, reimbursed to you upon retrieving the bag. Expect lines outside and crowded space inside, anytime of the day!

Cantinho Do Avillez

Back in 2006, Chef José Avillez worked as part of the creative team in elBulli. The experience changed his career. While we had the pleasure of dining at his Michelin 2-starred Belcanto in Lisbon towards the end of our trip, out of respect and curiosity, we also visited his more casual restaurant in Porto.

Cantinho Do Avillez features some of the chef’s best sellers, such as Peixinhos da Horta (Little Fishes of the Garden) – a Portuguese deep fried green beans tempura seasoned with lemon salt and served with tartar sauce on the side. Fluffy on the outside and crunchy inside.

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and the unmistakable Prawns à Bulhão Pato – prawns cooked in white wine, garlic, lemon juice and cilantro. Both of which were very pleasant, but what came after blew our minds.

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The breads were accompanied with a red sauce that’s made of fresh tomatoes and high quality olive oil – so refreshing.

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The tuna bellies, preserved for over 24 hours in olive oil, were served cold with lime and ginger mayonnaise, and cracks of red peppercorn on top.

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And a fish soup – flavored with tomatoes, bell peppers, rosemary, cilantro and garlic, served with warm soft croutons, topped with curry mayo and coriander – so flavorful that even though we didn’t care much for the cod fish ubiquitous in the country, we cleaned the plate without hesitation .

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Overall, We found the dishes, whilst simple, packed with big flavors.

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With a reasonable budget of 20 per person, sans alcohol. This is one of our favorite restaurants in Porto.

Coming up next in the Travel section: What to See (and Eat) in Porto, Portugal – Part 3.

Happy Portugal Day!

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16 thoughts on “What to See (and Eat) in Porto, Portugal – Part 2

  1. What a gorgeous building that stock exchange is — the mosaics are simply breathtaking! For once we can really say “they don’t make them like they used to,” eh? The food also looked wonderful … I’m pretty ignorant about Portuguese cuisine, so I greatly appreciated your primer. Marvelous post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful shots and details of these great places to visit in Porto. I’m always eager to hear about great places to eat too. The possible connection to J.K. Rowling’s books is terrific. I didn’t know she taught in Porto. I haven’t been to Portugal yet, but it’s on my long list of places to visit.

    Liked by 2 people

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