Gone are the days of analogue holiday snaps and ‘wish you were here’ postcards. Today it takes about ten seconds to take a picture, share it and wait for the avalanche of likes. Here are the views, monuments and scenery that would make for the most perfect postcards of Porto (if we still lived in that era)
The 10 most Instagrammable sites in Porto
For one of the most comprehensive and impressive panoramas of Porto, you’re going to need to fly: on the top part of the D. Luís bridge is the starting point of a cable car which, in a quick five-minute trip, will take you to Cais da Cidade de Gaia, 300 metres high. On the way, admire the picturesque beauty of Porto’s historical centre, the roofs of Gaia’s wine cellars, the riverfront, the neighbourhood of Clérigos and the Douro river in all its splendour. The return ticket costs €9 per person, and is worth every penny.
There’s no way to walk through Boavista without stopping to photograph the architectural institution that is Casa da Música. This modern (and controversial) building by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas was the source of many heated debates, but once it was done, even the most reactionary voices agreed that this is one of the most beautiful and significant event venues built in the past century, and it quickly became a Porto icon. If you’re in a hurry, a quick walk around the building will give you enough material to taunt your friends on social media.
The hotel opened in September last year, and in just a few weeks, took Instagram by storm, probably becoming the most photographed venue of the year. Not the hotel in itself, but its famous “Flower Corridor”, which is actually a room people go through to reach the bar and restaurant, where the ceiling is adorned with flower stalactites of a million colours, in perfect harmony with the red sofas, tempting us to spend the afternoon reading a book or having a drink, perhaps even before sitting down for a memorable dinner at Digby, another extremely photogenic venue. From the pool, with a view over the river, you can also capture one of the best postcards of the old town.
You wouldn’t go to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower, right? Then why would anyone go to Porto and not visit (and take pictures of) the no-less famous Clérigos Tower? On limited-time visits you always need focus to see as much as possible, but the Clérigos Tower is unmissable: it’s on the main street between S. Bento station, the Cordoaria garden and Praça Carlos Alberto, so there’s no way to avoid it. It’s on Porto’s list of protected monuments, the city’s most recognisable landmark and the most recurrent on postcards. The tower was built in 1763 and is a strong example of the city’s Rococo and Baroque movements.
If you don’t lose the will to live in the gigantic line you’ll have to face before going in, this is without a doubt a must-see in Porto. It’s considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, due to its mix of architectural influences, from neo-gothic and Art Nouveau on the outside to Art Déco on the inside, and it served as inspiration for one of the Harry Potter books. The large wooden staircase that leads to the first-floor gallery is one of the trademarks of the building erected at the end of the 19th century, but it’s worth paying close attention to the ornate ceiling and the stained glass on the windows. Until 2015, it was free to enter the bookstore, but the excess of curious people going in “just to have a look” forced the house to change its rules. You need to buy your ticket in advance, and it’s €4, deductible from any book you buy.
The expression on tourists’ faces when they look at Pérola do Bolhão is just too good, especially Nordic tourists. Watching them walk in front of each other and jumping to the middle of the street, risking their lives for the best angle of one of the oldest and most beautiful shops in the city, is a treat. Famous for its Art Nouveau façade, it started out as a tea, coffee and spices shop, and has since expanded its offering to other traditional Portuguese products, like sausages and Serra cheese. Open since 1917, it remains in the hands of it’s first owner’s
(António Reis) family.
It’s not a view of the river and it can’t even be classified as a “monument”, but for the past year, Joana Vasconcelos’ panel of tiles has been one of the most popular photo backgrounds on Instagram for anyone going through Porto. Created by this internationally famous contemporaneous artist, it is a colourful and modern piece large enough for wide framing. It’s been featured on fashion shoots, passionate kisses, duck faces and many others, always looking good, enhancing good poses and taking the heat away from bad ones. It can be found on Praça Guilherme Gomes Fernandes, very close to Clérigos, on the side of the Steak’n Shake building. It’s 20 metres wide, so you can’t miss it.
On the corner of Rua de Santa Catarina and Rua Fernandes Tomás, it’s common to see tourists walking slowly, camera in hand, delaying those on their way to appointments. The reason is the imposing Capela das Almas, an old monastery from the 18th century and a rare architectural find for anyone from abroad, because it is entirely covered with azulejos. The blue and white building, with 360 metres of walls covered with 15,947 tiles telling the story of Francis of Assisi, is obviously an Instagram favourite. It’s probably one of the best picture backgrounds in the city.
First came the house, and only later, the Serralves Modern Art Museum. One doesn’t exist without the other and any visit to the collections should involve a little tour of the gardens. Without taking away from the beautiful work of Siza Vieira, one of the most valuable architectural legacies of the 90s, the truth is the museum building is not easy to photograph, due to its grandeur. Because of this, and because the “Serralves experience” requires a record for posterity, head to the famous pink house, a unique piece of Portuguese Art Deco, walk around the gardens imagined by Jacques Gréber in the 30s, and point your lens towards the façade, making sure your framing includes the surrounding greenery. The scene is so beautiful you won’t need any complicated photography technique or filter. In fact, using them would be an insult.
Narrow streets, colourful houses and the proximity to the river make Ribeira one of Porto’s most interesting areas. It’s one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city, and still has trace elements of its diverse history, the evolution of which can be observed in the items exhibited at Casa do Infante. It also doesn’t lack restaurants, bars and shops to discover, and has an unparalleled view full of shapes and colours to watch the evening fall, sat on a terrace with a drink in your hand.