Porto, a historic city that’s a canvas for artistic expression.


An alley decorated with flower pots, flags and streamers from a past celebration.

This Portuguese city is known for their wine, soccer team FC Porto and the Douro river. With buildings that range from bright tiled walls and iron Juliet balconies to discoloured cement embellished with colourful graffiti, it’s no wonder that Lonely Planet has named Porto one of the Best in Travel 2017.


Small stone altars line residential homes.


Porto’s beauty lies in the sheer quantity of artistic and religious expression. Classic stone altars line the sides of buildings, the strength of faith in the community evident to any visitor. However, it’s the graffiti that modernizes this historic town and makes it stand out from the others in Portugal.


An abandoned building overlooking Porto that has been taken over by graffiti.

When you are from Toronto, graffiti is another language you’ve grown up with understanding. We have Graffiti Alley by Spadina Avenue, colourful murals on almost every block and Queen Street West which has been taken over by spray paint. When travelling to Porto, their graffiti is a small memory of home. They use bright colours and abstract shapes make their designs pop off of the crumbling cement walls. The community still has its originality of a Portuguese town but the streets appear to be art galleries for anyone with a can of paint.


Sticker graffiti is becoming more popular in Porto and other Portuguese cities.

Take the time to walk the edge of the Douro river and cross the bridge to look from the other side. It’s one of the most beautiful shifts in perspective from seeing the patios only to walk and see the mélange of colour, umbrellas and terracotta with tin roofs from the other side.


Roofs are lined with terracotta tiles and rusting tin sheets.

The beauty of blue.

If there is one thing that you can never forget after visiting Portugal it’s their churches. They are blue. White tiles with blue religious paintings cover the old stone buildings as moss grows on the roofs. You can travel all over the world but the shock of azulejo tile work on a place of worship will always remain one of the beauties of this world. Porto has some of the most beautiful churches, their bells sounding in conjunction on every hour.

With the classic calcada portuguesa and hills that stretch on for blocks, you will definitely need to wear comfortable shoes. The roads and sidewalks are tiled with small stones and even though they are beautiful; heels are impossible unless you plan to break your ankle after a few blocks. Practicality is a traveler’s is key when it comes to be comfortable and seeing as much as you possibly can in this European town.


Typical azulejo tiling on church buildings in Porto.

When in Porto, make sure to take the city tram that tours the area. After you have walked the city it’s nice to see how the neighbourhoods connect with each other and you can see if you have missed anything on your list. For a single trip it only costs € 3.00 and the old wooden street car will bring you all around Porto.

Porto’s tram schedule and map, http://www.stcp.pt/en/tourism/porto-tram-city-tour/.


Discoloured roofs are live with vegetation after years of weathering.

If you are travelling to Portugal, then Porto has to be in your itinerary. Lisboa may be the capital and Sintra may have royal gardens but Porto is one of Europe’s pinnacle cities. The river view, brightly tiled buildings and cement art galleries are what give this city such a stunning appeal while preserving its historical foundation from 1123. If you have the chance to go to Porto take it, you wont regret giving this beautiful city a chance.

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