Architecture and culture in Aliados and Bolhao

Exploring the Aliados district and the Bolhao market are two must-sees on your visit to Porto. Situated above the Ribeira, in the old part of the city, there is no shortage of sights to discover. Each facade can be admired for its Beaux-Arts-style architecture and its sublime azulejos, the typically Portuguese earthenware that adorns almost every wall in the city.

You can visit São Bento station, take a stroll along Avenida dos Aliados, stroll along Rua de Santa Catarina, visit Bolhao market and see the stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetables, flowers and local crafts, Santa Clara church, the Lello bookshop that inspired J.K. Rowling to write the Harry Potter saga and climb the Torre dos Clérigos just next door. For a gourmet break, you must try the typical pastéis de nata pastries, which taste even better fresh from the oven with a Portuguese coffee (if you can manage to drink it).

The old Town Hall on Avenida dos Aliados

- © NaughtyNut / Shutterstock

How do I get there?

The easiest way to get there is on foot, as it's a fairly central district and one you'll have to pass through during your stay in Porto. By metro, take the D line and get off at the Aliados stop. Depending on where you're staying, you can also take the 200, 201, 300 and 905 buses, which pass through this district. By tram, the 22 stops at the Funicular dos Guindais.

To visit this district and take in all the monuments, you should allow a good half-day.

What to see and do in the Aliados district?

Avenida dos Aliados

Avenida dos Aliados is the most majestic avenue in the city, with its marble and granite facades. Here you will find the câmara municipal (the town hall) with its 70-metre-high tower and the equestrian statue of Peter IV on the Praça da Liberdade. In the square, you can see the beautiful façade of Mc Donalds, which has retained traces of the former Café Imperial, and for a sweet treat, please cross to Confeitaria Ateneia, an Art Deco pastry shop and tearoom dating from 1937.

Avenida dos Aliados in Porto

- © Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock

São Bento station

Just 5 minutes from Aliados avenue, São Bento station is one of Porto's must-sees, with its interior featuring a fresco of more than 20,000 azulejos depicting the main battles in Portugal's history, as well as the history of transport. It was created by Jorge Colaço in 1930 and is open daily from 5am to 1am.

Les 20 000 tiles de la gare

- © Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock

🍴 Where to eat nearby?

If you find yourself there at lunchtime, the Tapabento tapas restaurant will wake up your taste buds. It is located at Rua da Madeira, 222 and is open on Tuesdays from 7pm to 10.20pm and from Wednesday to Sunday from 12pm to 10.20pm.

The church of Santa Clara

One of the most beautiful churches in Porto, commissioned in 1416 by the Franciscan nuns of Clarissa and classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its simple Gothic façade hides a Baroque treasure inside, with floor-to-ceiling gilded woodwork. Open Monday to Friday from 10am to 12.30pm and from 2.30pm to 5pm, and on Saturdays from 10am to 12.30pm.

Capela das Almas

In addition to shopping on Rua de Santa Catarina, you won't want to miss the Capela das Almas, with its azulejo-decorated façade. Although they date from the early 20th century, Eduardo Leite painted them in the classical style of the 18th century. You can visit this chapel on Mondays from 7.30am to 7pm and on Saturdays from 7.30am to 1pm and from 6pm to 7pm.

Chapel of the Souls

- © Rob Atherton / Shutterstock

Praça da Batalha

South of the Rua de Santa Catarina, you will find the baroque church of Santo Ildefonso with its beautiful azulejo façade, its twin bell towers, the equestrian statue of King Dom Pedro V and the Teatro São João in the style of the Palais Garnier, which hosts all international shows.

Where can you enjoy a coffee?

Café Majestic, which, despite being crowded at all hours of the day, is well worth a visit for its Beaux-Arts-style interior with cherub tapestries and gilded woodwork. 112, Rua Santa Catarina, open Monday to Saturday, 9am to 11pm.

Torre dos Clérigos

An oblong church with a 75-metre tower that you can climb to admire the beautiful view over the whole city. Open from July to September, daily from 9am to 11pm and from October to June daily from 9am to 7pm. Admission: €5.

A little extra: listen to the 49 chimes ringing at 12.01 and 6.01 p.m. and the organ concert every lunchtime in the church.

Livraria Lello

A magnificent bookshop, listed as a national heritage site, dating back to 1906, with an elaborate double-flight staircase and neo-Gothic decor that is said to have inspired J.K. Rowling to create her world-famous work, Harry Potter. As this is a bookshop and not a museum dedicated to the character, admission costs €5, but you get your money back if you buy a book.

Mercado do Bolhão

For a real taste of Portuguese life, the Bolhão market is housed in an imposing building dating from the early 20th century. Near the market, you'll also find a number of shops specialising in codfish.

⭐ Where to stay to visit the Aliados and Bolhao districts?

Mercure Porto Centro Aliados Porto

Mercure Porto Centro Aliados

Hotel in the heart of Porto
9.1 Fabulous
£192 / night
by Editorial Team
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