Popular Porto (Leixoes) Shore Excursions
Between 1732 and 1763, Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni designed a baroque church with a tower that would become Porto's architectural and visual icon: the Torre dos Clerigos (Clerics Tower). Standing 249 feet, it takes 225 stone steps to reach the top of the tower, where you will be rewarded with spectacular views of Porto, the Douro and the ocean (Rua de Sao Filipe de Nery; 222 001 729).
The Palacio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace) is an impressive neoclassical building built on the site of a former Franciscan convent. No longer active as the stock exchange, the palace serves as a museum featuring priceless pieces of Portuguese art. The building is itself a masterpiece of 19th-century architecture, with intricately carved chestnut ceilings, inlaid wooden floors and a stunning Arabian ballroom, which glitters with gold leaf and semiprecious gems (Rua Ferreira Borges; 223 399 000).
The grand Avenida dos Aliados (Aliados Avenue) is lined by towering 19th- and 20th-century buildings, with Placa de Liberdade (Liberty Square) at its southern end. You will find a highly unusual McDonald's, complete with original 1920's murals. Located just off the square, on Praca de Almeida Garret, is the stunning Estacao de Sao Bento (Sao Bento railway station), adorned with over 20,000 blue and white "azulejos" (tiles).
Guarany Cafe (Avenida dos Aliados 89/85; 223 321 272) and Majestic Cafe (Rua de Santa Catarina 112; 222 003 887). Porto once rivaled Lisbon with its Art Deco cafes, frequented by great authors, artists and thinkers. Today, these two grandes dames continue the tradition, providing a welcoming space to read newspapers and catch up with local gossip, listen to live music (fado or Cuban on Fridays and Saturdays in Guarany) and literary presentations.
Porto is home to what is consistently rated as one of the world's most beautiful book stores: the Livraria Lello & Irmao. This magical establishment has been selling books since 1881 and is rumored to have inspired J.K. Rowling to start writing the Harry Potter books (Rua das Carmelitas 144; 222 002 037).
Head out of central Porto to visit Foz do Douro, a prosperous suburb located at the mouth of the Douro (its name means "mouth of the Douro"). There, you will find long beaches, cafes overlooking the ocean and countless fishing boats that bob just off the coast. Enjoy lunch at the Praia dos Ingleses restaurant, perched above the beach of the same name (Rua Coronel Raul Peres; 226 170 419) and stroll along the beach to the 16th-century Forte S. Joao Batista (Saint John's Fort) and Cantareira pier, a picturesque stretch of Porto's old seafront, where you can still find fishermen working on their boats and nets.