Porto – Venues
Portuguese Photography Center + Largo Amor de Perdição
The Portuguese Photography Center is an iconic venue in the city of Porto. Created in 1997, it is one of the main centers of photographic preservation in the country, and still works as a museum of image capture techniques and as an exhibition space. Its history is rooted in the history of the city because until April 1974 the Court of Justice’s and the former Jail of Relação’s operations were there. In one of its cells, in 1861, Camilo Castelo Branco wrote “Amor de Perdição”, while he was imprisoned for adultery due to his love story with the Porto poetess, Ana Plácido, imprisoned downstairs. The author, the meeting of them, and the book itself are eternalized with a statue in front of the old prison, in Largo Amor de Perdição. The huge building – located between the Convent of São Bento da Vitória and Porta do Olival – began to be built in 1765, with a project by the Pombaline architect Eugénio dos Santos e Carvalho and was only completed 30 years later, in 1796.
Church of São José das Taipas
The church of S. José das Taipas, inaugurated in 1878, took 83 years to be erected and is in the enclave formed by the Church of Clérigos, the Jardins da Cordoaria, the Portuguese Photography Center and the Casa de Almeida Garret. The project was designed by the neoclassical architect Carlos Amarante, who is also the creator of the building of the Rectory of the University of Porto and the Trindade Church. The Church was the witness of two tragic moments in the city: first, the outbreak of plague in the sixteenth century – as well as the “taipas” that name the Church come from the material that isolated this area of Porto. Secondly, the Napoleonic invasions. The Church keeps in its facilities a picture alluding to the episode known as “Desastre da Ponte das Barcas (Disaster of the Bridge of Barges)”, when during the French invasion, on March 29, 1809, the trapped population fled through the bridge that connected Ribeira do Porto to Gaia, and it collapsed. The church is managed by the Irmandade das Almas de S. José das Taipas, created in 1780. Every year, people of the church recall the tragic event and promote a procession from the Church to the site in Ribeira known nowadays as “Alminhas da Ponte (Bridge Little Souls)”.
Jardim da Cordoaria
Jardim da Cordoaria is one of the oldest gardens in the city. Before becoming a public promenade in the nineteenth century, the place was one of the identity areas of Porto. Since the Middle Ages, the Campo do Olival was located there, used by the rope makers to weave the ropes handled by the Porto naval industry, in Miragaia. Based on the need to create a lane that could serve for the passage of magistrates who went to the Court and the Jail of Relação, at the end of the eighteenth century, Campo do Olival gave rise to the Jardim da Cordoaria. The decision of its construction led to the extinction of the huge olive grove that was extended from the Church of Clérigos to the Carlos Alberto Square (where still there is the indicative Rua das Oliveiras). However, in 1836, in the renovations of Passos Manuel and due to the existence of exotic species, it was chosen to be the headquarters of the first Botanical Garden of the city, created by the Polytechnic Academy of Porto. But from 1839 it became a space to visit and even housed regular fairs and a market. Finally in 1865 it was inaugurated by the Viscount of Vilar d’Allen and revealed the project of the German landscaper Émile David. In 1925, after the death of Republican journalist and politician João Chagas, the romantic space with lakes, sculptures, ruins and exotic species was renamed with his name. In 2001 the Garden was the target of a new intervention with the urban remodeling promoted by the Porto European Capital of Culture event. It lost its romantic atmosphere, but gained low promenades and new sculptures, such as the Juan Muñoz’s “Treze a rir um dos outros (Thirteen laughing at each other)”.
Gomes Teixeira Square/Fonte dos Leões
The “Praça dos Leões” was named Gomes Teixeira Square with the name of the first dean of the University of Porto. It is a traditional meeting point for the people of Porto and also for tourists and travelers, since on the right there is the Lello Bookstore; in front of it there are the Churches of Carmo and of Carmelitas Descalços, and on the left the final stop of the tram to Largo da Batalha, and the pub and restaurant Piolho, that has been a traditional venue for drinking and get-together in the city for decades. However, the square has had many names over the centuries. Initially, it was baptized as Largo do Carmo, thanks to its proximity to the Convent of Nossa Senhora do Carmo, founded in 1619. Then, it was named “Largo dos Meninos Orfãos or Largo do Colégio de Nossa Senhora da Graça”, due to the construction of the Orphan School in 1651. In 1835, it became “Praça dos Voluntários da Rainha”, in honor of the liberal battalion of the Portuguese army that occupied the convent of the Carmelitas. Finally, at the beginning of the 20th century, with the inauguration of the University of Porto, it was renamed Praça da Universidade and, on December 17, 1936, Praça Gomes Teixeira. The fountain that informally names the site was built by Companhia das Águas do Porto, in 1882, to supply water to that part of the city.
Courtyard of the Museum of Natural History and Science of the University of Porto
The Rectory of the University of Porto was built throughout the nineteenth century and in the main building located at Praça Gomes Teixeira, there is the Museum of Natural History and Science, dedicated to research on biodiversity as a center for research and scientific dissemination. It holds exhibitions of own collections and also of partners scattered around the planet, namely in Africa. The Museum holds reference collections such as archaeology, paleontology, mineralogy, entomology, birds, fish, the Herbarium and biological samples for scientific research at national and international levels. It also houses one of the largest collections of prehistoric human skeletons of the last Hunters and Collectors in Europe. The Museum’s collections are open to the public.
Auditorium Ruy Luís Gomes
In the building of the Rectory – the “mother house” of the University of Porto – the Auditorium Ruy Luís Gomes, with 80 seats, honors one of the most important thinkers of that institution. Ruy Luís Gomes dedicated his life to showing the strategic role of scientific research for national development and scientific knowledge as a fundamental part of culture. In a scenario of complete absence of scientific research structures, Ruy Luís Gomes, eminent mathematician, created the Center for Mathematical Studies of Porto and was co-founder of the Astronomical Observatory of the University of Porto, the Mathematical Research Board and the Portuguese Mathematical Society. He was also founder and Honorary Partner of the Universidade Popular do Porto. He promoted scientific and cultural exchange by collaborating with foreign researchers during the Salazar period and was exiled in Argentina and Brazil. He participated actively in the anti-fascist fight as president of the National Democratic Movement (MND) and was proposed as a candidate for the Presidency of the Republic in 1951. After the revolution of April 25, he was the dean of the University of Porto and co-founder of the Abel Salazar Institute of Biomedical Sciences.
Ferreira da Silva Laboratory
The Ferreira da Silva Laboratory is a stunning exhibition space at the central hub of the Museum of Natural History and Science of the University of Porto, which tells the 300 years of the history of chemistry in Portugal. Inaugurated in 2021, when the University celebrated its 110th anniversary, the art-deco gallery maintains the aspect of its operation in the 30s and 40s of the last century and was re-qualified to be an educational and cultural center. There you can see precision instruments, utensils, chemicals, books and furniture that are records of this scientific journey.
Church of Carmelitas Descalços
The Church of Carmelitas or Carmelitas Descalços began to be built in 1616 in Baroque Mannerist style and was completed in 1628, but was only fully completed in 1650. It was classified as a National Monument in 2013, along with the Church of Carmo. They are not twinned, but united by Casa Escondida do Porto, which is a little over one meter wide and is intended to host people such as the sacristan and other guests. The facade is made of granite stonework, it has three entrances with perfect arches, and a bell tower on the left, adorned with blue tiles, and topped by a dome.
Church of Carmo
Inaugurated 98 years after the construction of the Church of Carmelitas Descalços, the Church of Ordem Terceira do Carmo, in Rococo style, was designed by architect and painter José de Figueiredo Seixas, and was supervised by architect Nicolau Nasoni, the most prestigious in Porto. As a result, the design of the front porch of the church was changed. The side facade is all covered in blue tiles, which form six panels designed by the Italian painter Silvestro Silvestri who, as a bonus, joined Irmão da Ordem Terceira in 1912. In 2013, its status of National Monument was granted. Its interior has altarpieces designed by one of the greatest Portuguese carvers, Francisco Pereira Campanhã.
Any tourist or Porto inhabitant becomes amazed. The queues in front of Rua das Carmelitas 144, between the Igreja dos Clérigos and Praça dos Leões, are endless. The queues are formed to enter one of the oldest Portuguese bookstores, also considered one of the most beautiful in the world with its iconic and winding red staircase: Lello Bookstore. Ex-libris of the city of Porto, in the process of being classified as a National Monument and praised by international travel and tourism publications, the Bookstore founded by the brothers José Pinto de Sousa and António Lello, in 1906, has already been on the verge of bankruptcy. However, in 2015, its owners had an idea that was the company’s salvation. As there was an understanding that the writer J. K. Howling, former resident of Porto, had been inspired by the facilities for some environments of the Harry Potter saga – a fact that was denied later – Lello Bookstore started to charge 5 euros for visiting. Sales not only went up, but went up to an average of 1.200 books a day. And the number of accesses, in 2018, reached more than one million visitors.
Church of São Bento da Vitória
The Church of São Bento da Vitória began to be built in 1693. However, the works of its decoration lasted until the end of the eighteenth century. It is part of the São Bento da Vitória Monastery, one of the most magnificent National Monuments in the city of Porto. The Monastery takes part of the old Jewish quarter and was located inside the walls, at Porta do Olival, just below the Jail of Relação – now the Portuguese Photography Center. It began to be built at the end of the 16th century, in a Baroque style, as a mark of the Portuguese Benedictine Congregation and was designed by the architect Diogo Marques Lucas, disciple of Filipe Terzi. The work began in 1604, but was not fully completed until 1728. The noble area of the building is the cloister, with a total area of 595 m2.
Church of Nossa Senhora da Vitória
The Church of Nossa Senhora da Vitória, set in the Historic Center of Porto, that has access through Rua de São Bento da Vitória, was also part of the Catholic occupation movement of the old Judiaria Nova, in Morro do Olival, and received this name to symbolize the victory of the Christian religion over the Jewish one. The works were completed in 1769, thanks to the patronage of Bishop Friar Antonio de Sousa, and the alms from the churchgoers. During the civil war between the monarch brothers Dom Pedro IV and Dom Miguel, known as Siege of Porto, in 1832 and 1833, the Church was severely damaged and in 1874 was set on fire, what affected its altar. The sculpture of the Virgin of the high altar is by the sculptor Soares dos Reis, except for the face commissioned from a local saint sculptor.
Passeio das Virtudes
Hidden between Miragaia and the back of the Palácio da Justiça, but easily accessible from the side of the Portuguese Photography Center (going down by Rua do Dr. Barbosa de Castro), there is one of the most extraordinary landscapes of Porto: the view of the Douro from the Passeio das Virtudes. Almost unknown to most tourists, the garden is a meeting point for young people from Porto on hot Sunday afternoons. They search for enjoying the panoramic view with a drink and good chat, scattered on the lawn or in the pubs that surround the area. In fact, the site is an area recovered by the City Council in 1998. Before that, it was owned by the Companhia Hortículo Portuense. Passeio das Virtudes also has the largest Ginkgo Balboa tree in Portugal, about 35 meters high. It is classified as one of the largest trees in Europe, and as of public interest by the General Directorate of Forests.
Palácio de Cristal | Concha Acústica (Acoustic Shell)
The Acoustic Shell of the Palácio de Cristal is a building credited to Tomás Soller, it is an annex located on Avenida das Tílias, the main axis of the park, on the right side of the Rosa Mota Pavilion, which replaced the old Palace. The Shell is part of the Palácio de Cristal Gardens, a space full of rhododendrons, camellias, araucaria, ginkgos and beech trees, with fountains and statues. But it is famous for having one of the most emblematic panoramic views of the city of Porto and the Douro River. The acoustic shell as scenic equipment, open to the audience, was built to reflect the sound of musical instruments to the audience. But in the Palácio de Cristal Gardens, it also plays an aesthetic role by being surrounded by female sculptures commissioned from the French foundry Barbezat & Cie. The Palácio de Cristal was built to house the Great International Exhibition of Porto and was inaugurated in 1865, in the old field of Torre da Marca, in the parish of Massarelos. It was demolished in 1951 and replaced by the Sports Pavilion, nowadays the Rosa Mota Pavilion.
The Biodiversity Gallery – Living Science Center was inaugurated in 2017 and operates in the magnificent and ancient home of the writer Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen. Dating from the late nineteenth century, it is housed in the former Quinta do Campo Alegre – now the Botanical Garden of Porto – a space with more than four hectares. It is the second hub of the Museum of Natural History and Science of the University of Porto. It is a place for the public to have sensory experiences linked to biology, natural history and biodiversity in 49 facilities with museographic, multimedia and audiovisual resources. A true journey through science, literature and art.