At the end of last October I discovered Porto in Portugal for the first time and it will not be the last. It is a stunning city particularly offering wonderful landscape and architectural photography with the beautiful River Douro and the many historic buildings with extraordinary mosaics. If street photography is your thing, then there is plenty of that too.
There are photos on every street corner and pushing the doors offer more. The people are absolutely charming, their wines and of course the Port are really excellent and the food delicious, what more could you want?! Take yourself on a photography tour with a proper camera, Porto merits more than just a phone.
As winter comes upon us, we dream about where we will go in the spring, I recommend you visit Porto. We rented an apartment just down from the Sao Bento Railway Station, which was a great location. Pack a good pair of shoes, as walking is the best way to see it all and the town is hilly, then start making those great photos.
The Sao Bento Railway Station is a great place to start, as it’s interior has amongst the most stunning mosaics along all it walls and it is always buzzing with people, offering interesting pictures and good practice for those seeking to better manipulate their cameras. A tripod or monopod will allow you to set your camera at very low shutter speeds at a low ISO with maximum depth of field, making the crowds blur as they move around but the walls razor sharp. Practice different settings and see what you get.
Leaving the station, uphill to the right are lots of shops, churches, squares and historic buildings with mosaics everywhere. I recommend visiting the main downtown area first. The Livraria Lello bookshop which inspired JK Rowling will inspire you too, try not to go at peak times as you will have to queue to get in. Photograph the amazing staircase and look down from the first floor as people leaf through the many books. Hogwarts library will immediately come to mind. Bring a wide angled lens.
As you continue your photography tour, take in the olive trees planted in a garden above your head opposite the book store. As Porto is built on a hill, it offers many views as well as good modern urban planning. A little further on near the university and the square, is the mosaic covered Igreja do Carmo. From there walk to the Majestic Café and take some photos of it’s sumptuous interior with the mirrors and piano player. Wait for a table and order a coffee and pastel de nata. You’ll be stopping on your way there as you pass more historic buildings with mosaics and some interesting shops. Continue to the Bolhao market since it isn’t far, although I found it to be too touristy for my liking and not the most photogenic of markets I’ve seen, but it’s a good place for lunch and you will take a photo or two of the buzzy atmosphere and the plates of food. There are also some photogenic food shops around that providing you ask are happy to let you go in and take some images.
A highlight of Porto of course is the river Douro with its colourful water front and the super Dom Louis 1 bridge which although not the one designed by Gustave Eiffel, offers a multitude of angles from both sides and at different times of the day, so be sure to go a couple of times at least. The other side of the bridge is where the Porto houses and cellars are, which are photogenic and interesting as well as tasty! Do not eat along the front there though, it really isn’t very good and overpriced with hardly a Portuguese person other than the waiters, in site.
The waterfront on the city side of the Douro is pretty and there is a maze of back streets which is particularly great for street photography as it is an area housing families in sometimes a little rundown but beautiful buildings offering local stores, thus shoppers etc.
I am not going to mention all the sights to see as any guide book can give you those, but you there are different areas to walk around in town that offer a glimpse of old Porto as well as new trendier areas. It is worth going to the Rua de Miguel Bombarda, one of these recently renovated areas, full of art galleries, cafés and shops that offers plenty to photograph and if you stray a few streets away then you’ll see what it looked like before the renovation which is photographically interesting too. I would have visited the Centro Português de Fotografia but it was unfortunately closed for renovation.
A photography trip in the Spring and certainly in summer, could include the Douro vineyards, cellars and the coast. I spent 3 days altogether which was great but not enough to obtain certain photos or see everything but I will go back.