Stories Behind Porto’s Buildings

If only buildings could talk in Porto, it would tell you stories of romance, sadness and inspirations. It was easy being charmed by the beauty of Porto, perhaps it was love at first sight for me but there was more than just meets the eyes.

As I walked through Porto, I could see buildings that have stood for generations, witnessing many tales and events. I was impressed that the old buildings were still well maintained and used until now, something I still wish to happen in my own country.

Walking through Porto with a local also extended my knowledge of this underrated Portuguese city. There are stories behind the old walls of each building, each story being passed on from generation to generation. It was interesting to listen to each story, making them more than just a building.

The Portuguese Centre of Photography

This centre of photography was not always dedicated to photography. The building, also known as Antiga Cadeia da Relação, was once a prison for men and women in the 18th century.


One of the well-known prisoners of this place was the famous Portuguese writer Camilo Castelo Branco. He was imprisoned in this place in 1861 for having an affair with a businessman’s wife and also a writer, Ana Plácido. During his time there, he wrote his famous work: Amor de Perdição (Doomed Love).

You can find this magnificent building near the Clérigos Tower.

Casa Christina

Though during my visit to Porto I didn’t get the chance to visit this place as it was closed, I did go pass the place and actually spent some time admiring this place while a local told me of the story behind this coffee place.

Casa Christina has been around since the 1800s. I was told that this place was built in 1813 when a merchant called José Iria Carvalhal came to Porto and fell in love with a woman named Christina. Hence,  in honour of her and his love for her, he built this coffee shop.

You can still enjoy a cup of coffee here today and it is known to be one of the best in town. A cafe with a love story, who doesn’t love that?

Livraria Lello & Irmão

Fans of Harry Potter would know this place as one of the places that inspired J.K. Rowling. It is also famously known as one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world and it definitely lives up to the expectation.

At the time I visited, I wasn’t allowed to take pictures (I’ve heard that now you can at a price) but I truly enjoyed being hypnotised by its amazing staircase and also its facade. When you visit don’t forget to look up and gaze at its carefully carved ceilings made out of wood and also its stained glass ceiling upstairs. Book lovers or not, you will be charmed by this place.

“Fish Scales” Houses at Ribeira

Houses at the Ribeira district in Porto are known for its colourful and tiled walls. It is a joy to look at and it is definitely worth getting lost in this area to see a glimpse of how the locals live.

You will see that each house has its own characteristic, if you’re careful you can see ones that are covered in “fish scales”. Apparently this is not only for architectural purposes but also a sign. These fish scales houses are signs that the house belongs to fishermen.

São Bento Train Station

How could I not mention this beautiful train station. Once you are inside this train station, you will see that it is not just an ordinary train station.

When I arrived at São Bento, I had to stop for a while and admire the azulejo (tiles) that covered its main entrance. This work of art was done by an azulejo painter called Jorge Colaço. Each wall tells of a different story, mostly well-known historical events, but what intrigued me the most was four paintings that represent each season.

Whether you come to Porto by train or not, this train station is worth your attention, so slow down and admire this place.


Porto is definitely one of those underrated European cities, but it does not disappoint. There are still many more buildings in this city that tells of  interesting stories, like the Majestic Cafe, so don’t forget to make your way to this city when you are in Portugal.

Have you ever been to any of these old buildings in Porto?

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4 Comment

  1. It’s nice to learn the stories behind these places, as I remember seeing some of them when I visited Porto last year. Porto is certainly a gorgeous city and I would love to return to see more of it. I love the azulejos in Portugal and the ones at the station look fantastic, don’t know how I missed that. Great work! #WeekendWanderlust

    1. It certainly is! I love Porto, especially the azulejos, they are pretty spectacular

  2. I love the Portuguese tiles, we fell in love with the Azores. I’d love to make it to Portugal too.

    1. I went to Portugal expecting nothing and ended up LOVING it! Such a beautiful country!

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