ART NOUVEAU GLAMOUR
From fashionable shops to traditional cafes, from street artists to art galleries, this 100-year-old lane is always bustling. If you come in autumn, you will smell the chestnuts sold by street vendors; around Christmas the street is lit to celebrate the holiday. It was once home to famous Portuguese writers, including Camilo Castelo Branco, António Nobre, and Jose Maria de Eça de Queirós.
One of the best ways to discover the true self of a city is to wander around its market. The two-story Mercado do Bolhão (Bolhão Market) is invariably mentioned in every travel guide. Wise and sweet ladies will call to you, as they try to sell you their fruits and vegetables. Give in and get some for fuel between meals: juicy pears and apples or seasonal findings like figs, cherries, blueberries, and strawberries.
In less than a mile you can find some of the most emblematic places: Majestic Café, the Grande Hotel do Porto and the Capela das Almas (Chapel of the Souls).
The Majestic Café, although sometimes overcrowded with tourists, it’s a great example of the art nouveau style. Founded on 1921, the traditional café was usually attended by the intellectuals, bohemians and the ladies of high society.
Around the corner from Rua de Santa Catarina, at Rua Passos Manuel, you’ll find the Coliseu, a theater and concert venue. A leading venue for music and cultural events in Porto, together with Batalha Cinema, the Coliseu is an example of Portuguese Streamline Moderne and Art Deco styles in the city of Porto.
Walk five minutes up Santa Catarina Street, and you’ll stumble upon the stunning Igreja de Santo Ildefonso. A blue tile church covered with 11,000 tiles from the artist Jorge Colaço. Right next to Santo Ildefonso Church is the Cinema Batalha, an Art-Deco building that has been abandoned for many years now, and that led origin to one of the typical says of the city: ”Bai no Batalha”, meaning that what you are saying is not true and probably will come up in the movies.
At the intersection with 31 de Janeiro Street, there are two mysterious busts: one is Luís Vaz de Camões, our great Portuguese poet of the 16th century; the other is Dinamene, Camões’s nymph. Another attraction in the area is the clock of the Palladium Building. Every three hours, four figures from the history of Portugal come out: S. João, D. Henrique, Almeida Garrett and Camilo Castelo Branco.
Up the street Rua Passos Manuel, is where you will find a few of the typical “tascas” (a very informal restaurant, usually famous for something in particular that is very good and cheap) of Porto. Casa Guedes is one of those “tascas”, famous for the “Pernil” (Pork meat) sandwich and Cheese sandwich (cheese from the mountains Serra da Estrela). You’ll also find one famous for the “Cachorros” (hot dogs) at Gazela, another one famous for the “Pregos” (steak sandwich) at Venham Mais Cinco, and of course the most famous of all the sandwiches, the portentous “Francesinha” (the most famous places are Bufete Fase, O Afonso, Café Santiago, Cunha and Cervejaria Brasão).
Downtown is also famous for the cultural spaces, such as Teatro Municipal do Porto Rivoli. Inaugurated in 1913 as a National Theatre, it’s stage is one of the most important ones in Porto. A more alternative cultural space is Maus Hábitos, at Rua Passos Manuel, it’s a multicultural space where almost everything can happen, from concerts to exhibitions, workshops, etc.