What to do

Discover the contemporary architecture of Porto

Associação de Turismo do Porto e Norte, AR CC BY-NC-ND

In Porto we can find extremely interesting works by Portuguese and foreign architects. Though a short stay is not enough to see all the existing works, we suggest a tour through several areas of the city which will allow you to know contemporary architecture a little better.

In the nineteenth century and early twentieth century, the face of Porto began to be shaped by architecture masters such as José Marques da Silva (1869-1947), Arménio Losa (1908-1988) and Cassiano Barbosa (1911-1998). However, it was Alvaro Siza Vieira (1933) and Eduardo Souto de Moura (1952), master and disciple, who introduced the "School of Porto" to the world.

In Downtown Porto

Start this contemporary architecture walk-through in Avenida dos Aliados, a project by Siza Vieira and Souto de Moura, winners of the Pritzker prize in 1992 and 2011, respectively. In addition to the regeneration of the Avenida, authored by both architects, it is well worth consecrating a few minutes to the “Companhia Seguros A Nacional”, “Edifício Joaquim Emílio Pinto Leite” and “Jornal de Notícias" buildings (1919, 1922 and 1925 Marques da Silva).

Moving on to Rua de Santa Catarina, and a few meters away from the renowned Café Majestic, we find the old "Grandes Armazéns Nascimento" (1914) (now a FNAC megastore), designed by José Marques da Silva.

At one end of this street, where traditional trade lives side by side with big international brands, you will see the Teatro Nacional de São João, a 1909 project, also by Marques da Silva, restored in the early 1990s.

The buildings designed by Marques da Silva, who was trained in Porto and Paris, where he studied under Victor Laloux, reveal an academic culture in which reason and the classical tradition are combined. The outcome is functional compositions that take modern life into account, despite their impressive appearance.

Also in Rua de Santa Catarina, but in the opposite direction, we find one of the city's best known works, designed by Arménio Losa and Cassiano Barbosa: a trade, services and collective housing building (1946-1951) at Rua Sá da Bandeira, 633/673, and Rua Guedes de Azevedo, 117, 121. The two architects, trained at the School of Fine Arts in Porto, began in 1939 a project whose goal was to renovate and transform architecture in the North of the country, a project that stands out both for its quality and its quantity.

The São Bento train station is an unmistakable landmark of the city of Porto. Take your time to contemplate the panels painted by artist Jorge Colaço, who in the beginning of the 20th century painted scenes depicting the history of Portugal and the evolution of transportation methods.

Go up to Rua das Carmelitas. At number 100 you can see the Edifício das Quatro Estações (1905). On the corner of Conde de Vizela and Cândido dos Reis streets, take a look at the Palácio do Conde de Vizela (1917 to 1923). At Rua do Rosário, very close to the Quarteirão das Artes - so named because of the concentration of numerous art galleries - pay attention to the design of the António Enes Bagana building (1919). All these buildings were designed by architect Marques da Silva.

Arménio Losa and Cassiano Barbosa, who reinvented and adapted the reality of Porto in keeping with the new international architecture announced by Le Corbusier, have authored other housing and services projects, at Rua dos Bragas (numbers 53/61), Rua de Ceuta (numbers 141 and 141-A) and Praça D. Filipa de Lencastre (number 16).

Be sure to stop by the Praça Marquês de Pombal, where you can visit architect Marques da Silva's house-studio. This 1909 building (number 44) is the headquarters of Fundação Instituto Arquitecto José Marques da Silva (FIMS), which aims to promote the architectural legacy of the designer, as well as the architecture and urbanism of Porto and Portugal.

Continuing along Boavista

In the Boavista area there is much more to see than just the Casa da Música, although this is an essential work by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, reminding one of a rough diamond.

In the middle of Praça Mouzinho de Albuquerque, better known as Rotunda da Boavista, you can find the piece Heróis das Guerras Peninsulares (1909), by architect Marques da Silva and sculptor Alves de Sousa. The rehabilitation of the garden surrounding the monument was conceived by Siza Vieira in 2004.

Going down the Avenida da Boavista, we will see the building that houses the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves (1991-1999), designed by Álvaro Siza Vieira. As for Casa de Serralves (1925-1943), it was designed by Marques da Silva, in cooperation with Jacques Émile Ruhlmann, Charles Siclis and Alfred Porteneuve. The architect also authored the gardens' design (1932) with Jacques Gréber.

Go back to the city center, near the university campus of Campo Alegre, and visit Faculdade de Arquitectura da Universidade do Porto (1986-1993), in Via Panorâmica. This is another work designed by Álvaro Siza Vieira. In the same area, at number 606 of Rua do Campo Alegre, you can also see another trade and collective housing building (1959-1963), by Arménio Losa and Cassiano Barbosa.

Besides walking, the subway is one of the best ways to get around the city. Speaking of which, did you know that the subway network in Porto was designed by Souto de Moura? The architect, famous for the rigor and precision of his works, is responsible for the design of the Trindade, Aliados, Faria Guimarães, Marquês, Combatentes, Salgueiros, Heroísmo, Campo 24 de Agosto, Bolhão, Lapa, Carolina Michaëlis and Casa da Música stations.

Throughout this journey of discovery, stay at Pousada do Porto, in Palácio do Freixo. The architecture of this hotel is unique and majestic. Designed by architect Nicolau Nasoni, this eighteenth century building is one of the most important Baroque monuments in Portugal and is classified as a national monument.

If you have any questions or want our help in creating a visiting plan that includes the best of Portuguese architecture in Porto and the North of Portugal, please contact us. We want to help you find out the best things our country has to offer.

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