Igreja de São Francisco (Church of Saint Francis)

#9 in Best Things To Do in Porto
Igreja de São Francisco (Church of Saint Francis) picture
Martin Lehmann/Shutterstock

Key Info

Rua do Infante Dom Henrique

Details

Churches/Religious Sites Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
4.1scorecard
  • 4.0Value
  • 4.0Facilities
  • 4.5Atmosphere

Everyone knows the old adage, "don't judge a book by its cover" — the notion couldn't be truer in the case of the Igreja de São Francisco. This church looks rather plain on the outside, sporting a stone facade with elements of gothic and baroque styles, but step inside and you'll be greeted with gold: lots and lots of it. An abundance of gilt wood carvings (reportedly more than 800 pounds of gold) make up the columns, vaulted ceilings and walls of this UNESCO World Heritage Site church, which started to take shape in 1245. A traveler favorite amid the luster is the Tree of Jesse, a massive family tree sculpture that traces Christ's genealogy and dates back to 1718.

The Igreja de São Francisco is located right next to the Palácio da Bolsa in the heart of Porto; it's easily accessible via the São Bento metro stop on the D (yellow) line. The church is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. November through February; from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. March through October; and from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. July through September. Admission costs €3.50 EUR for adults (about $4.75 USD) and €2.50 EUR for children (about $3.50 USD). Services are no longer held here regularly, though the church does host classical music concerts and some religious ceremonies like weddings and baptisms, so leave some flexibility in your schedule to come back later, if necessary.

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Type
Time to Spend
#1 Dom Luís I Bridge

This iconic arching iron bridge straddles the Douro River, connecting Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia. Though Porto is known for having quite a few bridges, the Dom Luís I Bridge is especially renowned because it was designed by a student of Gustave Eiffel, the mastermind behind the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Plus, at the time of its completion in 1886, this bridge was the longest iron arch in the world. The bridge accommodates cars on its lower level and Porto's metro on its upper level; pedestrians can walk along the bridge on both levels. Stroll along the upper deck of the bridge and you'll be rewarded with spectacular views of the edifices built into the hillside cliffs that line the river.

Admiring the bridge's composition and the views it offers is something all visitors to Porto must do, according to recent travelers. "This bridge has got to be one of the most amazing pieces of architecture," swooned one TripAdvisor user. "Be sure to walk both top and bottom levels if you can, views are excellent!" A visit here would pair well with a stop at some of Porto's nearby wineries across the bridge in Vila Nova de Gaia. Another option would be to hop on a Douro River cruise or boat tour, which would allow you to see all six bridges in one go.

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