Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar (Monastery of Serra do Pilar)

#22 in Best Things To Do in Porto
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Key Info

Largo de Aviz, 4430-329

Details

Historic Homes/Mansions, Churches/Religious Sites Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend

scorecard

  • 3.0Value
  • 3.0Facilities
  • 3.5Atmosphere

The Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar, a circular former monastery, sits just across the Douro river from Porto in Vila Nova de Gaia. It takes its name from the mountain range on which it sits, the Serra do Pilar. It offers panoramic views of Porto's historic center and the Dom Luis I Bridge. (Together, the monastery, the bridge and the old town were added to UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1996.) Construction of the original round building commenced in the 16th century and was completed in the 17th century. Destroyed during the civil war in the 19th century, the structure was subsequently rebuilt. The Portuguese military owns and operates the facility.

While visitors typically find the architecture noteworthy, it's the views from the balcony surrounding the cloister's top that earn the most praise.

The monastery's hours from April through October are from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. It closes an hour earlier from November through March. Entrance costs 4 euros (about $4.50) for adults and 2 euros (or around $2.25) for children. The site can be reached on foot from central Porto.  

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#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 Luis 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, travelers consistently attest. 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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