From azulejos to palacios, Porto is so beautiful

By Benedicte Boucays

Posted today at 10:00 a.m.

In Porto, there is the mist of the estuary and the granite of the houses sometimes open, sometimes uninhabited. It is even a repetition according to the wanderings. When night falls, you find yourself counting the lit windows. A feeling of abandonment which does not lack charm. Porto is elegant, complex and melancholy beautiful. Like these fiery lovers, Camilo Castelo Branco and Ana Placido, whose romantic story inspired the novel love of loss (love of perdition) adapted to the cinema in 1979 by Manoel de Oliveira.

You have to look up to see the mosaics dating from the 1950s nestled under the arcades of the Palacio Atlântico.

Porto is a patchwork, there are variations in pitch, several styles, several influences, a bit of Brazil, England or France. It is a city where polychromy is omnipresent, where juxtapositions of eras and styles escape all logic. There is no planning like in Paris. There is always a washing line and a house left abandoned”, explains guide Ricardo Borges de Vasconcelos as we walk down one of the busiest shopping streets in the city, Rua Santa Catarina.

In front of the late Art Nouveau facade of the Majestic Café, designed by architect Joao Queiroz in 1921, he points to the neighboring building, telling us that his grandmother used to come here to have her hair done, but that she wouldn’t never had the idea of ​​pushing the door of the Majestic, too popular and decrepit.

The establishment was renovated in the 1990s. The patio at the back of the café is the best place to enjoy its espresso, the most expensive in Porto! A few meters away, another curiosity, the Grande Hotel, opened in 1880. The discreet entrance opens onto a suite of very English cozy lounges. The trompe-l’oeil decorations, such as the wall of books or the large living room with flamboyant chandeliers, are astonishing; we can well imagine the gentlemen of the English aristocracy of the beginning of the XXand century there, enjoy a sherry or dance a fox-trot.

White concrete and azulejos

The Théâtre Rivoli, inaugurated in 1913, recalls the French influence and in particular that of Auguste Perret. A large white concrete building in the shape of a bow offering large bay windows. In the same square, you have to look up to see the mosaics dating from the 1950s nestled under the arcades of the Palacio Atlântico. A few blocks away, the walls covered with azulejos (decorated earthenware tiles, in the Arab tradition) of the entrance hall of the Sao Bento station signed by the Portuguese painter Jorge Colaço. The building, built by the Portuguese architect José Marques da Silva, largely inspired by the Beaux-Arts style in vogue in France in the 19thand century, strangely resembles the Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris.

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