Portugal as a whole is one of the most religious countries within Europe, with a whopping 81% of its population stating their religion as Roman Catholic in the 2011 census. Due to this fact, there are a rich abundance of churches and chapels throughout Portugal and Porto certainly has some fine examples!
Perhaps you are keen to visit them due to their religious nature, or perhaps it’s more the architecture of these incredible buildings that appeal to you. Whatever your reason, Porto has some beautiful examples and listed below are our top 10 of these and the reasons why we’d encourage a visit to them, while you are in Porto!
With its 75-metre tall bell tower – the tallest campanile in the whole of Portugal – of course, I had to begin with this church! The church itself is relatively small but features some incredible Baroque architecture. This church was created for the Brotherhood of the Clergy, in the 18th century, by Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni, whose architectural influence can be seen throughout Porto. The church is situated in the old town of Porto, upon a hill and that, coupled with the height of the bell tower, make for the most incredible views over the city!
It was also the first church in Portugal to feature an ellipse-shaped plan and has a gallery from which you can get an amazing view of the whole church, including many ornate carvings, alters and marble.
There is also now a museum on-site, with lots of fascinating artefacts such as gold, furniture and artwork demonstrating the religious culture of years gone by.
You can visit any day between 9 am and 7 pm with the last entry being 30 minutes prior to closing. There are various ticket options depending on whether you want to see the church/museum/tower and these can be purchased in advance or upon arrival at the church.
Its location is very central, so it is very easy to get to. By metro, it’s line D to Aliados. By tram, take line 22 to Carmo, then both have short walks to reach the church. Buses 6, 20, 35, 37, 52, and 78 all also pass near the church and make good options.
Porto Cathedral (Sé do Porto)
This beautiful cathedral is situated in Batalha, in the upper part of Porto, close to walls that once helped to protect the city from invasion and it does look a bit like a fortress from the outside!
The building of the cathedral began in the 12th century but has had many additions and as such has demonstrations of many styles from Baroque to Romanesque and also Gothic with its cloister.
The cathedral sits in a square where criminals of Porto were once brought to be executed via public hangings!
The cathedral also features a museum (Casa do Cabildo) demonstrating many ornate examples of religious goldsmithing and various antique items.
From April to October, the cathedral is open from 9 am to 6:30 pm and from November to March is open from 9 am to 5:30 pm. Entry to the cathedral is free and entry to the museum and cloister is €3 or free for children under 10.
Carmo and Carmelitas churches
Two churches, separated by what is possibly one of the narrowest houses I’ve ever seen! Its sole purpose was to separate the nuns and the monks. Carmo church is to the right of the house and Carmelitas is to the left.
Carmelitas was part of a convent until the 17th century and features an incredible, gilded interior demonstrating Baroque and Rococo styles, while Carmo features predominantly Baroque style interior.
To the left of Carmelitas church, in what was once the former convent, is now the home of the GNR (Portuguese National Guard).
Both churches are open for visiting from 7:15 am to 7 pm Monday to Friday, and 9 am to 6:45 pm on Saturday and Sunday. The last entry is 30 minutes prior to closing.
Igreja de Sao Francisco
A prominent Gothic monument in the historic centre of Porto, it is now a world heritage site. The gothic portion of the building is actually part of the original church that was salvaged after a fire tore through it in the 12th century. It was then reformed and as such features Baroque and Romanesque styles too. The elaborate rose window is well worth a look at, as well as the stunning altarpieces and ornate golden carvings throughout!
The selling point of a visit here, for many, is the Catacombs. Chambers where the Franciscan monks are buried. It also features an ossuary of thousands of human bones, above which is a glass floor, allowing you to stand above and get amazing views done below!
This church is serviced by bus lines 1, 57, 91, 23, and 49. From November to February it is open for visiting from 9 am to 5:30 pm, March to October it’s open from 9 am to 7 pm and from July to September it’s open from 9 am to 8 pm. For adults, entry is €7.50, with students and seniors getting 25% off this price. Children under 10 get free entry.
Igreja Santa Clara
A lovely temple in the Sé parish of Porto, it has been a National Monument since 1910. It’s not as immediately attractive from the outside as some of the others on this list and could probably be easily dismissed by some. However, once inside you’ll be amazed by the incredible interior. It’s predominantly in the Gothic style, with some Baroque features.
Not to be overlooked, it’s only a few minutes walk from the centre of Porto and is open every day from 9 am to 1 pm, then 2 pm to 6 pm. Entry is €4 and again, children under 10 have free entry.
Igreja do Santo Antonio dos Congregados
Come out of Porto’s main railway station Sao Bento and directly across from you, you’ll see this church. Built in 1694 on the site of an old ruined chapel it features those blue and white tiles (azulejas) on the exterior that Portugal is so famous for. These depict scenes from the life of Saint Anthony whom the church is named after.
Inside the church, there are also many depictions of Saint Anthony to be seen as well as many beautiful Baroque carvings. He was the patron saint of finding things/people that were lost and the many tiles appear to demonstrate this fact.
Many describe this church as an area of tranquillity in the middle of a bustling city centre and with its close proximity to the train station is easy for many tourists to visit!
Igreja de Grilos
This is a church and convent situated very near Porto cathedral – meaning it would be very easy to visit both here and Porto cathedral on the same day if you wish! It is an 18th-century Baroque style church but in comparison to most of the others on this list is relatively stark in decoration.
This church does feature a small tower with approximately 70 stone steps to the top, which does provide you with some nice views if you’re willing to make the climb.
This church is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 am to 6 pm and costs adults €3 for entry and students/seniors €1.50. Again, children under 10 are free.
While the church itself may not provide much in terms of ornate decoration like the others, the tower and views, do make up for it and I would still suggest that it is worth a visit.
Church of Lapa
This neoclassical church can boast that it houses the heart of King Pedro IV, that he chose to donate to the city to demonstrate the love he had for it. This is kept in an urn which requires 5 separate keys to open! The church is just part of a larger set up of buildings, including the Lapa cemetery (considered to be the oldest cemetery in the country), a primary school and a hospital!
The church itself is well known for housing the largest pipe organ in Europe and as a result, is home to many incredible concerts. The cemetery is also well worth a visit, with many famous Portuguese artists and writers having been buried here.
This church is probably the least visited by tourists of all that are on this list, perhaps due to it being a bit further out from the city centre and the usual tourist hotspot areas. It’s difficult to understand why though, with its spires, stained glass windows, and fantastic architecture, it’s well worth a visit.
Chapel of the souls
This is certainly an eye-catching chapel, with the exterior being covered in azulejas depicting many scenes from the lives of saints. The stain-glassed windows are also absolutely stunning! It is no surprise that there are regularly many people taking photos of the exterior of this chapel.
Inside, the interior is a beautiful demonstration of the Baroque period of architecture. There is also a two-story-high bell tower.
This chapel is situated right in the middle of one of the best (and busiest) shopping streets in Porto, the Rua de Santa Catarina and as such is usually a popular stop with tourists.
The chapel is open all week from 7:30 to 13:00 then 15:30 to 19:00, Monday to Saturday and on Sundays, it is open from 7:30 to 13:00, then from 18:00 to 19:00.
The best part of all? Entry is completely free for everyone!
Situated near Batalha square, this church is another fine example of the work created by Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni.
The outside of the church features azulejos which demonstrate the life of Saint Ildefonso, as well as some beautiful stained glass windows.
The church also features not one, but two bell towers! Both are topped with stone crosses and the flag of Portugal.
Inside, the altarpiece will immediately grab your attention with its ornate Baroque carving. There is also a beautiful old tube organ that has been there since 1811!
This church is completely free to enter and is open from 15:00 to 18:30 on Mondays, 9:00 to 12:00 then 15:00 to 18:30 Tuesdays to Saturdays and on Sundays from 9:00 to 13:00 then 18:00 to 20:00.
Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar
Ok, I cheated a little. This monastery isn’t actually in Porto but instead, is located on the other side of Douro River in Vila Nova de Gaia on the top of Pilar Hill. Architecturally, it is considered a building to note when you consider its circular church and cloister and has been on the World Heritage List since 1996. The design of this monastery was actually based on Santa Maria Redonda in Rome and it took 72 years for it to finally be completed! Some parts of the building are now used for military purposes.
The selling point though? The incredible views over the Douro River and across to Porto!
Entry onto the main facade is free, to see inside the church and the cloister costs €2.
To get there from Porto, your best option would be to take the metro line D to Jardim do Morro – this will also offer you some incredible views out over the river!
As demonstrated, Portugal’s rich religious history and culture lead to there being a huge variety of churches/chapels/monasteries to visit within and around Porto.
Perhaps you’re looking for some ornate architecture, some beautiful examples of azulejas, or want to enjoy the religious aspect of these stunning buildings.
Whatever your reasoning, there’s a religious building that will appeal to everyone!
If you enjoyed this article you might also like to read about Churches of Portugal