Architecture, cosmopolitanism and the Port wines
To enjoy Oporto is to know its people. Not only their customs, but also the city’s architectural gems. These ancient buildings make up the Historical Center of the city, with over 2,000 years of history, earned the distinction being designated a Universal Heritage City by UNESCO in 1996.
The addition of these remarkable architectural testimonies accompanied the economic growth that this city had been registering over the centuries and whose heart never stopped being the Douro River, as a means of trade and cultural links. Even today the Ribeira of Oporto, or waterfront, is testimony to the deep connection of the city with the river.
Situated only 100 meters from the Guest House, the Church of Sra. da Conceição was built in the 20th Century and is unique in its style for its stained glass, azulejo panels and religious paintings. From the top of its main tower one can enjoy a panoramic view over the cities of Oporto and Vila Nova de Gaia.
At the heart of the historic center of Oporto, and not more than 15 minutes by underground from the Guest House Charming House Marquês, you will find the Cathedral (12th Century), the Church of São Francisco whose construction began in the 18th Century, the Convento de São Francisco and the Old Royal Custom House, or the Casa do Infante (14th Century), that witnessed a time when the demographic expansion was made with clashes between the power of the monarchy and the cleric. It was here in Oporto that Infante D. Henrique was born, the major driving force of Portuguese Discoveries and one of the figures that contributed to accelerate the development of the city of Oporto during the 15th Century. By the 16th Century, more notable buildings were built, such as the Convento de Santa Clara and the Convento dos Lóios.
The Baroque Oporto emerged in the 18th Century as rapid economic growth due to wine exports to Britain funded a flurry of architectural growth: the Church and Tower of Clérigos was built (a project of the famous Nicolau Nasoni), the Guerra Junqueiro House Museum, a Portuguese writer, and the Lapa Church, which was built in the second half of the 18th Century and underwent renovations later on. It is also worth mentioning the 18th Century image of Nossa Senhora da Lapa, in Neoclassical style, on its imposing altarpiece. The main chapel holds the heart of D. Pedro IV, offered by the monarch to the city in recognition for their support in the liberal struggles. The Pipe Organ is by the German organ maker Georg Jann - Master. In the cemetery adjoining the church are buried the writers Camilo Castelo Branco and Soares de Passos.
Oporto also has a number of prominent public buildings such as the São João National Theatre, the Palácio da Batalha, the Palácio das Sereias and the former Relação prison. Here, the great Oporto writer Camilo Castelo Branco was held captive for his love for Ana Plácido, a married woman. Also worth a visit is the Stock Exchange Palace, the Ferreira Borges Market, the São Bento Railway Station, the Old Civil Hall, the Soares dos Reis Museum and the Palácio de Cristal.
The cosmopolitanism of the city has been evident since the 17th Century by the rise of the British colonies that settled in Oporto to operate the port wine trade. The marks of prosperity are still evident in many buildings. But wealth creation continually demanded the best transport networks and connections to and from the city and, always based on dialogue between Oporto and the Douro River, the 19th Century marked a major technical progress in the city.
One of the first bridges built in Oporto was the Ponte das Barcas, erected in 1806 and notorious for the Ponte das Barcas catastrophe (1809), in which thousands of victims perished running from French troops during the Second Napoleonic invasion. It was replaced in 1843 by the Ponte Pênsil, dismantled in 1887, but whose two remaining pillars and ruins of the military guard house can still be visited.
In 1877 the Ponte Dona Maria was erected, a work of great architectural beauty designed by the firm of Gustave Eiffel, that carries the train from Vila Nova de Gaia to the Campanhã train station. In 1886 the first crossing of Ponte D. Luís, designed by Eiffel collaborator Téophile Seyrig was made, and in 1963 the Ponte Arrábida, designed by the Oporto celebrated engineer Edgar Correia was inaugurated. The construction of the Ponte de São João was completed in 1992; it replaced the Ponte Dona Maria in its rail link with Oporto. In 1995 the Ponte do Freixo was opened. The Ponte do Infante (2003) is the most recent addition to the network of bridges in the city of Oporto. Upon request, the Guest House Charming House Marquês can book cruises on the Douro River - namely the "6 Bridges Cruise".