Inside Porto’s Metropolitan Area, São Mamede de Infesta is a short hop north of this alluring UNESCO city. It couldn’t be easier to get to the centre of Porto, for enough sightseeing and cultural activities to make your head spin, whether it’s lively old town squares, Baroque churches or photo-worthy monuments like the Clérigos Church or the Dom Luís I Bridge.
São Mamede de Infesta actually counts as part of the harbour city of Matosinhos, and is moments from the ocean as well as the best seafood restaurants in the region. The coast will figure in your plans, whether you want to hit the beach, or just could stroll down at your leisure along the esplanade to watch the Atlantic rolling in.
Lets explore the best things to do in São Mamede de Infesta:
1. Porto Riverside
If you need somewhere to begin your trip to Porto, make it the Praça da Ribeira by the Douro.
This is a sociable, animated meeting point, bounded by tall painted houses with arcades and the river to the south.
The wild São João celebrations go down here on June 23rd, and the rest of the time it’s a touristy but unmissable location to stop for a shot of coffee or cold drink.
The Douro is such a big part of Porto’s appeal, for the metallic Dom Luís I Bridge, designed by a co-founder of the Eiffel company, and the historic cellars for port wine, scattered up the slope on the left bank at Vila Nova de Gaia.
You can also cross over for one of the great vantage points of the city on the terrace of the Setta do Pilar monastery.
2. Porto City Centre
Up the hill from the Ribeira is the Bairro da Sé, a slightly gritty neighbourhood in a tangle of streets drawn up in medieval times.
The houses, painted or clad with tiles are cantilevered or naturally bend over the street blocking the sunlight for most of the day.
Further up, the streets broaden as you approach the Praça da Liberdade, which was landscaped in the 18th century.
In this part of town, where Porto spilled out from its old medieval walls you’ll find upscale shops and theatres, as well as the Majestic Café, an Art Nouveau masterpiece.
The Clérigos Church and its 75.6-metre tower, designed by the Baroque master Nicolau Nasoni, is another enduring emblem in this part of the city.
São Mamede de Infesta is a parish of this city, the old centre of which is on the oceanfront a few minutes to the west.
Matosinhos shines for its fish and seafood: Both at its restaurants and superb market, and there’s a delightful historic quarter with some steep, narrow streets and stairways.
In the summer the undeniable attraction is the beach, which is the largest in the Porto area and has recently been awarded the Blue Flag.
If the wind is blowing in the right direction there are also surfable waves.
And if you’re travelling with children, the aquarium Sea Life Porto is one to keep in mind.
There’s a lot to get through at this sizeable art and architecture complex nearby.
Serralves has a glorious Art Deco villa, Casa de Serralves, alongside a contemporary art museum built in 1999 and both opening onto landscaped gardens.
Casa de Serralves was built between 1925 and 1944 for the second Count of Vizela, and commissioned some of the masters of Art Deco decoration to contribute; the wrought iron gates are by Edgar Brandt, and René Lalique produced the skylight.
The museum building is by the esteemed Álvaro Siza Vieira, who designed every detail, down to the doorknobs.
You could enter just to see the building, but there are as many five separate exhibitions at any given time, so should be something to your taste.
5. Quinta do Covelo
To recharge your batteries or bring children to playground there’s a first-rate park a couple of kilometres towards the centre of Porto.
This eight-hectare green space with oaks and pines used to belong to the noble estate that it’s named after.
There are absorbing clues of this former purpose; the estate’s old agricultural plantations have been replaced by Porto’s municipal greenhouses.
In the lower part of the park are the ruins of the estate’s Baroque mansion and chapel, abandoned since they were bombed during the Siege of Porto in 1832 and 1833.
6. Casa da Música
In 2005 Porto opened this awesome performance venue designed by the renowned Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.
The 12-storey building had a lot of features that hadn’t been seen before, like two walls of glass that fill the 1,300-seater auditorium with light.
The Casa da Música is a tourist attraction of its own, so you can come by in the day for a tour if you’re interested in the finer points of the design.
As well as that cavernous auditorium, you’ll be shown around the VIP and Renaissance halls, both lined with glazed tiles as a nod to Portuguese and Dutch traditions.
Come back in the evening for a dose of high culture, at the home of the National Orchestra of Porto.
7. Museu da Farmácia
This museum was only officially opened in 2015. That coincided with the arrival of a genuine Islamic pharmacy interior, complete with ceramic pots and cabinets, shipped over from Damascus and dating to the 19th century.
This is one of two pharmacies transferred wholesale to the museum, and the other is the Farmácia Estácio, set up on Rua Sá da Bandeira in 1924. In the exhibition there are healthcare-related items like ritualistic statues, vases, pot, bottles and cases from Imperial Russia to pre-Colombian America.
8. Parque da Cidade
Portugal’s largest public park was a nine-year project completed in 2002 and designed by the landscape architect Sidónio Pardal.
Ambling the 10 kilometres of paths in this tranquil 80-hectare space there’s hardly any indication that you’re in the middle of a densely populated city.
There are ponds, sweeping lawns fringed by woodland, and lots of whimsical features designed to look like ancient ruins.
The Pavilhão da Água was opened in the northern corner of the park in time for Expo ’98, and has an aquarium and playful, interactive exhibits about sustainability and the water cycle.
9. Casa-Museu Abel Salazar
If you’re curious about 20th-Century Portuguese history and the Estado Novo regime, there’s a compelling house museum near São Mamede de Infesta.
Abel Salazar was a multi-talented scientist, artist and social thinker involved in the Neo-Realist movement, whose ideas got him removed from the University of Porto.
From then he concentrated on art, and his work furnishes the the home he lived in for 30 years.
There’s painting, sculpture, illustration and hammered copper.
Salazar was a highly-regarded doctor, and you can browse his medical on the second floor where his equipment has been left untouched.
10. Cemitério de Agramonte
It might sound like a sombre way to spend an hour or two, but this gigantic cemetery from the 19th century merits a visit for the beauty of its sculpture and decoration, as well as its cedars, magnolia and camellias.
The tombs and mausoleums are from the last decades of the 1800s and the start of the 20th century.
The cemetery was founded after a cholera epidemic, but reworked in the 1860s and 1870s, when the stunning main chapel was built.
This was enlarged at the turn of the century by the influential architect José Marques da Silva, and the exquisite Neo-Byzantine paintings were the work of the Italian artists Silvestero Silvestri in 1925.
11. Kadoorie Synagogue
The largest synagogue on the Iberian Peninsula is a few moments away in the Boavista quarter, and is the pillar of Porto’s small Jewish community.
Tours are held on weekday afternoons, although it might be safe to email in advance.
The synagogue is a lovely Art Deco building, started in 1929 and completed in 1938 (opening the same night as Kristallnacht in Germany). The interior is impressive, with Neo-Moorish decoration and walls lined with atapete (carpet-patterned) glazed tiles.
As you’re shown around you’ll be given a brief history of the Jews in Portugal, and there’s also a small museum on the topic.
12. Foz do Douro
This upmarket neighbourhood is set where the River Douro arrives at the Atlantic and is edged fronted by a long string of beaches from the river mouth up to Matosinhos a couple of kilometres to the north.
No matter the time of year you should wander the esplanade on the oceanfront, which has palms, laurel trees and pines, as well as a pergola inspired by the Promenade des Anglais in Nice.
At the very south is the Lighthouse-chapel of São Miguel-o-Anjo, built in 1527 and the oldest lighthouse in the country.
This was made obsolete in 1886 when the Farol de Felgueiras was installed at the end of a long groyne, battered by the Atlantic surf.
13. Igreja do Bom Jesus de Matosinhos
A piece of Portuguese national heritage, this resplendent church receives pilgrims in their droves, and is the soul of many local religious celebrations.
It first took shape in the second half of the 16th century.
But the current architecture is almost all from the mid-1700s.
This was funded by rich local residents who had made their money in Brazil, hiring Nicolau Nasoni to fashion the rich stonework on the facade.
That colonial wealth is also reflected by the gilt altarpiece and the Dutch-style organ, dating to 1685 and brought here in middle of the 18th century.
Hardly five minutes up the N14 is the city of Maia, which also has a plenty going on.
The Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Ó is a Romanesque church older than Portugal itself, with mysterious Order of the Holy Sepulchre carvings in its portal and sarcophagi in its churchyard.
On the Leça do Balio monastery, which is equally ancient but got a 14th-century Gothic redesign by the Knights Hospitallers, transforming it into a fortress church.
For kids there’s the highly-rated Maia Zoo, which has more reptile species than any other attraction in Portugal.
15. Food and Drink
The harbour quarter in Matosinhos is where people in Porto go to dine on ocean-fresh fish and seafood.
This could be grilled sardines, or lobster, or oysters, or seafood rice with clams, or a mixed seafood platter with tiger prawns, crab, goose barnacles.
The choice is as big as it is tantalising, as you can find out firsthand at the market.
On Rua Heróis de França many eateries will grill their fish right on the street, and it can be tough to make it past without stopping.
And as a rule, you should come any day except Monday, as the fishers still take Sundays off.