The Baroque Torre dos Clérigos towers 75m above the streets – it was the tallest structure in Portugal when completed in 1763 and, having puffed up the two-hundred-odd stairs, you can enjoy the sweeping views. Like the curious oval Igreja dos Clérigos beneath it, the tower was designed by the Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni, who was buried in the church at his own request.
West of the tower are faculty buildings of the Universidade do Porto. Students hang out in the pavement cafés flanking Praça de Parada Leitão, while below the main university building spreads the Jardim da Cordoaria, sheltering impromptu card and chess schools beneath some gigantic plane trees. The imposing Neoclassical building to the south of the gardens – distinguished by 103, mostly barred, windows – was the city’s former prison, the Cadeia da Relação, whose ground floor houses the Centro Português de Fotografia. The collection includes the work of Scotsman Frederick William Flower (1815–1889), who spent much of his life in Porto and is considered a pioneer of Portuguese photography.
On the north side of Cordoaria, above the university, the eighteenth-century Igreja do Carmo is instantly recognizable by virtue of its deliriously over-the-top exterior azulejos. Inside, the elegant gilt carvings are among the finest examples of Portuguese Rococo. The older and rather more sober Igreja das Carmelitas lies almost adjacent, but not quite, as a law stipulated that no two churches were to share the same wall (in this case perhaps to hinder amorous liaisons between the nuns of Carmelitas and the monks of Carmo). As a result, what is probably the narrowest house in Portugal – barely 1m wide, and with its own letterbox – was built between them and, though now empty, remained inhabited until the 1980s.Read More