As a frequent passenger going to Porto by train, I admit I don't remember anymore to stop and admire São Bento train station in downtown Porto. I rush to the meetings, then rush back to catch my train, not even noticing the beauty of the building that looks more like a museum than like a train station. However, a few weeks ago, I was there with a friend who was visiting Portugal for the first time. What happened is that we missed two trains because she wanted to explore and photograph every detail of São Bento. After many years, once again I stopped a bit and shared the enthusiasm with her. The place is in fact stunning, so make sure you don't arrive last minute to catch your train here.
São Bento is located in downtown Porto, at Praça Almeida Garret. It’s a short walk from the Lello bookstore, so even if you won't need to catch your train here, I suggest visiting it anyway during your stroll through Porto.
It was built in the very beginning of XX century. The cornerstone was placed in 1900 by King d. Carlos I, and the works were finished in 1916, connecting the main train station, Campanha, with the new one. The creator was a famous and award-winning architect from Porto - José Marques da Silva, who found his inspiration in French Beaux-Arts architecture. Marques da Silva also designed Casa de Serralves and São João National theatre.
What makes São Bento fascinating are 20.000 decorative mostly blue and white ceramic tiles ("azulejos") that tell the story of Portuguese past including important battles, prominent people but also the history of transportation in Portugal, the wine shipment down the Douro River and other daily life scenes. This extraordinary tile work took one man, Jorge Colaço, 11 years to paint and complete.
São Bento can be your first stop when exploring the north of Portugal, which is its greenest region. Here you can catch your train up to historical Guimarães, upbeat Braga, or take a ride along the scenic Douro line between Porto and Pocinho. Also, trains to Aveiro, the city famous for its canals, beautiful beaches and the lagoon, leave from São Bento.
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