In the heart of Porto, a stone’s throw from the banks of the Douro, the Church of São Francisco is, along with the Porto Cathedral and the Clérigos Tower, one of the most emblematic religious buildings in the Northern Capital.
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💡 The Captain’s tip💡
Want to know more about the history of Porto? Captain Ulysses warmly recommends this free guided tour of the city. It’s up to you to choose how much you wish to tip the tour guide!
Brief history of the Church of São Francisco
Built between 1383 and 1410 by the order of the Franciscans on the location of a small church, the Church of São Francisco ( Igreja São Francisco / Church of Saint Francis) is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture.
During the two centuries that followed the church’s construction, several side chapels were built, in particular the chapel of Saint John the Baptist designed by João de Castilho, thanks to donations from wealthy families.
In the 18th century, the Church of São Francisco underwent major renovation works: the portal was restored in a resolutely Baroque style and the interior of the building was covered with talhas douradas, gilded woodwork. History has it that the gildings necessitated 300 to 500 kilograms of Brazilian gold!
In 1833, the Franciscan convent adjoining the church was destroyed in a fire. The land on which the convent stood was ceded to the Associação Comercial do Porto, who built the Palacio da Bolsa.
Visit the Church of São Francisco in Porto
The facade of the Church of São Francisco in Porto
Before entering the building, take some time to linger outside the Church of São Francisco to admire its beautiful facade.
If the building has on the whole retained its original Gothic style, the portal of the church was restored in the 18th century: Baroque in style, it is adorned with twisted columns as well as a statue of Saint Francis, Patron of the Franciscan Order. The rose window is the only vestige of the original facade.
The Dispatch House of the Order (Casa de Despachos)
To the left of the church, the the Dispatch House of the Order houses the ticket office, as well as a small museum of sacred art and liturgical objects. It is the starting point of the visit of the Church of São Francisco.
Nestled under the Dispatch House of the Order, the catacombs are home to the remains of the Franciscan friars as well as of some nobles of Porto. You’ll even be able to have a look at an ossuary through a glass slab.
Access to the catacombs is included in the visit to the Church of São Francisco and the Dispatch House of the Order.
The interior of the Church of São Francisco in Porto
If the Dispatch House of the Order and the catacombs are well worth seeing, the highlight of the visit is undoubtedly the interior of the Church of São Francisco!
One key word: gildings!
In the choir, be sure to have a look at the altarpiece representing the Tree of Jesse (the genealogical tree of Jesus Christ) created by the Portuguese artists Philippe da Silva, António Gomes, and Manuel Carneiro Adam in the 18th century.
Getting to the Church of São Francisco
The Church of São Francisco is located a stone’s throw from the Palacio da Bolsa and a hundred meters from the banks of the Douro.
The closest public transports are:
- metro: Sao Bento
- tram: Sao Francisco
- bus: Infante Dom Henrique
Opening hours of the Church of São Francisco in Porto
Please note that the opening hours of the São Francisco Church vary depending on the time of year:
- from November to February: 9 a.m. – 5.30 p.m.
- from March to October: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
- from July to September: 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Admission tickets to the Church of São Francisco are €7.50 for adults. The Porto Card entitles its holder to a 25% discount on the entrance ticket.
For information, taking photos is not allowed inside the Church of São Francisco. Photos are however authorized in the House of the Dispatch House of the Order and the catacombs.
Looking for tips to plan your vacation in Porto? You might find these articles of interest:
👉 A Guide to Porto: the best things to do
👉 Day-tours around Porto
👉 Visiting Porto with children
👉 Where to eat in Porto? The Captain’s restaurant recommendations
You can also find all of the Captain’s articles on Porto’s must-see sites and monuments here.
👉 Skip the lines: book your tickets and visits in advance!
Looking for tips and recommendations? Here are the Captain’s suggestions!
🛏️ Accommodation:to book your accommodation in Porto, Captain Ulysses warmly recommends Booking.com. From youth hostels to luxury boutique hotels, there’s plenty to choose from! The Captain particularly recommends:
– youth hostels: The Passenger Hostel and Urban Garden Porto Central Hostel
– budget and mid-range hotels: Decanting Porto House and Porto Charming Hotel
– high-end hotels: NH Porto Jardim and Yeatman.
🎟️ Activities: museums, monuments, guided tours, boat tours, excursions… there’s plenty to do in Porto! To avoid wasting time in endless queues, especially during high season, the Captain strongly recommends that you opt for skip-the-line tickets and book your activities in advance. You can book all your tickets and tourist activities on GetYourGuide and Civitatis.
⛵ Cruises: Porto is undoubtedly synymous with Douro! It’d be a shame to leave the “Capital of the North” without embarking on a Douro river cruise. If you’re only staying in Porto for a long weekend, the Captain recommends the six bridges cruise. If you have more time, then he highly recommends the Douro Valley cruise with wine tasting & lunch.
🎫 Citypass: valid from 1 to 4 days, the Porto Card includes unlimited access to city transport (including to get to/from the airport), free entry to 6 museums and a selection of discounts in museums, attractions, Port wine cellars and shops.
🚐 Transfers: you can take the metro at the airport to get to the city center (1/2 hour). But if you’d rather avoid public transport, you can also book a shared or private transfer at very reasonable prices.
🚌 Local transport: you’ll propably quickly tire of Porto’s steeply sloping streets and might be tempted to take local transport instead of walking. The public transport network is convenient and easy to navigate. You can buy your tickets directly at metro stations and bus stops (be careful, you will need to take 1 Andante card per person).
You should also know that access to public transport is included in the Porto Card. Otherwise, the hop-on hop-off bus tours are great options to explore the city. You can also opt for a pass including access to hop-on hop-off buses, the funicular as well as tramways.
Among other means of transport, you can also try the bicycle, the electric bicycle, the segway, the tuk-tuk, the small train …
✈️ Flights: to book your flights to Porto, Captain Ulysses warmly recommends Skyscanner. You’ll be able to compare countless offers to find the best deal. If your dates are flexible, you can also compare prices over several months to find the cheapest flights possible.
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