The cathedral’s quarter is an intricate group of houses and alleys in the oldest part of the city, and is one of the most colorful and picturesque neighborhoods of Porto. The many narrow medieval streets, the high houses that seems to bend, the clothes hanging to dry in the wires, the children playing outside… all that is a very important part of Porto’s soul.
For centuries, the whole town was just only the Bairro da Sé. The bishops gave the order to build a wall that surrounded and defended the whole neighborhood. In Rua de Santana, for example, you can still see the remains of one of the old wall’s arches; and also many of the houses were built leaning against the medieval walls.
All the main activities in the city took place here. Some streets still maintain in their names a sort of echo of those times: the Merchants Street, Bainharia Street (where sword scabbards where made), among other examples. In the 13th century the city has grown, the old walls were overturned and the population occupied areas along the river, like the Ribeira.
During your visit to Bairro da Sé it’s not advisable to use the car. The streets are very narrow and a few of them lead to dead ends. The steep streets are also not very good for biking. My advice would be to take a quiet walk, with plenty of time to shoot some pictures and to enjoy the entire environment. If you travel on a motorcycle, you can freely ride through all Bairro da Sé without problems.
During the night, the neighborhood can be a little scary and dangerous. There isn’t much to do and it’s easy to get lost inside the quarter. It is best to make your visit during daytime and, after that, take one of the downhill streets to Ribeira, the next neighborhood, and enjoy there a quiet and deserved drink.