Porto’s Cathedral, the Sé, is an historic landmark in the old centre, where the city was born. In fact, Morro da Sé is the oldest district in Porto. Its characteristic neighborhood and its residents are the most genuine part of the city.
Right next to the cathedral, you can see the beautiful medieval tower from the 13th century. A few steps above, there’s the tourism information office, built over the ruins of another medieval tower, the Casa dos 24.
The Cathedral itself is a 12th Romanesque structure. It was built by Bishop Hugh, a French nobleman who came to Porto even before Portugal’s independence, and ruled the city from 1113 to 1136.
Despite its Romanesque roots, you will see that the cathedral, all over the centuries, has been suffering many changes of different architectonical styles, like the baroque roofs of the turrets next the front door, or even the loggia outside the north wall of the building, designed by Nicolau Nasoni, in the 18th century.
The large square around the Cathedral was, during the Middle Ages, the ground where all the major commerce and trades of the city took place. It was also there that, in 1147, the crusaders who came from northern Europe, the Normans, agreed to join the Portuguese Army and help king Afonso Henriques in the conquest of Lisbon, held by the Moors at the time. The eighteenth century palace, inhabited by Porto’s bishops it’s also in this square.
As you walk through the Largo da Sé, you’ll find some of the best views of the city and Douro River.
Inside the cathedral, you may like to see the silver altar that holds a curious story: in 1809, when Napoleon’s Grande Armeé entered the city, a local resident painted the altar to hide the silver. The French troops never noticed that and leave the silver alone.
Still inside, the Sacred Art Museum and the magnificent Gothic cloisters are well worth a visit.