There is, behind rows of houses, winding streets and palaces, among the trees a little promenade hidden away from the eyes of visitors and commuters alike, a small neighborhood right in the heartland of Porto: it is called the Virtudes.
Virtudes is an area in the western end of downtown Porto, immediately behind the Palácio da Justiça (Palace of Justice) courthouse, and the Santo António Hospital in the Cordoaria Garden. Virtudes literally means “Virtues” and the area is named as such due to Nossa Senhora das Virtudes (Our Lady of the Virtues) whom the locals venerated. This area is characterized by the stunning view to the Douro river and Miragaia, virtue of the fact that it is on the western slope of one of the many hills Porto rests upon. As such many locals of all ages go there in the afternoon and lie in the grass alone or with friends to watch sun setting and colouring the then aptly named waters of the Douro in a gold reflection. The neighbourhood itself as it is now came about in the 19th century, when merchants built their houses in an elevated and exclusive area that would still be close and directly connected (albeit with a very steep street) to the New Customs Building (Alfândega Nova) in Miragaia. It was also there that the British community built their British club which has a remarkable tinted skylight. It was in Miragaia too that the Rio Frio (Frio River) ended, flowing into the Douro. Named after it at the time is the fountain of the Virtudes right next to the garden which built there in the 17th century . The small stream behind it would run through what are now the Virtudes Gardens, built by English and German gardeners on a very old Jewish cemetery which serviced the second Jewish quarter in Porto’s history (once again in Miragaia). The stream was of great importance to them to clean the bodies for the funerary rituals. Today, the garden is a fantastic spot to relax or just look at from the promenade. In the Virtudes is also an impressive mural by prolific Porto street artist Hazul. This mural maintains the thematic of fertility present throughout much of his work, and it is one that he regularly maintains as well.
In all, Virtudes isn’t a place where you’ll find much loneliness, despite it being hidden away; it still is however a place of great relaxation and calm. Whether you want to look at the view, drink a cool beer, look at the street art, read a book or take a nap there will be a small nook in Virtudes where you will be able to do that. It is a spot of serenity in the middle of a busy and sometimes chaotic (but always beautiful) city.
Let us know if you want to experience this place! You just need to book our B Side Tour and you will discover a different Porto…