The city of Porto has so many reasons for interest that many visitors do not even go further. However, going up the Douro is to discover an enchanted world of terraced vineyards and prosperous farms. Lose yourself in the charms of the beautiful Douro Valley from one of the most emblematic points of the city of Porto - São Bento Train Station -, considered one of the most beautiful Train stations in the World.
Many of the train stations in Portugal are not just places of departure and arrival of passengers ... they are spaces that have become true icons of art and that reflect, on their walls, a little of the history and traditions of Portugal. São Bento Station is one such example.
Located in the heart of the city of Porto, on Almeida Garret Square - next to Aliados Avenue- São Bento Station was considered one of the most beautiful train stations in the World and is an excellent starting point for a wonderful Cruise in the Douro.
The Experiences through Douro program and the Porto-Régua-Porto (downstream) Cruise start in the main hall of São Bento Station and are the best way to enjoy the charms of this beautiful station before starting the journey along the scenic Douro Line.
Book your cruise now and board on this adventure! All aboard!
The legend of the Last Nun
Few people know the legend of the ghost of the São Bento station. An affable and discreet ghost, but stubborn in life, and which, according to legend, still roams the corridors of São Bento station in the least busy hours. Let us go back in time ...
The São Bento train Station was built in the place where the São Bento de Avé Maria Benedictine convent existed in the past. This convent was very selective and only accepted women of a certain social status, especially nobles.
In 1834, the decree for the extinction of religious orders in Portugal was issued by Joaquim António de Aguiar, better known as “mata frades”, meaning kills friars. This famous decree dictated the immediate extinction of male orders (and the confiscation of their property) and the extinction of all convents due to the death of the last nun who resided there. However, the last abbess of the Convent of Avé Maria only died in 1892 (more than 58 years after the extinction of religious orders), which was a long wait for the construction of the São Bento station! Demolition of the convent began immediately. However, over the years, there have been stories and reports that, at certain times, it is still possible to hear the prayers of the last abbess echoing through the corridors of the station!
A troubled history
The railway line was opened in 1896, but the first train that arrived there still had no station waiting for it. The construction for the current station only began in 1990, by the famous architect Marques Silva, who trained in Porto and Paris. The building was opened on October 5, 1916, in the presence of a euphoric crowd. However, only on the opening day, the architect realized that he had forgotten to include a waiting room for passengers and a ticket office in his project!
São Bento Station: a space for art, religion, and urbanism
Forgetfulness aside, the building then opened surprised people with its beauty. The railway station is a masterpiece of iron architecture and recalls Parisian architecture from the 19th century, and its interior is breathtaking. In the main at hall (where the cloister of the extinct convent was located), the walls are covered by 20,000 painted tiles, by Jorge Colaço, which illustrate episodes from the History of Portugal, as well as the habits and customs of the northern people.
When observing these monumental panels, we almost think we see, on the right side, the entrance of D. João I in the city to celebrate his wedding with D. Filipa de Lencastre in the Cathedral, in 1387, in what would be the only royal wedding to take place in Porto.
On the left side, we can see the Arcos de Valdevez Tournament and the presentation of Egas Moniz with his wife and children to the king of Leon (both historical episodes from the 12th century).
We are also able to follow the evolution of means of transport in a colorful frieze around the station, which ends, precisely, with the appearance of the railway. And we observe some scenes of rural life, such as the vinyards in the Douro, the work in a watermill and the transport of Port wine in a rabelo boat. The procession of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios, in Lamego, and the pilgrimage of S. Torcato, in Guimarães, are also represented.
From Porto to the Scenic Douro Line
Currently, the station serves the urban trains of Porto: the Aveiro Line, the Minho Line (destined for the magnificent cities of Braga and Guimarães) and the Douro Line, which runs the tourist route between Porto and Pocinho. The Douro Line accompanies the upstreaming of the river and allows you to appreciate the extraordinary landscapes offered by the vineyards in slopes that are all over the Douro. Between tunnels, hills and riverside scenery, the Douro Line is highly recommended to visitors and provides one of the most famous train trips in Portugal.
But before embarking, enjoy the art and history offered by the tiles in the São Bento Station Main Hall. In the end, behind the noisy bustle of passengers, trains, and warnings, try listening to the religious songs of the nuns, playing in the background, who wish you a safe trip!