The Stock Exchange Palace or Palacio da Bolsa is one of the most-visited historic attractions in Porto, with over 200,000 visitors passing through their doors every year.
Its heavy neoclassical façade hides quite a few gems inside. The building is the headquarters of Porto’s merchants guild, and was designed with the purpose of showcasing Porto’s commercial prosperity and impressing visiting businessmen. It is located in Praca do Infante, the main square of the Ribeira neighborhood, a World Heritage Site.
Construction started in 1842, and included works by the most renowned nineteenth-century architects, painters, sculptors, and furniture makers of Northern Portugal. It displays a variety of styles, from austere Tuscan architecture to nineteenth-century neoclassicism — including Arabian polychromatic and English neopalatial styles.
You can find a floor-plan of the palace with links to panoramic views of each of the main rooms here.
Inside, you’ll find what is by far the most interesting interior in Porto. Its main attractions are the Arabian Room and the Hall of Nations.
The Arabian Room is where most receptions for foreign dignitaries visiting Porto are held. No images do justice to its spectacular colors, so you’ll have to see the room for yourself. Built between 1862 and 1880, it is inspired by moorish-style buildings in Al-Aldaluz — the south of Spain, which was under Muslim rule until 1492. Lavish detailed decorations in plaster, wood, and gold leaf cover each square inch of wall and ceiling with Arabian motifs. The background is red and aquamarine, with an over-layer of inscriptions in Arabic extolling Allah. All windows are in stained glass, with additional Arabian themes.
The other great space is the Hall of Nations, which was once an open-air cloister, and now has a glass-and-metal dome. It is decorated with the coats of arms of Portugal and its twenty most important trade partners in the early nineteenth century. The floor is decorated with tiles inspired by those in the ill-fated Roman city of Pompeii. The floor of the Porto Stock Exchange operated here till the mid-1990s.
Guided tours take you through other rooms that, though not as exquisite as these two, are not a waste of time either. Among these, the nicest are the library, the president’s room (decorated with mid-nineteenth century furniture in the first-empire style, using the best Portuguese and Brazilian woods), the board of directors room (also called the golden room because of the gilded carvings on the walls and ceiling, imitating bronze, gold, and wood, but which are actually made of plaster), the portrait room (featuring full-body portraits of the last six Portuguese monarchs before the 1910 republican revolution — all the constitutional monarchs), and the court room (in the French renaissance style, with large oil-painted panels on the walls).
Throughout the tour, pay attention to the floors, which feature some of the most beautiful wooden parquetry anywhere in the world (Brazilian exotic wood was important in Porto’s trade), with dizzying designs including a 3D trompe l’oeil stairway.
Once you’ve finished your tour of the palace, we recommend heading to O Comercial, the restaurant located inside the palace. The food is fantastic and offers a unique twist on Portuguese cuisine. You can visit for lunch or return later on in the evening for dinner. We recommend the black linguini with prawns or the octopus. You can get five course tasting meal for just €35, which is very reasonable. The staff all speak English.
Adjacent to O Commercial is The Essence of Porto, a wine shop offering a wide selection of ports and a tasting room towards the back.
Before your visit to the Palacio da Bolsa have a quick check of their website as there’s usually several exhibits and performances going on at one time or another.
Price: The only way to visit Palacio da Bolsa is on a guided tour, which last around half an hour and cost 7 Euros each. There is a discount available, making the price €4.50 if you buy a Porto Card from a Tourist Information office and it’s €4 for people aged over 65. No photography is allowed inside the palace but there are plenty of postcards available in the giftshop.
Address: Rua Ferreira Borges, 4050-253 Porto
Phone Number: (+351) 223 399 000.
Opening hours: The Palacio da Bolsa is open seven days a week but the opening hours depend on which season you’re visiting in. Between November and March it’s possible to visit between 9am – 12:30pm and 2pm – 5:30pm. Between April and October the palace is open from 9am to 6:30pm. The wine bar is open from 10am to 7pm everyday, whereas the restaurant is open Monday -Friday from 12pm – 3pm and 8pm – 11pm (midnight on Fridays)
Directions: On foot, the walk from downtown Porto should take you no longer than 10 minutes. If you have a car then the easiest route is via Rua Mouzinho de Silveira. You can park in Praca do Infante’s car park if you can’t find a parking space.