By John Ensor •
Published: 01 Jan 2024 • 17:20
Sao Bento Railway Station.
Credit: Ray in Manila/
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0
IN general, train stations aren’t the most pleasant places to hang around. However, just a two-hour rail trip from Spain, the São Bento station in Porto, Portugal, has been described as a European jewel
Inaugurated in 1916, Sao Bento’s grand opening came decades after its tracks first felt the rumble of trains. The station, a centenarian landmark, is renowned for its over 20,000 azulejo tiles.
These tiles, predating the station itself from 1905, vividly narrate Portugal’s rich history in blue and white. This artistic masterpiece spans an impressive 550 square metres, transforming the station into an iconic European destination.
Resembling the academic French style seen in the Paris Opera, Sao Bento was built using granite, replacing an older convent that was destroyed by fire.
The station’s three levels stand proudly near Porto’s bustling Aliados Avenue and the towering Clerigos Tower.
This 75-metre-high marvel is a stone’s throw from the station, alongside Liberty Square and the Se Cathedral – Porto’s spiritual heart.
The station’s proximity to notable landmarks makes it a prime starting point for exploring Porto. Its unique blend of history and art in its tiles captures significant events and scenes, offering a silent yet eloquent lesson in Portuguese culture. This artistic journey begins the moment one steps into the station, surrounded by these tiles, each telling a tale.
Sao Bento station is more than a travel hub, it is a gateway to northern Portugal’s gems. Trains from here head to picturesque locales like Aveiro, known for its vibrant houses; Braga, a peaceful retreat and the UNESCO-listed historic centre of Guimaraes.
While direct connections from Spain reach Porto at Campanha station, it’s merely a five-minute journey to the artistic grandeur of Sao Bento.
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Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina.
He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.
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