Art Deco architecture and design in Porto, Portugal

A Photographer Captures the Rich Art Deco Heritage of Porto, Portugal

How studying Porto's iconic architecture helped one photographer see the historic harbor city in a new light.

“As a kid, I spent every summer visiting my extended family in Portugal,” says New York City–based photographer Armando Rafael. “Porto was always my favorite city — there’s a grittiness, a raw quality, but also a liveliness. I love walking around without a specific agenda, seeing if anything pops out.”

On a recent trip for Travel + Leisure, something new caught Rafael’s eye. “I toured around with an old army friend of my father’s, who told me about Porto’s history and showed me all the iconic Art Deco buildings.” This Modernist movement, having emerged from Paris a decade earlier, exerted a strong influence on Portuguese architects in the 1930s and 40s. Rafael wandered Baixa, the historic center, shooting preserved masterworks that have become beloved symbols of Porto’s urban identity.

“Now when I visit, I always notice the fonts and façades. I love those little moments of recognition.”

— as told to Hannah Walhout

Art Deco architecture and design in Porto, Portugal
Credit: Armando Rafael

From left: A historic perfume warehouse on Rua das Flores, today repurposed as the restaurant Cantina 32; Casa Cerdeira, a popular grocery and gift shop.

Art Deco architecture and design in Porto, Portugal
Credit: Armando Rafael

Casa de Serralves, a mansion designed for the Count of Vizela in the 1930s by Porto-born, Paris-trained architect José Marques da Silva.

Art Deco architecture and design in Porto, Portugal
Credit: Armando Rafael

From left: The original awning at Armazéns Cunhas department store; Coliseu do Porto, which houses a theater and concert hall, opened in 1941.

Art Deco architecture and design in Porto, Portugal
Credit: Armando Rafael

From left: Passos Manuel parking garage, which opened in 1939; Cinema Batalha, built between 1944 and 1947, is set to reopen in 2021 after an extensive renovation.

A version of this story first appeared in the June 2020 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline "Lasting Impressions."