Palacio da Bolsa – How to Visit Bolsa Palace in Porto (2024)!

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No visit to Porto would be complete without a tour of the fairytale Palacio da Bolsa.

Due to its name, you may be thinking that this building is a grand palace which was once home to the royal family. 

But this is actually Porto’s historic stock exchange and headquarters of the Porto Commercial Association which was built in the 19th century.

You can only visit on a guided tour but this is well worth doing. The entire place is magnificent with opulent features like the Noble Staircase and Hall of Nations.

The highlight of any tour is the majestic Arabian Room which never fails to stun visitors with its gold interiors, Arabic text and ornate woodwork.

This ended up being one of my favourite places I visited on my recent trip to Portugal. It’s a breathtaking palace that feels like you’ve stepped into a fairytale.

Here is how to visit the majestic Bolsa Palace, Porto and why a guided tour is worth it.

Palacio da Bolsa Porto
Bolsa Palace’s famous pink Noble Staircase

Bolsa Palace history

The old city stock exchange in Oporto had to close down and so many Porto traders were discussing business in the open air in Ribeira wharf.  

So, a new neoclassical building was planned for the city and the foundation stone was laid down in 1842 with construction starting in the same year. 

The new Bolsa Palace was built on the ruins of the old Sao Francisco convent and this space was donated by Dona Maria II, Queen of Portugal.

The building itself only took nine years to finish but the interiors took well over 50 years to be completed.

Once it was built, it became a hive of Porto’s business and political elite. Portuguese royalty, presidents and prime ministers from all over the world have walked through these sumptuous halls. 

Palácio da Bolsa has been classified as a National Monument since 1982 and sits within Porto’s historic centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Palacio da Bolsa Palace Porto

How to visit Palacio da Bolsa

Although it’s still an active meeting place for the Commercial Association, it’s open to the public and is a popular attraction in Porto that’s open from 9 am to 6.30 pm daily. 

Bolsa Palace can be found in the Infante D. Henrique Square on Rua de Ferreira Borges. 

This is just an 8-minute walk from the gorgeous Azulejo tiled São Bento Station and a 10-minute walk from Porto Cathedral.

It can be found very close to the Cais de Ribeira and the Saint Francis Church by the Douro River.

Porto is a very easy city to get around on foot but as it’s built on several hills there are lots of uphill streets and steps. 

Due to the stock exchange’s position, you’ll most likely be walking down to reach Palacio da Bolsa rather than up which I thought was a lot easier. Click here for a Google Pin

Infante D. Henrique Square Porto

Is Bolsa Palace free or do you need to pay to visit? 

No, Bolsa Palace is not free to enter. As it’s still an active exchange, you can only visit Palacio da Bolsa on a guided tour and these cost € 12 for an adult. 

Students and senior tickets are € 7.50 with proof of ID and under 12’s go inside for free with an accompanying parent or guardian. 

You cannot book guided tours online and you must book these in person. As they are very popular tours be prepared to queue at peak times. 

Hall of Nations Palacio da Bolsa

The tours take place in many languages like Portuguese, English, Spanish and French. There are only a few tour times in each language per day and there is a maximum of 50 people per tour.

So, you most likely will have to book a guided tour for later in the day than when you buy your tickets.

If you’re keen, I would suggest going there first thing in the morning and booking your tour in case they sell out for the day! It’s not uncommon for tours to sell out around midday.

I actually went at a quiet moment in the evening to book tickets for the following day so I wasn’t waiting around.

I visited Porto on a very rainy weekend and so there were often queues down the street.

Bolsa Palace Porto

Things to see in Palacio da Bolsa

This stock exchange is one of the prettiest buildings that you can visit in all of Portugal.

Every room that you enter is opulent with portraits, murals, stucco work and chandeliers. 

They have all been decorated with symbolic references to Portugal’s world trade, civilisation and commerce. 

It’s a place I will never forget as it was just so grand. Here are all the things you will see at the Bolsa Palace. 

Arabian Room Palacio da Bolsa
The magnificent Arabian Room

Library 

Before you set out on your tour, you must take a peek in the Bolsa Palace library which can be accessed from the main foyer where you queue for tickets.

It’s absolutely gorgeous and I would have loved nothing more than to cosy up with a good book in this room.

Although you can’t go inside, it’s still worth checking out as it’s home to historic tomes, carved furniture, celestial globes and portraits. 

A look up to the ceiling will show you a vibrant mural which represents Eco, the messenger of universal language. He’s on a carriage pulled by white horses and is holding the caduceus symbol.

You can see a portrait of Ferreira Borges here which was painted in 1839, he created the Portuguese Commercial Code. The street where the Stock Exchange is located is named after him!

Bolsa Palace Library
Bolsa Palace Library

Hall of Nations

When you wait for your guided tour, you’ll be standing in the impressive Hall of Nations! 

This room took my breath away due to all the ornate details and heraldry that is lit by a huge iron and glass dome skylight.

If you look underneath the dome you’ll find coats of arms from 20 countries in which Portugal had friendly commercial relations at the time it was built. 

The patterns on the tiled floor were also seriously impressive. During your tour, you’ll get to see this fabulous room from the upper floor as well for better perspective. 

Hall of Nations Bolsa Palace
Hall of Nations

Noble Staircase

Most people call Bolsa Palace the ‘pink palace’ due to the Hall of Nations and the grand Noble Staircase.

This is most likely the staircase you’ve seen on social media as it is entirely majestic!

The ornate details of this staircase seem to be never-ending. You’ll see festoons, carved stonework, and a magical mural around the domed skylight by António Ramalho.

Look out for the busts of famous figures like António Soares dos Reis and António Teixeira Lopes.

Noble Staircase Palacio da Bolsa

Although the staircase is lit by natural lighting, there are two sparkling chandeliers here. These were some of the first lights to use electricity in Porto.

You will visit this staircase at the start and end of your tour where you can stay to admire it for a while. 

I’d recommend waiting until the end to get your Instagrammable photos! This is what I did as there are a few minutes between guided tours when it’s completely empty.

Noble Staircase Palacio da Bolsa

Commercial Court Room

I think if I ever found myself in a courtroom, I’d want it to be this one. But, I may end up getting too distracted by all the pretty details! 

Designed in the French Renaissance style, the entire room is painted in gorgeous murals with gold gild and ornate stucco work. 

The paintings by Veloso Salgado tell the story of the Port Wine Brotherhood who are shown on thrones.

You’ll see notable figures like Prince Albert II of Monaco and the President of the Portuguese Republic Professor Cavaco Silva.

Bolsa Palace Commercial Court Room

Former President Gallery 

This is a relatively new space that has been made to honour all the former presidents of the Porto Commercial Association since its foundation in 1834.

Here, you’ll find lots of portraits of all the presidents and some ornate details and artefacts in the room. 

You’ll also pass by the Telegraph Room which was where messages were sent from the docks on the Douro River to the Porto Commercial Association about imports and exports.

Also, you’ll pass by the Gustave Eiffel Cabinet. This is a tribute to the engineer who built the Eiffel Tower as he also designed and constructed the Maria Pia bridge. He used this room whilst working in Porto.

Former President Gallery Bolsa Palace

Presidents Room & Golden Room 

Next, you’ll stroll through the elaborate rooms of the President Room and Golden Room.

The President’s Room has gorgeous paintings from Marques de Oliveira that tell the story of Roman civilisation. 

The Golden Room is still used by the Board of Directors today who hold monthly meetings.

This was one of my favourite rooms as there was an incredible stucco ceiling and carved furniture by Marques da Silva.

Golden Room Palacio da Bolsa
Golden Room
President Room
The adjoining President’s Room

General Assembly Room 

The General Assembly Room is where the Porto Commercial Association hold two annual assemblies.

It’s a dark room with carved booths, furniture and a coat of arms that was created by Tomás Soller in 1879. 

The huge chandelier at the centre weighs one ton. This made me just a little bit nervous about walking under it on my way through. 

Although the entire room looks like it’s been carved out of wood, you may be surprised that this is an illusion. The room is made from plaster and has been given a wood-grain effect.

Palacio da Bolsa General Assembly Room
Palacio da Bolsa General Assembly Room

Portrait Room 

The Portrait Room is decorated in a Parisian style reminiscent of Louis XVI with its dark pink walls and gold details.

This room honours the last six kings of the Bragança dynasty or the Most Serene House of Braganza. 

Manuel II, or Manuel the Patriot, was the last King of Portugal who ruled until 1910 when the country converted into a republic. 

This room is also a tribute to Dona Maria II as she donated the ruins of the Sao Francisco convent for the construction of the Bolsa Palace.

Palacio da Bolsa Portrait Room House of Braganza

Arabian Room 

They really save the best room until last at Palacio da Bolsa and you’ll finish your tour in the majestic Arabian Room constructed by Gustavo Adolfo Gonçalves de Sousa.

As soon as you walk inside, you’ll gasp at the opulence and there will be all sorts of ‘oooh’s’ and ‘aaah’s’ from your group!

I was in awe of this room and I mean truly awe-struck. No photos can really do this elaborate space justice and nothing compares to stepping in here for the first time and seeing it for yourself.

The design was based on the Alhambra Palace in Granada and so it has a Moorish influence with grand gold details and Arabic text on the walls that reference the Qur’an. 

There are also grand archways, stained glass windows and teardrop lanterns that hang from the ceiling.

Bolsa Palace Arabian Room
Palacio da Bolsa Arabian Room

Strangely enough, the windows in this room don’t let in natural light. There are built-in lamps behind the windows to make it appear like it’s sunny even on a rainy day! So, the gold always shimmers.

The room was purposefully built non-symmetrical on the orders of Dona Maria II as only the creator, whether that be God or Allah, is truly perfect. 

It was designed to impress visitors and this was where many important business deals were made.

It has excellent acoustics and so there are many music concerts and performances that take place here throughout the year.  

Did you know? You can get married, have a party or hold an event here. The minimum cost is around €6,000 though! A girl can dream. 

Arabian Room Palacio da Bolsa
Arabian Room Palacio da Bolsa

How long is the tour of Palacio da Bolsa?

The tours of Palacio da Bolsa take around 30 minutes but our tour went over to around 40 minutes.

You’ll have the opportunity to explore the grand Noble Staircase after your tour and I would definitely leave time for that as it’s a great photo opportunity.

Booking your guided tour is what will probably take the most time. As you can only buy tickets in person, there are often long queues outside the building. 

Tours have a tendency to sell out for the day after lunch, especially in peak season. So, I would arrive in the morning to book a tour and guarantee your visit.

Noble Staircase Bolsa Palace

Is Palacio da Bolsa worth it?

100% yes! This was one of the highlights of my trip to Porto and is one of the prettiest buildings I have ever visited. 

Yes, you do have to visit on a guided tour but this means that there is a limit to the number of tourists you’ll be visiting with. 

So, it’s nice and relaxed inside and you can spread out. I would hang back a little if you wanted to take empty photos. 

The Arabian Room was worth the price of the tour alone. This room is truly breathtaking. It’s unforgettable and no photos or videos can really do it justice! You have to see it with your own eyes. 

Don’t skip a visit to Palacio do Bolsa in Porto, it’s a beautiful building that you won’t forget in a hurry. 

Palacio da Bolsa Grand Staircase

My top tips for visiting Bolsa Palace

  • Arrive early – at the time in writing, you can only book guided tours in person. You used to be able to book tickets on GetYourGuide but this is no longer possible. I would get there early to book a tour in your desired language. These can sell out early in the day in summer.
  • Photos are allowed – you can take photos and videos throughout your tour just don’t use flash. I was even allowed to use my tripod on the Noble Staircase without any issues. At the end of the tour, you’re allowed to take photos of the famous pink staircase at leisure!
Portrait Room Palacio da Bolsa
  • Hold back if you want photos – I found it hard to keep up with my guide due to the number of people in the rooms. I wanted to take photos but I had to do this by stepping back from the commentary a bit. I still got to hear most things but it was a struggle.
  • Allow an hour – the guided tours are 30 minutes but tend to run over. Plus, you need to be at your tour around 10 minutes beforehand and there’s the staircase and shop to browse after the tour. I’d leave an hour to visit to make sure you’re not rushing. 
  • Toilets – there are several toilets on the tour you can use. They are located at the top of the Noble Staircase during your tour and at the bottom after your tour has finished. Fair warning, they were very narrow!
Bolsa Palace Porto

Looking for more things to do in Porto? 

Porto is a wonderful city that has a charm like no other. As you’re in the historical centre, there are many more incredible places to check out. 

Just next door, you can head into the famous St Francis Church. It’s known as the gold church as over 300 kilograms of gold was used to decorate the interiors.

Although photos aren’t allowed it was one of the most beautiful churches I’ve seen. Your visit includes the crypt, ossuary and palace museum too. 

Nearby, you can head down to the Douro River and stroll along the vibrant and lively Cais de Ribeira. 

Why not head over to Gaia and sample Port wine and codfish cakes or take a scenic Six Bridges River Cruise?

If you want to see some of the beautiful blue and Azulejo tiles, I would recommend São Bento Station, Ingreja do Carmo, Chapel of Souls, Sao Bento Station and Church of Saint Ildefonso.

Sé Porto Cathedral
Sé de Porto
Ingreja do Carmo Porto
Ingreja do Carmo

Porto Cathedral and its Gothic cloisters are also worth seeing and the staircase of Bishop’s Palace next door was spectacular.

You must visit the magical bookshop Livraria Lello which looks like something from Harry Potter and have coffee at the renowned Café Majestic. 

There are plenty of Miradouros (viewpoints) surrounding the iconic Luis I bridge. Jardim de Morro was a personal favourite.

Plus, you can visit the many gardens dotted around the city like Jardins do Palácio de Cristal and the secret Torre.

Dom Luis I bridge Porto
Luis I Bridge
Livraria Lello Porto
Livraria Lello

Where to stay in Porto

There are many amazing places to stay in Porto but if you want to stay somewhere really special I would recommend the majestic Palácio do Freixo.

It’s an 18th-century Baroque palace that has been restored and is now a luxurious 5-star property on the Douro River.

It has sumptuous interiors and a fine-dining restaurant to enjoy as well as fabulous planned grounds to explore.

It’s a little far from the centre of the city but they have shuttle buses that can take you to the historic centre daily. I loved my stay here and would go back in a heartbeat!

Click here to book your stay at Pestana Palacio do Freixo

Pestana Palacio de Freixo
Pestana Palacio do Freixo

Read more of my Portugal travel guides

How to visit the magical Livraria Lello Bookstore

Was Harry Potter written in Café Majestic?

Livraria Ler Devagar – visit LX Factory’s magical bookshop 

Livraria Bertrand – the oldest bookshop in the world

Why you must visit Café A Brasileira do Chiado in Lisbon

The very best things to do in Sintra

Why you shouldn’t skip Monserrate Palace in Sintra

The mysterious Initiation Well in Quinta de Regaleira

Save Palacio da Bolsa Porto for later! 

How to visit Palacio da Bolsa Porto

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