Follow Rua Dom Manuel II for 100m or so past the Soares dos Reis museum and you reach the Jardim do Palácio de Cristal (daily: April–Sept 8am– 9pm, Oct–March 8am–7pm; free), Porto’s finest central park, dominated by a huge domed pavilion built in 1956 to replace the original 1860s iron-and-glass “Crystal Palace”.
The pavilion hosts all sorts of concerts and events, and there’s a popular open-air self-service café by the lake, but it’s the surrounding gardens that are the real draw – partly formal, partly wooded, with an avenue of lime trees and lovely river views from high vantage points on the south side. The municipal library is sited near the main entrance, while other buildings, galleries and pavilions host exhibitions, workshops, summer concerts and children’s activities.
The west side of the gardens adjoin the grounds of two neighbouring quintas – there’s also access from the cobbled Rua de Entre Quintas, which is a left turn off Rua Dom Manuel II, past the park entrance. There are attractive shaded botanical gardens at Casa Tait, Rua de Entre Quintas 219 (Tues–Fri 10am– 12.30pm & 2–5.30pm, Sat & Sun 2.30–6pm; free), while the house itself contains the city’s numismatic museum.
More often visited is the adjacent Quinta da Macieirinha, a stately nineteenth-century house that contains both the Museu Romântico (Tues–Sat 10am–12.30pm & 2–5.30pm, Sun 2– 5.30pm; e2) – dedicated to Carlos Alberto, exiled King of Piedmont and Sardinia, who died here in 1849 – and the famed Solar do Vinho do Porto (Mon–Sat 2pm–midnight; Wwww.ivp.pt). The headquarters of the Port Wine Institute provide elegant surroundings in which to sample port wine – there are scores available by the glass – and on a sunny day there’s no nicer place to call a halt than the terrace overlooking Gaia and the river.