I might not have been able to see any football on my summer holiday but you can bet that I wasn’t going to let the opportunity for some football tourism go begging.
Porto is a brilliant city, beautiful architecture, the trademark Portuguese azulejos (blue and white tiles) are everywhere, it’s cheaper than most major cities on the Iberian peninsula and of course, it has a top-class football team with a state-of-the-art stadium.
I’ve already covered my experience of watching FC Porto in the Estadio do Dragão, so it’s time to focus on the other things to do at the stadium.
I first took the museum and stadium tour in 2014 and if I’m honest, it has changed very little in the meantime, but it’s still definitely worth a look!
There really shouldn’t be a problem with this since four of the city’s six Metro lines either pass through (Line F) or finish (Lines A, B and E) at the stadium station.
It is located on the edge of the city, but the journey from the city centre (Trindade/Bolhão) shouldn’t take much more than 10 minutes. While I was there I spent a lot of time waiting on the platforms, but I’m attributing that to a combination of a summer schedule, the fact it was a weekend and the lingering effects of the pandemic, all of which cause fewer trains to be in operation.
The price for the combined museum and stadium tour is €15 – they are always sold together except under two circumstances
1) Porto are playing at home on that day
2) You are a socio of the club
In both cases, the museum visit can be purchased separately for €13.
Due to the compressed time period of my visit, I had to skip the stadium tour (I saw it in 2014 anyway) and focus solely on the museum, which is what I really wanted to do.
If I should happen to be back in Porto any time in the next 12 months, the stadium tour ticket will still be valid, so there’s always that.
For €3 extra you can use the museum and stadium tour app to guide you around. It is activated by a code and gives a bit of extra information about the exhibits as well as additional multimedia content including 360° panoramic photos.
It stays active for 24 hours afterwards so you can relive sections of the tour after your visit is complete.
Now it’s time to start the tour!
One of the best things about Porto’s museum is the large number of creepy plastic statues of club legends that you can see.
You first see these after you buy your ticket to go in and they create quite the impression.
First to greet you is Andre Villas Boas, winner of the UEFA Cup in 2011. Then the scowling face of José Mourinho, the self-proclaimed “Special One” who built his legend on winning the UEFA Cup and Champions League in successive years and then Sir Bobby Robson, a mentor to both men and a two-time league champion as Porto manager.
There are others, including some from the club’s other sporting sections (which have their own dedicated section inside) before you scan your ticket and enter the museum proper.
City and Club
This first section mostly concerns the foundation of the club, its early years and the development of its iconography.
For example, did you know that the club chose blue and white as its colours because they were the colours of the Portuguese flag at the time? (The modern red and green design was not adopted until a year after the overthrow of the monarchy in 1910).
The club’s founders wanted them to appeal to people across the whole country and not just the city of Porto and so adopted the blue and white of the Portuguese flag rather than the green and white of the city’s flag.
The evolution of the club crest is also explained, going from a blue ball with FCP on it, to including the symbols of the city of Porto itself.
It features the city coat of arms, topped by a crown, representing the fact the second son of the Portuguese King held the title of Duke of Porto, a fire-breathing dragon, from which the club took the Dragōes nickname and a red banner bearing the word Invicta (Invincible) which commemorates the city’s resistance during the 1832-1883 siege, a vital encounter during the Portuguese Civil War (also known as the Liberal Wars) of 1828 to 1834.
There’s also a video telling the story of the club’s early days and a booth where you can listen to the various versions of the club’s anthem.
Porto are immensely proud of their record in international competitions – no Portuguese club has been as successful on the European and World stage as they have.
So naturally they have devoted a large section of the museum to that.
Arch-rivals Benfica may have been the Portuguese trailblazers in the early days of the European Cup, but since the curse of Guttman hit, they have lost five European finals without ever winning one.
Porto, meanwhile, have won two European Cups, the UEFA Cup/Europa League twice, two Intercontinental Cups (including the last one in 2004 before it was replaced by FIFA’s Club World Cup) and a European Super Cup.
There are individual booths for each of the finals including information on the game on one side and memorabilia, shirts, programmes, medals, pennants and tickets on the other.
Above, there is a video screen playing highlights from the game on a loop.
The level of detail is seriously impressive and it’s worth your while taking time to look through everything that has been set out.
The Greatest Team
Upstairs from the main trophy section is this exhibit paying tribute to Porto’s greatest XI, voted for by the club’s fans on Facebook several years ago. And yes, more creepy plastic statues!
Personally I think Hulk’s is the best – capturing him performing a trademark celebration.
All eleven players also have an interactive screen beside them, which plays videos of some of their best moments in a Porto shirt as well as giving their stats.
Some of the best players who didn’t make the cut are featured downstairs on and around a club bus decorated with the dates and cities their international trophies were won in.
There is a room devoted to the places where Porto have played through the years.
The Estadio do Dragão is in fact their fourth home ground, being built for Euro 2004 and opened at the start of the 2003/04 season.
It replaced the Estadio das Antas, which had been the club’s home for over 50 years.
The Campo da Constituição (still owned by the club and mostly used as a youth team stadium called Vitalis Park) and Campo da Rainha are also given plenty of attention.
There are scale models and plenty of information on the walls around them. With the Estadio do Dragão model, there is also a ticket from the opening game of Euro 2004 (not the happiest memory for Portuguese fans) and a smaller replica of the tile mosaic from the stadium which was unveiled at the ground’s official opening, a 2-0 win over a Barcelona side featuring, for the very first time, a young Argentine forward called Lionel Messi. Wonder what happened to him?
The Dressing Room
Unlike in many stadium tours, at the Estadio do Dragão, you are not able to take a look inside the home dressing room.
The inner sanctum where Mourinho, Villas Boas and current coach Sergio Conceição have inspired their players to victory is considered off-limits to visitors.
As such, the closest you can get is this replica in the museum where a number of shirts from successful seasons are displayed.
Also included are more statues, this time of a player sitting receiving instructions from his coach.
It’s also a nice way to see how Porto’s kit has evolved over time and how they have mostly remained faithful to the classic striped design.
In the News
This section features lots of newspaper and magazine covers featuring Porto’s greatest triumphs. Again this is something you could spend ages poring over. There’s just so much detail on display.
Around the corner is a section devoted to how TV and radio covered these games. I learned from this that colour television only arrived in Portuguese households in 1980!
Just before you leave the museum, you can relive two of the most iconic moments in the history of the club.
First, one more recent one…
In the 2012/13 season, Porto traded places at the top with Benfica for most of the campaign but fell behind on matchday 21 and were still trailing by two points when the Lisbon club visited the Estadio do Dragão in the penultimate game of the season.
The game was level at 1-1 going into injury time when Liedson played teenage substitute Kelvin through and although the angle was against him, he somehow curled the call beyond the reach of Benfica goalkeeper Artur.
The moment is replayed over and over again on a video screen in this corner of the museum. Porto went on to clinch the title the following week ensuring Kelvin, despite never hitting these heights again, will always be remembered in Porto.
Now onto perhaps the most famous goal in the history of FC Porto…
In 1987, Porto faced Bayern Munich in their first ever European Cup Final in Vienna.
Naturally they were massive underdogs, the German side had won the European Cup three times before, whereas Porto’s experience in European finals only extended to a Cup Winners’ Cup defeat to Juventus in 1984.
Bayern were naturally huge favourites and looked set to live up to that tag as they dominated the first half, but only had one goal to show for their superiority. Porto switched things up at half time, Artur Jorge introducing Juary to give Paulo Futre some support up front and the change worked, Porto now looked the more dynamic side, but Bayern were content to soak up the pressure and see the game out.
Rabah Madjer had other ideas. The Algerian midfielder had made a run into the box but the expected cross was deflected away from him by a defender. With his back to goal and no support arriving, he took a chance and with the slightest of glances over his shoulder, backheeled the ball into the net, surely one of the most audacious goals ever scored in a European Cup Final!
After that, Bayern crumbled and within a few minutes Madjer set up Juary for the goal which brought Porto their first European trophy.
Madjer’s impudent flick is immortalised with yet another statue, this time in front of an empty net
Rating the Experience
If you’re visiting Porto it’s well worth your time taking a trip out to the Estadio do Dragão to see the stadium and museum, even if there isn’t a game on.
It’s up there with the best football club museums I’ve been to in Spain and Portugal and the sheer number of video presentations, interactive screens and memorabilia to look at means you could easily use up a whole morning or afternoon in there!
The experience wasn’t disrupted too much by Covid-19 restrictions. The only real changes I noticed compared to my previous visit were the obligatory hand sanitiser as I went in, plastic gloves being required to use the interactive screens and the normal exit to the club shop being closed due to capacity restrictions.