Porto enjoys a wonderfully scenic hilly location at the mouth of the River Douro on Portugal’s Atlantic coast, 274 kilometres north of the capital, Lisbon. Portugal’s second city – best known as the historic home of port wine – has plenty to interest the city break tourist.
There are no famous, must-see landmarks, but the city is a great place for wandering about, in particular exploring the pretty old town area of Ribeira with its characterful winding streets, beautiful plazas and houses with colourful tiled facades. It’s no surprise that this area has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. The Ribeira neighbourhood has a rather down-at-heel quayside area and streets with fascinating little shops which seem to have remained unchanged for years.
The old town is characterised by dozens of cafés, bars, and restaurants sheltered under medieval arches, making it the most popular district in the city for eating and drinking.
Porto is in fact made up of two cities, separated by the River Douro, Gaia is where the original port families stored and aged their wine. This area is still dominated by their lodges, each emblazoned with a different family’s name. Here you can while away an hour or two enjoying a free tour of the cellars and tasting different types of port.
Suggested things to do in Porto:
– Explore the narrow streets of the old town, admiring the blue & white tiled facades.
– Climb the Torre dos Clérigos, an 18th-century bell tower with 225 steps.
– Take a tour of the Sé Cathedral, where João I of Portugal married Philippa of Lancaster.
– Enjoy a meal of steak or bacalhau, the local dried-cod speciality at one of the attractive restaurants near the waterfront.
– Take a trip of the River Douro – traditional barcos rabelos shuttle tourists along the Douro from the Ribeira quayside.
– Explore the Fundação de Serralves, an Art Deco complex set in magnificent grounds, which exhibits the works of contemporary Portuguese
painters, designers and sculptors.
For a longer holiday, a great idea is to combine Porto with Lisbon, travelling by train between the cities. Another very appealing option is to create a triple centre holiday by adding Faro, on Portugal’s Algarve, to make a fascinating and exciting trio of cities.