The second largest city in Portugal, Porto lies at the estuary of the Douro River in the north of the country. Most people are probably familiar with the name, associating it with the tasty Port wine and FC Porto, one of the most successful football clubs in Portugal. While both of these associations are correct, there are many other things worth knowing about Porto. Porto played a key role in the shaping of modern Portugal. It gave shape to Portucale, which later became the Kingdom of Portugal after the defeat of the Moors. It was also the starting point of many naval expeditions that led to the exploration of the coast of Africa and served as an impetus for further discoveries that took the Portuguese as far as India and Japan.
Porto European Capital of Culture
Porto is a bustling industrial metropolis that rivals Lisbon both economically and culturally. In 2001, Porto was named “European Capital of Culture”. It is the home of many contemporary museums and galleries, including the Art Deco building of the Serralves Foundation with its splendid gardens and the ultramodern Casa da Música.
The city center has been proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site and boasts amazing examples of Gothic, Baroque, Neoclassical, Roman and Renaissance architecture. The fact that the center of the city was built into the cliffs of the Douro estuary gives it a recognizable charm. The twelfth-century Porto Cathedral is the city’s oldest building and represents one of its architectural landmarks, together with the remains of the city walls and a few other churches and fifteenth-century houses. The São Bento train station is also one of the city’s monuments with its painted tiles, which number over 20,000.
Best time to Visit Porto
Porto is best to visit in early spring and summer. February is also particularly pleasant because of the blossoming trees on the city’s streets. Winds from the sea in the summer months ensure that the temperature remains comfortable. Late summer, however, is the time of the rainy season in northern Portugal, so make sure to check the weather forecasts well in advance.
Porto Tourist Info
Like Lisbon, Porto is a great city to explore on foot, wandering through the little streets and allowing yourself to be surprised. It is very hilly and has many stairs cut into the cliffs, so be prepared for quite a lot of climbing. The waterfront, or Ribeira, is very popular with tourists, due to its bars and quality restaurants serving seafood. One can still find the traditional rabelo boats along the river, which were once used to transport wine casks down the Douro. Today, they have a purely touristic purpose and greatly contribute to the city’s allure. Porto has six bridges and is often referred to as the “City of the Bridges”, one of which is the metallic Dom Luís the First Bridge designed by a disciple of Gustave Eiffel.
Porto is a city that one should take time to get to know. There are numerous narrow streets that take the form of labyrinths and hide many unique and interesting restaurants, bars, bookshops, and galleries. It is also a very proud city with open and warm people who are willing to help you find your way to wherever you need to go or even suggest something that they think you might particularly like. Unlike Lisbon, Porto is not teeming with tourists throughout the year due to its slightly colder climate and this gives it a more authentic feeling. Be ready to explore and discover a historical city that has successfully combined modern urban development with centuries-old traditions.