As with Lisbon, it’s hard not to like PORTO. A large city, maybe, but it’s also a beguiling one, with a lengthy history – it was known in Roman times as Portus Cale (the “sheltered port”). However, there the comparison with the capital ends: as the saying goes: “Coimbra studies, Braga prays, Lisbon shows off and Porto works”. Rather than a prettified tourist destination, it’s a busy commercial city whose fascination lies more in its riverside setting and day-to-day life.

The prosperous business core is tempered by a kernel of cramped streets, ancient alleys and antiquated shops. But since 2001, when Porto was declared European City of Culture, many of the city’s streets and squares have been reconstructed and historic buildings restored, particularly in the riverside bairro of Ribeira – now a UNESCO World Heritage Site – where the waterfront cafés and restaurants are an obvious attraction. This apart, there is only a handful of true tourist sights in the city centre, including the  Baroque Clérigos tower, the cathedral, and a couple of good museums. The one must-see attraction, the contemporary art gallery and park at the Fundação de Serralves, is a short way out of the centre, and most visitors also choose to take the antique tram out to the local beach at Foz do Douro, at the mouth of the Rio Douro. Getting out on the Douro itself is a must too, and the various river cruises are the best way to see the city’s famous bridges – there are five more besides the landmark Ponte Dom Luís I, notably the Ponte do Infante, whose central 280-metre reinforced concrete arch is the world’s longest, and further east upriver, Gustave Eiffel’s iron railway bridge, Ponte Dona Maria Pia. For many, though, it is the port wine trade that defines the city, with its centre of operations at Vila Nova de Gaia (just Gaia to locals), on the south bank of the river, the home of the famous port wine lodges.

Read More
  • Fundação Serralves
  • Foz do Douro
  • Vila Nova de Gaia and the port wine lodges
  • Festa de São João
  • Porto’s festival calendar
  • Rio Douro river cruises
  • Accommodation
  • Cafés and restaurants
  • Bars, clubs and live music
  • Arts and culture
  • Shopping