While Portus Cale (the Romans’ “sheltered port”) has a long history, modern PORTO largely eschews its distant past and presents itself to visitors as a busy commercial city rather than a prettified tourist destination. If that puts you off, it shouldn’t, because commerce is written into Porto’s DNA, from the great trading river at the heart of the city to the Baroque churches and Neoclassical buildings funded by merchants who made good. If it’s never quite what you’d call gentrified – especially in the old riverside back-alleys – modern Porto does at least look better now than it has done for decades. Since 2001, when it was declared European City of Culture, many of the 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.

Once you’ve scooted around the commercial centre and seen the cathedral, the only two essential cultural attractions are the applied-art collections of the Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis and the world-class Fundação Serralves museum of contemporary art. Otherwise, tourism in Porto generally consists of lounging at a dockside café, enjoying a cruise on the Douro, swigging port across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia or taking the antique tram out to the local beach at Foz do Douro, at the mouth of the Rio Douro.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Portugal features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

An expert's guide: the best area to stay in Lisbon

An expert's guide: the best area to stay in Lisbon

Heading to the Portuguese capital this year? Lisbon’s accommodation scene has exploded in recent years, so there is no shortage of places to stay, from histor…

14 Mar 2017 • Matthew Hancock insert_drive_file Article
Portugal travel tips: 10 things you need to know before you go

Portugal travel tips: 10 things you need to know before you go

With its stunning beaches, friendly people, unspoilt countryside and tasty local cuisine, Portugal is, unsurprisingly, one of Europe's most popular travel des…

01 Feb 2017 • Matthew Hancock insert_drive_file Article
The 10 best beaches in Portugal

The 10 best beaches in Portugal

For many travellers, Portugal is synonymous with images of golden sun-baked beaches. And with a generous 1700 kilometres of coastline, there’s enough sand for…

20 Jan 2017 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month