The second biggest city in Portugal, Porto emanates romance from within and all around.
It’s a dreamy splash of colors adorned by ancient relics, indulgent baroque churches, sky-high bell towers, and stylish beaux-arts structures that compete with one another for space and the illumination offered by the bright sunshine. You may even be able to see the many winding lanes, open windows, and narrow staircases that zigzag to nowhere!
Ribeira district, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is in the historic center of Porto and is where the locals, referred to as tripeiros, gather to relax and mingle. Village-designed plazas, storefronts, old shops hiding Roman ruins under the foundations, and other attractions embellish this serene place. You may, however, be disappointed to see several early twentieth century houses in a decrepit, crumbling state in several areas of the city center; the young and wealthy have left these houses for a better life in the affluent suburbs located near the sea.
The Current Renaissance
Despite the obvious state of decay, Porto over the last few decades has seen lots of advancement, which reflects in its many attractions such the luxury of Museu de Arte Contemporânea, the efficient metro rail system, and the Casa da Música. The commencement of low-price airlines has also resulted in Porto becoming a tourist hotspot as well as a weekend getaway for many.
The city has many newly-built gourmet restaurants that cater to every kind of palate and offer delectable cuisines from all over the world. It’s also a great place to party and revel in the tunes of jazz, rock, and electronica music as well as live music performed by globally known artists. Summer nights in Porto often feel like one big fete!
The city is known as the birthplace of the delectably rich port wine. There are many wine caves located near the riverside area of Vila Nova de Gaia, each offering grand tours and visits to the cellars for wine tastings.
Things That You Will Remember Forever!
The abundance of tradition and culture, as well as modern amenities, make Porto one of the best places to visit. Avid travelers are most likely to find the quieter moments in Porto to be most poignant and enjoyable.
Experiences that you will probably remember are the sounds of the Douro splashing against the docks; the waddle of feet on the cobblestone; the snapping of drying laundry lines against the river wind; the clicking of wine glasses under a moonlit sky; and views of young lovers whispering sweet nothings below a bridge; or in the hidden crevices of a dilapidated wall full of graffiti.
Although not by any means an exhaustive list, a few of Porto’s popular attractions are:
Mercado do Bolhão
A traditional marketplace where you can buy vegetables, fruits, fish, and an assortment of meats. This rundown yet majestic market is most characteristic of Porto. The place is divided into an outdoor and an indoor area and is full of elegant staircases, wrought iron structures, pointy domes, and walls with white tiles. A few good restaurants and ever-welcoming locals make this place a must visit.
Originally home to the Mercado Ferreira Borges market, the Hard Club is a steel and glass building that is home to art exhibitions, craft fairs, bookstores, patio, concert halls, restaurants, and bars. You can party all night long at the Hard Club on weekends!
Praça da Ribeira
A beautiful plaza located down by the river and accessed via winding streets; surrounding the square is a fantastic landscape consisting of tiled town lodges overlooking the serene expanse of the Rio Douro. A relaxing way to spend the afternoon while taking in the unique views of the double-decker, magnificent Ponte de Dom Luís I and the port wine houses situated across the river.
Sé and Igreja do Carmo
Journeying across stairways and through ancient alleys to reach the ancient fort-like Sé Catedral standing watch over the city from the hill top. It was built in the 13th century and comprehensively modified in the 18th century however the Romanesque features are still evident and visible.
The Igreja do Carmo was constructed in 1768 and is an extraordinary church covered in azulejo. It’s located next to the Cordoaria and is one of the finest examples of rococo architecture in Porto.
Tours of Porto
Go for a tour of the well-maintained treasures of Porto such as the port, beaches, castles, historical places and various monuments built in Gothic, Romanesque, Neoclassical, and Baroque styles. Must visit attractions include Clerigos, Real Companhia Velha Port Wine Cellars, Boavista, Palácio da Bolsa, Pátio das Nações, and Foz. A great and stress-free way to check out Porto’s attractions is the hop-on-hop-off bus tours that include the option of wine tasting and river cruises.