"A Wonderful Port" Porto by SonOfLusus
Porto Travel Guide: 1,048 reviews and 2,787 photos
Porto is often described as an industrial, dark, cold city and while that may have also been my first impression, I eventually found it to be a very pleasant and charismatic city with a magnificent setting by the Douro River. Most of the historical buildings in the center are imposing Baroque structures from the 18th and 19th centuries, and many of the shops maintain charming turn-of-the-century art nouveau façades. In many ways it looks stuck in Dickensian times (even more so when looking across the river and seeing all the English names of the companies that make and export the world-famous Port Wine), although new stunning modern buildings such as the Serralves Museum and Casa da Musica have brought it a new energy as it tries to rival Lisbon as Portugal's cultural capital.
But its biggest pleasures remain soaking up its old world atmosphere in the Ribeira district or across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia, watching the rabelo boats go by or sitting in the wonderful belle epoque coffeehouse Café Majestic after having admired the ornate interiors of its monuments, especially São Francisco Church and Palacio da Bolsa. Sample more than the wine, and this city will grow on you.
For more information on Porto see Porto (Oporto) Tourist Sights and Hotels Guide
1. Starting a tour of the city right in its center, at the monumental Avenida dos Aliados, turning towards the landmark Clerigos Tower for bird's-eye city views.
2. Crossing Dom Luis Bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia for the magical views of the city and rabelo boats.
3. Sampling Port at one of the several lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia as you learn about the history and process of making this internationally famous wine.
4. Admiring the striking ultra-modern architectural design of the new Casa da Musica and of the remarkable white building of the Serralves Museum, followed by a visit to its exhibitions of cutting-edge contemporary art and a stroll through its delightful park.
5. Visiting the incredible interior of São Francisco Church for its nearly 100kg of gold Baroque gilt decoration, and of the splendid Palacio da Bolsa, especially the stupendously intricate decoration of its Arabian Hall.
6. Walking from the austere but pleasing cathedral through the decaying yet colorful medieval district of Ribeira, ending with a meal at a riverfront restaurant as you soak up the atmosphere of the city's oldest and most alluring area.
7. Finding startlingly huge tile panels around the city in the façades of Carmo and Santo Ildefonso Churches and in the interior of São Bento Station.
8. Browsing through the art noveau shops such as the Lello & Irmão bookshop and taking a break at the turn-of-the-century Majestic Café.
9. Taking a cruise down the Douro River, passing through the city's impressive six bridges, including Gustav Eiffel's Dona Maria Bridge, all the way to the World Heritage Douro Valley.
10. Enjoying the magical setting of Porto in Vila Nova de Gaia's riverfront at the end of the day with the city's skyline rising from the river, while eating at one of the trendy new restaurants and bars.
- Pros:Pleasant atmosphere, postcard-perfect views, interesting architecture.
- Cons:Lots of noise and construction as the metro is expanded.
- In a nutshell:A rather unique Portuguese city that adds an extra flavor to the country--and not just because of the wine.
Porto's most famous attractions are its wine and its river (the bridges that cross it, the boats that sail it...). You... more travel advice
There is a number of good restaurants on both sides of the Douro. Across the river, by the Port Wine lodges and facing... more travel advice
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