Lovely City in the North of Portugal
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Porto was the cultural capital of Europe in 2001 and has been a popular city trip ever since. The city is located in the north of Portugal on the Douro River. The city has its own vibrant culture, with great food and a pleasant climate. What else do you want?
The city of Porto is a very good choice for your vacation. The narrow streets, old facades and local markets will give you the feeling that time has stood still. It is a wonderful city for shopping and enjoying good food and drinks. These are the best highlights of Porto. You can also find information for tours and excursions.
Ribeira is the oldest district of Porto. Also home to the harbour where many port boats still dock daily on their way to and from Vila Nova de Gaia. This entire district is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
You can wander around during the day, but don't forget to visit in the evening as well. Enjoy the vibes of this part of town, go eat at one of the restaurants or have a drink in the various bars.
Livraria Lello, or the Lello Bookstore, is one of the oldest bookshops in Portugal. The store dates back to 1906. Lello, as it is often called, is best known for its circular staircase and interior, which houses over 120,000 books. In 1995 the store was completely renovated. This store is a must-see during your visit to Porto. Please note that you have to book a visit and pay for admission in advance. Your entrance fee will be returned once you buy a book instore.
The grapes for the port wine grow in the famous Douro Valley. But the aging of the wine takes place in the city. Particularly in the many wineries in Gaia, across the Douro River.
You can visit many wineries and try the port wine. If port wine is not your favourite, you can also taste other wines from the Douro Valley. Try some white and red wines for a reasonable price.
The Porto Cathedral is officially called Sé do Porto and is often affectionately referred to as 'Sé'. Dating back to the 12th century, it was once a symbol of Catholic resistance against the Muslim Moors. You can visit the cathedral, which is definitely worth it.
The Igreja de São Francisco is absolutely a must visit. The church is the most elaborately decorated church in Porto. The Baroque interior consists mainly of carvings and gold leaf.
The story goes that the Franciscans closed the church for services for some miraculous reason. However, the true reason was that it did not fit well with their austere life as the church was so richly decorated…
The São Bento train station is the city's largest station. It is world famous for the many tableaux of azulejos. Azulejos are painted tiles, which have been very popular in the city since the 15th century. The walls of the train station are decorated with numerous scenes, including the history of transport and important events in Portuguese history. Take your time to have a closer look. The best time to visit is early in the day.
Just outside Porto, also on the River Douro, is the town of Vila Nova de Gaia. This is the city of origin of the famous port wines. You can easily walk around and taste some port.
You often see tapas on the menu in Porto, but they are actually petiscos. The reason you see tapas on the menu is because everyone knows the name of the small snacks from Spain. Fortunately, you see more and more petiscos appearing on the menus.
Petiscos might look similar as tapas, but they are not. Tapas are small snacks, usually served on bread. Petiscos are officially small versions of complete meals. The idea is that you can taste more dishes this way.
If you see petiscos on the menu, do not expect a lot of snacks with bread. Most of the dishes are actually served hot. For example, Bacalhau do Porto, or cod with olives. There's only one way to find out: Just order and taste. I like petiscos just as much as tapas.
The Francesinha is a bread that originates from Porto. It is famous all over Portugal, but connoisseurs say you should only eat it in Porto. But beware, this is a heavy meal. Just look at the ingredients: You start with thick slices of bread that are topped with steak, ham, and at least two types of sausage. Slices of cheese are draped over it. This is followed by a fried egg and finally the sandwich is topped with sauce. Oh, and it's served with a huge plate of fries.
The last couple of years, Porto has become very popular with tourists. As a result, it can get very busy in the summer. Although you can quite easily escape the center. For instance to eat and drink in the outskirts of Porto. It's also fun to watch the life of the locals.
According to many travellers, Porto is even more fun than the capital Lisbon. In my opinion you should see both cities and judge for yourself.