On the hills of the Atlantic coast lies one of the most ancient cities in Europe — Porto. The stunningly beautiful old capital of Portugal seems to be floating out of the water. Ancient houses built into the rocks, colorful medieval buildings, narrow cobblestone streets, and stone stairs — all this creates a fabulous atmosphere of the Middle Ages. Amazingly, the spirit of antiquity in the city is combined with modern buildings, numerous nightclubs, and entertainment venues. Such a variety of historical monuments and lots of entertainment made Porto incredibly attractive for travelers.
Districts of Porto
The city consists of 15 neighborhoods, which are part of the Porto District. The following tourist areas are considered the most popular with travelers:
- Ribeira. It is the ancient heart of Porto, which reveals to visitors the charm of the medieval settlement. Narrow cobblestone streets, houses decorated with blue and white azulejo tiles, a fountain decorated with the country's coat of arms — the spirit of fascinating antiquity hangs here.
- Cordoaria. There's a lush park in this part of town, where it's nice to sit down after seeing the magnificent buildings in the Classical style.
- Foz do Douro. It is an area of beautiful beaches and a comfortable promenade.
- Vila Nova de Gaia. This part of the city is dedicated to wine. There is a Port Museum, Wine Merchants Club, and ancient wine cellars.
- Boavista. This is a gastronomic paradise of Porto, with a multitude of restaurants of the signature cuisine. There is also a museum of modern art, shops with designer products, and the House of Music.
The city, growing out of the rock, has many unique places for visitors: ancient houses, majestic temples, futuristic modern buildings, fascinating museums, and lush parks. Try not to miss any of the important sights by planning your itinerary in advance.
At the beginning of the VIII century, the Moors took over Porto. For almost 400 years, the Portuguese got control of the city, and then it returned to the Moors. It was not until 1092 that Porto was finally liberated from the invaders. It was a part of Portucale, which in 1096 began the history of the independent state of Portugal.
In the first half of the XIV century, the city became an important European trade route. It grew rapidly, attracting enemies and robbers with its wealth. So it became necessary to build a new city wall, which was completed in 1370. At that time, King Ferdinand ruled, thanks to which the wall was named Fernandina.
The XIV-XV centuries were a period of prosperity for the city. New roads were built, and squares were expanded. Trade and crafts were actively developing.
After signing a trade treaty between Portugal and England in 1703, the city received preferential import tariffs for its port wine. Branches of English trading offices opened in Porto, and port wine conquered neighboring countries.
At the beginning of the XIX century, the French troops occupied the city for a short time. But soon, the British army liberated Porto. Then the city experienced several revolutions and coups d'état.
Today, Porto is listed as the European Capital of Culture, and UNESCO protects its historic districts.
Porto has experienced many periods of joy and sorrow, which have left their mark on its amazing architecture and added a special charm to the atmosphere of the modern city.
The best time to visit Porto
If you want to see the legendary feast of St. John the Baptist, come to the city on June 23. It is similar to Slavic Kupala Night. The festival begins in the late evening and lasts all night. The city turns into a noisy fair with songs and jokes and young people jumping over the bonfire. An interesting holiday tradition is to bless everyone you meet with good luck by hitting them on the head with toy hammers.
Many tourists come to Porto for the colorful festival of the Great Fountain, held every year on May 1. All the houses and fishing boats are decorated with bright wreaths of fresh flowers. There are concerts, dances, and fairs in the city.
Public transport in the city is the subway, bus, and streetcar. Buses are frequent and cost €2. If you plan to take a lot of buses, you should buy an Andante card. All three streetcar lines go through the city center and cost €2.50. Streetcars run exactly every 30 minutes. The Andante card is the means of payment for metro travel. The cost is €0.6, and you can load the card with the number of rides you want. The ANDANTE Blue card is available for the subway and buses.
You can eat in the city not only in expensive restaurants but also in cafes with quite democratic prices. An inexpensive lunch for one in a budget cafe costs €7. You can eat at McDonald's, where the average set will cost about €6. If you want to sit in a respectable restaurant, the dinner for two with a drink will cost about €34.
The best way to get from the airport to the city is to take the subway, located near the airport's exit. The journey takes only 30 minutes. You can also get into town by bus. Routes 601, 602, and 604 run from the airport. If you decide to take a cab from the airport, the trip will cost €20 or more.
Things to do in Porto
You can walk through the city's streets endlessly, admiring the authentic architecture and the unique atmosphere of antiquity. It is necessary to walk through the popular tourist sites to feel all the charm and uniqueness of one of the cultural capitals of Europe.
- Stroll through the main attraction of the city, the Ribeira neighborhood. Colorful, overhanging little houses give the impression of bird nests. Explore their amazing shapes and facades lined with azulejo tiles. Follow the narrow streets and stone stairs down to the Cais da Ribeira promenade with its many cafés and leather and ceramic shops.
- Stroll along the magnificent Liberty Square. It is surrounded by beautiful art nouveau buildings from the XIX-XX centuries. The magnificent monument to King Pedro IV, who gave the country its first constitution, is on the square. On the other side of the square is the elegant XVIII century Cardosas Palace.
- Marvel at the fantastic shapes of the House of Music. One of the symbols of the city is a large truncated cube. The building combines two styles — art nouveau and deconstructivism. There are two large concert halls and several smaller ones for chamber performances. If you can not attend a concert at the House of Music, just walk up to its walls. You can see and hear everything that's going on inside through the large windows.
- Admire the majestic churches of Camo and Carmelitas. At first glance, it seems that it is one temple. But in fact, there are two churches next to each other, separated by the narrowest house in the world, which is only 1 m wide. The Carmelitas Church was built in the Classical style, and the Kamo Church in the Rococo and Baroque styles. Note the pattern of blue azulejo tiles decorating the facade of the buildings.
- Explore the fascinating exhibits at the Serralves Museum. Even the Museum of Modern Art building itself impresses with its sophistication. It is made in the style of minimalism in soft pink color. The museum presents unique collections of Portuguese and European masters. The building is surrounded by a magnificent park, which itself is considered an example of landscape art.
- Check out one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, Livraria Lello. Harry Potter fans will definitely recognize its interior, which became the Hogwarts library's prototype in Joanne Rowling's work. The building's neo-Gothic style is complemented by intricate carvings, sumptuous decor, and a stained-glass ceiling. The main interior element is the curved red staircase, which is called the trademark of Livraria Lello.
- Relax in the silence of the city park, a favorite stroll spot of the citizens. The park spreads over 83 hectares and offers its guests various landscaped areas, shady paths, and clear lakes. You can combine your walks with a beach holiday. One side of it rests on the waterfront of the Atlantic Ocean.
- Go up to the Don Luis railway bridge and admire the panorama of the city. The openwork design of the bridge seems to hang over the river, giving the impression of lightness and weightlessness. The bridge offers a beautiful view of the city and its surroundings.
- Taste the real port wine in its homeland, in the Vila Nova de Gaia neighborhood. It is a small town that is considered a suburb of Porto. It is home to the cellars and productions of the world-famous wine companies. The Vila Nova de Gaia vineyards in the Douro River Valley are home to the most suitable grape varieties for port wine. Tastings are free in many cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia, while others offer good wine at reasonable prices.
- Experience the local flavor in the markets of the city. Here you can buy not only fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, local sweets, spices but also original souvenirs, leather goods, and ceramics.
- Try delicious and hearty dishes of national cuisine. Order a Portuguese steak, the meat for which is marinated in wine. You can try açorda (bread-based soup with many additives), feijoada (a dish of sausages, dried meat, beef giblets, black beans, and spices). For dessert, have the pastel de nata (cookies made of puff pastry with cream) or almond cookies with sour cream.