The city of Oporto is located in the north of the country and is the second most important city in Portugal. The city of Porto is historically known as the Invicta City [Undefeated city], to it having successfully withstood the various sieges and conquests that history inflicted upon it. Porto is a city of strong identity, with a folk proud of their work values and tradition. In Porto you will find a remarkable authenticity – something that is hard to come by in major European cities.
Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the mouth of the river Douro, the third longest river in the Iberian Peninsula, the city of Porto is one of the oldest tourist destinations in Europe. Thanks to its excellent geographical location, its historic heritage and a variety of resources; in three words: Porto doth conquer.
A contemporary and cosmopolitan city, also very strongly marked by its monumental and artistic heritage, Porto has a diversified offer to all who visit. It is therefore no wonder that it charms by its Port Wine cellars, by its typical and characteristic neighbourhoods; for the many areas dedicated to culture and leisure, not to mention its cuisine, widely renowned throughout the world. All these attributes make the city of Porto also known for its hospitality.
RIO DOURO [THE RIVER DOURO]
The river Douro is born in Spain, more than two thousand metres in altitude and crosses the north of Portugal. The mouth of the Douro flows into the Atlantic Ocean, near the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. Its’ stretch of 927km make it the third longest river of the Iberian Peninsula – after the Tagus and Ebro. The river Douro runs through Spanish territory to an extension of 597 km; it borders along 122 km, with the last 208km flowing within Portugal.
It is from Vila Nova de Gaia, just across the river, less than 20 min walk from Casa dos Lóios that depart the cruise boats over the River Douro. The landscape of this tour is stunning and unique. Something not to be missed!
Porto’s traditional cuisine has a vast historical heritage, marked by the worldwide voyages of the Portuguese combined with a mixture of flavours, making it a traditional cuisine and at the same time, with a touch of spice and exotic products. Among the typical dishes we highlight the “Tripe” Porto style, a dish that gives name to the folk of Porto which are also commonly known as “tripeiros”, i.e.: those who eat tripe, the Francesinha, a sandwich made with a variety of meats (ham, chorizo, fresh sausage, etc.) between slices of bread, cheese on top and a special hot sauce, toasted in the oven, and cod D. Tonho style, among many others.
Port wine is a fortified wine made by adding a portion of wine spirit to the production process. It is considered by many as being the best fortified wine. During its preparation, the addition of wine spirit occurs prior to the wine finishing its fermentation, allowing for the retention of the natural sweetness of grapes, making it a rich wine and soft to the palate. The famous port wine cellars are a landmark of the region and can be visited throughout the year.
Although produced with grapes from the Douro region and stored in cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia, it became known as “Vinho do Porto” [Wine of Porto] from the second half of the seventeenth century due to its export from out of this city to the world.
Port Wine is also known for its different variety and offers a huge range of possibilities. Traditionally served as a digestive, at the end of meals with a typical Portuguese cheese; it can also be savoured as an aperitif, as is the case of White Port Wine.
THE HISTORIC CENTRE
The historic centre of Porto was ranked by UNESCO, in 1996, as World Cultural Heritage, known for its narrow roads, granite buildings and area of typical houses facing the river Douro, at Ribeira, near the D. Luis Bridge, built in 1881 and which separates the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia.
From the Avenida dos Aliados, very close to the Casa dos Lóios, take the opportunity to get to know the Bolhão Market and the Rua de Santa Catarina, a historic commercial city artery. Relatively close and there for the visit are the tiles of the São Bento train station and the Cathedral. And let yourself be enchanted by the most beautiful bookshop in the world – the Lello bookshop – described as “a pearl of Art Nouveau” by the traveller’s guide Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2011.
If you enjoy panoramic views, climb the Tower of Clerics and be dazzled by the city’s downtown area and Historic Centre. Take the opportunity of visiting the carved Baroque Church of St. Francisco and the fantastic Arab Hall of the Palácio da Bolsa. Take a walk through the streets of Ribeira, close to the River Douro and the D. Luís Bridge. If you are fond of a more typical and traditional scenery, the Historic City Centre is your ideal place.
And not the least, we recommend the National Museum Soares dos Reis, the Gardens of the Crystal Palace, the Casa da Música and the Contemporary Art Museum of Serralves.
SÃO JOÃO [SAINT JOHN] – TYPICAL FESTIVAL OF THE “POPULAR CITY PATRON”
The St. John festival is a typical festival for the “popular patron” of the city and takes place every year on the night of 23rd to 24th of June, celebrating the birth of (Saint) John the Baptist.
On a night filled with tradition, the city surrenders to the traditional jumping over bonfires lit throughout the city, the launching of hot air balloons, the plastic hammers, the leeks, the branches of Melissa – which are placed on the faces of passers-by – , etc. Similar to the festival of Saint Anthony in Lisbon, we also find the much typical pots of marjoram with popular verses. And not forgetting the traditional fireworks at midnight, near the D. Luís Bridge.
VILA NOVA DE GAIA
Across the river, on the south bank of the Douro, crossing the D. Luís Bridge lies Vila Nova de Gaia. The Port wine cellars are located on this side of the river. Originally Gaia and Vila Nova, these two villages were elevated to City in 1984.
Your link to the city of Porto is historical, not only for its cellars or because it was considered a holiday destination for wealthy families, but because of its economic expansion, marked by an improvement in communication between the two river-sides, has come to boost its surroundings.
Its riverfront area (Ribeirinha) in Gaia, is well known for its breathtaking views of the city of Porto. In recent years, it has seen emerge a number of coffee shops, bars and restaurants which are enjoyed by all who visit.