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PortoPorto was once the last stop of adventurers on their way across the Atlantic to the New World. The cliché that Lisbon shows off and Porto just works is a well-worn metaphor that fails to fully do justice to the city's innumerate charms. History dwells around every corner, and more than ever, Porto is a place determined to hold on to its own and distinct identity.
The CityTime has seemingly failed to touch some of the hidden corners of Porto, with many of its typical winding alleys full of shops and restaurants looking like a scene straight out of a medieval history book. The city is so soaked in the past that the historic area of Ribeira has been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site. Considering the backdrop of wrought-iron balconies full of flowers, the daily washing, and an array of fresh white and blue ‘azulejos’ tiles, you will have the perfect city for aimless wandering. However, the city does have a few key landmarks that are worth a visit, including the elaborately decorated Palacio da Bolsa (the Stock Exchange Palace), the medieval Cathedral, and The Clérigos Tower. The other big draw for tourists is the tour of the Porto wine cellars at Vila Nova de Gaia on the other side of the Douro River. The surrounding suburbs of the city are also compelling: Matosinhos offers great seafood eateries and small beaches stretching down the coastline. Foz do Douro is known as the wealthier area, with nightclubs and restaurants just 5 kilometres northwest of Porto, while Amarantes, a small northern town over the Tâmega River, has everything to win your heart: a preserved historic centre, charming architecture, and the warmth of its inhabitants.
Do & See
In Porto, there is so much to see and do. Be sure to visit the port wine caves, its vibrant open-air markets, historic churches, but remember to set aside some time to admire its beautiful architecture and colorful neighbourhoods.
The people of Porto managed to acquire the name "tripeiros" or "tripe eaters", as they shipped out all their fine cuts of meat in order to feed their armies and traders abroad, conquering across the seas back in the 15th century. However, today there is a lot more on the Portuguese menus than just leftover offal of lower quality, and much port wine to wash it all down with. Being on the coast, seafood restaurants are both ubiquitous and delicious. The city also has a good array of Brazilian-inspired restaurants, reflecting its former colonial links with the South American country — Brazilian barbecues are a carnivore’s heaven!
There are many pleasant cafes in Porto where you can get a refreshing drink or coffee. Snack-wise, most cafés will serve you a "francesinha", which is a cholesterol-full delicacy made from meat, bread and cheese finished off with some spicy sauce.
Bars & Nightlife
In central Porto, the liveliest place to head for is Ribeira — the vibrant historic heart of the city, which is also a popular students' haunt. For a flavour of traditional Portugal, go to a Fado bar to listen to a form of Portuguese blues with melancholic artists singing of lost loves and regrets. In Porto, the distinction between bars and nightclubs are slightly blurred, as most bars stay open until the early morning hours. However, if you want to dance the night away, Porto does have a lot to offer. From traditional Fado evenings to dance clubs in converted warehouses.
Porto’s main shopping street is the pedestrianised Rua de Santa Catarina in the city centre, where you will find famous international brands as well as the large Centro Comercial ViaCatarina Shopping Center. However, the small streets off the main streets are also worth a visit, brimming with independent shops selling fresh bread, cheese, and cakes, interspersed with bookstores and traditional shoe shops. Gold jewellery is another speciality of Portugal, a reflection of its colonial past and its conquests of gold-rich lands in South America. For a taste of daily Portuguese life, pay a visit to one of Porto’s many open-air markets to mingle with the locals and try some local delicacies.