Porto, Portugal’s second city, is the real deal when it comes to beautiful architecture, magical atmosphere, and delicious wines.
In recent years, Lisbon has become one of the favorite destinations of European travellers, and while the Portuguese capital rarely disappoints, its northern counterpart, Porto, is also well worth considering for a visit.
As one of Europe’s oldest cities, Porto is indeed all about colourful tiled buildings, quaint cobbled streets, baroque monuments, Romanesque churches, vibrant plazas, and art nouveau cafes. Its riverfront and old fishing district, Ribeira, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, looks like a picture perfect postcard as you cross the Don Luis bridge over the Douro river. The many hills provide for beautiful views of the red roofs and various architectural styles. But these are just a few of the many highlights of a trip to Portugal’s second city.
Almost everywhere you go, a building or a detail will capture your attention. The 1916 São Bento Railway Station, for instance, boasts a beautiful hall decorated with some 20,000 azulejo ceramic tiles, and Livraria Lello is considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, thanks to its stunning red staircases. Meanwhile, the Café Majestic is a definite must-see attraction for both its façade and beautiful interior.
Porto may have a rich history, but it also has a modern outlook as evidenced by its thriving art scene and the futuristic spectacle offered by the daring Casa da Música, its new House of Music, which was designed by acclaimed Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.
This cultural diversity can be found as well in the gastronomic specialties. Aside from the classic Portuguese staples such as bacalhau (cod), and pastéis de nata (custard tarts), you will be able to enjoy fresh seafood, a great variety of cheese and Porto’s unique dish, the “francesinha”, literally “Little French One”, a sandwich stuffed with sausage, ham and steak, and covered with cheese and a special hot sauce made of tomato and beer.
Even if you do not drink, a trip to Porto would not be complete without a visit to one of the city’s numerous cellars or one of the many vineyards in the neighbouring Douro Valley … to sip, of course, some Port wines.
All photos © Florence Dubosc