Everywhere you look in Porto there’s something to be explored. Whether it’s the narrow cobbled streets of the old town or the bridges that span the Douro River, it is a city that cries out to be discovered. Porto is famous the world over for its port wine cellars, so visitors should spend their holidays in Porto soaking up the culture and taking in its historic architecture, as well as enjoying its iconic tipple.
Why choose Porto?
As it’s a port city, it is the merchants and traders that have come to Porto over the years that have made it what it is. They left behind their wealth and buildings, as well as their wares, creating a district that has stood the tests of time. Today the Ribeira neighbourhood is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, highlighting its worth in historical terms and beauty. It provides the perfect place to begin a visit to Porto and to contrast with the newer areas that have sprung up around it.
Attractions and activities
Porto has a wide selection of places to visit and things to do, but these are a few to consider:
· Sao Bento Railway Station
This railway station will be of fascination not just for train spotters, but also lovers of beautiful craftsmanship. When it was completed in 1916, it was decorated with traditional Portuguese tiles known as azulejos, due to their stunning blue depictions of the history of the country.
· Casa da Musica
A monument to modern architecture, Casa da Musica is also a concert hall and space to help people learn and appreciate the art form. It is home to three orchestras and features a varied schedule of travelling performers, but it’s also worth visiting for an informative guided tour during the day.
· Porto Cathedral
Those looking for history in Porto should visit the cathedral where Henry the Navigator was baptised and where King John I married Princess Philippa of Lancaster back in the 14th century. If the walls could talk then they would reveal many secrets and indeed they are hinted at through the various additions that have been made since its original construction in the 12th century.
The people of Porto are keen on celebrations and many of the events marked throughout the year are based on their predominantly Catholic faith, although there are plenty of exceptions. It’s worth noting upcoming occasions that coincide with your stay. Here are a few possibilities:
Every year Porto holds a film festival in February, celebrating movies with a horror, experimental or fantasy theme.
· Festa de Sao Joao
St John is the patron saint of Porto and his festival is the biggest party of the year. It is celebrated on June 23rd and is characterised by everyone hitting each other on the head with plastic hammers and ending with an impressive firework display.
· Porto Wine Fest
To gain more insight into Porto’s signature drink, attend the annual wine festival in July, as experts will be on hand to give tasting notes on the biggest brands and suggest food pairings.
Much of Porto is navigable on foot, as long as you’re not too worried about hilly terrain. Otherwise there is a comprehensive network of buses and a metro system to make use of. Also, be sure to take a trip on the Douro River, as you will get a unique perspective on the city from a boat.
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