Located along the Douro River estuary in northern Portugal, Porto is Portugal’s second-biggest city and one of the oldest European centres. Its historical core was proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. The western part of its urban area extends to the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean. Its settlement dates back many centuries when it was an outpost of the Roman Empire. Its combined Celtic-Latin name, Portus Cale, has been referred to as the origin of the name Portugal, based on transliteration and oral evolution from Latin.
Port wine, one of Portugal's most famous exports, is named after Porto, since the metropolitan area, and in particular, the cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia, were responsible for the packaging, transport, and export of fortified wine. In 2014 and 2017, Porto was elected The Best European Destination by the Best European Destinations Agency.
The Dom Luís I Bridge is a double-deck metal arch bridge that spans over the Douro River, between the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia in Portugal. In 1879, Gustave Eiffel presented a project to construct a new bridge over the Douro, with a single deck in order to facilitate navigation. This project was rejected to the present double-decker project due to the dramatic growth of the urban population, which required a re-thinking of the limits of a single-deck platform. It's worth making the crossing on the upper level, above the waters of the Douro to enjoy what might be the most beautiful views of Cais da Ribeira and Vila Nova de Gaia.
The Lello Bookstore is located in the northern part of Porto and considered by many to be the World’s most beautiful bookshop. Along with Bertrand bookstore in Lisbon, it is one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal, built in 1906, and frequently rated among the top bookstores in the world (placing third in lists by guidebook publisher Lonely Planet and The Guardian).
The bookstore was frequented by JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series when she taught English in Porto and is reported to be an inspiration for her writing.
The Porto Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church located in the historical centre of the city. It’s one of the city's oldest monuments, it still retains traces of the early Romanesque construction. Built between the 1st half of the 12th century and the 13th century, it went through several transformations in the following centuries until achieving its present form in the 17th century. Of note is the fortress-church aspect with a façade flanked by two towers and the beautiful rosette over the main façade. It underwent modifications in the Mannerist and Baroque periods. Declared a National Monument, it is visited by tourists, students and architecture lovers, due to its architectural blending between, the Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque styles.
Almas Chapel or Santa Catarina Chapel has its origin in an old wooden chapel erected in praise of Santa Catarina. The construction of the building that exists today dates back to the late 18th century when the Brotherhood of Souls and Wounds of San Francisco passed from the Santa Clara Monastery to the Santa Catarina Chapel. Its exterior is one of a kind. Built in the early eighteenth century, the Soul’s Chapel is one of the most beautiful churches of Porto. Its exterior works are one of a kind. In 1929 the church’s exterior facade was decorated with tiles representing moments in the life of Saint Francis of Assis and Saint Catherine.
This railway station is considered by many visitors to be not only one of the most beautiful train stations in Portugal but one of the most beautiful in the world as well! Built in 1916, beside the 16th century Benedictine monastery. The station was designed by a local architect called José Marques da Silva, with heavy influence from french Beaux-Arts style. One of the most interesting facts about its inside is that it is made with more than 20 000 tiles that address the Portuguese life and history of railway transportation. Jorge Colaço spent over 10 years painting the epic scenes that are included in the Battle of Valdevez (1140), the meeting of the king Egas Moniz and Afonso VII of Leon (12th century), also the arrival of King John I and Philippa of Lancaster in Porto (1387), and the conquest of Ceuta (1415).
Cais da Ribeira is one of the must-see areas when you’re thinking of visiting Porto. Pictures of this part of town are in postcards spread all over the world, and even more now with social media. It's one of the liveliest districts in Porto’s historical centre and by night you can have dinner and a drink facing the Douro river. Here, you’ll find typical restaurants, some with terraces, where you can savour delicious typical Portuguese dishes and a sip of Port Wine. All of this while you enjoy the view over Dom Luís I Bridge and Vila Nova de Gaia on the other side of the river.
If you are going to leave the airport towards the center of the city the most suitable transportation is the surface Metro. The operating hours are from 6am to 1am, with a frequency of trains ranging from 4 to 15 minutes. A simple ticket costs € 1,20. If you wish to use public transportation often during your visit, it is advised to acquire the Porto Card or Andante Tour, which is a special ticket valid for several trips in public transportation for a definite time-period, a simpler way to discover the city.
Just be aware the same ticket is not valid to the trams’ network. For timetables see www.stcp.pt and www.metrodoporto.pt. The Andante card also allows you to ride the Funicular dos Guindais, which transports you up and down of a steep incline, with a tremendous river view from avenida Gustavo Eiffel, on the opposite side of Ponte Dom Luís I.
During the summer, the weather is usually good. But one cannot exclude that some Atlantic fronts may bring clouds and rain, especially in June, which often resembles a spring month.
Summer in Porto is generally pleasant, with average high temperatures reaching between 23ºC - 25ºC from June to September, and maximum temperatures going as up as 40ºC in July and August. It is the perfect weather to go swim in a pool or to go to the beach and enjoy the Atlantic Ocean.
From mid-September to November, is mild, and over the weeks becomes gradually wetter, although good weather often continues until mid-October. From December to February, the average maximum temperatures hover around 13/14°C. The period with more rain is between December and January, and in April, the precipitation levels rise again.
Porto is famous for its local gastronomy, rich in regional delicacies. The most famous and delicious known are: the Francesinha, the Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá and Tripas à Moda do Porto.
Port Wine is also known worldwide for being a full-bodied Portuguese fortified wine produced with distilled grape spirits exclusively in the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal. It is typically a sweet, red wine, often served as a dessert wine, though it also comes in dry, semi-dry, and white varieties. Lovers of good wine must book one of the many wine tasting experiences that the city offers.
For fantastic dining and bar experiences, we suggest visiting Casa Nanda, Adegas Sao Nicolau, Taberna Santo Antonio. And if you are a lover of places where you can have pleasant typical meals, then look out for Casa D ?Oro, Essencia, Casa de Pasto da Palmeira, Adega São Nicolau, O Fado, Adega Tipica de São João, and Cafe Majestic.
The Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport was inaugurated in 1945 in the confluence zone between the Matosinhos and Vila do Conde. It’s located 11 km northwest of the Clérigos Tower in the centre of Porto. Its first international flight took place in 1956 and four years later began the service of scheduled flights to and from London. The airport is currently the second-busiest in the country, after the Lisbon Airport and before Faro Airport. To cope with increased traffic, the airport is under expansion works until 2020. This will increase the overall capacity of the infrastructure to receive 20 million passengers per year.
Most people don’t associate Porto with a coastline. However, the city is on the Costa Verde (Green Coastline). Many visitors are surprised that a city break to Porto can also be combined with a beach trip. And the beaches are easily accessible from central Porto, connected by the city’s inexpensive public transportation network.
We suggest the best beaches that you can visit with a simple train ride:
Praia do Carneiro - has the Blue Flag (which means it is a clean waters beach) and Golden Beach award.
Praia do Ourigo - this coarse sand beach is the favourite of many young people who like to visit the Ourigo’s terrace, bar and restaurant. The nights are also lively at this place.
Praia dos Ingleses - is a largely sandy beach with rocky outcrops around the shoreline. Located in the upmarket Foz do Douro district, this is preferred promenading destination. The cafes here stay open until late.
Praia da Luz - is another one of the Blue-flagged beaches in Porto. It’s a small golden-sand beach where you will find a lighthouse and a fortress.
Praia de Gondarém - is 115 metres long. It is a fine-and-golden sandy beach also with the Blue Flag distinction.
Praia de Matosinhos - is the largest beach with an easy access from central Porto. The beach offers waves that are suitable for surfing and is only a 15-minute metro journey from the centre of Porto.
The northern capital is a true paradise for shopaholics, combining the presence of large multinational brands and the innovation of young Portuguese creators in the most diverse areas. Visiting the city of Porto means visiting a cosmopolitan destination, with history, heritage and friendly and hospitable people, but also synonymous with good business, street shops are usually open from 10am to 7pm, unlike shopping centers, which run from 10am to midnight.
For those in love with shopping, the experience of visiting Rua Santa Catarina and Rua de Cedofeita, full of shopping malls and Rua da Fábrica, famous for its bookstores, Rua Galeria de Paris, where visitors can explore the art galleries and shops. Miguel Bombarda Street and Rua do Almada are also known for the shops and boutiques that sell fashion products and design items.
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