Stroll downtown and let yourself be filled with the character of the city and its people. Feel the intensity of life in Ribeira. Glance at the sky and discover the towers of the Cathedral, or climb up to the churchyard and take some time out in the belvedere. Visit the Clérigos and if you have time and are up to it, climb the 255 steps of the Tower, boldly high and beautiful in its unique Baroque style. Admire São Bento railway station, with glazed tiles portraying the history of Portugal, by Jorge Colaço. Walk down Rua das Flores, through the vital streets of the historical centre and admire the richness of the historical buildings classified by UNESCO. Marvel at the area around Alfândega and the series of coloured houses anchored in arches in Rua de Miragaia.
You can explore all this on foot, bicycle that you can rent near S. Francisco Church, but remember that this part of town involves uphill and downhill tracks or travel by Segway of which tours can be arranged with specific companies.
Discover examples of Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Neo-classical art, and of Portuguese iron architecture, side-by-side with buildings that have been refurbished, yet kept their traditional style. In the last five years, the urban rehabilitation of the historical centre has grown by the day and this part of the city, as well as downtown, has now been taken over by younger residents.
In the centre of the city, you will find, alongside with this history, businesses and new projects: hostels boasting unexpected terraces overlooking the Douro River; various design stores; Palácio das Artes, aimed at the creative arts and young entrepreneurship, next to the stately Palácio da Bolsa; a concert hall in the old Mercado Ferreira Borges, the Hard Club; signature restaurants and modern tea-rooms.
The best view is from the river
Porto can be best viewed from the river. So, if you can, take a boat cruise on the Douro River. Several companies organise cruises that take about an hour and offer a different view of the northern capital of Portugal. Embark on the Cais da Ribeira or Cais de Gaia, enjoy the programme and get to know a bit of the citys history through its typical and historic bridges.
Admire the iconic Maria Pia bridge, the first piece of art by Gustavo Eiffel. Cross over the magnificent D. Luís I bridge, by Teófilo Seyrig, Eiffels partner. Arrábida Bridge, by Edgar Cardoso, featuring a 270 meter span, set for some time a world record for reinforced concrete arch bridges. São João Bridge, also by Edgar Cardoso, was inaugurated on 24 June 1991, on the day of São João - Saint John. Freixo Bridge, by professor António Reis, lies upstream all the others. The most recent bridge received the name of Prince D. Henrique.Before leaving Porto, be sure to try one of the most famous wines in the world. Visit the places that tell their history, such as the Port Wine Museum and nearby, the Transport and Communications Museum or the Port and Douro Wines Institute, where you can find Douro and Port wines for sale, as well as thematic publications, and participate in commented wine tastings or in guided tours to the Laboratories and Tasters Chamber.
More companies age the wines they produce in the Demarcated Region of the Douro in cellars, in old wooden barrels. These companies have guided tours and tastings of different varieties of the Port wine, where you can learn about its history. Once you step outside, you will look at the Rabelo boats on the Douro River with different eyes. These boats once brought the wine from the Alto Douro wine region to Porto.
In Avenida Diogo Leite, you will find Calém. By the river, you can visit Sandeman and Espaço Porto Cruz a multimedia centre. Housed in a 19th century building, in Largo Miguel Bombarda, this centre is intended to honour the culture of Port wine and, in particular, to disseminate this century-old product to the younger population. The architecture draws its inspiration from the woman in black, the brand image of Porto Cruz. Inaugurated in June 2012, the building also houses the deCastro Gaia Restaurant, headed by Chef Miguel Castro Silva, and the Lounge Terrace 360º Bar, which boasts a stunning view.
Ramos Pinto and Ferreira wine cellars can be found in Avenida Ramos Pinto. In nearby streets, but further up the hill, other Port wine cellars abound: Offley and Taylor's (Fladgate & Yeatman), both in Rua do Choupelo. As a general rule, between May and October these cellars are open from 10 am to 7 pm, whereas between November and April they close an hour earlier.
In the Port wine cellar area, the Cais de Gaia complex clusters more than 25 stores, including restaurants, shops, cafés, bars and nightclubs. Enjoy lunch on the other side of the river to get a life-like impression of the historical centre of Porto. Order the famous francesinha or a more traditional dish, for e.g., tripas à moda do Porto or bacalhau à Gomes de Sá.
Choose a restaurant with a terrace or glazed walls and enjoy your lunch facing the houses cascading down the hill, forming a maze of narrow alleys.From the Cais de Gaia, you can ride the cable car up to Jardim do Morro and then continue to Serra do Pilar, where the view over the city of Porto and its iron bridges is breathtaking.
How to get there
There are flights from Bremen, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Karlsruhe, Munich, Dortmund, Zurich, Liverpool, London, Bordeaux, Carcassonne, Dole, La Rochelle, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nantes, Paris, Rodez, St. Etienne Toulouse, Tours, Barcelona, Madrid, Palma de Mallorca, Valencia, Bologna, Milan, Pisa, Rome, Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and New York.
The best way to go from the International Airport Francisco Sá Carneiro to the city centre is to take the underground metro. The trip takes about 30 minutes.