Porto’s most striking characteristic is that of ‘faded grandeur’. In Europe there are very few remaining cities that can do ‘faded grandeur’ quite on the scale of Porto, you’d have to travel to Cuba or Argentina for competition. The feeling is accentuated by the mix of Baroque, Neoclassical and splash of Belle Epoque architecture in varying degrees of preservation.
Porto has the reputation of being a hard working city. Indeed there is is a saying which succinctly sums it up: "Coimbra studies, Braga prays, Lisbon shows off and Porto works". Whether this is still true is hard to know but the strong sense of rivalry still exists between Porto and Lisbon. This is generally vented via the national obsession with football and the intense rivalry between the countries premiere clubs, Porto and Benfica.
The city itself is built on the steep northern bank of the River Douro and radiates out to the Atlantic to the west and the ports of Matisinhos and Leça in the north. For the visitor, most points of interest are shoe-horned into a fairly small area between the riverside Ribeira district and the central Avenida dos Aliados.
It is within this area that you will find the maze of medieval alleys, old world shops, cobbled streets and baroque monuments that define this city.
Porto bed and breakfasts
Continuing downwards from the centre one reaches Sao Bento, Porto’s main station – worth a visit for its fine azulejos. From the station there is a clear line of sight up to the austere looking Romanesque cathedral (Sé) perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the city and river.
Between the cathedral and Ribeira lies one of Porto’s most fascinating districts, the Barredo, with its jumble of medieval alleyways and stairs leading down to the river.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, the Ribeira is centred on the Praca da Ribeira, a sloping square with pavement bars and flanked by colourful 4 or 5 storey blocks with washing permanently hanging from the balconies. Now-a-days the area is the city's most popular night spot, with a plethora of small bars, cafes and night clubs scattered around the square, riverside and numerous winding streets.
One of Porto’s most iconic symbols is the 72 metre (240ft) high Dom Luis I bridge which spans the River Douro carting traffic on two levels. Completed in 1886, the iron bridge still carries traffic from the Ribeira to Vila Nova de Gaia.
Dom Luis I is the second of Porto’s six bridges across the Douro. Starting from the coastal end there is the 270 metre concrete arch of the Ponte da Arrabida, then Dom Luis I. Next is the Ponte do Infante – its similar design to the Ponte da Arrabida is not suprising as both were designed by Edgar Cardoso. However, with a 280 metre span, Ponte do Infante is the World’s largest single span concrete bridge. Further east again is Gustave Eiffel’s Ponte Dona Maria Pia, an iron railway bridge that was used up until 1991 when it was replaced by the adjacent Ponte de São João with its 3 concrete arches. The furthest east of Porto’s bridges is the 1995 Ponte do Freixo which carries the P1 motorway over the river.
To the west of the Ribeira is the Alfandega (customs). This area is perhaps best known for the Casa do Infante (or Casa da Alfândega Velha), an impressive 14th century mansion that was expanded many times over the centuries as the city’s trade grew. It now houses the city archives and contains a museum displaying archeological finds from a Roman palace on the same site.
Heading back up the hill from the river is the Bolsa, Porto’s stock exchange. Housed in a 19th century neoclassical palace, the interior is a case study in opulence.
Next door to the Palacio da Bolsa is the Igreja de São Francisco, Porto’s only remaining Gothic church, dating back to the 14th century. Although not particularly extraordinary from outside, the baroque interior is possibly the finest in Portugal. The church is actually deconsecrated now although it still has an ‘ossario’ in the catacombs consisting of hundreds of skeletons stored and awaiting judgement.
The real shopping heart of Porto is to the east of the centre, most notably Rua Santa Catarina, a shop lined, pedestrian street stretching from Praca da Batalha to Marques de Pombal. There are a good range of shops here ranging from the big names through to small barber’s shops and Belle Epoque cafes.
- AC Porto (from €70.40)
The modern and chic AC Porto is located just a drive away from the heart of historical Porto a city full of interest and home to one of the oldest and richest traditions in Portugal port wine. This co
- Albergaria Residência Vice-Rei (from €35.20)
Easily reachable by public transportation Residencial Vice-Rei combines friendly service with traditional furnishings. Relax in the comfort of your room or have a drink at the bar.Each room has its ow
- Alma Porto Hostel (from €12.00)
After a day of walking and sightseeing, nothing feels better than returning to the beautiful 19th century house that is Alma Porto Hostel. The building is an old jewelery factory and has been fully r
- Andarilho Oporto Hostel (from €15.00)
Porto is a charming city, full of character and personality that blends the medieval and the modern, creating an enchanted atmosphere around it.
- Apartment With Stunning Views (from €455.00)
This apartment has an excellent location. Situated in front of Douro River, has a stunning view and a balcony towards the River. You can find restaurants and bars from 1 minute walking from the apartm
- Axis Porto Business SPA (from €57.20)
The Axis Porto Business and SPA Hotel is located at Oporto city near the universities area and the access to the highway A3. The Douro River and the historic City Centre with its commerce churches mo
- Bairro Ignez (from €0.00)
Bairro Ignez is an historic building in Oporto that has been facing the river Douro for more than 400 years. The views over the old convent and the river create a mysterious atmosphere that will encha
- Belver Beta Porto Hotel (from €34.32)
The Belver Beta Porto Hotel offers competitive vacation packages despite the high standard of its facilities: bar restaurant gym business meeting rooms as well as much needed parking spaces. For your
- Bessa Hotel (from €48.40)
BessaHotel opened in 2007 and is located in the commercial and business centre of Porto. Situated in Boavistas area one of the most prestigious zones of the city makes the hotel na excellent choice fo
- Best Western Hotel Inca (from €47.52)
Situated in the town centre of OPORTO the hotel Best Western Hotel Inca is classified as World Heritage. Near the City Hall Aliados Avenue Trindade underground station and S. Bento railway station. Be
In and around Porto
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