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.
- Eurostars Oporto (from €38.72)
The Eurostars Oporto is a modern newly-built hotel boasting an optimal strategic location very near the main entrances to the city and just 15 minutes from the airport. The Hospital São João the mos
- Residencial União (from €30.80)
Residential União is located in the historic center right in the heart of Oporto very close to the Tower of the Clerics the Port Wine Cellars Café Magestic Market Bolhão Coliseum Lello Bookstore th
- Hospedaria Monte Sinai (from €17.60)
Set in a traditional building less than 1 km from D. Luís Iron Bridge. Monte Sinai offers accommodation in central Porto. The hotel features a 24-hour reception.Rooms at Hospedaria Monte Sinai are de
- Hotel Carris Ribeira (from €261.18)
OPENING in November 2011Opposite the PORTO WINE CELLARS . The Douro River is one of the most important unimaginable visites in the town of Porto.This involves the overall renovation of 5 catalogued bu
- Residencial Paranhos (from €44.00)
Residencial Paranhos is located near the University of Porto only a 5-minute walk from the Pole University Metro Station. It offers a 24-hour front desk.Guest rooms are equipped with TV sets and priva
- Porto Antas Hotel (from €39.51)
The Hotel Antas is situated in a residential area close to a shopping centre and the Dragão Stadium and a five-minutes drive from the city centre.Located in a quiet residential square it is ideally l
- Residencial Lunar (from €19.36)
Residencial Lunar is your choice for a budget accommodation at the heart of Porto. Close to the main attractions you'll be able to visit the city center Douro river banks Port Wine cellars cafés and
- Residencial Porto Madrid (from €28.16)
Situated in the center on the cityNear Batalha Square and Cathedral A few minutes from the Historic Monuments of the city of OportoAll rooms Moderns with Air Conditioned Satelit Tv Wireless access.Wit
- Hotel Douro (from €48.40)
Oporto city invites you Hotel Douro welcomes you.Since 1994 we welcome you with a smile shared by the entire team. Hotel Douro is a non-smoking hotel with 45 rooms and an offer of personalised service
- Hotel Amadeos (from €61.60)
Ideally situated in Matosinhos just minutes from Exponor Convention Centre and the beach this hotel combines a central setting with a modern interior.Easily reachable via metro Hotel Amadeos is close
In and around Porto
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