Situated at the point where the Duoro River meets the Atlantic Ocean in Northern Portugal, Porto has been a mercantile city since its earliest days as a Roman outpost. As one of Europe’s oldest cities, it boasts a wealth of cultural and historical attractions too, including a recently revamped medieval district bordering the scenic waterfront. Walking tours offers a great way to explore the city, as most of the major tourist attractions in Porto are located close to each other. Porto’s most celebrated contribution to Portuguese culture is port wine, the nation’s top export.
Many travelers to Porto begin their visit in the Ribeira, the medieval historic district located near the Duoro River. At the Praça da Ribeira, the narrow cobblestone streets spill out onto a scenic plaza where locals and tourists relax in the sun and enjoy views of the estuary. With its many seafood restaurants and taverns, the Ribeira Pier is a popular gathering spot too. It’s also a departure point for cruises on the river and for boat rides to the port wine cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia. For those traveling by foot or car, the Cais da Ribeira offers easy access to Dom Luis Bridge as well.
The parents of Portugal’s first king, Dom Afonso Henriques, are credited with the construction of the 12th-century Sé do Porto, but the cathedral has actually been rebuilt twice over the centuries. Offering a history of changing architectural styles, the reconstructions are now part of this famous structure’s appeal. From its Gothic rose window and cloister to the baroque chapel with its ornate silver altarpiece, the cathedral is a must-see attraction for anyone interested in history, art and architecture. A staircase ornamented with painted ceramic tile work leads to a second level where narrow windows offer impressive views.
Dom Luis Bridge
The Ponte de Dom Luis I is the most famous of the several bridges that span the Duoro River. Built in 1886, it was designed by Téophile Seyrig, an engineer who worked with Gustave Eiffel. The massive iron bridge has both an upper and lower deck, both of which carried road traffic until 2003 when the top span was converted to accommodate a light rail system. A pedestrian walkway on the upper deck offers spectacular views as well as a direct walking route to the port wine lodges across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia.
Many meat dishes feature in Portuguese cuisine. In the Bairrada area, a famous dish is Leitão à Bairrada (roasted suckling pig).. The Portuguese steak, bife, is a slice of fried beef or pork served in a wine-based sauce with fried potatoes, rice, or salad.