ABOUT PORTOPorto, Portugal’s second biggest city
Overlooking the Douro River, Porto is one of the most ancient European cities, stemming from the northern bank of the river during the Middle Ages. One of the most significant aspects of Porto and its historical centre is its surrounding landscape, the steep river banks providing a dramatic setting for old town. Both the streets next to the river and the surrounding countryside have been classified as a World Heritage sites by UNESCO. Discovering Porto is full of surprises: beautifully cobbled streets (what other country uses white stone instead of white paint to demarcate the pedestrian crossings?) and typical shops retain the feel of a bygone era whilst contemporary architecture jumps out in surprising places. You can watch a nice presentation from our local Lindy Hoppers in our I Charleston Porto video.
You will find:
- Art deco cafes with traditional Portuguese pastries and the best coffee in Europe: try the cafés near the old Bolhão market or the popular Tavi in Foz with its terrace overlooking the sea.
- Beaches full of surfers (and occasionally the Lindy Hop Porto dancers practicing aerials!), with others strolling through the paths of the City Park or picnicking under the trees.
- A lively and ever-changing nightlife in the city centre and beyond. The local granite stone comes alive at night and sparkles!
- New gastronomy alongside traditional: try the sushi and next door the freshest fish grilled before you in the numerous restaurants in the Matosinhos area.
- Monuments, museums and galleries – wonder at the work of the local architect, Siza Vieira, in the Serralves modern art gallery and then eat one of their renowned chocolate brownies in the beautiful gardens.
And of course, Porto’s best-known export: delicious Port wine (Vinho do Porto). Portugal still uses many grape varieties that are not used anywhere else in the world, and produces a huge variety of table and fortified wines which are original and little known. A boat trip up the Douro river allows you to see exactly where the flavors of the wine come from and to follow the trip the grapes used to make from the vineyards high up in Alto Douro to the cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia. Here you can taste the port and see the barrels where the wine is aged. And if you have energy can pop some lindy moves on the river banks beneath the bridge designed by a student of Eiffel!
If you have time while you’re here, try to visit more of Portugal. There are interesting cities to the north such as Braga and Guimarães, both a short train journey away. Walking in the Gerês National Park is peaceful and empty of the tourists usually found in such areas. Lisbon is, of course, worth a visit and is only a 3 hour train trip away. For those with more time highly recommended are the beautiful beaches and endangered cork oak forests of the Alentejo, as well as the popular tourist destination, the Algarve in the south.