Cosa vedere a Porto

What to see in Porto: from Ribeira to the Douro river to drink wine

Flocks of seagulls that seem to go crazy in the wind, cheeky walls of blue tilescloths themselves on the balconies and between the walls of the houses, elderly gentlemen dressed with ancient elegance sipping wine at the coffee tables. Port and this. Or rather: this too. Because this steep city of narrow streets and squares that explode like a cubist painting of unexpected edges suddenly hits you with i cobbled alleys and restaurants that smell of fish and with pastel-colored houses, with the chasm of Douro River that crosses it and its own high bridges like dizziness. A city where you can carve out a weekend to resume the time of your life. With an ancient relaxation and a pleasure of living that fortunately still exists here. That’s why a guide you tell what to see in Porto he must have a long list of ideas.

Because this is a city of details that together make up an astonishing emotion because the second city of Portugal and is indisputably quaint with a Spanish aftertaste which doesn’t hurt since it’s closer to Galicia than is a Lisbon. And then it is a pleasantly small city to be explored on foot in a weekend, alternating museums with stops in the neighborhood from Ribeira, baroque churches and toasts. Always knowing that at the limit some beach wrinkled by the wind it can always be reached.

What to see in Porto: where the Douro plunges into the Atlantic

Here the Douro River throws himself into the cold Atlantic and the city is on a steep coast that sinks into the current. The grandeur of a faded past defines the current appearance of Porto but here one does not live in memory but rather its people look forward with hope and panache. And the contrast is continuous between the great churches of the past and the metal bridges like Eiffel towers lying down, the silent parks and squares, water and land, wealth and poverty. All side by side. And that’s why it’s hard to say what to see in Porto. The only answer then is the most banal: as much as possible.

Around the old city

A good way to start the day is by strolling through the old town, World Heritage Site since 1996, with its cobbled streets, characteristic food shops and suggestive views. The Ribeira district, along the river, it is in fact a fascinating labyrinth of narrow and winding streets, alleys and arcades caressed by the sun. But that’s not all: overlooking the river Douro there are the polychrome facades of the houses painted in a hundred colors. And Ribeira reveals itself as an adventure of color and flavor.

Here is also a plethora of restaurants And coffee shops where it is nice to stop to relax and socialize. Praça da Ribeira, the square facing the river, is a popular and lively meeting point always full of people. This is also a popular neighborhood where petty trade resists and where the shops, amidst the noises of cobblers and the scents of food. And the rustic aroma of freshly baked bread mixes with the brackish smell of the Douro. Also in this neighborhood, around the corner on Rua da Alfândega is located there Casa do Infante where the prince Henry the Navigator was born in 1394.

Over the years the building has also been customs and now it contains the city archives. In short, this neighborhood is really at the top of the list of what to see in Porto also because from here it is also possible to see the series of houses where the Port wine was stored across the river, as well as the fascinating riverfront. Cais de Gaia.

What to see in Porto: the cathedral

Continuing the journey in the heart of the city you cannot forget the Cathedral call Self. Founded between the 12th and 13th centuries it had its present style form baroque about 500 years later. Seen from the outside it looks like a fortress but inside it has a more graceful air and contains some unique pieces like the images of Nossa Senhora da Vandomathe silver altar and an impressive collection of religious sculptures.

What to see in Porto: photography and music

A nice experience to be included in a guide on what to see in Porto is that of the visit to the Centro Português de Fotografiaa former prison 18th century that truly housed inmates until 1970; today the charming building houses exhibitions of photographs which are placed in the old cells. Acquired by the Directorate General for Books, Archives and Libraries in 1997, it hosts rotating exhibitions that highlight the country’s photographic heritage.

During a visit to Porto, you cannot ignore a stop at the Casa da Musicaa masterpiece of contemporary architecture designed by the Dutch architect Rem Kolhaas. It is an irregularly shaped twelve-storey building costing a whopping 109 million euros (and a rather long series of delays and cost increases). Architecture is like that modern and bold which has made the people of Porto discuss for a long time and not just so much that some have described him as a meteorite plunged into the middle of the city.

But one thing is certain: his acoustics it is perfect and as a concert hall it is considered one of the best in the world. Inside the auditorium collects 1,300 seats and a baroque organ. The VIP room has decorations of blue tiles hand painted, mixing contemporary minimalism with traditional touches. The house of Music is located on the main avenue of the city (Avenida da Boavistawhich extends for 7 km towards the sea), on a roundabout where stands a column that celebrates the victory of the Portuguese and British in the Spanish War of Independence.

A taste of wine. And still art

Do we want to continue? After a taste of local wine the list of what to see in Porto leads to Serralves Foundation and Museum of Contemporary Art, one of the main centers of contemporary art in the Portugal. The Serralves museum it is housed in a building designed by the famous Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza. Everything is immersed in a beautiful park that dates back to 1930 where you can walk among fountains, gardens and statues. Inside are exhibited works by national and international artists ranging from the late 60s to today. It also hosts a large number of cultural events, including concerts, debates and workshops.

It is called Porto and one cannot but speak of wine. Indeed: of port. A visit to the Museu do Vinho do Porto, housed in a warehouse where, in fact, was the nectar of Bacchus in the 18th century. The museum tells the history of production and exports related to its area on the river and how all this has contributed significantly to the growth of the city as a whole. The collections are varied and include historical pieces but perhaps the highlight of the exhibition lies in the interactive displays which are enough to nail aficionados for an entire afternoon.


The Stock Exchange building. And the convent de San Francisco

Continuing the path we pass from wines to money. That is, we arrive at the Stock Exchange Palace, built between 1842 and 1910 and which reveals the influence of the English architectural style in the city. The palace can be visited with guided tours that depart every half hour and allow you to explore its grandiose interiors.

The visit begins in the old cloister of the Convent of San Francisco – today called as Pátio das Nações -, donated by Queen Maria II in 1934 so that businessmen could have a meeting place. Inside it strikes an atrium covered by a huge glass and metal dome but the most impressive rooms are the Assembly – or Golden Chamber – with a gilded stucco ceiling, and the stunning Arabian Hall, designed by Goncalves de Sousa and inspired by the Palazzo dell ‘Alhambra from Granada. This hall, an extravagant combination of Eastern and Western influences, was completed in 1880.

To rest after many visits, put your feet in the air. In fact, if you are headed to the Douro to enjoy a port tasting you can take advantage of the most fun way is to take advantage of the Teleférico de Gaiaa cable car with glass cabins that takes you from the Dom Luís I Bridge to the river bank. In addition to being convenient, the cable car allows you to have an incredibly suggestive view of the city and the river.

A stop at the Majestic Cafè

Finally in the long list of ideas on what to do in Porto can not miss a stop at the Café Majestic. Now perhaps it has become a bit too touristy but it is still a magical place where you can breathe the atmosphere of a real 1920 café. The Majestic in fact opened in 1921 and is the last of its kind in the city, a true point of reference for Porto, with the original Belle Epoque decorations. A taste of the city of Porto as it was. And how we still like to think of it today.


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