Porto, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of Europe’s oldest and best-preserved cities. Set upon the steep banks of the Douro River, the city blends Old World charm with a passion for fine wines.
For a look into the grandeur of Porto’s past, tour the ornate Palácio da Bolsa, the city’s 19th-century neoclassical stock exchange. Next door, you’ll find the Gothic Igreja de São Francisco. In contrast to the church’s dark exterior, the interior is almost entirely covered in gold leaf.
Walk up the hill or take the cable-car railway to admire the uniquely Portuguese mosaics called azulejos that adorn the cloister walls of the Sé do Porto and the nearby São Bento Train Station. Be sure not to miss the bookstore Livraria Lello & Irmão, a Porto institution considered one of the most beautiful shops in the world.
Closer to the Douro, step back in time as you wander the narrow passages of the Ribeira district. The buildings in this medieval neighbourhood are old and colourful, and the streets teem with people. Enjoy Porto’s signature culinary delights, tripas à moda (a tripe dish) or francesinha (a meat sandwich drenched in a beer sauce) at one of the many restaurants along the river.
No trip to Porto is complete without experiencing port, the wine named after the city. Learn about the history of the wine trade at the Port Wine Museum. Cross the towering Luís I Bridge to visit the area’s many Port wine cellars. For a small fee, you can tour the cellars and sample some of the region’s best wines. If you have a few hours, cruise down the river on a rabelo (wine cargo boat) to gaze up at the terraced vineyards that line the hills.
Driving in Porto is not recommended. Instead, use the extensive metro, tram and bus networks. Be aware that many of the narrow lanes in Port’s older districts are accessible only by foot. This allows ample opportunity to study architecture and local culture as you explore the area.