Porto May 25, 2011
Built on the right bank of the Douro river, Oporto (or Porto) is a city where the old features contrast with the new. Its winding, hilly, narrow streets in the old town are a complement to its wide modern avenues which spread out to the suburbs. As capital of the north, Porto is very unpretentious and unashamedly commercial. As a Portuguese saying goes: 'Lisbon shows off, Braga prays, Coimbra studies and Porto works'.
That this saying is true you will immediately recognize. For the year 2001 Porto shares the title of the 'European Capital of Culture' with Rotterdam in the Netherlands. It seems that the people of Porto thought that 2002 would be their turn, because the whole city still is full of construction sites and roadworks. There is dust and noise everywhere, but still, Porto is a fascinating city with lots of unknown treasures to discover by just strolling around.
Here, at the delta of the Douro River, the second heart of Port wine beats. The wines, that are produced in several 'quintas' up the river on step hills, are here bottled and shipped to all over the world. Vila Nova de Gaia, the city opposite of Porto on the left bank of the River, is the home to all the famous Port wine companies like Taylors, Dows, Offleys, Calem etc.
Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia are directly connected through the Ponte de Dom Luis I, a steelwork construction build in the 19th century. This bridge, dominating the skyline of the two cities, is a double bridge that connects on the one hand the upper towns of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia and on the other hand the river banks. The most direct route to the wine lodges is across the lower level from the Cais da Ribeira, but if you have a head for heights it is an amazing sensation to walk over the upper deck, otherwise take bus no. 32, 57 or 91 from Sao Bento train station. Standing on the upper bridge and looking eastwards you will see the second steelwork construction bridge of Porto, the railway bridge Ponte de D. Maria Pia, designed by Théophile Seyrig and contracted by Gustave Eiffel in 1876 / 1877, length 160 m.
Welcoming the Euro2004 are the two new stadiums built in the city. The new Bessa stadium, home for Boavista FC and the Dragon Stadium(Estádio do Dragão) home of the FC Porto. You can get to the stadiums by bus, there're lots of lines going near them(eg. line 78).
If you're into experimenting diferent dishes, you came to the right place. Among the already spoken Tripas à moda do Porto, you can try the Francesinha, Bifanas, Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá, Tripas Enfarinhadas, Broa de Avintes(Gaia).....
We can also enjoy a little of ocean view. With some nice beaches and renewed streets you can get into a nice walk on sunset.
Igreja e Torre dos Clerigos:
Here you can enjoy an overall view to the city. The church itself, built in Baroque style is open daily from 9am to 5.30pm.
Cathedral Sé :
The cathedral's cloister is much more impressing than the interior of this old church at the edge of the old town. From the dazzling chapterhouse you have a nice view over the old quarter.
Igreja Sao Francisco and Museum:
This is perhaps the most extraordinary church in town. The Gothic outside contrasts with the unbelievable ornate attack of 18th century refurbishment.
Port cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia:
This is a must see for every Port lover. Your heart will jump for joy when you see the skyline of Vila Nova de Gaia: Taylors, Dows, Sandeman, Calem, Offley, Ramos Pinto, Ferreira, Niepoort, Kopke etc. Most of these houses open their cellars to visitors and offer guided tours and a small wine tasting at the end. It is really interesting to hear and see how port was produced (and still is) and what differences there are in vinification. Calem offers tours on saturdays and sundays, Croft's cellars is the only Port Wine House that is open all year round, seven days a week, from 10h00 to 18h00. Croft's cellars only close on January the 1st and December the 25th.
The public transport is run by several buses, timetables and lines are clear and correct. Do not miss the historical tram no. 18, that runs from the western part of the city to the seaside.
I just loooooved Porto. I hope you have a great time.
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