Welcome to Porto Portugal
Port-tippling and charismatic, Porto is a city that wins hearts with its laidback charm, medieval cobbles and cavalcade of bridges, but it’s more than just a place of pilgrimage for port wine lovers.
Portugal’s second city is wonderfully pictures: a higgledy-piggledy pile of red roofs, azulejo -tiled restaurants and pastel painted buildings that straddle the river Douro, admiring their own image that’s mirrored in the water.
Nuzzled in the northwest of the country, Porto is closer to Spanish Galicia than it is Lisbon, gifting the city an appealing pan-Iberian atmosphere that complements its historic and artistic charms.
For a relatively small city, it’s easy to fill a weekend.
World-class museums intersperse with port wine cellars; lavish baroque churches loom over incredible seafood restaurants.
The old city centre, found in the Ribeira district, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Part of its charm is that it hasn’t been shined and spruced for tourists, it remains crumbling and untouched.
Buildings gleam with distinctive blue-patterned tiling, preserved as some of the nation’s best examples of its azulejo (painted ceramic tilework) tradition.
Its medieval streets are architecturally fascinating too: lanes snake up and down hills, creating a cubist landscape of myriad angles.
Talking of which, Rem Kolas’ geometric architectural masterpiece, the Casa da Musica, shows off progressive Porto; the city now bequeathed with one of the greatest concert venues in the world. Álvaro Siza Vieira’s space age Museu de Arte Contemporânea illustrates its advancement too.
If that sounds like it’s running off the rails, it’s not.
Many visitors just step back and enjoy a glass of port, the fortified wine that gave the city its name.
Since the 18th century, wine lodges here have been obliged by law to be based on the city’s south bank and all open their doors for tastings.
Skip away looking for a souvenir, whilst nibbling on a fine accompaniment of local cheeses and cured meats.
Good things, they say, come in small packages, and Porto is the perfect size for a long weekend away.
The Porto Card gives free entrance to 11 museums and discounts at several other museums and monuments, plus a guided tour of the Casa da Música.
Card holders can also get discounts at various shows, cultural institutions, cruises on the Douro River, city tours, restaurants, shops and other places of interest, including the Sea Life Centre.
There are two types of card, the Porto Card ‘walker’, and the Porto Card + transport.
The latter offers free travel on the metro, STCP buses and suburban trains, from Valongo to Espinho. The card can be bought for one, two and three days.