Things to see and do - Porto
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Porto, a city of contrasts :
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Porto, a city of contrasts
Porto, a city of contrastsPedestrian, 5 km, 2 days
Portugal's second city after Lisbon has given its name to some of the most famous wines in the world ... A misty, Oceanic city. As traditional and durable as granite, but also lively and full of resources, Porto will captivate even the most discerning traveler. Our tour will enable you to capture its most picturesque aspects.Customise this route and add it to My travel book
The town's history goes way back into the past. In the olden days, two towns stood opposite controlling the estuary: Portus (the Port) on the right bank of the Douro and Cale on the left. Today old Porto has small picturesque streets like the rua das Flores flanked by 18C houses with emblazoned facades and which was formerly the street of the goldsmiths and the jewellers.
The banks of the Douro are linked by several remarkable bridges. Among them one must mention the Maria Pia railway bridge, built by Gustave Eiffel, which is the most elegant with its single arch with a 350m span ; the D Luis I road bridge, built in 1886, which is the symbol of Porto and which formed part of the world heritage and the d'Arrabida road bridge, opened in 1963, which crosses the Douro in a single concrete arch of around 270m.
This area in the historic centre, which formed part of the world heritage, has been the subject, over several years, of important restoration work. The quay, dominated by the high silhouette of the metal bridge of D. Luis I, is the most picturesque place in Porto with its old houses decorated with multicoloured washing. A small fish and vegetable market adds to the hubbub during the day and at night, the night owls all meet there.
This small street which goes up towards the São Bento station is flanked by traditional businesses and houses from the 18C with emblazoned facades. It was the old goldsmiths' and jewellers' street. The Santa Casa da Misericordia (beside the Baroque Church da Misericordia) has a remarkable painting from the Flemish school Fons Vitae ( The Fountain of Life) given by King Manuel I around 1520.
Trains for Minho and the Douro have left from this station since 1896. Notice the walls of the waiting room plastered with painted azulejos from 1930 by Jorge Colaço. The scenes depicted recall the traditional life in the north of Portugal as well as important episodes in Portuguese history.
You must stop at number 144 in this busy street to study the neo-Gothic facade of the book-shop Lello & Irmão (1881) and its double flighted interior staircase. On the first floor is a small bar where you can sit comfortably amidst the books.
This Gothic church, which has preserved its pretty rose window, is entered through a 17C doorway. The Baroque decoration is a veritable triumph. The altars, the walls, the vaults, disappear beneath a profusion of gilded and sculpted wood depicting vine branches, cherubs and birds. Notice Jesse's tree, in a chapel on the left... The house of the Third Order of St Francis has a permanent collection of sacred art.
The cellars occupy the lower area of the commune house of Villa Nova de Gaia, on the left bank of the Douro. More than 58 Port houses are represented there. The visit to the cellars lets you follow the slow process of port making from wine. The port is stored in 535 litre barrels whose porosity accentuates the ageing process.