First it was a fishermen town, then a trading post but nowadays it is above all a city of culture. Porto keeps developing itself and offers the visitor a wide range of experiences: from world heritage sites to modern art, from ‘Eiffel Tower’ to bell tower, and from sheep cheese to plenty of port wine…
The old city centre is called Ribeira and is located on the northern bank of the River Douro. It is a tangle of narrow streets and coloured houses. The heart of the district is Praça da Ribeira, a pleasant square with terraces and a cube as a striking sculpture. This was the city centre at the time of the Portuguese Golden Age and that has had a cultural impact: it is not without reason that this area has been proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
As the name already reveals, the famous port wine comes from Porto. Everywhere in the city you will find tasting rooms where you can sample this sweet wine. Port has a high alcohol percentage (18-20%) and is mostly drunk as an aperitif or a dessert wine. The most famous wine houses are located on the southern bank of the Douro in Vila Nova de Gaia. To get there, you must cross the Ponte Dom Luís I. This steel bridge is designed by an employee of Gustave Eiffel. The hand of the master is visible in this ‘reclining Eiffel Tower’. For those who want a panoramic view, Porto has a fitting alternative: the bell tower of the baroque church Igreja dos Clérigos rises 75 meters above the city. You must climb 225 steps, but then you will have reached the highest point of Northern Portugal.
After such an effort, it is time to relax. The local cuisine has various classics. Fish and seafood are well represented in this port town, such as sardines or salted and dried cod fish served with mashed potatoes. A unique sheep cheese is Queijo da Serra, made of the milk of sheep that graze on specific wild mountain herbs that are only found in this region. Of course it should be accompanied by a glass of vinho verde (young wine), vinho maduro (mature wine) or port wine. The true enthusiast will look for the label ‘vintage port’, because this represents port wine of an excellent year. Cheers!