Porto

Overview

Introduction

Porto, Portugal's second-largest city, sits on the steep north bank of the Douro River, 195 mi/310 km north of Lisbon. It has an interesting port area and a charming, old-world feel to it, especially among the ocher and brown tenements stacked high on the slopes above the river. Porto's history predates the Roman occupation—in fact, Portugal took its name from the town.

There's a famous saying that sums up how the Portuguese feel about Porto (sometimes referred to as "Oporto"): "Coimbra sings, Braga prays, Lisbon shows off and Porto works."

Porto dates back to the fourth century when Romans ruled. Over the centuries, Porto developed along the hills overlooking the Douro River estuary; even today, a city stroll along the steep streets can turn into quite a workout. Many of the medieval buildings are still in use and there is a profusion of baroque architecture from the 17th and 18th centuries. In recognition of the city's rich past, the historic center has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Porto has undergone many transformations in the new millenium, including the opening of a photography museum (housed in a 19th-century prison) and an orchestra hall. The urban regeneration has reached the Ribeira area, where scores of trendy cafes and restaurants as well as quality souvenir and craft shops have sprung up. Porto is a vibrant and increasingly cosmopolitan city.

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