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About city Gallery Where to stay

'Wine'. That’s the first thing that comes to  mind whenever one hears the name Porto. 'Wine' will also be the answer you’ll get from the locals when you ask them what’s worth doing in this second-largest city of the country – port wine tasting, offered by many wineries, is very popular here.

Port wine was born in the 17th century, when the British, hauling wine from the Douro Valley, fearing it might spoil during the long journey, mixed it with some brandy.

The two-level, 385 metres-long Dom Luís Bridge, built over the River Douro by Gustave Eiffel, has become the symbol of the unofficial capital of Northern Portugal. The bridge services not only pedestrians, but also cars and trains, and joins Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia. It’s worth noting that the famous wine of Porto is actually made and stored (before bottling) not in Porto, but in Gaia, and up until 1986, it was the only place from whence barrels of Porto’s wine reached the rest of the world.

Porto, Portugal cityscape across the Douro River
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Porto, Portugal cityscape across the Douro River

The locals usually drink the wine when eating fresh fish. Here, just like elsewhere in Portugal, cuisine is dominated by sardine- and cod-based dishes.

Porto is one of the oldest European cities with its traditional architecture still intact – to this day, hardly any signs of modernization can be seen here. In Porto, even McDonald’s restaurants are nice to look at – the one in the very centre of the city is probably the most beautiful in the world. It was reconstructed in 1995 in place of the former Imperial Café, but the 1920s interior was left in place.

A street in Porto
Photo taken by Lacobrigo - wikimedia.org.  A street in Porto

Another important building in Porto is the Casa da Música. It’s one of the most important concert halls built during the last century. The reason why this building is special is that its designer intended to make it a space appropriate for the spread of music. After years of trying to find what is common among the best halls in the world, he designed this unusual structure, meant for the highest quality acoustics.

The UNESCO-protected Porto Old Town is a little neglected, which is probably the reason why it’s so charming and endearing – it’s still swept by the winds of past luxury and a cosy sense of friendliness. Most building facades are covered in tiles, sometimes called Azuelo – some have more, others less, but most have at least one row. The streets are littered with small, squatting shops and pretty little restaurants. Port lights illuminate the ships on the waterfront. Don’t miss the opportunity to take an evening walk through Porto and experience its true spirit.

Public transport in Helsinki
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Public transport in Helsinki

There’s a saying that people work in Porto and live in Lisbon, which is at least partly true, as Porto, with its 240,000 inhabitants, is the most important industrial centre in the whole country, where around 19 per cent of GDP is made.

But Porto also knows how to relax after work. Every year, during the night between April 23rd and 24th both locals and city visitors go celebrate into the streets – the Festa de São Joăo is one of the wildest street festivals in Europe. It’s the Portuguese version of the midsummer celebration St. John’s Eve, although looking for the blossoms of ferns is not part of it. One of the traditions of this six-century-old event is the night of fireworks and fire dancing.

During August, temperature in Porto can reach 40 degrees and drop to 0 during winter nights.

Where to stay

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