Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Chronicles from Porto | My 5 Must Go Places in the Unvanquished City

Porto, the second largest city in Portugal, is getting more and more popular, winning awards and getting prettier by the day to receive all its visitors, both national and foreigner. Known as "Cidade Invicta" (Unvanquished City), the northern capital boasts the same vibrant personality as its inhabitants and is surely a  fantastic place to visit at any time of the year.

Returning to Porto was on my plans for 2017 and, just before the end of the year, I've made it possible to spend a weekend there with a dear friend from Brazil that was visiting Portugal. Although cold, the final December days were sunny and bright, and absolutely perfect to stroll around the city. Soon I'll bring you a more comprehensive guide to the city, but today I'll live you with my 5 Must Go Places in Porto.


The Ribeira area is one of the oldest, and more typical, parts of the city and is included in its historical center  (UNESCO World Heritage). After a period of growing degradation in the 19th century, when the commercial center of Porto moved out from the neighborhood, in more recent years, with the flourishing of tourism, Ribeira has been recovered and grow in popularity as a place to go. The gorgeous "Casario" (houses) with its striking and contrasting colors, the amazing view of Gaia and the great offer of restaurants, bars, and Douro tours makes it an unmissable place to visit.


The house and Foundation of Serralves are among my favorite places in Porto. Situated close to the elegant Foz district, the House of Serralves is an outstanding example of Modernist architecture in Portugal. The Art Deco building is surrounded by a perfectly landscaped park that currently also includes a Museum. All of the above can be visited and constitute an interesting program both for adults and children.


When visiting Porto the Clérigos area is one you don't want to miss. Not only the Clérigos Church and Tower, a true landmark of the city, but also some of the surrounding attractions and monuments. Just a couple of blocks from the church you can find Livraria Lello, a magnificent example of Art Nouveau architecture that is visited by thousands of tourists every year. From the doorstep of the bookshop, you can see the Carmo Church and, next door, the Carmelitas Church. Both Carmelitas, Carmo, and Clérigos churches are examples of the Portuguese Baroque style and really worth a visit. Climbing the many steps of the tower can be tiresome, but the outstanding view you can get of the city make it worthwhile.


This avenue is the center of Porto's downtown and was designed and built in the early years of the 20th century to homage the allies in the 1st World War. The well kept modernist buildings on both sides of the avenue, the Town Hall building at the top of the street, and the spacious central walking lane makes it one of the favorite gathering places for locals. At Mid Summer's night and New Year's Eve, you can find thousands of people celebrating some of the more cherished nights by the city locals.


Across the river from Ribeira is Vila Nova de Gaia pier, with all the Port Wine Cellars and the typical Rabelo boats that used to carry the tonnes of Port from the Douro Valley wineries to the cellars where the wine would age and then be shipped across the world. Today, this area is renewed and prettier than ever. Hotels, restaurants, and bars, the numerous cellars where you can have a wine tasting experience and, of course, the spectacular views of Porto and particularly Ribeira. You can cross the river from Ribeira, walking the lower tray of D. Luis bridge and after you visit, catch the cable car up, and get back to Porto, crossing the Douro on the upper tray of the bridge. Plan to do it by sunset and get some of the most amazing views of the city and the river (top photo on this article).

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