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Traveling in Porto (Oporto)

Traveling in Porto (Oporto)

by Tony Coelho

Dom Luis I bridge - Porto

Dom Luis I Bridge – Porto

Porto (or Oporto, as it is know to the British) is the second largest city in Portugal and is the capital of its Northern region. Traveling in Porto is an exciting opportunity to take in the rich history and culture of the magnificent city.

This industrial and commercial center is constantly buzzing. It was built along the hills that are set overlooking the Douro River estuary, across from Vila Nova de Gaia, known for its Porto (Port) wine cellars and taste-rooms. UNESCO awarded Porto’s historical center World Heritage status in 1996. The inhabitants of Porto separate themselves culturally from the rest of the country, while still very much retaining their Portuguese roots.

Visitors will appreciate the side-by-side mix of the classic medieval and modern architecture. The landscape is hilly and can be difficult to walk around, though there are stairs along the cliff. Many buildings are built into the cliff face overlooking the Douro river. The Douro is the second biggest river in Portugal, and a key thoroughfare for the Port wine industry. Bridges connect the banks of the Douro, the most famous being the Ponte D. Luis Bridge. You must cross this historic bridge to get to Vila Nova de Gaia and appreciate the view of the full city of Porto.

While you’re traveling in Porto, there are a few places you must visit in order to get the best experience.

Se do Porto

Found within the historical center of Porto, Se do Porto is one of the oldest monuments located in the city, as well as one of the most important Romanesque monuments in all of Portugal. They began the building process in the 12th century, but largely rebuilt it a century later. It had extensive work done on it again in the 18th century, though there are still hints of its original Romanesque style.

Palacio da Bolsa

Another historical landmark of Porto, this is a neoclassical monument that honors Porto’s past and present money merchants. It was built from 1842 to 1910, and offers guided tours to visit the rooms throughout the building. One feature is the Salão Árabe, which is a stunning ballroom. Moorish designs cover its stucco walls, which are gilded with 18k gold. Another feature is the glass-domed Pátio das Nações, the Hall of Nations.

Casa da Musica

This is an important concert hall space located here in Porto. It is the home of the cultural institution of the same name with three orchestras: Orquestra Nacional do Porto, Orquestra Barroca and Remix Ensemble. It is a recent building, only inaugurated in 2005. The building design itself is notable, getting much praise from architectural critics. It has 2 main auditoriums, though there are other spaces that can be used for concerts throughout the rest of the building. There is also a restaurant located at the top of the building as well. You can find concerts performed here on most nights, including summer concerts that take place outdoors in the adjoining plaza.

Igreja do Carmo

The Igreja do Carmo is a church that dates back to the late 18th century. It is a gorgeous azulejo-covered church, and is among the best examples of rococo architecture that can be found in Porto. The church, which pays tribute to “Our Lady,” is a beautiful site to look at and visit while you’re touring Porto.

If you Go

Tours

There are a variety of great tours that you can take while traveling in Porto. One of the more popular options is the Douro Valley Wine Tour. This area is very famous for their wine, so it makes sense to visit this scenic region to see the vineyards that are located along the Douro River. On these tours, they often include a traditional lunch of the region as well as visiting a vineyard to taste the award-winning local wines. Some tours will even offer boat rides to each area, really allowing you to take in the breathtaking scenery this area has to offer. Visit or tour pages for more information.

Packages

Popular packages include those that stop in Porto as you tour Portugal. The Lisbon and Porto Towns and Villages and the 8 Day Essential Tour are examples of self-drive packages that use Porto as one of the stops. Several escorted packages including the Small Group Tour of Portugal also make Porto an important stop. For more information please visit our packages page.

Hotels

Porto has hundreds of great hotels to choose from. For a list of hotels please visit our Porto hotel pages.

Rental Car

Rent your car in Porto by visiting Portugal.com car hire pages.

Conclusion

Porto (Oporto), Portugal offers a very unique spin on the traditional European trip. The city itself is majestic, and you will not be disappointed by the history and culture that traveling in Porto offers. This is especially a perfect spot for those who love to take in world famous wine. You can also enjoy the quiet calm of the Douro River. This is an absolute must-see for tourists that love rich culture and history.

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3 comments

  • Pingback: 4 Ideas for Your Week in Portugal | Portugal.com says... April 18, 2016   Reply →
  • Star Meyer says... September 1, 2018   Reply →

    Hi, your categories need to include “art, museums and galleries” to make finding these things easier, thanks

  • Veronica says... October 27, 2019   Reply →

    You should add tips about traveling, and how to spend less money.

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