Seemingly hewn out of granite near the mouth of the River Douro, Portugal’s second city, known locally as Porto, dazzles with a rich collection of cultural attractions. Oporto’s historical heart is the Ribeira.
This waterfront bairro positively insists you lose yourself amongst the maze of narrow streets and seek out some of the city’s most cherished architectural treasures. In fact, so rare and precious are the buildings that make up this venerable neighbourhood that UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site.
Much of old Oporto can be described with a pronounced 18th-century accent. Extravagant Baroque churches and stately Neoclassical buildings punctuate the skyline, their most valuable contents displayed in world-class museums set in picturesque squares.
The grandiose Dom Luís I bridge is one of the most iconic structures in Portugal. Spanning the mighty River Douro to link Oporto with Vila Nova de Gaia on the south bank, the bridge’s majestic sweep and two-tier aspect is a binding component in the city’s proud, social fabric. The heavily riveted charcoal-grey ironwork has Gustave Eiffel written all over it, and indeed it was an assistant of the great French engineer who built the bridge in 1886.
Crossing the sweeping bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia is a sightseeing highlight, as is a guided tour around one of the port lodges.
Port is produced from grapes grown and processed in the demarcated Douro region. The wine produced is then fortified by the addition of a neutral grape spirit known as aguardente in order to stop the fermentation, leaving residual sugar in the wine, and to boost the alcohol content.