10 Great Things To Do in Porto - Portugal
It has to be said that you cannot miss this iconic structure, no matter where you stand in the hills of Porto. Opened in 1886, it joins the city of Porto on the River Douro and Vila Nova de Gaia. At the time of construction, it held the record for the largest iron arch and longest span bridge in the world. The top level of the bridge is now used for trains only. Prior to 2005 cars also shared the space with trams. Today the lower level is shared with pedestrians and it is definitely the best vantage point to view Old Porto with a great view across to many of the wineries such as CALEM and SANDEMAN. Take in the lay of the Rio Douro on both sides and if you are there on a weekend you may see the local sail boat races.
THE WINERIES OF PORTO
With over 15 wineries in the Gaia region and not a lot of time in the city, it can be a little difficult to know where to start. You read reviews, some saying don't go here or there as the samples are tiny. I believe this to be a good thing even though I doubt the accuracy having been a sampler myself. The history of Porto is fascinating and for the trivia lover, the oldest port wines are white. The Caves Calem and the Caves Sandeman are both located on the river line of Porto. One of the oldest situated a little further up the hill is TAYLOR'S. The winery started way back in 1692 so I think they would have the distilling down to a fine art by now.
Built originally in the 12th century, the central Cathedral houses some of the most valued Romanesque items of its time. Chalice that are over 1000 years old, encrusted in diamonds and other precious stones stand proud amongst the worshippers and the Gothic cloisters. While not stunning from the exterior, once you step inside the massive doors, that all changes in an instant. Open from 9am to 12.30pm then 2.30 to 7pm daily except Sunday mornings.
CAIS da RIBEIRA – THE MEDIEVAL HEART
Listed by UNESCO in 1996, the Ribeira is the social hub of the city. Stretching languidly on the edge of the River Douro, there are not only an abundance of restaurants but many ancient homes in various stages of decay lining the tiny alleyways. If you plan on driving into Porto, the small "streets" are the ones to be aware of. Only small cars will make it down or up. A perfect place to sit and soak up some of what Portugal is so very proud of, history.
ANTIGA CADEIA da RELACAO
The ancient jail and courthouse belies the history from the outside but as with many of the buildings in Porto, step inside and it is another story entirely. It is situated in the heart of Porto near Clerigos Tower, the tallest building in the city. Many valuable antiquities are housed here making this one of the most visited sites in Porto.
TORRE dos CLERIGOS
The translated meaning is "Tower of the Clergy" and standing at 76 metres high, it is one of the oldest towers in Porto. Built in the 18th century and opening to the public in 1763, today is a UNESCO heritage site. The Roman Baroque charm draws you near but the site of the 235 almost vertical steps may have you feeling fit at the attempt. The view from the top is unmistakably brilliant.
Take a step back in time to the 1920's in this exquisite café. Built during the Belle Epoch period of writers and poets, the detail and authenticity is unchanged from the time of the flapper. Many of the prominent politicians made this their regular meeting place. It is situated in Rua De Santa Catarina near the main square.
THE LELLO BOOKSTORE
It is partly about the books but more about the facade and the interior. Located at Ria Das Carmelitas close to the downtown area of Porto, the bookstore has become a landmark since it was built in 1906. The internal staircase reflects the classical Neo Gothic style in which the building was designed. Once again UNESCO have recognized the store with the title of world Patrimony – saved heritage.
THE SOLAR do VINHO do PORTO
Just to mix it up a little, the Solar do Vinho is considered to be the most salubrious establishment to drink port wine. Situated beside the Palacio de Cristal (central park), this upmarket bar holds prime position overlooking the Rio Douro. You can chose from hundreds of varieties of wine and has an excellent food menu.
FUNICULAR dos GUINDAIS
This is yet another way to experience Porto. Departing from the base of the river in Gaia and climbing the hill terminating at Batalha Square, you will overlook the Dom Luis Bridge from an excellent vantage point. Costing roughly 2 euros, the single carriage passes through a tunnel on the upper levels of the mountain before emerging into a stunning vista. The line is 281 metres long and at a height of 62 metres drop from top to bottom you are sure to get your monies worth from the ride.
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