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Porto: a city with an ancient and authentic historical center

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Porto (about 265,000 inhabitants) is an important city in northern Portugal. Portugal’s second largest city after Lisbon, which is 280 km away, is located on the north bank of the Douro River. The city is renowned for its wine, the Porto, but it is also a modern city and an important commercial center. In fact, it is often referred to as the industrial engine of Portugal.


The city developed in Roman times when it was called Portus Cale (from which the name Portugal is derived). The Arabs who had invaded the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th century, failed to permanently occupy the area around Porto, known at the time as Condado Portucalense. Porto developed in the following centuries as an important industrial and commercial center.

In 1996, the historic center of Porto was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. This is thanks to its surprising urban landscape. The city is in fact located in a scenic position on a hill overlooking the estuary of the Douro river.

The river is crossed by some bridges, three are the most scenic: the Dona Maria Pia railway bridge built by Gustave Eiffel in 1877, the Dom Luis I bridge (1866) and the Arrabida bridge (1963).

How to get around Porto: The city is served by an extensive bus network and a mixed metro operating both underground and on the surface.


The itinerary to visit Porto can start from the square of the Liberdade, at the center of which is the statue of King Pedro IV. From here we can head towards the oldest part of the city, crossing the Avenida D. Alfonso Henriques. Then we can visit the church of the convent of Santa Clara (XV century), with a Renaissance facade and a Baroque interior.

Not far away is the Sé (cathedral) built in the XII-XIII century and renovated in the XVII-XVIII century. In its baroque interior, the chapel of SS. Sacramento with its silver altar and azulejo-covered cloister.

Continuing we find the Junqueiro War Museum (furniture and ceramics), and finally we reach the church of São Francisco (XIII century) and the Bolsa palace (Borsa) of the XIX century, with its Salão Arabe (Arab Hall).


Returning to the square of the Liberdade, we continue to visit the Baroque church dos Clerigos and the Torre dos Clerigos. This building is the work of the Florentine Nicola Nasoni. The tower is 75 meters high, and has become a symbol of the city, from which you can admire a beautiful panorama of Porto. Nearby is the Baroque church of Carmo.

Finally, you reach the most important museum in the city, the Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis, which houses works of Portuguese painting and sculpture from the 19th and 20th centuries. Also interesting is the central station of São Bento, adorned with azulejos. Among the modern buildings, the Casa da Música (1999-2005), designed by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.

Porto is famous for its riverside, the Ribeira, dominated by the Dom Luis I iron bridge, built in 1886. There is also another large iron bridge nearby, the Dona Maria Pia Bridge, built in 1877 by Gustave Eiffel. On the bank of the Douro opposite Porto is the suburb of Vila Nova de Gaia known for the Porto wine cellars.

Among the excursions to do in the Porto area, one not to be missed is the one that leads to a visit to the Douro valley, included in 2001 in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Matosinhos beaches are another destination to visit, especially in summer.

The climate of Porto.

UNESCO page referring to the city.



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