The second-largest city in Portugal, Porto is situated at the mouth of the Douro Estuary, which parts the city in half and stretches far into the beautiful valleys of the city’s hinterland. The centre of the Porto, with its cobbled streets, scenic waterfronts and ancient buildings, bears testimony to the city’s glorious past, and visitors can explore how the centuries have painted the city like an enchanting canvas.
Connecting Porto’s two halves is the visually stunning Dom Luis I Bridge, and this striking feature in the landscape serves as a perfect starting point for a full exploration of the city. The historical core of the city has been listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site and walking along the river by the shops and cafés of the Cais da Ribeira will allow you to dart in and out of the small streets that run up the hillsides on which Porto stands. Visit the beautiful Sé Cathedral and Bolso Palace that stand at each corner of the centre and then head further out of the city for lesser known gems. Head north, past the Torre dos Clerigos to one of the oldest bookshops in the world, the Lello and Irmao. With finely carved wood decorating the walls and the ceiling, and with a beautiful wooden staircase winding its way up to the first floor, the shop seems like a time capsule from the past, or a magical place in the Harry Potter-universe. The bookshop is surrounded by quaint little shops, open squares and lots and lots of beautiful churches. The University of Porto is also just around the corner, and a visit to the institution’s Museum of Natural History is another must. For a very quirky architectural gem on the northern side of Porto, head to the Casa da Musica. This large, abstract and very white concert hall is home to predominantly classical performances, and is well-worth a visit after a great dinner at one of the restaurants near the centre. Speaking of culinary experiences, Porto is home to quite a few different delicacies. Tuck into seafood, such as freshly caught sardines and the fish stew known as the caldeirada de peixe. However, above all other dishes in Porto stands the francesinha. Remember to bring a more-than-healthy appetite, as this dish consists of layers of bread, smoky meat and cheese topped with a fried egg and chips. Once your stomach is generously full, it’s time to sample some of the local port wine. Sandeman’s and Taylor’s on the southern banks of the city offer excellent opportunities to get friendly with these delicious, fortified drops.
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