Porto lies in the north of Portugal and with 1.7 million inhabitants in its metropolitan area, it’s the country’s second largest city. However, the old inner city is a web of cobblestone streets and just over 40 km2 with only 230,000 inhabitants. It’s this fine blend of global metropolis and charming old streetscapes (mixed with nearly perfect weather all year round) that makes Porto one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe.Often hailed as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, the Douro River and its accompanying bridges are a huge part of Porto’s character, none more than the world-famous Dom Luis I Bridge. Built in 1886, the wrought iron, double-decked arched bridge is one of Porto’s most noticeable landmarks and crossing the upper deck of this bridge and taking in the magnificent views should be at the top of the list of any visitor to Porto. And what a view. The Ribeira, the old town of Porto, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and for good reason. This is a magical place and the only way to experience it to its fullest is to dive in and get lost in the winding cobblestone streets while marveling at the 18th century architecture and wonderful streetscapes. Part of the charm of this area is the countless azulejo-tiled artworks that adorn these old facades, a constant reminder that you are in fact in Portugal. And if you’re into the blue-tiled wonders, check out the São Bento Station, which is a real treat for the azulejo tile lover. This station is more akin to a stroll through a glorious palace than a stop on someone’s public transport commute.
Porto is a city that caters to all the senses. After a visually stunning stroll through this city, in what is probably perfect weather, marveling at the architecture, the artwork, the baroque churches and the colorful facades, it’s time to truly treat yourself to what Porto does best: wining and dining. This is a foodie haven, a gourmet paradise, a real treat for lovers of excellent, authentic food. Strolling the streets of Porto is best done on an empty stomach, to allow for nibbling all day long. Must-tries include the decadent Francesinha sandwich, the Bacalao codfish, the grilled Alheira sausages and the authentic Pasteis de Chaves, a savory puff pastry. For dessert, sample the classic almond tart and the Jesuítas cinnamon pastry. Or simply trust your instincts and follow your nose and odds are you’ll get a heavenly bite of something delicious on the next street corner. And finally, there’s the wine. Specifically, the port wine. Port wine is in fact named after Porto and is made along the Douro River. Park your previous conceptions and opinions on this dessert wine and step into a whole new world of wine. We highly recommend a port wine tasting tour in one of the city’s many wine cellars and bodegas around town. For those that want to immerse themselves fully into the local culture, head to the Estádio do Dragão stadium and try to catch a FC Porto game. Whatever you do, you’re likely to head back home with a new sense of beauty, culture and delicious cuisine.