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Porto Travel Guide

About Porto

Port-tippling and charismatic, Porto is a city that wins hearts with its laidback charm, medieval cobbles and cavalcade of bridges, but it's more than just a place of pilgrimage for port wine lovers.

Portugal's second city is wonderfully picturesque: a higgledy-piggledy pile of red roofs, azulejo-tiled restaurants and pastel painted buildings that straddle the river Douro, admiring their own image that’s mirrored in the water.

Nuzzled in the northwest of the country, Porto is closer to Spanish Galicia than it is Lisbon, gifting the city an appealing pan-Iberian atmosphere that complements its historic and artistic charms.

For a relatively small city, it’s easy to fill a weekend. World-class museums intersperse with port wine cellars; lavish baroque churches loom over incredible seafood restaurants.

The old city centre, found in the Ribeira district, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Part of its charm is that it hasn’t been shined and spruced for tourists, it remains crumbling and untouched.

Buildings gleam with distinctive blue-patterned tiling, preserved as some of the nation’s best examples of its azulejo (painted ceramic tilework) tradition. Its medieval streets are architecturally fascinating too: lanes snake up and down hills, creating a cubist landscape of myriad angles.

Talking of which, Rem Koohaus’ geometric architectural masterpiece, the Casa della Musica, shows off progressive Porto; the city now bequeathed with one of the greatest concert venues in the world. Álvaro Siza Vieira’s space age Museu de Arte Contemporânea illustrates its advancement too.

If that sounds like it’s running off the rails, it’s not. Many visitors just step back and enjoy a glass of port, the fortified wine that gave the city its name. Since the 18th century, wine lodges here have been obliged by law to be based on the city’s south bank and all open their doors for tastings. Sip away looking for a souvenir, whilst nibbling on a fine accompaniment of local cheeses and cured meats.

Good things, they say, come in small packages, and Porto is the perfect size for a long weekend away.

Key facts

Population:
221,800 (2008).
Latitude:
41.153782
Longitude:
-8.614826

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Pestana Porto

One of the most popular boutique hotels in Porto, the Pestana Porto has a fantastic location down by the riverfront, overlooking the river and with a view across to the port wine cellars of Vila Gaia di Nova. There are 63 rooms, a restaurant offering a wide range of regional and national dishes and a bar with live music. The hotel also has several meeting and conference rooms. Bicycle hire is also available.

Quality Inn Porto

Centrally located on Batalha Square (Praça da Batalha), the Quality Inn Porto is convenient, with the river and all the main attractions within a few minutes' walk. All guest rooms have air-conditioning as well as internet contact points.

HF Ipanema Porto

A short walk from the city centre, and close to several leading attractions, the HF Ipanema Porto offers comfortable accommodation at a very reasonable price. The aim is to provide a relaxing environment; the bar is quiet and the restaurant offers a range of international cuisine.

Sheraton Porto

This hotel opened its doors in 2003 and is one of the most luxurious hotels in Porto. Housed in an elegant 12-storey building it has 266 rooms and suites as well as an excellent restaurant and bar. The spa offers a range of health treatments, a high-tech gym, a Zen studio offering yoga classes, an indoor swimming pool and a mixed sauna and Turkish bath.

Hotel America

With 22 basic but comfortable rooms, the Hotel América is ideal for those seeking cheap hotels in Porto. It is situated in the heart of the main shopping district in the city centre, and despite its low prices, offers extras such as air conditioning, a mini bar in the room, security safes, a snack bar and pool room.

Hotel Ibis Centro Porto

Following the French chain's successful formula as applied over the whole of Europe, the Hotel Ibis Centro Porto is exactly what it says on the tin: a modern, budget hotel offering basic but clean and comfortable accommodation without the frills of luxury. It's a good choice either if you're on a budget, or simply don't intend to spend a lot of time in the room.