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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

221,800 (2008).
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Featured Hotels


Grande Hotel do Porto

The Grande Hotel do Porto was designed by the architect Silva Sardina and opened in 1880. The hotel has 99 rooms, and they all have air-conditioning, broadband Internet access and beautifully tiled bathrooms. The hotel, and particularly the restaurant, has a distinct old world charm and atmosphere. It is located on Porto's main shopping street in the city centre.

The Yeatman

Opened in 2010, the 82-room Yeatman is something of a new departure for hotels in Porto because it is situated in Vila Nova de Gaia, on the south side of the river. However, its location across the water affords excellent views of the old city. The emphasis is solidly on luxury, fine dining and high quality relaxation – there is an extensive spa area to complement the accommodation, and the rooftop swimming pool and terrace are perfect for sun lovers.

Hotel Nave

A basic, but comfortable, cheap hotel in Porto located not far from the Campanha railway station, Hotel Nave is a friendly, convenient place to stay in Porto. It has a restaurant and a bar with internet access points. All guest rooms have individual air conditioning with remote control.

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.