Capital and gateway to the north of Portugal, Porto is both the city that provided a nation with a name and a fortified wine known world-wide: port.
With its splendid geographical location on the mouth of the river Douro and an architectural heritage of exceptional quality, the historic centre of Porto was declared UNESCO World Heritage in 1996. Porto is the capital of the North and the second largest city in the country; its hard-working inhabitants are noted for their commercial enterprise, always standing firm against outside impositions and foreign invaders, which explains why Porto has become known as the «unvanquished» city.
In addition to its history, any visitor to Porto will be quickly impressed by the forceful character both of the city and its inhabitants.
If you want to get to know the city better, we recommend a gentle stroll through its streets, taking time to admire the typical granite houses and monuments, enjoying a tram ride along the banks of the river, or even going for a boat ride under the city´s six bridges, from where you can enjoy an entirely different view of the city. These itineraries seek to demonstrate the impressive contrasts this city has to offer. The "Baixa (Downtown)" of Porto, with all the rhythms of city life, its movement and intense retailing. There is a very peculiar expression which bestows a Nordic, mercantile tone onto a city that is both spiritually and intensely baroque. In sharp contrast, in the Serralves Park, there is the sheer modernity of the building housing the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the romantic, soothing surroundings of the surrounding leafy park.
The Porto Baixa (Downtown) is laid out around the Avenida dos Aliados (Avenue of the Allies), the city´s focal point. At the top of this thoroughfare, there is the imposing Municipal Council building. At the other end, it opens onto the Praça da Liberdade (Liberty Square) where there is a statue of a mounted Pedro IV (19th c.), emperor of Brazil and, like much of Oporto, a supporter of the Liberalism movement. In a show of recognition, the king literally gave his heart to the city, now watched over in the Church of Lapa.
To the side of the square, take a look at the São Bento (Saint Benedict) railway station to see the pictured tiles in the entrance hall. Then head down the Rua das Flores (Street of Flowers), with its goldsmiths and the exuberant baroque façade of the Church of Misericórdia (Compassion), a masterpiece by architect Nicolau Nasoni.
Surrounding this centre, there is a dense network of streets packed with stores and cafes. Of the latter, the magnificent Majestic and the cheerfully bustling Mercado do Bolhão are well worth a visit. On the streets 31 de Janeiro Galeria de Paris and Cândido dos Reis check out the facades with their Art Nouveau finishings.
Heading up Rua de São Filipe Néry, there is the Church and Tower dos Clérigos (Ecclesiastics), the centrepiece of the city and the most original design by Nicolau Nasoni. From 75 metres up in the tower, there is a wonderful panoramic view over the city of Porto and beyond. On the way, nip into the Lello bookshop and admire the lavish decoration bestowed on this temple to culture.