Porto is a mix of monuments by leading world architects from the past and the present, fantastic baroque carvings, a world-famous sweet wine and a certain British flavour.
These tributes set on the grand river describe "O Porto," the port, Porto -- Portugal's second largest metropolis, and one of Europe's most charismatic cities.
Many may think they know little about this city. Think again!
This is the city that originated and named Port Wine, and gave birth to one of world history's legendary figures, Prince Henry the Navigator (you'll also see in new guidebooks that it is also the birthplace of that world-famous fictional character, Harry Potter -- author J. K. Rowling was living in Oporto as an English teacher when she started writing her first book).
Starting at the monumental central avenue (Avenida dos Aliados), all the way down to the riverfront, UNESCO has declared this a World Heritage Site, with churches dripping with gold (São Francisco Church and Santa Clara Church), and other spectacular interiors (Palacio da Bolsa's Alhambra-like decoration and São Bento Station's dazzling tiled walls), combined with a highly atmospheric and charismatic medieval quarter with colourful houses facing the river and its picturesque boats.
Some of the main attractions in Porto include:
D. Luís I Bridge (Ponte D. Luís I)
In accordance with the Law of 11/02/1879, the government determined the
opening of the competition for the "construction of a metal bridge over the Douro River, in the place considered the most convenient in front of the city of Porto, for the replacement of the current suspended bridge". The winning proposal was the project of engineer Teófilo Seyrig. The construction works began in 1881 and the inauguration occurred on 31 October 1886.
Oporto's iconic bridge opened in 1886, when it held the record for the longest iron arch in the world.
Built in the 12th century, in the Roman style, it was later modified for several times and the original architecture was altered. Inside, it is worth admiring the paintings by Nicolau Nasoni, the silver altarpiece of the Holy Sacrament, the João Gordo ("Fat John") Chapel and the cloister.
São Francisco Church
The extensive 17th and 18th baroque decoration is a profusion of gilt wood carvings in the vault pillars and columns: cherubs, plants, and animals dripping with gold. What from outside looks like an ordinary 14th century Gothic and Baroque construction, has the most extraordinary church interior in Oporto and unquestionably one of the most fabulously opulent in all of Europe.
Palacio Da Bolsa
This pompous 19th-century building with a vast Neoclassical façade is the former stock exchange that was built to impress and earn the credibility of European investors.
Inside it could be mistaken for a royal place, especially the ornate Arab Room, an oval chamber that attempted to copy Granada's Alhambra Palace. It is now "the grand reception room" of the city where heads of state and other luminaries are received on a visit to Oporto.