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Explore beautiful Porto through these photos

10Best logo 10Best 7/23/2020 Lydia Schrandt, Special to USA TODAY 10Best
a statue in front of a building: Porto sign © CC BY-NC-ND - Associação de Turismo do Porto e Norte, AR Porto sign

Welcome to Porto

Porto, Portugal’s second largest city, sits on the banks of the River Douro. This second city enchants visitors with its atmospheric neighborhoods, distinctive fortified wine and a sense of soulfulness. Come along as we explore some of its highlights and local favorites.

a large body of water with a city in the background: Douro River © CC BY-NC-ND - Associação de Turismo do Porto e Norte, AR Douro River

A river runs through it

The Douro River flows for 557 miles through the Iberian Peninsula from Soria Province all the way to Porto, where it empties into the sea.

a group of people walking on a bridge: Luís I Bridge © CC BY-NC-ND - Associação de Turismo do Porto e Norte, AR Luís I Bridge

Scenic crossing

The Luís I Bridge, built in 1886 by Teófilo Seyrig (a student of Gustave Eiffel), has become an icon of Porto. Pedestrians can cross the Douro River on the top deck, while lower decks carry traffic and the city metro across the river. Cross the bridge on foot for some of the best views of downtown Porto.

a group of people walking down a sidewalk: Virtudes Garden © CC BY-NC-ND - Associação de Turismo do Porto e Norte, AR Virtudes Garden

A green getaway

The shady Virtudes Garden tumbles down a hillside in a series of grassy ledges. The green space is a favorite picnic spot among locals, and an excellent place to escape the busy city and enjoy stellar views of the river below.

a group of people in a city: Ribeira © CC BY-NC-ND - Associação de Turismo do Porto e Norte, AR Ribeira

Porto's most charismatic neighborhood

The UNESCO World Heritage listed district of Ribeira ranks among Porto’s most beloved neighborhoods, thanks to its winding alleys, pastel-colored houses and collection of local shops and restaurants.

a group of people on a rocky beach: Fort of São Francisco do Queijo © CC BY-NC-ND - Associação de Turismo do Porto e Norte, AR Fort of São Francisco do Queijo

Fortress by the sea

The Fort of São Francisco, also known as the Castelo do Queijo (Cheese Castle), stands atop a cheese-shaped wedge of rock jutting out into the sea. Come in the late afternoon to admire the 17th century fortress architecture, and stay for a magnificent sunset.

a group of people standing in front of a store: Fado © CC BY-NC-ND - Associação de Turismo do Porto e Norte, AR Fado

The music of Portugal

The word “fado” comes from the Latin word for “fate,” and this mournful Portuguese music style typically includes songs about love, loss, longing and injustice. Fado has earned UNESCO status as a symbol of Portugal.

a man standing in front of a building: Street art © CC BY-NC-ND - Associação de Turismo do Porto e Norte, AR Street art

A city of artists

You don’t need to step inside a museum to appreciate art in Porto. The city streets are dotted with bold works from the city’s growing network of street artists. Porto even has its own incognito street artist, known only by the pseudonym Hazul Luzah.

a person standing in front of a building: blue ceramic tiles © iStock / RossHelen blue ceramic tiles

Feeling blue

Spend some time walking the streets of Porto, and you can’t miss the distinctive blue and white tiles, known as azulejo. Look for them in churches, palaces, gardens and train stations or adorning fountain and staircases.

a group of people walking in front of a building: São Bento Train Station © CC BY-NC-ND - Associação de Turismo do Porto e Norte, AR São Bento Train Station

A story of a nation

To learn more about the story of Portugal, step inside the São Bento Train Station. The interior walls of this French Beaux-Arts railway station are covered in some 20,000 ceramic tiles depicting scenes from the nation’s history.

a group of people posing for the camera: Palácio da Bolsa © CC BY-NC-ND - Associação de Turismo do Porto e Norte, AR Palácio da Bolsa

An architectural marvel

Porto has no shortage of impressive architecture, but it doesn’t get much better than the Palácio da Bolsa. This former 19th century stock exchange building features many Moorish details, like its grand ballroom gilded with nearly 40 pounds of gold leaf.

a tree with a frisbee: Fundação de Serralves © CC BY-NC-ND - Associação de Turismo do Porto e Norte, AR Fundação de Serralves

Art meets nature

The 44-acre Serralves Park, just west of the city center, comprises formal gardens, a contemporary art museum (the most visited museum in Portugal), lily ponds, fountains and woodlands.

a store filled with lots of fresh produce: Bolhão Market © CC BY-NC-ND - Associação de Turismo do Porto e Norte, AR Bolhão Market

Traditional covered market

Every great European city has an equally impressive market, and Porto is no exception. The neoclassical wrought-iron Bolhão Market dates back to 1914 and today houses vendors selling fresh fruit, vegetables, meats, cheeses and other artisanal products.

a library with a book shelf: Livraria Lello © CC BY-NC-ND - Associação de Turismo do Porto e Norte, AR Livraria Lello

Beautiful bookshop

Book worms won’t want to miss a visit to Livraria Lello, a spectacular bookstore dating back to 1906. The shop, one of the oldest bookstores in the world, features a colorful stained glass roof, carved wooden balusters and a forked staircase.

a person sitting at a bus stop: Porto Tram © CC BY-NC-ND - Associação de Turismo do Porto e Norte, AR Porto Tram

Historic transportation

One of the best ways to get around Porto is aboard the network of historic trams. Line 1 offers the most scenic ride, as the tracks follow the banks of the river toward the Foz district.

a close up of a plate of food on a table: Francesinha © iStock / Starcevic Francesinha

A taste of Porto

No trip to Porto would be complete without stuffing yourself to the brim on a francesinha, a sandwich made with thick bread, cured ham, Portuguese sausage and roast beef, covered in melted cheese, smothered in a tomato and beer sauce and topped with a fried egg.

a close up of a barrel: Port wine © iStock / Abeleao Port wine

Port tasting

Wine tasting is pretty much a mandatory activity in Porto, a city known for its fortified wines. Many of the city’s wine cellars offer guided tours and tastings, where you can learn about the history of Port wine while sipping different varieties.

a crowd of people at a beach: Piscina das Marés © CC BY-NC-ND - Associação de Turismo do Porto e Norte, AR Piscina das Marés

Swimming by the sea

The district of Porto is home to Leça da Palmeira, one of the largest beaches anywhere in the north of Portugal. The Piscina das Marés, a saltwater swimming pool, offers cooling relief from the Mediterranean sun.

a man standing in front of a crowd: Estádio do Dragão © CC BY-NC-ND - Associação de Turismo do Porto e Norte, AR Estádio do Dragão

Home of the Dragons

The Estádio do Dragão seats more than 50,000 soccer fans, making it the third largest soccer stadium in Portugal. The facility is home to FC Porto (a.k.a. Dragões), one of the country’s top flight teams.

a large crowd of people: São João do Porto © CC BY-NC-ND - Associação de Turismo do Porto e Norte, AR São João do Porto

Midsummer celebration

Each year, Porto celebrates the Midsummer with the Festa de São João do Porto. Thousands of revelers take to the streets to enjoy live music, dance parties, bonfires and barbecued sardines. Some celebrants also release paper lanterns over the city.

Christmas Festivities © CC BY-NC-ND - Associação de Turismo do Porto e Norte, AR Christmas Festivities

Christmas in Porto

By the end of November, colorful, twinkling lights illuminate the streets of Porto and festive decorations deck the city’s halls and monuments. Winter visitors can go ice skating on one of two seasonal outdoor rinks, shop at craft markets and sample seasonal sweets, like Bolo Rei cakes.

10Best is a part of the USA TODAY Network, providing an authentically local point of view on destinations around the world, in addition to travel and lifestyle advice.

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