Portugal’s second-largest city has much more to offer than its famous fortified wine, port. Situated on the coast where the river Douro flows into the Atlantic, Porto offers history, spectacular scenery and some of the best of Portuguese cuisine.
Central Porto was classified as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1996 and is known for its medieval buildings and gilt wood-decorated baroque churches. A stroll through the city’s cobbled streets might take you past the neo-gothic Livraria Lello & Irmão, one of Portugal’s oldest bookshops, founded in 1881 and in its current form since 1906. The library-esque bookshop combines art nouveau and art deco styles as designed by 19th-century engineer Francisco Xavier Esteves, and attracts both tourists and locals.
However, the city is far from stuck in the past. Recent architectural additions include the impressive, angular Casa da Música, Porto’s modern concert hall. Designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, the white concrete building opened in 2005 and today its 1,238-seat and 300-seat auditoriums host four in-house ensembles.
The city to buy in
Portugal’s housing market hasn’t fully recovered from the post-economic crisis slump, but prices are on the rise. In their latest report, the UK’s Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and Portuguese data provider Confidencial Imobiliário have predicted Portugal’s market will grow by 5 per cent over the next 12 months — and Porto is the city with the strongest forecasts for house price rises this year.
That said, property in the city still costs less than in Lisbon, according to the INE, the Portuguese statistical institution. Cost per square metre in Lisbon rose to €2,438 in the fourth quarter of 2017, compared with €1,307 in Porto.
Unlike Lisbon — where one of whose most popular beaches, Praia de Carcavelos, is half an hour away by train — Porto’s beaches are within easy reach of the city centre. Locals sunbathe on the sandy beaches at Foz do Douro, a 10-minute bus ride from the centre.
The Blue Flag beaches offer unpolluted waters for a dip, and the five-mile stretch to the nearby city of Matosinhos makes for a scenic coastal walk. Back in Porto in the evening, locals head to seafood restaurants, such as the Michelin-starred Pedro Lemos in Old Foz or the quaint seafront Casa de Pasto da Palmeira, which changes its menu of small dishes daily.
A place with a view
With its terracotta rooftops and six bridges, Porto has some attractive vistas, and there are many miradouros, or lookouts, from which to take in the city. One of the best is the miradouro da Vitória in the old Jewish quarter, where you can look over the river Douro and the iron Ponte Dom Luís I bridge, which links Porto to the city of Vila Nova de Gaia. The bridge was designed by Théophile Seyrig, a disciple of French engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose own design for the bridge was rejected.
Porto is known for its tripeiros, those inhabitants who indulge in the local speciality, tripas à moda do Porto. Some versions of this mix of tripe, white beans and sausages even include a pig’s ear.
Some of the best offal can be found in the city centre — head to Restaurante Escondidinho, which is known for its traditional tripas — but Porto has several Michelin-starred restaurants offering modern Portuguese fine dining. The two-starred Yeatman Hotel serves head chef Ricardo Costa’s new wave versions of Portuguese cuisine, while the one-starred Antiqvvm provides diners with a spectacular view of the Douro.
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