Porto, the city.
Whoever says Porto immediately thinks of this delicious liquorous wine that is such a delight at the end of a meal. But most forget that Porto is first and foremost a city of Portugal of 237 591 residents and 1.2 million residents for the Grand Porto area (data of 2011). The urban portion of the city has 1.8 million residents, which makes it the second most important city of the country behind Lisbon. These two cities have, in the past, been rivals on many occasions. Porto is the capital of the northern region of Portugal.
It is known for the commercialization of its famous Porto wine, its monuments, the six bridges over the Douro river and the small and steep streets. History reminisces of the wine trade with Great Britain and it would seem that is has had a long-term influence on the commercial activities of the city. Porto is visited by walking around on the unique black and white mosaic sidewalks.
In three days, all of the most attractive tourist areas can be visited. No matter where your visit begins, walking around everywhere is always worth it. For my first day in the city, where I walked for 11 km, I decided to go towards the Palácio do Cristal Gardens.
On the road, the first impression I have is the beautiful houses and churches that are covered with a mosaic of mainly blue ceramic. At this period of the year, there is still quite a bit of tourism. It is true that in the past years, Portugal has become increasingly popular. The cost of living there is still reasonable. The people are extremely welcoming and kind, and the food is incredible everywhere. Cod is on the menu almost exclusively, but in so many different ways that it is difficult to become bored with it. There are also a few local specialities; by chatting with people, it is quite easy to find the best restaurants.
English is spoken fluently. I tried learning Portuguese, at least a few words, but I must admit that it was not an easy task. There are a few parts of the city that are not as interesting, where new constructions lack character; it is preferable to simply pass by these areas quickly, or simply to avoid them altogether. The parks are all extremely beautiful. The Botanical Garden is a must-see for the beautiful pictures and for the magnificent and impressive show offered by the peacocks.
My second day, 12 km. I decided to go a different way this time, by walking amongst the small rainbow-colored streets and through the many stairs of the city to approach the Douro river that kept catching my attention from everywhere in town. A long footbridge next to the Douro river allows us to fully explore the magnificent landscape in a safe environment, and to see two of the six bridges of Porto.
The downtown area with its ferris wheel and a few high and modern towers, the other side of the river with its typical houses and the different boats that you can ride on the Douro river. Some of these boat rides bring you for along for one hour, others for a full day through breathtaking landscapes and vineyard terraces. For this latter cruise, it is important to book in advance as it is extremely popular.
Porto is truly magnificent, while also offering a lot of potential activities… certainly much more than simply its renowned wine! It was my first visit in Portugal and it certainly won’t be the last! I will come back to visit the rest of the country, for a longer period… This first visit only increased my interest for this charming and authentic country of Europe!