If Paris and Chicago had a love child, it would be Porto. Parts of the city are as elegant and sophisticated as a Parisian woman, while other parts are as rough and ready as a Chicago longshoreman. Porto is a city that works hard, and plays harder. The city’s theatre lives in the streets not in the palaces. The bohemians are tolerated of course, but the city’s eye rarely strays from the river which is its “meat and potatoes”. Yet at day’s end, there is always time for a song and a glass of port.
Lisbon may have more tourists, but if you want to experience the real Portugal you must visit Porto. Bring an open mind and you’ll see beyond the city’s stormy, brawling exterior to its inner majesty.
P.S. If you do make it to Porto eat a hearty Francesinha (a warm sandwich that originated in Porto); and when the meal is done, toast the city with a glass of port. Remember to leave a little room for some pastel de nata too!
To us, this figure and ones like it capture the enduring spirit of Porto's citizens. (Several statues seemed to be plagued by an overwhelming burden, yet they bear the weight and refuse to surrender.)
Unlike it's pretty sister, Lisbon, Porto rolls up its sleeves and works! This commercial street is only quiet on Sundays, during the rest of the week it is buzzing with energy.
In the early 1900s the city of Porto purchased streetcar kits from Philadelphia. By 1929 the city needed more cars so they built their version of the original Brill streetcar. These cars are still in operation today. I love streetcars! They are perfect for narrow and steep streets -- not that Wade wanted to ride in one! "You cannot build buns of steel if you take the tram!" Quote, unquote. =
The Porto Riverfront is so unique that it has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area's colourful buildings and medieval streets create a wonderful ambiance. Some travelers comment on her fading beauty suggesting that she is past her prime, but to us she is the "Cher" of cities.
Porto's Dom Luis I is an important "bridge" that brings Porto (riverfront) and Gaia (the left bank) together. This connector allows access to the Port Lodges like Sandeman, Ramos Pintos, and Taylor.
These boats (barcos rabelos) used to sail up and down the Douro River delivering port wine throughout the city. Port is a fortified wine that is sweet and is often served as a dessert wine. It's usually red but there are white varieties as well. Some people suggest Port and Brandy are the same thing, but the Portuguese would disagree. And rightly so!
The Church of Saint Francis is found in the heart of the old city. It offers great views of the city's rooftops. Also, it is home to Porto's catacombs, which you can visit. Some of the crypts are numbered and still have Oporto family names printed on them.
The lion (which represents the British and the Portuguese) is dominating the eagle (which represents Napoleon and his French troops). Even today the Portuguese and the British have close ties. Many British citizens holiday or live in Portugal.
The city isn't just known for its port wine. It is also known for its distinctive blue and white tiles known as azulejos. The church's façade is a fine example of patterned azulejos tiles. (The tiles may utilize other colours such as green, red and yellow but the blue and white tiles adorn most exteriors.)
If you visit Porto, the São Bento Station (Train) is a must see. The beautiful azulejos / tile murals are amazing. This photo captures daily life as it once was in Portugal.
This is another azulejos mural from the São Bento Station. This one highlights an historic battle. Throughout the city you can find many of these wonderful murals.
Forget Starbucks! This gorgeous art nouveau café should be your first stop in Porto. When it opened in 1921 it was meant for society's most elite members but few visited it. After the name was changed from Café Elite to Café Majestic it became popular with intellectuals, bohemians and the wealthy. Many heated debates were held here while her visitors drank tea or ate ice cream. Today the debates continue over coffee / tea and pastries.
"I am ready for my close-up Mr. DeMille." (No matter where we were, gulls could be found close by. Usually they'd keep a safe distance though, but this fellow liked the attention.)
Spring was definitely in the air. These unusual flowers caught our attention because the tree did not have any leaves whatsoever. (P.S. These are not almond trees; does anyone recognize the species?)
A Francesinha is a hearty sandwich (with egg, cheese and meat) that originated in Porto. It is served warm. It also has a distinctive sauce (which can be a little spicy) that is drizzled over the sandwich. Yum.