Oporto

Pop.: 265,000

Located on the river Duero (rio Duoro), Oporto is undoubtedly one of Portugal’s most picturesque city’s. With the river acting like a boundary, dividing the city into the riverside wine caves on one bank and the historical centre on the other. The historical centre, “Ribeira”, is the riverside quarter with lively bars restaurants all hidden in a maze of winding streets and alleys with tiled and pastel-painted facades.

As the birthplace of “Port”, Porto attracts wine lovers from all over the world with the Vila Nova de Gaia housing dozens of wine caves and cellars with most offering tastings

History

Porto literally put the “Portu” in Portugal. The Roman had a settlement here, with one side of the river called “Portus” and the other named “Cale”, the Arab world followed for a  short period occupying what today we call Portugal. However by AD1000 the region had been reconquered and organised into a country called Portucale with its capital being Oporto. In 1095 Henri of Burgundy was given the territory and from here he, and more-so his son Alfonso Henriques launched the Christian re-conquest for the rest of moden day Portugal.

King John I (Dom João I) married Phillipa of Lancaster in 1387. The marriage produced a son,  Henry the Navigator, born in the city who would change the fate of Portugal forever by creating one of the great trading empires. Henry would send ships around Africa looking for sea-routes to India, meanwhile in Europe, war between England and France saw English wine trade disrupted, so the English set up shop in Oporto and their presence is still evident today with wine labels such as Graham’s and Taylor’s.

In 1808, Napoleon marched into the city and was subsequently removed by the English, an event remembered today with an incredible sculpture by Henrique Moriera titled “Monument to the Heroes of the Peninsula War” on the Rotunda de Boavista.

The late19th century also brought the Industrial Revolution, primarily funded by the profit form the wine trade. Today the city is Portugal’s second largest city, after Lisbon, and the economic and industrial capital of Northern Portugal

Highlights

Ribeira District

Listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, the Ribiera District is Porto’s riverside quarter, full of bars and restaurants lost is a maze of narrow winding streets

Vila Nova de Gaia

In theory a separate municipality but in practice another district of Oporto, Vila Nova de Gaia sits on the opposite side of the river Duoro and since the 18th century has been the epicentre of the port-wine industry with more than 60 port manufacturers having their head-quarters there.

The Cathedral

The Cathedral, or Sé in Portuguese, was built in the 12th and 13thcenturies as much as a fortress as a church.

The Stock Exchange

The Stock Exchange, or the Palácio da Bolsa in Portuguese, was constructed in 1842 and is where Porto’s mercantile law was upheld. Its centrepiece is the incredible “Arabian Room” inspired by the Alhambra in Granada.

Church of San Francisco

In Portuguese, São Francisco, was originally built in the 14th century and today is known for the 200kg (450lb) of gold that covers the high altar.

GALLERY VIEW

Oporto. wine cellars of the Vila Nova de Gaia
Oporto. Barco radelos, flat-bottomed boats onced used to transport the wine
Oporto. Monument to the Heroes of the Peninsula War” on the Rotunda de Boavista
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