Porto, City And Nature.

Probably it’s most iconic image is from across the river showing Ribeira, also known as The Old Town, the humble beginnings of the city of Porto. This image is most loved by those that call the city their home, it shows the heart of what makes Porto be also known as “Invicta”, translates Never Taken, Never Touched. The best place to observe the city in all its splendour is from the Dock across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia. This city, once a village, was built as a response to the growing business of Porto wine, hence the Caves are situated on this side of the river.

Back across to Porto, Ribeira has become a swanky, traditional bar area with many little corners and hidden gems. Nightlife in this area is best during the spring/summer season when the bars are opened for large parts of the night and people freely walk around the balmy streets enjoying themselves. Another particular thing that happens during the summer is people making their way from Riberia all the way to the beaches of Foz, especially during Sao Joao eve (23th June), with many bars and clubs to stop at along the way.

Porto is a city with much to do and a lot to see. The beaches around the area of Foz are rather nice, although the beach near the Castelo do Queijo that streaches all the way to Matosinhos is by far the best. There are plenty of places to eat or drink a coffee by the beach and plenty of space for cycling and/or roller blading. The park is also a very plesant place to spend a sunny afternoon walking, running, watching the ducks and the rest of the birds, streaching all the way to the beach.

The city centre offers cozy fashionable cafes, tea houses and bars. It is also an area of beautiful architecture and old buildings. It is a common pleasure of the locals to go for walks in the city during sunny afternoons (which are common enough), visiting places such as Santa Catarina, the most famous comercial street in the city, Mercado do Bolhao, the only city market still open on a daily basis, Rua Sa da Bandeira, where the Rivoli is located, one of the main theatres in the city. The main city square is also a popular location with its old city hall and buildings on each side. It also connects to the science faculty from the Universidade do Porto, among other buildings such as Palacio da Justica and Torre dos Clerigos. There are plenty other places to look at that unfortunately all can’t be written down. However, three buildings in particular merit reference: Palacio da Bolsa, Mercado Ferreira Borges and Igreja Sao Francisco, all located in Praca do Infante. They are all important architectural buildings, typical of their eras.

The Mercado Ferreira Borges is a typical iron structure from the industrial revolution period (1889 in this case), maybe second only to the building that houses the train station of Sao Bento; the Palacio da Bolsa is a beautiful neoclassical building from the 19th century with breathtaking rooms and art, most notably the moorish revival Arab Room; the church Igreja Sao Francisco, is the most notable gothic building in the city with the most typical and outstanding baroque interior in the entire city.

There are also notable museums and gardens to be seen in the city. The most beautiful garden is probably the one in Palacio de Cristal, translates to Crystal Palace. The gardens used to surround a glass building that was demolished to make way for a sports pavillion. However, the gardens are still there, magnificent and beautiful as always. In the same area of the city there is also the Museu Soares dos Reis, which is an art musuem mainly. The other notable garden also houses a museum in the grounds: Qinta de Serralves. The gardens are extensive, with a little farm at the end. The main building houses the Fundacao de Serralves and the Museu de Arte Contemporanea. The whole complex is mostly dedicated to cultural education at the european level, and these days there is much more to do and to see, especially during the Spring/Summer months.

Porto is probably one of those places that many might not consider as a destination for their holiday; many prefer the typical turistic areas of the Algarve in the south of Portugal. However, Porto is a rich city, both culturally as socially. You can even go to the beach, although the water may be a bit too cold for most tastes. In any case, it is a beautiful city with many little corners to discover. The food is fenomenal, like any portuguese food, but also with typical regional specialties and variations. Recomendation goes to Francesinhas and Tripas a Moda do Porto. Every corner of the city is covered in history. It may be a sentimental point of a native speaking, but there is everything to enjoy about the city. And if you ever run out things to do, which is highly improbable, you can always visit the surrounding cities and countryside. There are amazing green areas north of the city around the river and amazing beaches on the coast of Vila Nova de Gaia. You can go further afield and try the magnificent views of Geres near Braga and try the amazing wine from the whole Douro region. Trust me, whatever you like doing and whatever you like to see, you can always find it in the city of OPorto.

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