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Porto - a City to Die For!

Porto is a stunningly beautiful place. A hundred years ago it was descibed as the Manchester of Portugal (a compliment, it doesn't rain as much). It still is a large manufacturing city and a thriving one too, in spite of the current state of the Portuguese economy. For today's traveller it is Portugal's rich history and stunning architecture - medieval, classical and modern - that catches the eye. Porto is a large place and yet varied. Wander round the lovely squares, the authentic old markets and restaurants, the port wine lodges, the great bridges that span the Douro (one made by Eiffel), the Ribeira (river-side) or the sea front at Foz-Atlantico.

Porto is a little larger than Bristol and welcomes visitors, of course, but it is true to itself, to its past and to its significant place in Portugal's history, for Portugal gave its name to not only to the fortified wine for which it is rightly famous, but to the nation as a whole.

Porto is Portugal's second city and there is a certain rivalry with Lisbon. Porto's ancient roots have been preserved with pride and a modern and lively commerce makes it a thriving place. Its traditional importance as as an industrial centre does not dinimish the charm and character ot its old medieval quarter, recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

The cathedral deserves to be explored and also the Renaissance church of Santa Clara. Porto has stunning and impressive monuments, including the Clerigos (the tallest building in Portugal in its time) and the magnificence of the great column at Boavista commemorating the defeat of Napoleon's armies in the Peninsular War, by Portuguese and British troops commanded by the Duke of Wellington.

Equally lively and colourful is the market of Bolhão, where you can buy almost anything, but, by contrast, Porto has new and busy avenues, elegant shops and fashionable restaurants and bars.

Spectacular bridges span the Douro leading to Vila Nova de Gaia and the port wine lodges where names are familiar: Cockburn's (pronounced Co-burns), Taylor's, Croft's, Graham's and others.

Do not Forget FC Porto (Futebal Clube do Porto, Porto Football Club), the most successful Portuguese football club. The supporters are known as Dragões - Dragons. Here is a link to their website (in English).

On the subject of football, the recent win by Portugal was a cause of sorrow for a French fan. However, a Portuguese boy showed sympathy in a most sportsmanlike manner. Watch the video here.

We may think we know Porto quite well - here may be a few places we don’t know about.

A recent Guardian report on Porto mentions these as places to visit:
Pedro Limão – restaurant with an inventive 10 course tasting menu.
Café Candelabro – hidden away café in a former bookshop close to Aliados, one of Porto’s main avenues.   
Myhomeinporto-exquisically decorated 3 room B&B.                           
Livraria Lello bookshop – wood panelled said to have inspired JK Rowling. Feels part film set.
Mercado de Matosinhos – a ½ hour bus ride to this bustling fish market with fish restaurants nearby.
New Natural History & Science Museum – botanical gardens as well in this palatial former mansion.
Porto Running Tours!!– designed to explore the city as well as exercise. For different ages and fitness.
Link to the article here.

Now enjoy the slideshow below (autoplay):

A wonderful series of 360º views of Porto can be found at this link (in Portuguese): www.ocholeguas.com/2014/06/25/europa/1403689479.html

For those considering investing in Porto, please see this clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9nJJbawi-c&authuser=0

Porto has recently started on a programme of modernising and refreshing its cultural identity. For more information, click here.

A wonderful selection of timelapses of Porto may be found here.

That redoutable journal, "The New York Times", has just published some travel advice for Porto which is very informative. Click here.

"The Independent" has just published an excellent article on Porto. Click here.

The Mercado de Bolhão (Bolhão Market) has been mentioned several times on this website and features in the slideshow above. However, plans are afoot to demolish it.

One of our member’s has sent this interesting historical article about the Ilhas do  Porto   
Portugal’s second city grew on the northern bank of the River Douro estuary, hosting Celts, Romans and Moors before helping launch the Age of Discovery. When the city spread from its medieval centre in the 1800s, as the Industrial Revolution brought an accompanying population swell, a solution to the need for cheap worker housing was required.  It arrived in the form of the Ilhas do Porto, or ‘islands’.
If the main roads leading out of the city resemble the fingers of an outspread hand, with the fist as Porto’s medieval centre, the islands would reside in the space between the fingers.
Behind the bourgeois houses fronting the streets, long rows of small dwellings, not covering more than 16 square metres in area, were built, often housing 10 or more people, even animals. Erected in the space behind middle-class homes (owners of which were usually the islands residents’ landlord), the islands were out of sight and thus beyond municipal control.  
In 1832, Porto had around 200 islands; by the early 20th century there were 1,050, housing almost 50,000 people. Unsurprisingly, given the proximity of people and poor sanitation, health epidemics spread. In 1910, tuberculosis was responsible for 31 of every 1,000 deaths in the city, mainly of island inhabitants. In the 1940s, to clean up the city, the municipal authorities embarked on the gradual demolition of the islands, with residents relocated to housing estates.
In 2011, a survey revealed that, though 1,182 islands remained, fewer than a thousand were inhabited. Some (as pictured) are in ruinous state, yet others are maintained, decorated with Portuguese azulejos, and vie in competitions for best-kept island.

A second news item relating to a shipwreck in 1769……
The remains of a wooden cargo ship wrecked off Devon while plying the trade route that kept Georgian dinner tables laden with port 250 years ago has been given protected status. New research has established that the exposed timbers regularly exposed on sands near Westward Ho are likely to be to that of the Sally, a ship that was on the final leg of its journey from Oporto to Bristol. It was carrying barrels of the special fortified wine was known as port together with a consignment of sumac a dried leaf used in the tanning of leather. The 23 metre long Sally was a typical example of the trading ships used by Britain at the time as the country transformed itself into a dominant naval and mercantile power. A huge number, some 11,000 vessels, from this period are known to have been wrecked in English waters but only a few have been identified. This wreck is one of three wooden ships buried in Devon’s mud and sand to be granted protected status on the advice of the conservative watchdog Historic England. Mark Dunkley, maritime archaeologist for the organisation, was able to confirm that the evidence was sufficient for them to determine these details now made known. However, it was rare that such old maritime fabric can be seen above the water line as remains like this are usually only seen by divers.                                                                                                             

, Mark Leach, a sustainability office with Bristol CREATE (link) vsited Porto and sent some excellent pictures. He also drew attention to theMercado do Bolhão which is under threat from developers. Unfortunately, the developers have won and the site is due to be redeveloped. However, here is a page called "Old Portuguese Stuff"
(http://oldportuguesestuff.com/) which is a delightful blog written by two ladies who have an architectural practice in Porto. Explore the past editions!
Here is Mark's text: “Oporto was a revelation. Is this  Europe’s most exciting city? We stayed opposite the Mercado do Bolhão.  There’s rumours they want to spend £20m restoring it. I hope they do cos  it’s falling down – but  I hope they keep the incredible spirit of the place.  We’re already  planning our next visit – this place will change fast; if you haven’t  been go quick! Fascinating to explore the Douro valley and nearby city  of Guimarães too…”   Mark Leach

Your webmaster lived in Guimarães for a while, but it has apparently changed beyond all recognition since being named a European Cultural City.

Photos below:
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