Porto is Portugal’s second largest city, known worldwide as the city that exports Portugal’s legendary Porto or Port wine (2006 marks the 250th anniversary of Port wine, making Douro the oldest demarcated region in the world). The valley of the river Douro is of unequalled beauty, and can be explored by car or by river cruises. The city of Porto is distinctive for its granite baroque splendor and modern grandeur, such as the brand new futuristic concert hall Casa da Música (designed by Dutch master architect Rem Koolhaas). Porto is also the gateway to the historic region where Portugal began in the 12th century. Splendid Baroque towns and manor houses are scattered throughout historic cities like Braga, Amarante, Bragança, and the monumental city of Guimarães (which is the nation’s first capital and birthplace of its founder and first king, D. Afonso Henriques).
It was in Porto and the north that Portugal came into being as a country, which is why the region has such a rich and fascinating heritage.
This is a mountainous area with rivers, natural parks and steep, sloping hillsides covered with leafy vegetation. The granite from its mountains was used to build many of the region’s religious and historical monuments, such as the unpretentious Romanesque chapels and baroque churches.
History surrounds you when you visit the region’s castles - the castle at Guimarães was the birthplace of the nation’s founder and first king, Dom Afonso Henriques. And at the countless manor houses and palaces emblazoned with coats of arms, visitors are received with an aristocratic display of hospitality.
The river was given the name of ouro (gold) because it brings the water that the sun-drenched vines rely on to produce the world-famous Port wine. But also because this was the place from which ships used to set sail in the great period of Portuguese discovery. Or perhaps the name is due to the carved and gilded woodwork of the city’s countless baroque churches.
The fact remains that this ancient city gave its name to both Port wine and to the nation of Portugal. Much of its heritage is based on shipping and trade, making it a bustling and passionate city. Porto is also classified as world heritage site. Perhaps these are the reasons why Porto finds its way into the hearts of its visitors.