Oporto is the beacon of Portuguese culture and spirit, all topped up with plenty of wine and Porto!
Located on the banks of the Douro river, Porto fascinated through its history ‘in every tile’ and conquered the heart of far-away travellers with its cuisine and the friendliness of its people. Since over 200 years, Porto was already world famous for the fortified port wines made in the region. After Porto was declared European City of Culture in 2001, the inevitable tourism boom ensued, with boosts from their Historic Center being voted a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the riverside bairro of Ribeira.
After arriving at Oporto airport and a quick check-in at the hotel, I started my first steps of discoveries walking around Porto’s waterfront known as the Ribeira, alongside couples of all ages, families and group of friends, traced the cobblestone streets with picturesque steep houses clustered up hills. Pedestrian friendly roads lead to hidden terraces, where I was mingling with locals and tourists who came to enjoy the warm rays of the sun while sipping on Douro Valley wines or a wide selection of Porto.
A couple of days are enough to see the main attractions here unless you are a gourmet connoisseur and plan to visit several port wine lodges at Vila Nova de Gaia, located just across the Rio Douro (River of Gold). The capital of the North, which the poet Luís de Camões once christened as ‘the eternal name of Portugal’, has experienced an artistic and creative renaissance in recent years.
For eating and going out, I was spoiled with choices with new restaurants, cafes and bars opening up each year, along with an extensive selection of boutique hotels. Striking out for its innovative design, I decided to stay at Hotel Vincci, which was previously an iconic building popularly known as the ‘Fish Bag’ stands. The eclectic warehouse, which dates back to the 1930s and was built by the architect Januario Godinho, was transformed into a unique hotel managed by the hotel chain Vincci Hotels.
© This article was first published in Oct-Nov 2017 edition of World Travel Magazine.