Situated on Portugal’s Douro River, Oporto, also known as Porto, is the home of port wine and a principal destination on all itineraries which explore this sun-drenched waterway. It’s a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and has a wealth of history to explore and can trace its heritage as far back as the 4th century and Roman occupation, though Celtic ruins have been found in the region, showing signs of earlier settlement. During its history it played a vital role in the development of the country’s revered naval fleet and was synonymous with the age of sea exploration and today, it’s widely regarded as Portugal’s second city and an enduring destination for ocean and river cruisers alike.
Oporto is a beautiful hilltop city which offers some incredible views of its beautiful architecture, the Douro River and of course the coast which it is situated on. A great way to take in some of the best of them is by paying a visit to Ponte D Luis I, the town’s landmark bridge. Dating back to 1886, it links Porto with neighbouring Gaia. As well as being a key transport route it’s also a tourist must and the ideal place to capture a perfect picture of the Douro. Another landmark structure is the Sao Bento railway station, which takes its name from a Benedictine Monastery which once stood where the station now does. It’s famous largely because of its incredible tile work which tells the story of Portugal’s transport development and well worth a visit.
Speaking of faith buildings, Oporto has its fair share of churches which are still in use and which welcome visitors. The Church of Santa Clara is immediately recognisable thanks to its white and orange tower but it’s the incredible gold leaf work inside that is the biggest draw for visitors as well as a variety of Baroque, Rococo and Gothic architecture. Sao Francisco Church started off life as a convent and is another popular faith building to visit, boasting some impressive gilding and sculptures.
If you really want to soak up the authentic Mediterranean atmosphere of Oporto, then a stroll in Zona Ribeirinha is the perfect way to do it. A charming waterfront wharf, it’s awash with colourful picture-postcard houses which create the perfect backdrop and home to a comprehensive choice of restaurants, bars and bistros which are perfect for enjoying a mid-day snack or sampling some of the famous port wine.
Indeed, considering Oporto’s distinguished heritage when it comes to the celebrated tipple, a wine tour will often be one of the excursions on offer from your river cruise line when you visit. The town is home to a number of wineries and wine cellars and visiting several of them, learning about port’s creation process and of course sampling some of the wines on offer certainly makes for a satisfying day out.
Oporto presents the best opportunity you’ll ever have to pick up the ultimate bottle of port for Christmas, or indeed, any other time of the year. You’ll find it in a variety of outlets, so make sure you bring plenty of spare Euros.