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20 reasons to visit Porto

The amazing city of Porto. Elected as the European Best Destination in 2014 by the European Consumers Choice for the second time (the first time being in 2012), the "Unvanquished City" receives this award for the following reasons (along with some curiosities):

1. The "Francesinha"

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I can't stress this enough. It's getting old, I know, but I just want you to understand the greatness of this dish! I mean, just look at this! "Oh, but I'm a vegetarian. " No problem! There are vegetarian variations of this just as good! (well, honestly I don't know if they're just as good because I've never tried them, but I heard they were. )

2. Taverns and other foods

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Tripas à moda do Porto. Source

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Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá. Source

Besides the "francesinha", Porto is also famous for its "Tripas à moda do Porto" (hence why Porto residents are called “tripeiros”), its Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá, and the bifanas à moda do Porto. These typical dishes can be found in most of the city's restaurants, but there are some taverns where you can eat better and cheaper than many restaurants. This is especially true when talking about the "bifanas", as you can find the best ones at the taverns, for example at one called Conga. There are plenty other famous taverns, like "A Badalhoca", which serves the best ham sandwiches, and "Casa Guedes" that makes amazing gammon sandwiches. There are plenty others, so you should explore as much as you can!

3. Port Wine

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Port wine. Source

I don't think I even need to explain this, do I?

4. Breathtaking landscapes

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Douro valley. Source

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D. Luis I bridge. Source

You can take a boat ride along the Douro river and enjoy the natural beauty all around the Douro Valley. Also, it's always worth it to go search for viewpoints of the city to see it from up high and to be amazed by it. After all, we're talking about Porto, easily one of the most beautiful cities of Europe.

5. The city and its streets

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City and small streets. Source

In terms of buildings and the architecture, Porto looks like an old city, but not in a bad way. The old buildings (some that are almost completely rundown and close to collapsing) give the city its charm and colorful environment. Taking a photo from Cais de Gaia, you can get a beautiful picture of the river and the old riverside buildings that perfectly demonstrates the beauty of the city. But to fully understand you need to walk up and down the streets of Porto, of course. There's much to walk, but I assure you it's worth it.

6. Monuments and the historic centre

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Monuments: Torre dos Clérigos (left), Aliados (top right), Sé do Porto (down right). Source

Porto's historic center is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. There you need to see the Torre dos Clérigos, the Palácio da Bolsa, the Sé do Porto, among many other monuments and churches.

7. Estádio do Dragão

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The home of F. C. Porto, this stadium is a icon of the city, not only because it's the home of the local team, but because it is a beautiful architecture work done by the architect Manuel Salgado. It has receive very positive critical acclaim for its beauty since the inauguration in 2003 in a friendly game against F. C. Barcelona, where a young 16 year old kid called Lionel Messi played his first game in the main team of Barcelona. The stadium also has a museum that shows the complete history of the club so far.

8. Casa da Música

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Another major icon of the city. Located in one of the busiest places in Porto, the Boavista roundabout, this genius piece of architecture was also the target of much praise by international critics. It's home to many kinds of concerts, from classical orchestrated music to nowadays music bands, and promotes several events all year long (some of with are free of charge! ).

9. Museums and wine cellars

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Sogrape Vinhos cellars. Source

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House Serralves. Source

For art lovers, you have the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, a museum that sports a good architectural design and the beautiful garden of the Serralves House (don't confuse it with the museum. They're two different buildings. )

For wine lovers, there is the Port Wine Museum in the Alfândega and the Port wine cellars at the Cais de Gaia to visit. There you can get a tour through the cellars where in the end you get to taste some of the wine (just don't drink too much! ).

10. São Bento Station

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Tiles of the São Bento station. Source

A different station than the ones we're accustomed to, since this has a pretty tiles panel showcasing some history of the north of Portugal, mostly. From this train station, you can get in trains that go to several other cities around, like Braga, Viana do Castelo, Marco de Canaveses and Guimarães. I highly advise you to take the train to Guimarães if you can so you can visit the birthplace of Portugal!

11. Festivities

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The little hammers of S. João. Source

The greatest traditional annual festivity in Porto is, without a doubt, the São João on the night of the 23rd of June (or St. John in English). Everyone goes out to the streets with their hammers and/or leeks, fly some small hot-air balloons throughout the city's sky, eat the typical sardines and enjoy the great midnight fireworks at the river! Apart from this festival, there are many other popular festivities happening all year round, mainly during the summer, an several musical events (some with free entry! ).

12. Nightlife

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Interior of Porto Coliseum. Source

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The typical Monday at the Ribeira do Porto. Source

It's at downtown Porto where you can find the most nightlife. At the riverside, in the Piolho area, at the Galerias de Paris, Praça dos Poveiros, Aliados avenue, among other spots. There's no lack of bars and pubs either, the most popular ones being Lado B, Armazem do Chá, V5, and many more. Plenty to choose from. The same with discos. But if you prefer to spend a quiet evening, you can always go to the Rivoli Theatre or to the Porto Coliseum to watch a show, ou maybe even go to Hard Club or Maus Hábitos.

13. Classic transportation

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Porto Tram. Source

When in Porto, the most fun way to move around town is using the old trams that still circle the streets. Not as many as before, of course, but there are still a few that are still going around the main city. There's also a museum, the "Museu do Carro Eléctrico", or Tram Museum, where you can see the entire collection of trams and their history.

For those that want to know the river and travel in it, then the best option is to take a ride on the "barcos rabelos".

Harry Potter and the "Unvanquished"

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What does one thing have to do with the other, you ask? A lot, actually. J. K.Rowling, the author of Harry Potter, lived in Porto for some years teaching English, and she spent her free time in some certain places writing some drafts for a book story (I wonder which? hmm... ). Did you know... :

14. The Lello & Irmão bookstore,...

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..considered to be one of the most beautiful libraries in the world (if not the most) and classified as a public interest monument, along with the Bolhão market in 2013, was an inspiration for J. K. Rowling for the Harry Potter saga? Indeed it was. If you're a dedicated fan, you'll easily notice the similarities between this bookstore and Hogwart's library and "Flourish and Blotts" bookstore! She also used to stay a while at the bookstore's cafeteria to write her work.

15. The Majestic coffee shop...

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.. was also a place that the author attended often? And just by looking at it, who can blame her, right? Must be quite pleasant to write here.

16. The academic attire...

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..especially the capes from the Porto university students were the basis for the wardrobe of the apprentices in Hogwarts? Yup. You can see the resemblance, really. The only difference is the context in which they are used, because you don't always see students using them, only when it's a special event of the university or if they're gonna do some hazing (called "praxe" here) to the freshmen. You should watch a bit of these rituals at least once, they keep having them during both semesters.

17. The streets of Porto...

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Rua de Santa Catarina. FonteRua de Santa Catarina. Source

.. were also part of the idea for Diagon Alley? All those small stores in each side, the pavement, the movement, and the overall feel of the place...it's similar!

18. The beaches

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Senhor da Pedra, Miramar. Source

Now unrelated to Harry Potter, Porto has a great coastline with several good quality beaches bathed by the Atlantic. The sea is a bit cold, yeah, but that's how it's gotta be in the north! And being at the beach at sunset is phenomenal. There are great beaches both in Porto and in Gaia, so I recommend you to go through the whole coast (on bike would prove to be the best experience).

19. The "Foz"

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Then you have the Foz do Douro area, which is a beautiful zone and mandatory for every tourist to visit, with a beach and great coffee spots, along with the Edifício Transparente (lit. Transparent Building).

20. Palácio de Cristal/Pavilhão Rosa Mota

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This impressive building is surrounded by equally (or more, perhaps) beautiful gardens, that provide a stunning view to the river and Vila Nova de Gaia. This Crystal Palace is home to many events all year long, from sports to culture.

It's called Pavilhão Rosa Mota (Rosa Mota Pavillion) as an homage to one of the greatest Portuguese athletes of all time of the same name.

And I believe that is all. I know there are plenty other things worth checking out and trying, like the city park, the "francesinha"... oh wait, I already talked about it. Yes, it was the very first reason. Oh well, here's another mention to it, because it's worth it. But if I forgot something, please write it in the comment section!

See you next time!


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