Porto is one of the more understated cities in Portugal. Overshadowed somewhat, arguably unfairly, by its southern counterpart Lisbon, it is a place of immense beauty.
The coastal city sits on the banks of River Douro and is a great place to start a cruise in the heart of southern Europe. Iglu offers a series of packages which begin in Porto before moving into Spain and other parts of Portugal. The Duoro is a focal point of this busy industrial and commercial centre and is regarded as the heartbeat of the city.
Such is the majesty of the area that the historic centre of Porto was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. With a day to spare before setting off on your cruise of the Duoro, take a stroll around and discover everything Porto has to offer.
Discover a historical centre
There is no better place to start a tour of Porto than with its historical centre. Head down to the Ribeira, the part of the city near the river, to discover a bustling waterfront. It is a beautiful area with small fishing boats coming in and out of the harbour before making their way out to the Atlantic Ocean.
It is hard to miss the dominating figure on the Ribeira de Gaia which is the Ponte de D. Luis bridge. Built in 1886, this metal arch bridge connects Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia, allowing traffic to cross the Duoro. Take a stroll to this magnificent structure to take in some stunning views of the city.
Part of Porto's UNESCO status is the Church of Sao Francisco. Set in the city's historic centre, it is the most prominent Gothic monument Porto has to offer. Originally established in 1223, the church itself was completed in 1425. Inside there is some beautiful Baroque era stylings including an altarpiece which depicts the Tree of Jesse.
Moving away from the waterfront, head towards the Baixa (downtown) part of Porto and visit Mercado do Bolhao. This traditional market is somewhat of a landmark in the city with locals going about their daily business. Stalls sell a range of produce such as fruits, vegetables, fish and meat. There are also a number of small restaurants selling the local dishes at low prices.
Sample the nightlife
After a day of sightseeing it will be time to sit down with a spot of food and drink. You are in luck as Porto boasts some of the finest restaurants in the whole of Portugal. The best are mainly centred around the Matosinhos area near the beach and the seafront known as Porto de Leixoes.
Local cuisine is as unusual as it is delicious. One of the most common dishes in the city is Tripas a moda do Porto which is a hearty meal, but beware as it is made from tripe. It is the reason why natives of the city are known as tripeiros (tripe-eaters). Another favourite is Bacalhau, a salted codfish, which has inspired hundreds of dishes across the city.
However, if you want a true taste of Porto then you must try a Francesinha. Translated as the Little Frenchie, this sandwich has gained huge notoriety and is the ultimate comfort food for locals and tourists alike.
This delicacy is made with bread, wet-cured ham, smoke cured pork sausage known as linguica, chipolata, steak or roast meat, covered in melted cheese and hot tomato or beer sauce served with french fries.
Each restaurant in Porto will have its own take on the Francesinha and have a variation of the sauce, but wherever you choose to indulge in this local staple you will not be disappointed. Combine it with a glass of port wine or beer and you have one of the finest dishes around in a beautiful surrounding.
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