Things to do in Porto, Portugal: A three-minute guide
Portugal's second city is a product of its position. The Iberian flair comes from the Douro river, which has its mouth there, and the hard-nosed, outward looking, northern European edge comes from the Atlantic Ocean.
The hills rising steeply from the river offer good looks, and key buildings are made from their granite.
It's a fine place to explore, and a wonderful, bargainous place to eat and – especially – drink.
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World of Discoveries (worldofdiscoveries.com) looks like a colourful, terraced waterfront house, but contains an entertaining museum about the Portuguese explorers of the 15th and 16th centuries.
The likes of Vasco da Gama, Henry the Navigator and Ferdinand Magellan are described in touch-screen displays. That is followed by a deeply weird indoor boat trip through mock-ups of places such as Brazil, China, India and West Africa; lands that these explorers helped open to Europe.
Porto's most acclaimed chef is Rui Paula, whose DOP restaurant (ruipaula.com) is inside the rather opulent Palace of Arts. The €65 ($110), five-course "menu memoría" is the properly indulgent option, but going a la carte allows for meaty treats such as overbaked goat kid ribs with rice or duck leg confit with mushroom risotto.
The Dom Luis I Bridge – built by a student of Gustave Eiffel's – is something of a nerve-tester. The graceful iron span runs 44.6m above the river Douro, and the pedestrian deck at the top offers spectacular views. The cathedral and funicular railway are to one side, monastery and cable car to the other.
Vila Nova de Gaia, on the other side of the river from Porto, but to all intents and purposes part of the same city, is the home of port wine. The major companies have their lodges there, and most offer tours of the warehouses with tastings afterwards. The tour at Taylor's (taylor.pt) is arguably the best – partly because the 19th century warehouse is so atmospheric, and partly because it does a good job of going into the drink's history.
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The Hotel Teatro (hotelteatro.pt) thoroughly milks its theatrical theme – with shimmery golden curtains everywhere, a dark-lit lobby with a green room feel and rails full of costumes.
There are huge mirror walls behind the beds, high cotton count bedsheets and TVs built into the sumptuous wood panelling. It's handily close to the most buzzing nightlife areas, too. Rooms cost from €117 ($195).
If buying port, don't limit yourself to one brand by buying from one of the port wine lodges. There are plenty of shop-tasting-room combos that allow you to sample a few, then buy from a selection of over 200.
Vinologia (vinologia.pt) is a great example.
David Whitley travelled at his own expense.