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Time has seemingly failed to touch some of the hidden corners of Porto, with many of its typical winding alleys full of shops and restaurants looking like a scene straight out of a medieval history book. The city is so soaked in the past that the historic area of Ribeira has been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site. Considering the backdrop of wrought-iron balconies full of flowers, the daily washing and an array of fresh white and blue ‘azulejos’ tiles, you will have the perfect city for aimless wandering. However, the city does have a few key landmarks that are worth a visit, including the elaborately decorated Palacio da Bolsa (=the Stock Exchange Palace), the medieval Cathedral and Clérigos Tower. The other big draw for tourists is the tour of the Porto wine cellars at Vila Nova de Gaia on the other side of the Douro River. The surrounding suburbs of the city are also compelling: Matosinhos offers great seafood eateries and small beaches stretching down the coastline. Amarante invites to a particular colourful shape. Foz do Douro is known as the wealthier area, with nightclubs and restaurants just 5 kilometres northwest of Porto.
In Porto there is so much to see and do, and its beautiful surroundings are particularly spectacular. Make sure to visit the port wine caves, different markets and many museums.
The people of Porto managed to acquire the name ‘tripeiros’ or ‘tripe eaters‘, as they shipped out all their fine cuts of meat in order to feed their armies and traders abroad, conquering across the seas back in the 15th century. However, today there is a lot more on the Portuguese menus than just leftover offal of lower quality, and much port wine to wash it down with. Being on the coast, seafood restaurants are both ubiquitous and delicious. The city also has a good array of Brazilian inspired restaurants, reflecting its former colonial links with the South American country – Brazilian barbecues are a carnivore’s heaven!
In central Porto, the liveliest place to head for is Ribeira, the vibrant historic heart of the city, which is also a popular students' haunt. For a flavour of traditional Portugal, go to a Fado bar where you can hear a form of Portuguese blues with melancholic artists singing of lost loves and regrets. The distinction between bar and nightclub is slightly blurred, as most bars stay open until the early morning hours. However, if you want to dance the hours away, Porto has a lot to offer, from traditional ‘Fado’ evenings to dance clubs in converted warehouses.
Porto’s main shopping street is the pedestrianised Rua de Santa Catarina in the city centre, including international brands as well as the large Centro Comercial Via Caterina shopping centre. However, the small streets off the main streets are also worth a visit, brimming with independent shops selling fresh bread, cheese or cakes, interspersed with bookstores and traditional shoe stores. Porto’s open-air markets are also worth a visit, for getting a taste of daily Portuguese life. To pick up local delicacies such as chocolate and sugar almonds, the Arcadia patisserie on Rua do Almada, 63 is worth a try, as well as A Perola do Bolhao on Rua Formosa, 279. Gold jewellery is another speciality of Portugal, a reflection of its colonial past and its conquests of gold-rich lands of South America. Recommended jewellers are David Rosas on Avenida de Boavista, and Elysee Joias on Praca Mouzinho de Albuquerque. Pedro A Baptista, in addition, is known for its collection of antique and modern jewellery.
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