At Porto’s heart is the historic Ribiera district, identified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site with rural style plazas and houses, where the locals socialize. Beneath the foundations of the buildings that once upon a time were places of commerce, leftovers of the Roman Empire peek out of the ruins. The ancient district is dotted with century-old town houses, peeling under the neglect of their emigrated occupants.
In spite of a few spotty bits, Porto has seen an activism of transformation and revival in the past few decades– as can be felt in its modern public transport, art-galleries and cultural centers. The advent of low-cost airlines has boosted tourism in Porto, which has now become quite a popular destination for weekend getaways.
As the birthplace of port, Porto has stood the test of time as a wine-lover’s paradise. Vila Nova de Gaia nearby is lined with wine caves and cellars, open for wine-tastings and new fantastic, cosmopolitan restaurants are emerging to cater to the evolving, sophisticated tastes, justifying Porto’s distinction as one of the best places to eat in Portugal.
The city is set-up beautifully to support the flourishing arts scene that comes alive in the public squares with some of the world’s best music performed by some of the best artists. The Museu de Arte Contemporânea, built along the Serralves Park, showcases some of the best Portuguese modern art. Rem Koolhaas’ Casa da Música is another space for a taste of Porto’s cultural palette.
But like any other city, despite the charms of the swaying architecture of the bustling, sophisticated, urbane delights, the most memorable attractions of the city lie in the unassuming spectacles of city life – the wind fluttering through multi-color clotheslines, the tides of the Duomo brushing against the rocks, the streets teeming with café-goers and the humdrum of conversations as the trams roll on by.
Porto is best experienced during the summer months when the best shades of city-life are on display, surrounded by fantastic riverside and seafront cafes and parks to cool off. For an exceptionally contemporary, yet traditional experience, head to the city of Porto.