Oporto Tourist Attractions
The lively port, industrial and commercial city of Oporto (known in Portugal as Porto: the traditional English name preserves the older form, from "o porto" the harbor), is Portugal's second largest town but also its least typical, with a matter of fact and business like approach to life which perhaps owes something to its British connections; a much quoted proverb says that money is earned in Oporto and spent in Lisbon. Its enchanting location alone makes it one of the most beautiful towns in the Iberian peninsula.
The houses are packed close together against the steep rockfaces, forming highly picturesque terraces. Oporto is like Lisbon in having the old town on a hill to the east and the newer districts on another hill to the west. Large scale replanning in recent years has given the heart of the city attractive new streets and squares, with parks and gardens mingling northern and southern flora.
Oporto's main shopping street is the Rua de Santa Catarina, which, like its side streets, is full of shops, cafes and restaurants. The nearby Mercado do Bolhao is the best place to buy fruit and vegetables. The city's main sights can easily be seen on a day's walkabout, starting from the busy traffic intersection of the Praça da Liberdade. However, those wishing to do justice to the major museums will need to stay longer.
In the Hellenistic period there was a trading post here, in Roman times the settlement of Portus Cale. Later the Suevi had a stronghold on this site, followed by the Visigoths. The town became the see of a bishop, but was taken by the Arabs in 716 and destroyed in 825. After the Christian reconquest in the 10th C. the territory between the rivers Minho and Douro, with the rebuilt town of Oporto as its capital, became the County of Portucalia, the nucleus of the later kingdom of Portugal.
Oporto was and still is a traditionally cosmopolitan and liberal city. It is the birthplace of Henry the Navigator, who opened up the way to Portugal's conquest of the world. Over the centuries the people of Oporto repeatedly opposed arbitrary and dictatorial rule in bloody uprisings, as in 1628, 1661, 1757 and 1927. Here in 1808 French troops under Junot suffered their first defeat. The Liberals' fight against absolutism also began in Oporto, and as a result the town was besieged and partly destroyed by Dom Miguel's forces in 1832/33.
Here, barely 6km/4mi above its mouth, the River Douro cuts a narrow passage through granite rocks, with Oporto on the north side and the suburb of Vila Nova de Gaia on the south side. Farther west the banks of the river become lower, finally ending the cliffs of Sao Joao da Foz.
Oporto is the economic hub of the best cultivated and most thickly populated northern part of Portugal. Trade in and out is mainly handled by its port and by the outer harbor at Leixoes, while international air travel passes through Pedras Rubras, Oporto's airport 13km/8mi to the north.