Porto, Portugal

Portugal’s second-largest city is home to the Unesco-favoured Ribeira district, a picturesque patch of winding streets and steep staircases, and tiled buildings abound: blue azulejos are the Porto ceramic of choice. Look closely and you’ll see the Roman ruins under the foundations, a reminder of the empire’s fourth-century occupation. Along the river, tree-lined boulevards shadow grand houses, and, to the south, Vila de Gaia is where to head with a hearty appetite for port, the city’s namesake drink, proudly produced here for centuries. Porto has spread past its original confines, and with it some of the population, setting up seaside suburbs, such as Foz do Douro. Porto is enticing them back, though, with exciting new projects: architecture fans will gawp in admiration at the Casa da Música and the Museu de Arte Contemporânea, two striking visions in white.

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When to go

With a mild Mediterranean climate all year round, it’s hot from June to September, and only marginally chilly in winter (November to February).

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Getting there

  • Planes

    Porto’s airport is 15 kilometres north of the city centre, and served by several low-cost carriers linking up Europe, including EasyJet (www.easyjet.com) and Ryanair (www.ryanair.com). Tap Portugal (www.flytap.com) connects the city with Europe, South America and the USA.
  • Trains

    The main station is Campanhã on Largo da Estação de Campanhã, visited by various international, national and regional services; check Comboios de Portugal for details (www.cp.pt). São Bento station on Praça Almeida Garrett in the city centre has suburban services to Braga, Guimarães and Marco de Canaveses. From Lisbon, the journey takes two and a half hours; from Coimbra, it’s an hour.
  • Automobiles

    The city is linked to three motorways: the A1, which leads to Lisbon and the Algarve, the A3, which comes in handy if you’re Galicia-bound, and the A4 to Bragança. The Portuguese are as hot-blooded in the driving seat as their Continental counterparts, and there are lots of one-way systems to test your patience, too.
  • Taxis

    It’s easy to flag cabs in the street, and there are ranks outside the main stations.