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With a history dating back to the 1st century BCE and the Lusitani Celts, today it is a vacation and retirement destination with mountains, beaches, wonderful food and, of course, great wine. 

It is also known for having warmer weather, but at a more reasonable price than much of Europe. Even if it is a little rougher around the edges than some other nations.  In that respect, it reminds me a little of Sicily. 

A victim of its own success, soaring housing prices forced the nation to start pulling back on expatriate visas.


Douro River

starting in Spain and running through the center of Porto


those red tiles roofs, running down the hills to the Atlantic. 



Known as Portus Cale by The Romans, the settlement was on the south side of the river until the Alani Tribe founded Castrum Novum on the north bank.  Over the centuries the city changed hands many times. To the Visigoths in the 6th century, the Moors in 8th century and the Christians in the 10th century.  Today, a mild, wet climate and fertile soils encourage extensive farming of olives, cork, cereal grains and especially Port wine grapes. 

Places to Visit

Clérigos Tower

Porto's most visible monument.  You can climb the 225 steps up this 75 meter granite tower for a view above the city. The Church and Tower are part of an 18th century building that are united by Casa da Irmandade which is also open to the public as a museum.  Enjoy the view, but don't miss the church, a beautiful edifice with its  rococo-inspired altarpiece, 18th century pipe organs and gilded carvings.

Palácio da Bolsa

the 19th century palace and former stock exchange was built on the site of a monastery. Construction was started in 1842, and continued for decades, as the lavish interiors were mostly built in the 1860's. Building was finally completed in 1909. After 67 years of work, the building was taken to public ownership just a year later. Fortunately, that only lasted for 7 years and was returned to private ownership. 

Porto Cathedral

Roman-Gothic cathedral, with a rose window built, fortress style, on the hill. The church dates to the 12th century, as does the rose window. But, extensive renovations were done in the 17th century and the lantern tower was built in the 19th century.  Inside, you will find battlements, medieval stained glass, and many chapels with art dating back to the 14th century. Next door, attached to the church, is the Casa do Cabido, built in the 16th century, displaying religious sculptures from the 14th to 18th century.  

However, if you enjoy old European churches as must as I do, you won't stop here. You must also see The Church of the Holy Trinity, Porto Misericórdia Church, Carmo Church and many others. 

Jardins do Palácio de Cristal

19th century gardens, with walking paths and river views. Located about a mile west of the city center, this large park also contains everything from an arena, a chapel, children park, the Museu Romântico. A great place to have lunch and do some people watching!

Porto Portugal
Porto Portugal
Porto Portugal
Porto Portugal

Getting to and around Porto

Getting to Porto is quite easy from Lisbon, as the train takes about 3.5 hours starting from the Santa Apolónia station in Lisbon and ends at Campanha station just east of the city center in Porto.  Getting to Porto directly from Madrid takes longer as you will need a bus that takes 8-9 hours. And, of course you can fly in. The Porto airport is about 8 miles north of the center of town.

Once you have arrived, there are plenty of option for transport. The metro system has 6 lines covering 81 stations. There are trams if you like, but they are more interesting than useful. There are about a dozen trams running on 3 lines.  There are also numerous bus lines. 

Tickets for transport are 1.85 euros but you can also buy tourist cards such as the Porto Card + travelcard. This gives you unlimited metro in the city plus free entrance to 6 museums as well as 50% discount to 14 other monuments.  The Porto plus travel costs 13 and 33 euro for 1-4 days. So, it is a pretty good deal.  If you want an option just for transport, the Andante 24 card is good for 24 hours and costs 4.20 to 6.95 depending on the zones chosen.  However, if you don't want to have to worry about zones, or if you are using the Porto airport; the Andante Tour Card is the one for you. It costs 7 euro for 1 day and 15 euro for 3 days. 

*all prices updated in 2024.

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