On the other side of the river, the houses climb their way up the steep granite slopes of the Douro’s bank. This is the Ribeira. Back in the 15th century, this was a bustling commercial port home to hundreds of ships and caravels carrying the produce, and particularly the wines, of the Upper Douro, to France, England and Flanders.
The skyline is dominated by the imposing towers of the Se fortress, a symbol of the Bishop’s power against which the port’s residents strove. Also rising high above the houses is the towering elegance of the Torre dos Clérigos in its highly distinctive interpretation of the Baroque architectural style. To the right, there is the huge iron framework of the D. Luís bridge.
Across all Europe, there is no more unique-a-city, the product of centuries of civic culture deriving from a power struggle dating to the Middle Ages when the nobility were prevented from taking up residence by the riverside.
The depth and breadth of the historic city centre, recognised by UNESCO as World Heritage, covers the Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, Neo-classic and Industrial periods and now extends to the cutting edge contemporary designs of the Porto School of Architecture.
Explore the city and discover its monuments while encountering sudden vantage points out over the Douro, designer stores, streets crammed with renowned goldsmiths and the wonderful ‘Palácio da Bolsa’ (Traders Palace), symbol of its mercantile roots. Take your place in the café Majestic, a jewel of Art Nouveau design, or try a cup of tea in the Serralves gardens, by the similarly named Museum of Contemporary Art. Two contrasts to an intensive experience.