Panorama Porto © Freesurf /
Panorama Porto © Freesurf /


Portugal’s Secret Capital

Published: 18 August 2023, 11:00

Porto is the second largest city in Portugal and is also known as the secret capital. The city lies on the banks of the Douro River and has been the economic and industrial centre of northern Portugal since the 15th century. Once home to poor fishermen, the district became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Porto was named European Capital of Culture in 2001. Porto enchants visitors with its Old Town of Ribeira, its colourful picturesque houses built on the hillside and narrow streets, churches decorated with azulejos and the famous bridge Ponte Dom Luís I. A walk along the waterside promenade Cais da Ribeira is a must: this is where people drink coffee, shop and sing fado, a Portuguese genre of music.

Porto gives its name to the famous port wine, which is transported from the Alto Douro wine region to Vila Nova de Gaia, located on the opposite side of the river. This used to be done with using rabelo boats, which today are only docked at the harbour in front of the port wineries for tourists. Visitors have a unique view of Porto from the former monastery Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar, which is definitely worth visiting.

numbers, data, facts

  • Time difference: -1 hour
  • Population: 231,962
  • Official language: Portuguese
  • Currence: Euro (EUR)

A walk through Porto

Getting out of the city

Porto is perfect place for a short city break. However, it is worth taking a little more time to explore the region around the port city. Wine lovers in particular will get their money’s worth in the Douro Valley. The green vineyards on the steep, terraced slopes, the romantic little villages and the picturesque wineries are the perfect place to hike and enjoy. The idyllic landscape can also be experienced as part of a relaxed boat tour on the Douro. Porto is also perfect for a beach holiday. The large sandy beaches of Praia do Carneiro or Playa de Miramar are highly recommended. The cities of Moledo and Esmoriz are among the insider tips for surfers in Portugal, along with the Algarve and the beaches around the capital Lisbon. Adventurers will be happy with the numerous activities, such as hiking, kayaking or on a quad-bike tour in the Peneda-Gerês National Park, while culture lovers are drawn to the small cities of Braga and Coimbra.

Porto from BER

Five travel tips for ...

1. Sample a francesinha, a hearty sandwich with meat, sausages and a lot of cheese

2. Feast on pastéis de nata, small egg custard pastries

3. Eat cachorros, Portuguese hot dogs

4. Try a bifana, a typical steak sandwich from the country

5. Take part in a port wine tasting

1. Visit the Botanical Garden and the Natural History Museum

2. Wander through the several museums and orchards in Serralves Park

3. Explore the treasury at Porto Cathedral

4. View the former market hall Mercado Ferreira Borges

5. Marvel at the old city wall Muralha Fernandina

1. Cross the numerous suspension bridges on the Paiva Walkway

2. Take a surfing lesson

3. Discover Porto’s surroundings on a quad-bike tour

4. Admire Porto from the water on a boat tour

5. Get to know the Peneda-Gerês National Park on a canyoning tour

Picture source title: © Freesurf /

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