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Porto (Oporto)

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ABOVE: Port wine is aged and shipped from lodges on the left bank of the Douro River; Porto's city center is on the right bank.

photoPorto--or, to use the obsolete British spelling, Oporto--is the second-largest city in Portugal. Porto is also the gateway to the Douro Valley, Trás-os-Montes, and the Minho, but don't head for the provinces too quickly: Porto and its winemaking suburb of Vila Nova de Gaia are easily worth a few days of sightseeing.

photoThe city has been a trading center for nearly 3,000 years, and its name--Porto--comes from Portus, the name of a Roman settlement on the banks of the Douro River. Just as important, Porto and its region gave birth to the county of Portucale, which in turn became the Kingdom of Portugal after Alfonso Henriques beat back the Moors and declared himself king in 1139.

photoToday, Porto is a thriving financial center, winemaking city, and cruise port of 260,000 in a metropolitan area of two million people. It was named a "European Capital of Culture" in 2001, and in the last few years the city has been revitalized with a new Metro, a new airport, a new bridge across the Douro, the remarkable Casa da Música concert hall, and other major projects.

photoWhether you're looking for history, atmosphere, contemporary museums, port wine, or Northern Portuguese gastronomy at prices that are low by Western European standards, you're likely to have a good time in Porto--a city of granite hills where the Douro River meets the Atlantic Ocean.

Next page: Porto's lifeblood: Port wine





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