Porto: One of Europe’s hidden gems.

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Last summer, I visited the wonderful city of Porto. I had never heard of the city before, and decided to go there on a whim. It was excellent decision because this city is one of the gems of Europe. From the incredible weather, warm people, and great food, and wine, Porto is a fantastic place to visit. The town that gave the country (and port wine) its very name, Porto is Portugal’s second-largest metropolis after Lisbon. Sometimes called Oporto, it’s an age-old city that has one foot firmly in the industrial present. The old town, centered at Ribeira, was built on the hills overlooking the Douro River, and today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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The city is quite varied architecturally, with medieval as well as modern living side by side. Porto’s geography is hard on the feet, but pleasant to the eye. The city is extremely hilly, with many buildings built into a cliff face that overlooks the river. Stairs cut into the stone run up and down the cliff face and offer a laborious but rewarding walking tour. Across the river from Porto proper, in the suburb of Gaia, are located the warehouses of notable companies dealing with Port Wine, such as Cálem, Fonseca, Sandemans, Kopke, and others

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Porto has always been a mercantile city, and this is evident in the style of the buildings lining the Avenida dos Aliados, the core of the downtown area. The center of town, unlike other major Portuguese cities, which tend towards the baroque, is granite and monumental.

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The first place to begin with is the Ribeira, the part of the city near the river, which is also a good place to start visiting the World Heritage area; to the other side of the river you will see the Ribeira de Gaia, a similar area from the city of Vila Nova de Gaia (the two are only separated by the river) and where you could find the Port Wine Cellars.

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If you get chance, or are planning to go to Portugal, you should definitively check this place out. For more information about this great place visit:

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/portugal/the-north/porto

http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Porto-Spot-Hostel/Porto/42599

http://www.gooporto.com/

http://www.fodors.com/world/europe/portugal/porto/

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