This gracious capital of the north is Portugal´s second largest city and a thriving industrial hub, successfully blending commercial efficiency with an atmosphere of unpretentious charm. Rich from centuries of trade, modern Oporto is as much a cosmopolitan centre as it is a city steeped in the historical events of the past. Magnificently situated on the great gorge of the River Douro, which spills into the Atlantic after its scenic 927 km journey from Spain, the `granite city` is best known for its striking bridges and the much-celebrated Port wine, which is stored and savoured by wine lovers all over the world.
Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 1996, the ancient Ribeira riverside district is a warren of narrow, twisting streets and shadowy arches.
The bustling suburb of Vila Nova da Gaia lies opposite Oporto on the steep south bank of the mighty River Douro. Sitting on top of a pre-Roman fortified hamlet, it was given town status in 1255 by King Afonso III and then bequeathed to the aristocracy in order to counteract the power of the bishops of neighbouring Oporto, who were charging unreasonably high shipping tolls at the time. Gaia today is dominated by the Port wine lodges, with over fifty wine companies based in its narrow, twisting streets. Here, the ageing and blending of most of the world´s supply of Port wine takes place beneath a sea of red roofs emblazoned with some of the most famous names in winemaking.