The history of this now great city had humble beginnings. The Romans gave the place the name of "Portocale” and official records of its existence date from 5th Century.
The Moors who later occupied most of the Iberian Peninsular destroyed in the early 8th Century whatever previously had existed in this location. It was later captured in the name of the Christian army in 982 and came under the power of Count Henry de Burgundy who ordered a Cathedral to be built.
He also introduced a law that stated no nobleman or powerful person could own property or remain within the walls for more than three days. This law was only repealed in 1505.
In 1120 the then Queen, Dona Teresa, donated the place of little more than a collection of houses surrounded by a wall to the Bishop Dom Hugo. It was the efforts of this man that in 1147 convinced the English, Flemish and German crusaders to sail on to Lisbon to assist Dom Afonso Henriques to liberate this town from the Moors.
In 1237 the Dominicans established a Monastery for their Order. The place only expanded during the Period of the Discoveries when Portugal became Europe's central point in trade and it needing good home ports for its ships and cargo. In the 15th Century the town was one of the ship building centres in Portugal.
The populace of the town was to many times show their independence to domination and taxation.
In 1209 the Bishop upset the people to the extent that he remained besieged in his Palace for five months. The Inquisition enjoyed only limited power here, lasting only four years with only one act of "auto-de-fé".
In 1628 the women staged a revolt against a new tax introduced on linen and woollen goods.
In 1757 the inhabitants revolted with many casualties against the wine monopoly imposed by Marquês de Pombal.
Radicals in favour of placing the autocrat Dom Miguel on the throne caused Porto to be besieged in 1832 for eighteen months before capitulating.
There were more uprisings during the later half of the 19th Century and it was here in 1878 the first Republican representative in Portugal was elected.
The official name of this city is Porto. However, in recent times there has been popularity for people from other parts to refer to it as "Oporto". This is due to its close and lengthy association with Port wine and the reference to the actual product, "o porto".
As a trading centre at the mouth of the Rio Douro it is the second largest city after Lisbon with over 320.500 inhabitants.
The city has a number of distinctive atmospheres and this is very evident when comparing the various parts of the city. The quarter along the riverside known as the Ribeira is full of narrow twisting streets with houses once painted or tiled in colourful facades, and full of the bustling energy of working people during the day and the liveliness of busy "tascas" and restaurants at night.
The district around the Cathedral is also full of busy streets and monuments to past achievements, and these streets are lined with houses built like layers of a cake then crowded together with a maze of small alleys in-between.
The Cordoaria quarter is for the students with steep streets and interesting shops.
The civic centre of the city is in the Central e Baixa quarter with broad avenues lined with Banks and outdoor cafés, or in the Baixa where the the two-tiered covered daily market goes about its business.
Lastly, the Boavista area is the arterial route in and out of the city past blocks of apartments and hotels.
As would be expected of such an important city it is full of fascinating buildings. The imposing 12th Century Sé (Cathedral) contains within many small-scale treasures from the past.
Built in 1842 the inside of the Palácio da Bolsa is almost like being in an Arabian dream.
The 14th Century Igreja de São Francisco has an 18th Century interior to amaze the traveller. In this church is the Árvore de Jesse, a carved representation of the genealogy of Christ.
Equally as amazing is the Igreja da Santa Clara whose opulent gilded interior has to be seen to be believed.
The Feitoria Inglesa built in 1790, is a private club restricted to the traders in Port Wine and it is only open to the public by invitation. Its interior is designed around a typical wealthy English townhouse of that period with an impressive sweeping staircase. Cut-glass chandeliers containing hundreds of candles light the ballroom in which occasional balls are still held.
Some other churches of note are Igreja da Misericórdia, Igreja dos Congregados, Igreja dos Clérigos, Igreja do Carmo and the Igreja de São Martinho de Cedofeita.
Among the points of interest is the Terreiro da Sé with an original Manueline pillory complete with hooks in the corners. The São Bento Railway Station containing tiled pictures by Jorge Colaço depicting early modes of transport and other interesting scenes.
Porto lies on the north bank of the Rio Douro and is connected to the south bank by several bridges, one of which is the Dona Maria Pia Railway Bridge, built by Gustave Eiffel in 1877.
It is recorded that the many pieces left over were used to both span the Rio Arade in the Algarve and to build the lift Elevador da Santa Justa in Lisbon.
A sad story from history is that prior to the bridge built in 1877 there was one built from linked barges tied together with steel ropes. In 1809, the Porto inhabitants used this bridge to flee from the invading French army and it collapsed drowning more than 5.000 people.
To many persons the City of Porto is associated with a their dish of "tripe". There exists a legend that when the King was equipping his fleet for the invasion of Ceuta in 1415 he stocked his ships with every available piece of meat and left the citizens to exist on all that remained which was tripe - the inhabitants when forced to continuously eat the offal they invented as many ways as possible to make the dish palatable. It has become the traditional dish associated with Porto.
A very attractive and interesting trip is to travel by boat up the Rio Douro and this can be booked in advance through your Hotel.
Museums abound within and around Porto and here are the main ones.
The Museu Soares dos Reis is named after Portugal’s leading 19th Century sculpture. Besides his outstanding works there is a collection of fine art and contemporary paintings together with many historical items.
The Casa-Museu Guerra Junqueiro is the former home of a very active Republican and contains his personal and variable collection.
The Museu de Etnografia e História depicts the life and customs of the city and its region from earliest days up to more recent times.
The Museu Romântico was once the home of King Carlo Alberto of Sardinia and the upper floor of the building has been turned into a romantic memory of its previous owner. Below this last museum is the Solar do Vinho do Porto, the head office of the Port Wine Institute where Port tasting is provided to visitors.
Museu do Carro Eléctrico keeps alive the city’s original transport system with its collection of past trams including one from 1872 drawn by mules.
The Fundação de Serralves is devoted to culture and particularly to fine arts with constantly changing exhibitions.
The Casa-Museu Fernando de Castro exhibits a personal collection that ranges from religious sculpture to paintings of the 20th Century.
The Casa-Oficina de Antonio Carneiro is the studio-home of this artist and exhibits his paintings together with the works of his two sons.
Facing and directly across the river to Porto is the town of Vila Nova de Gaia. Its origin and history is linked to the exporting of wine and was established by King Afonso III in 1253 when he disagreed with the control held by the Bishop of Porto over the trade.
It is here that all the great Port shippers have established their Lodges and send their products throughout the world. Tourists can visit these Lodges by booking in advance. Some of the main Lodges maintain their traditional "barcos rabelos" boats used to bring the wine down the river from the Upper Rio Douro to their Lodges since 1780.
Outline information about Port wine and its history can be obtained from our Web Page within our Site.
On the coast to the north of Porto are two more popular holiday resort towns, Vila do Conde and Póvoa de Varzim. The first town is of older origin and used to enjoy an active shipbuilding industry in the 15th Century.
Today, the remodelled 14th Century Mosteiro de Santa Clara imposes its presence on the many tourists using the town for their holidays.
Further to the northeast is the town of Santo Tirso a centre for the large textile industry in Portugal. A little to the west of this town is the small hamlet of Roriz that dates back to about the 8th Century. To the north of Santo Tirso is the Spa Caldas da Saude.
To the east is the town of Penafiel. The first named is reputedly for its popular “vinha verde” quality wine that is consumed in great quantities.
Close by to this town is the 12th Century Church of São Gens, only 10 metres high and 7 metres in width and length, and said to be the smallest Romanesque church in Portugal.
Also to the east of Porto in the direction of Amarante is the small hamlet of Crete with its primitive 10th Century monastery.
To the south of this town is Paço de Sousa with its 10th Century church.
Further south is the medieval and well fortified Monte Mozinho which was basically a hamlet covering some 20 hectares.
To the northeast of this town is the small town of Lousada with a 13th Century Tower.
To the southeast is the town of Marco de Canaveses dating back to at least 200 AD. Directly north of Crete is Paços de Ferreira with the Igeja de São Alavador as a perfect example of a 12th Century church.
Even further to the north is the archaeological Celtic site at Sanfins.
Further to the east is the town interesting town of Amarante and the birthplace of many famous people including painters Amadeu de Sousa-Cardoso and António Carnerio, the poet Abade de Jasente, the writers Joaquim Teixeira de Vasconcelos and Augustina Bessa-Luís.
The town of Amarante and its 16th Century Convento de São Gonçalo together with the 18th Century bridge built to replace the original medieval one, creates an attractive vision to the many visitors.
It was in this town on the 18th of April in 1809, a small band of Portuguese soldiers and volunteers held the bridge against the weight of the invading French army for an incredible 14 days.
Needless to say the French troops afterwards took their revenge on the local inhabitants and set the buildings on fire before moving onwards.
To the north of Amarante is the town of Celorico de Basto and the castle of Arnóia
To the southeast of Porto are the towns of Arouca, Castro Daire, São Pedro do Sul and Vouzela. All of these locations contain centuries old attractive buildings that testify to the individual history of each town. Bridges, monasteries, ruins of castles or forts, stately homes, all of which indicate the rich historic value of this part of the countryside.
Along the coast at the mouth of the Rio Douro is the commercial town of Matosinhos with its busy fishing industry. Further to the south on the coast is the holiday resort town of Espinho.
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