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The Douro is blessed with vineyards that produce the world famous Port wine. Evidence of this industry is to be seen all it’s along valleys, with famous names, such as Cockburns, Taylors, Sandeman, appearing on large billboards by the hillsides.
It is a densely populated region scattered with small villages, Port wine lodges, vineyards and breathtakingly beautiful hills, that seem to fall steeply onto the water’s edge. The Douro also has a heavy industrial base – particularly textiles and shoes around the cities – as well as some pretty holiday resorts and white sandy beaches along its coast. A boat trip up the Douro River (the river of gold) provides an unforgettable panorama and insight into one of Portugal’s most beautiful regions.
Gastronomy Typically of Portugal’s northern regions, the gastronomy of the Douro is a simple and hearty affair. One famous dish that qualifies as such is “Tripas à moda do Porto” (Tripe Porto style) a popular dish made of veal and chicken tripe, sausage, smoked ham, dried beans, onions, smoked pork sausage, herbs and spices. A full meal and you are liable to take a deserved siesta.
The people of Porto are, in fact, endearingly known as the “Tripe eaters”. Other favourite dishes include the delicious kid ("cabrito") or the sucking lamb ("borrego"), either stewed ("ensopado") or marinated in spices and then baked. The Douro wine to wash all this down is second to none. There are vast vineyards on slopes, between Pinhão and Alijó in the valley of Alto Douro. The valley of the Douro River itself, stretching both north and south through various longitudes and altitudes produce the delicious Port wine, though the robust reds are also worthy of note.
History In the IX century B.C. Phoenician merchants reached the mouth of the Douro River and made it a trading centre. The Romans later developed two towns, one on each side of the Douro River, the town of Portus and that of Calle. Portus and Calle became one – Portucale, thus constituting the nucleus of the Kingdom of Portugal at the time. Calle, the settlement on the other bank of the river is now called Vila Nova de Gaia. Today, the inlet and the coast of the Douro region take in many fishing ports, summer resorts and industrial areas. Port wine is exclusively produced in the Demarcated region of the Douro valley comprising about 250,000 hectares and includes the districts of Vila Real, Bragança, Viseu and Guarda.
Culture As with other northern regions, “festas” are held throughout the summer in virtually every town and village with live music, processions and a great atmosphere. They are usually well publicised so it should be easy to find one. Probably the most spectacular is the Senhora dos Remédios Festivities at Lamego, held on and around the first weekend of September. Another large and fun festivity is the St. John’s Festa in Porto, July. Here, people intermingle merrily and hit each other over the heads with plastic mallets and garlic plants.
Handicrafts Handicrafts and craftsmanship are alive and well in the Douro. They include, embroideries, linen, textiles and tapestry, jewellery and filigree, not to mention popular ceramics and pottery as well as works in wood, leather, copper, tin, wrought-iron, wicker and osier.
Monuments Porto, the most important town in northern Portugal, has many idiosyncratic monuments, including the Roman-Gothic Holy Sé and one of the city’s major references, the Tower of Clerigos, built by the Italian Nasoni. Visitors should also take time to go to the riverside and take in the typical architecture, as well as the truly impressive Dom Luis Bridge, built by Eiffel. The centre of the delightful town of Lamego is dominated by its renaissance Cathedral, whilst the shrine of Our Lady of Remédios is a major pilgrimage site. Getting there is by way of a beautiful 18th century stairway with 700 steps, which some pilgrims go up on their knees!
Activities Any visitor to the region should make time to visit the Porto riverside (Ribeirinha). This World Heritage area is a beautifully quaint neighbourhood full of the typical Porto “hussle and bussle” as well as great views of the Dom Luis bridge. Certainly not to be missed. From there it is also an easy trip to the other bank to visit the cellars of some famous port wine houses. Here one can taste the famous wine and learn about how it is produced. Definitely one for lovers of wine.
From the riverbank one can also take the boat for an unforgettable trip along the beautiful Douro River. Porto also has some fine museums, including the Soares dos Reis and the new “Siza” designed Museum of Modern Art. The title of Cultural capital of 2001 has also provided the city with a needed facelift, with many museums and galleries having been modernised.
Boutique Hotels and Places to Stay in Porto
- 1872 River House
- Casa das Laranjas
- Casa do Conto Arts & Residence
- Casa dos Caldeireiros
- Casa dos Guindais
- Charming House Marques
- Flattered to be in Porto
- Guest House Douro
- InPatio Guest House
- Maison des Amis Porto Guest House
- Pensão Favorita
- Porta Azul
- Porto Sense Apartments
Romantic & boutique hotels by city in Porto
Places to stay in Porto
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