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The charming capital of Northern Portugal, Porto is one of the oldest cities in Europe, and a beautifully chaotic one at that. Sprawled across a hillside opposite the waters of the River Douro, this historic hillside city has undergone a renaissance in recent years which has seen young professionals begin to introduce post-modern architecture and new businesses into the region.
The enduring classical appeal of the historic districts has never been threatened by these fast-paced changes however – all cruisers have to worry about is how to fit in the new world-class cuisine and shopping in with a tour of the rich heritage of the old town.
Villa Nova de Gaia
Just across the Douro, travellers can find a whole different municipality to explore. Gaia, as it is known by the locals, is connected to the old town of Porto by a set of stone bridges and by the shared pastime of port-wine making. It makes an idyllic walk, especially in the dusky shades of twilight, to head over the bridges to the lodges – the port storing warehouses – that have been part of the fabric of the city for centuries. Make sure to stop at one of the waterfront cafes on the way, and pair some of the famous tipple with a tranquil evening meal.
Museu de Arte Contemporanea
A sumptuously decorated, upscale neighbourhood just off the majestic boulevard of Av da Boavista is home to the museum of contemporary art, hidden within the leafy streets of the suburbs. Designed by local architect Alvaro Siza Vieira, the halls of this art deco building are minimalist to a tee, with huge whitewashed spaces providing a brilliant contrast to the colourful and unique art pieces clustered within the galleries. There are late closings during the summer season, so you can avoid the crowds and enjoy the aesthetic in complete serenity.
Rua Santa Catarina
Rua Santa is the neighbourhood to visit if you want to explore the romantic side of the old town. The secluded boutiques and stone pavements of this stylish district is just a taste of its splendid aesthetic, as a stroll towards its centre will have you find out. The southern end of Rua Santa is home to the Praca de Batlaha and the baroque cathedral of Igreja de Santo Ildefenso with its vast bell towers. The whole district eventually opens out into a patchwork of gardens, town houses, and spacious plazas, giving it an ambience unlike anywhere else in the port.
The Palacio das Artes is a hub for local craftsmen, and should be for cruisers looking for the most unique souvenirs in the port. Ceramic sculptures, handmade varnished wooden radios, and antiques of every type.
Porto is a cosmopolitan city, so the cuisine here is several rungs above the usual café fare. Kyodai is a sushi restaurant based in a small public house in the Porto centre that serves up elegantly carved fish with a smattering of Brazilian flavour.
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