Porto is the second-largest city in Portugal after Lisbon and one of the major urban areas of the Iberian Peninsula. Among the oldest European centres, its historical core was proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. This bustling city is overflowing with culture, arts, entertainment and sights, so with 24 hours to spare here are our must-see attractions to complete your holiday.
Top of many guests’ highlights – and Lonely Planet’s third most beautiful library in the world – is the Lello Bookstore. Walk through its doors and you’ll notice a marvellous stairway and exquisite wooden walls, with the stained-glass ceiling incorporating Lello’s motto, “decus in labore”. The bookstore (particularly the library) is rumored to be J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for the Harry Potter series.
For landmark architecture, Ponte de Dom Luis I is one of the most iconic structures in Portugal. Crossing the Douro River, it links Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia on the south bank, with the bridge’s majestic sweep and two-tier aspect uniting the city. The heavily riveted ironwork is characteristic of Gustave Eiffel’s style, and indeed it was one of his assistants who built the bridge in 1886. An outstanding view of the bridge can be enjoyed from the terrace of the Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar on the south bank. From here, the entire city forms a fabulous backdrop which is particularly dramatic at dusk.
Looking for something a little more peaceful? Parque da Cidade (‘city park’) is the biggest urban park in Portugal and the ideal place for a relaxed stroll. Located on the western end of Avenida da Boavista, it’s one of the city’s lungs. Facing the ocean and with access to the beach, the park is over 80 hectares and replicates a rural ambience.
Lesser known to visitors is the World Heritage Site, Muralha Fernandina. A length of Porto’s 14th century wall runs almost parallel to the funicular, located just up from the Luís I Bridge. Access the battlements at Largo 1 de Dezembro where the entrance to the wall is surrounded by a gorgeous garden with orange trees. As you walk, the UNESCO signs will give you a little background on medieval Porto. Best of all, the view of the Douro River from here is unbeatable.
Before you embark or after you disembark your cruise on the Emerald Radiance, why not spend a few days soaking up more of this lively and captivating city.