Picturesque Porto is much
more than just a place of pilgrimage for port wine lovers
- although this unique industry is among the many attractions of Portugal's second city.
Straddling the River Douro just a few kilometres inland from the Atlantic, Porto, in the country's northwest, is closer to Spanish Galicia than it is to Lisbon. Porto possesses an appealing pan-Iberian atmosphere
to complement its many historic charms; the old city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site
The hotel is located in the heart of the city
of Nova de Gaia on the south side of the river, just a short 5 minute drive to the historic centre of Porto and the famous caves.
Cross to the south side of the Douro River, over the Ponte Dom Luís I, and you leave the city of Porto for the separate town of Vila Nova de Gaia. The riverfront here - facing Porto's Ribeira - also has a long line of cafés, bars and restaurants
; cruise boats dock along the esplanade, while the wooden craft with sails are known as barcos rabelos, the traditional boats once used to transport wine casks downriver from the Douro port estates.
The views are, if anything, better from Gaia than from the Porto side, looking back across to a largely eighteenth-century cityscape
, with few modern buildings intruding in the panoramic sweep from Palácio de Cristal gardens to cathedral towers.
The city centre is architecturally fascinating
, with many of the buildings faced with distinctive blue-patterned Portuguese tiling. Outside this area, though, Porto's undoubted traditional appeal is balanced by the trappings of a lively modern European city
- making it an ideal destination if you're looking for a rich mix of culture and fun