PORTO - NEIGHBORHOODS
The Ribeira area, a 2000-foot-by-300-foot stretch of land adjacent to the River Douro, is considered one of the most tourist-friendly areas of Porto. This neighborhood has grown by leaps and bounds since local government agencies began promoting the preservation of the city`s buildings starting in the 1970s. As a result of their work, Ribeira (and the neighborhoods of the Historic City Center) earned UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1996.
Currently, Ribeira is known for its high concentration of bars and restaurants, many of which are geared primarily to tourists. Points of interest located in Ribeira include the Palacio da Bolsa, the Praça da Ribeira, and the Ponte Dom Luis I, with the latter serving as an eastern boundary of sorts for the neighborhood.
Historic City Center (Se, Miragaia, Sao Nicolau, Vitoria)
Over 20,000 people live and work in the historic city center, an area just one-fifth of a square mile in size, covering the neighborhoods in and around the Porto Cathedral (or Sé). The entire area is named a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO. When naming the city to its prestigious list in 1996, UNESCO wrote that Porto`s historic city center exhibited ``great aesthetic value and scenic character, with a huge panoramic wealth resulting from the complexity of the terrain, the harmonious way the streets are formed, the implantation of big buildings and monuments, the relation with the [River Douro], and the visual effects diversified according to the light and the time.``
A number of important sights are located in this beautiful area, most notably the Porto Cathedral, where King John I married Philippa of Lancaster in 1387, leading to an alliance of the Portuguese and English royal families. The remnants of the Muralha Fernandina (Fernandine Wall) are also located nearby, one of the last vestiges of Porto`s medieval history. São Bento station is located in the heart of the historic city center, and further afield other notable sights in the district include the Clerigos Church and Tower, the Jardim da Cordoaria, and the Portuguese Center for Photography.
Baixa and Cedofeita
The small Baixa neighborhood is great for shopping, as evidenced by the number of stores that dot the streets around the Avenida dos Aliados, the largest thoroughfare in central Porto. If you are running out of Euros and need to make a currency exchange, you will also notice that this area is home to lots of domestic and international banks. The Baixa neighborhood begins at the Praça da Liberdade at its southern end, and includes Porto City Hall and Trindade Metro station.
Streets teeming with shops include the Rua da Fabrica, the Rua das Carmelitas and the Rua Galeria de Paris, where you can find the Livraria Lello, one of the oldest bookshops in the country, with its iconic crimson-red staircase. On the boundary of Baixa and Cedofeita you will find the Travessa de Cedofeita, filled with bars and nightclubs that are very popular with young, hip locals.
The Cedofeita neighborhood, especially the area around Rua de Miguel Bombarda, is known for its artsy vibe and bohemian culture. It is the epicenter of the visual arts scene in northern Portugal, and dozens of art galleries beckon from the street, displaying works from the newest generation of Portuguese creative minds.
Foz do Douro, Lordelo do Ouro, and Massarelos
These three neighborhoods take up prime real estate on the last three miles of the River Douro before the Atlantic Ocean. Foz do Douro is considered the richest of Porto`s neighborhoods, and many upper-class and upper-middle-class families live in this area. By contrast, Lordelo de Ouro, to the east of Foz and still to the west of Massarelos and Porto city center, is a residential area comprised of middle-class families. Lordelo de Ouro is home to Porto`s botanical garden and the Serralves contemporary art museum.
Massarelos is the area of western Porto that is closest to the city center, located east of the A1 motorway but west of the Ribeira district. The neighborhood is known for its steep hills and picturesque views, as well as the romantic beauty of the architecture and landscaping of many of its important buildings. The gardens at Palacio de Cristal are located in Massarelos, as are the Romance Museum at Quinta de Maceirinha and the Victorian Casa Tait.
Bonfim and Campanha
Bonfim and Campanhã are neighborhoods located to the east of the Porto city center. Originally areas of industry when these neighborhoods were planned in the 19th century, now working-class and middle-class families make their homes here, having done so since Salazar`s Estado Novo regime (1933-74). Campanhã train station, the Estádio do Dragão (where FC Porto plays its soccer matches), its adjoining Metro station, and the nearby Alameda Shopping Mall are all located in the Campanhã neighborhood of Porto.
Vila Nova de Gaia
Vila Nova de Gaia isn`t a neighborhood of Porto, but rather its own city, located directly across the River Douro. The area`s close proximity to Porto and the city center means that the city of ``Gaia``, as natives refer to it, has become a comfortable suburb, featuring great shopping, fine dining, and of course, the noted port wine lodges (underground tunnels which store and age the delicious port). Over 50 port wine distributors are based here, and over a dozen are located within a stone`s throw of Avenida Diogo Leite and the waterfront area. Also of note, Vila Nova de Gaia is home to the Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar, a former monastery serving the Order of Saint Augustine. The views from the domed roof are some of the best in all of the region.