Porto's old town, the Ribeira, is the place to be if you want to go and discover this beautiful city on your own. While the main streets are busy with tourists, the backstreets are quiet and often completely empty. Yet, it's here where you can discover the most picturesque everyday scenes. I particularly liked the backstreets behind the overcrowded Praca da Ribeira and Cais da Ribeira. There are lots of nice places - hidden plazas, colourful houses in narrow alleys, stairs leading up to other squares...
Every time I went to Porto, I came with the sensation of disappointment, because it was easy to see the potential of this quarter to boost Porto's authenticity, but the ruined look, dirtiness and bad frequency spoilt everything.
I went there one more time, and... congratulations.
The recuperation was well achieved, the colours glow in the reflexions in the water, and visitors are well received, feeling comfortable and pleased. An example to continue and follow.
Cais da Ribeira is the old part of Porto, facing the river.
Cais de ribeira is UNESCO world heritage and a very charming part of town qith old narrow streets with lot´s of little cafes and restaurants.
One of the reasons why Porto is such a pretty town is very much because it has Cais da Ribeira facing the river.
Sure the place is touristy, but it's a damn nice and charming place, so go there anyway.
Every decent Port wine bottle in the world must have "Vila Nova de Gaia" written on its label, or so it is established under the strict "Origin Denomination" label of Port Wine. Therefore, the south shore of the Duoro is the place to taste, buy and definitely enjoy that variety of wine, while admiring the fascinating Ribeira district.
But again, that's just the surface of Vila Nova. Even if the UNESCO forgot to include Porto's sister city into the world heritage designation, this side of the river treasures a good deal of charm into its little streets. As the beauty is in the eye of the beholder, one should not be blinded about labels or designations. This could be applied to wine varieties or cities. ;-)
Near to the Ponte Dom Luis 1, at the start of Ribeira, is this monument, consisting of a bronze plaque, with a shelf below, on which candles are placed. The monument was erected in 1897.
It commemorates the tragedy of the Ponte Das Barcas.
On 28th March 1809, the citizens of Porto were threatened by siege from advancing French troops. A pontoon bridge that crossed the River Douro was their only means of escape to Gaia. Unfortunately, due to the weight of the fleeing crowds, the bridge collapsed, and hundreds (or even thousands- records are a bit hazy) lost their lives.
While I was here, I witnessed a lady dressed in black, placing a lit candle onto the shelf.
So I came back later to take these pictures.
Apparently this is a place of pilgrimage for relatives and inhabitants of Porto.
Ribeira is probably one of the hearts of the city. By the river with the beautiful medieval houses that made Porto a World Heritage town, by the river that brought wealth and goods to the city, next to the most beautiful bridge of Porto (D. Luís I), overlooking Gaia and the wine cellars that made Porto famous. Today it is full of bars and restaurants most of them too touristique but others that still retain the charm of the old Porto. It is believed that it was here that Infante D. Henrique, one of the strategists of the portuguese nautical adventures, was born (the house can be visited).
It was here that Deocleciano Monteiro lived, also called Ribeira duke, a man that from 1902 to 1996 saved many of drowning by the wild waters of the river.
From times long gone, even from Romans, the area of Ribeira was used as a harbour and beautiful buildings were built throughout history from churches (such as São Francisco), Palaces (such as Bolsa) and Markets.
Porto was a trading and commercial city dominated by the church and all of that can be seen and felt in this place.
The colourful buildings by the river reminds everyone of the beauty of the city. Behind the colourful facades of granite houses, most of the time, there is no one left but ghosts of those that left this beautiful centre for the brand new houses of the outskirts of Porto.
In this postcard of the city it is difficult to imagine the tragedy of barcas bridge. Thousands of people fleeding from the town that was being invaded by the French forces of Napoleon in 1806. The bridge was done of ships attached to each other by steel cables that broke when the multitude of people tried to cross. Some believe 4.000 people died in the cold and grey waters of the Douro River.
Porto Carlton hotel is a nice 5 stars hotel in Praça da Ribeira the most important of this part of town known for its cube statue.
Ribeira, lines the banks of the River Douro, from the foot of the Ponte D. Luis, along towards the Praca da Ribeira.
This historical (UNESCO protected) area of Porto is well worth a visit, whether just to stroll along the riverside, enjoying the atmosphere, or to linger for a cool drink or meal at one of the many cafes and restaurants.
On a blue skied and sunny warm March afternoon, it was very pleasant to be able to chose a table at one of the pavement cafes and enjoy a leisurely drink, and a chat, watch the boats gliding up and down the Douro, be entertained by the musicians and singers, and people watch. I should imagine that at the height of summer it's quite crowded and probably not so relaxing.
At night time, it was too cold to sit outside, the area changed in character completely, with the thick sea mist swirling around, and the streets leading off Ribeira, being quite dimly lit and narrow, it reminded me of Les Miserables, or a Charles Dickens scene - there were some dubious looking characters around too.
It was one of my favourite things about Porto - the architecture of this place is fantastic!
It's one of the most lively spots of the city, both during the day and night. There are a lot of bars and restaurants - we ate a very nice "francesinha" in one of the bars (the one closer to the bridge). There are also a lot of souvenir shops - and a lot of pigeons, so be careful! Either if you want to sit and relax with a beer, or just sit in one of the benches, it's very relaxing to watch the river, with boats passing every minute.
Originally the site of a medieval market, then modified in the 18th Century, when part of the old city wall was demolished to make a clear opening to the river, this plaza is now a lively place to meet for drinks and eating.
The small cafes encircle the square, with tables and chairs crammed into the cave like premises. Tables and chairs spill over into the square, with the chance to enjoy a drink or meal, overlooking the river.
A couple of fountains add to the atmosphere.
On the edge of the quay side there was a tray of what looked like biscuit crumbs. Looking over the edge we could see dozens of large fish swimming beneath us. We guessed that the biscuits are put there deliberately!
They are really large fish probably around 2 foot long but no idea what sort.
Ribeira, meaning a river bank, is a part of the city close to the river. It was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996. It consists of a maze of narrow steep cobbled-stoned streets and houses with colourful facades, many decorated with azulejos.
I think Ribeira is a good place to start a sightseeing tour of Porto. While walking along the embankment you can best feel the character of the city.
The wide river Douro divides it into two parts. In the Roman times there were two settlements on the opposite banks: Portus and Cale. They gave rise to the duchy of Portucale, which was a part of dowry brought to Henry of Burgundy by Teresa of Castilia. Their son Alphonso, having reconquered most of the country from the Moors, became the first ruler of a new kingdom, which he named Portugal after the land of his parents.
When you are tired of walking you can sit in one of numerous cafes or restaurants in Cais de Ribeira. From here you can clearly see Villa Nova de Gaia on the other side of the river. This is where port wine is made - hence many signs of its producers: Sandeman, Ferreira, Taylor or Graham.
Then you can walk over Ponte Dom Luis I to the othe bank or just stand on the bridge to have a wonderful view of the city.
Just about my favorite thing to do in Porto is walk around. Start at the Se and walk down towards the Ribeira and the Douro River. Take small alleys and escadas (stairs), through tiny largos (squares), with multi-colored or tile-faced houses. Admire the ornate iron balconies. Inhale the wonderful aromas of restaurants tucked away amongst the houses. Come upon small shrines and churches. Marvel at how people live on tiny streets where no car can go. Greet locals as they toss out their washing floor water! Greet the many dogs and cats that roam the streets (but mind their droppings!). Absorb the wonder of this unique place. You will likely get lost- but no big deal, you'll make your way down to the quay as long as you head down! And getting a little lost is part of the charm. This kind of wandering is good for the soul of anyone who loves historic places. You can also walk up, but it's a good deal more strenuous! A fun alternative is to take the Elevador up and then walk back down.
The Ribeira district is the historic centre of Porto and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It's possible to spend a whole day in this fascinating area, soaking up the atmosphere, enjoying a drink and a meal at one of the riverside cafes, and climbing the tiny streets that lead up to the Cathedral.
What struck me most is how colourful it is... the deep green of the river, the many shades of houses and the terracotta roofs. It's a photographer's dream.
This used to be the hub of commerce for the city (as it is right along the river) and is still a pleasant place to wander through. You can simply sit and watch the river, shop or stop in a cafe. There is also the Casa do Infante, where Henry the Navigator was reportedly born. The building are old, but many are being refurbished.
Noted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as of 1996, Ribeira , or the historic center of Porto is eye candy. The neighborhood is situated on the banks of the Douro River. The old buildings here are vividly painted and beautifully decorated. Often times you'll view old ladies people watching off of their balconies or hanging wet clothes on the line to dry. There are numerous cafes and outdoor eating venues in which you can relax alongside of the river. Although this old neighborhood has authenticity in style and architecture, unfortunately most of the restaurants cater to tourists and are overpriced. It is great, though, to sit in the praça and enjoy a cafe.
When wandering along the streets of Ribeira, make sure and look UP. The colorful houses are styled in the sense that each flat has a mini balcony (veranda) that is pretty useless. The verandas are merely big enough to fit 2 or 3 people standing, so they are often just used to line-dry clothes, hang plants, display the Portuguese flag, or store miscellaneous objects. In this case, many have bright umbrellas to shade from the sun. Locals (especially the elders) like to mingle on the verandas and yell across to others on the streets or next door. It's rather entertaining to watch.