The rabela boats, used to carry wine down the Duoro to the Porto's breweries, are a symbol of the city. You will see many of them docked along the banks of the river. They are to Porto what gondolas are to Venice.
A central point for any tourist trip to Porto, the Praca da Ribeira is a popular area, and with good reason. It sits directly on the river, and gives stunning views of the Dom Luis I bridge it sits underneath. The place is covered in a carpet of cafes, which stretch out along the river in both directions from the square. The Praca da Ribeira itself was a part of the original medieval buildings, but was remodelled again in the English style during the 18th century. It was inspired by the area of London's old docklands.
[ Updated 27th April 2005 ]
Ribeira is a neighborhood by the River Douro. This is no doubt a must see when visiting Porto. Notice the architecture and feel the “typical” neighborhood. Watch locals, and you surely get a sense of “I am not in a big city”.
Narrow, colourful buildings, clothes hanging to dry on the windows, flower pots, Portuguese flags and most certainly FCP (Porto football team) signs, cats jumping from balcony to balcony, ladies on the windows watching passers-by and talking to neighbors, … a lot of details that you cannot miss. All this by the River … a mystic ambiance!
Surely, also very touristy, don’t fool yourself. A lot of restaurants and bars, packed with people on Friday and Saturday nights. No matter what you do when in Porto, don’t miss Ribeira by day and by night.
This square, of medieval origin, was transformed during the 18th century. From the square til D. Luis bridge an interesting wall with archs can be found.
The Ribeira quarter was called by Júlio Resende has being dark on the large painted tile (azulejo) panel placed at the exit of D. Luis I bridge. The everyday life of the locals are represented in that panel but in dark colors. However, from the south side of the river Ribeira looks like group of colorful houses that seem to radiate it's own light.
A contrasting place, in Ribeira two realities live together. The first one, the depart point of every city tour and river cruise, and the better known area classified by UNESCO has World Heritage. It's Ribeira's illuminated face, joyful and curious. The other one is where life takes place in streets so narrow that the sun only hits them briefly and where the most dense slang is unleashed. If it wasn't for some signs that we're on the 21st century and we could think that we travelled to the Middle Ages, due to its atmosphere, the very narrow streets and the unclassifiable smell.
The rabelo boats are the portuguese traditional boats that were destined to transport the casks of the Port Wine from the slopes of the Douro to the cellars of Gaia.
These boats today can be found anchored in the marginal zones of Porto and Gaia.
After a week in the Porto-area we finally found Ribeira. Wasn't too easy I have to say, or maybe we just wasn't looking hard enough... :)
Anyway, we went here as a warm up for the Sweden-Denmark game in the Euro, and the whole area was crowded with supporters to the both teams. We didn't stayed that long though, after we discovered that the bastards took 5 euro for a beer... What did they think, that the nordic supporters had a lot of money...? Didn't they know how much we spend just to go to Portugal...? :)
We prefered to go back to the center, where the beer was for sale 4 euro cheaper...
Before you cross Dom Luis Bridge to go taste Port Wine in the famous cellars, take a stroll through the old fishermen's district of Ribeira and its web of alleys that lead to the river.
Take a look at the coloful houses that face the river, have a drink at the cafes, and admire the picturesque boats sailing down the Douro...
The famous "barcos rebelos" are still a common sight along the docs and under the Dom Luis iron bridge. These are traditional vessels used for centuries, until recent decades, to transport casks of vine on the Rio Douro, from the "quintas" where it is produced and aged to the wharves of Porto where it is loaded on merchant ships that set sail for all parts of the world.
UNESCO made a peculiar (though completely accurate) decision by including Porto's historic center in its world heritage list. Feeling a bit curious about the criteria that these guys use for their selection, I checked their website, just to find this explanation:
"The Committee decided to inscribe the nominated property on the basis of cultural criterion (iv) considering that the site is of outstanding universal value as the urban fabric and its many historic buildings bear remarkable testimony to the development over the past thousand years of a European city that looks outward to the west for its cultural and commercial links."
(Wonder if someone would be so kind in providing me with a translation of this chinese text in plain english... I don't understand a single word of that jargon) ;-)
Aside from "urban fabrics" and "remarkable testimonies", wandering Ribeira district is simply a MUST while in Porto. As soon as you escape from the tourist traps of the Duoro shore, you'll find yourself happily lost in the decadent and sloppy maze of Ribeira.
This is a very peculiar area of Porto. Typical houses and typical people.
Its right next to the river and its mainly (or used to) a fishermans area, most of them on the sea.
During the day just go for a nice walk along the margins and get a hold of local people and their daily activities.
To the left of the bridge you can see a small market. This is a very characteristic part of the city called Ribeira. It is one of the oldest parts of Porto and used to be the place where trading and commerce took place. Today it is mainly a touristic spot, and a good part of Porto's night life happens here.
Across the river from Ribeira are the cellars of the world-renowned Port Wine. You can visit them during the week and taste some wine. In the old days the wine was carried up the river, on barrels, by the the Barcos Rabelos. Although they are not used anymore, you can still see them around and even sail in one of them.
There are several beautiful alleys behind the Ribeira. You will enjoy strolling here and enjoying the beautiful architecture and the atmosphere of the place.
This is the heart of the Ribeira. This plaza is always full of people and is lined with restaurant tables. This place offers one of the most beautiful views of the city.
There a few remnants of the medieval city wall, which once encircled the city, in the Ribeira area: east of the Dom Luis bridge and just west of the Praca da Ribeira.
When you get into town, just tell the cabby to take you here and it will be all you need to know. There are pubs beyond belief and just up around the corner are clubs for dancing.