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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
[ 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.
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.
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.
The riverfront, Ribeira, is what makes this city famous and instantly recognizable. The river is lined with blocks of multicolored old tenement buildings, and the view of them together against the backdrop of the mountain is incredible. The view of this place, especially at sunset, is something you absolutely have to experience in your life. You will never forget how this place looks, nor how you felt when you were looking at it!
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.