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.
The whole area around Riberia is really nice, you don't even have to go down to the river. Also the streets above are full of small shops and nice buildings. And the view is great!
The Ribeira is a really cool area. Just sit there and enjoy a coffee, cake, while resting by the Duoro....
Ribeira is the oldest district in Porto. The streets are narrow and filled with small shops, the houses higher and deeper than they are wide.. Here live the lower classes.