Lonely Planet Writer

Pathfinder pics: exploring Porto and the Douro Valley


Lonely Planet Pathfinder Macca Sherifi samples Porto's charm and discovers what the surrounding Douro Valley area has to offer.

With its cute cobbled streets, brightly-decorated buildings and the stunning Douro River, Porto captures the imagination immediately. And that’s before you discover the hideaway taverns serving up delicious tapas and port.

Need any more excuses to go? The Douro Valley, the oldest demarcated wine region in the world, is just a two-hour drive away from the city. No wonder this place was recently voted one of Lonely Planet’s best value destinations for 2017.

The heart of Porto

One of the things Porto is famous for is the Douro River, which runs through the heart of the city. On one side is the historic old town, a Unesco World Heritage Site, while the other side, called Gaia, is home to the wine caves and cellars. This viewpoint is one of the most iconic in all of Porto.

The City of Bridges

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One of Porto’s many nicknames is the City of Bridges. Connecting the two sides of the city are six architectural masterpieces; the most famous of which is the Dom Luis I bridge, which was the longest arched bridge in the world when it opened in 1886. The best way to see all six bridges is on an old Rabelo boat cruise.

High above the clouds

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If you leave Porto early enough in the morning and head for the surrounding hills, you’ll be enveloped in clouds. Climb high enough and it feels like you’re on top of the world. This was the view that greeted us as we made our way to the Douro Valley. The drive through the hills was one of the highlights of my trip and was certainly worth the 6am wake-up call!

A golden path

An easy two-hour drive from Porto, The Douro Valley is an amazing place for a day trip. Obviously you can’t come to this region without going wine and port tasting. A number of vineyards also offer accommodation for those wanting to extend their stay. It’s not just about the wine though; they grow almonds, olives, and cork – in fact, 50% of the world’s cork comes from Portugal!

Wine Country

Wine and port have been produced in the Douro Valley since the mid-18th century. In much the same way as Champagne only comes from France's Champagne region, real port can only be produced in the Douro Valley.

Port and Planning

You can’t come to Porto without exploring all the little taverns and tapas bars dotted around the city. The food and drink is so affordable here – a nice bottle of table wine will set you back €8 and a quality glass of port just €2.50. It makes those planning sessions stretch out a little longer, that’s for sure!

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