Here are some compelling reasons to visit Porto, Portugal

When you think ‘Portugal’ you probably think ‘Algarve’, the country’s attractive, well developed tourist area. In summer it guarantees you perfect weather with no rain and mile upon mile of golden sands. But if you’re looking for something less touristy, and want a more local experience, head for Porto, Portugal’s northern hub. And don’t worry about the weather! In summer it’s pleasantly warm.

Visit the elegant city of Oporto and taste the area’s delicious port wine

Porto, Portugal’s second city, is the capital of the northern part of the country. Perched high on the cliffs above the banks of the River Douro, it’s an elegant town with much to offer. From lavish churches (visit the Sao Francisco Church) to inspiring museums (the Serralves Museum is set in a magnificent park), excellent shopping and fabulous restaurants, there’s plenty to keep you busy. A must-see is the Ribeira (riverside area), which has been lovingly restored and gained Unesco World Heritage Site status.

When you’ve wandered the quaint narrow streets of town, cross the river via the iconic, double-decker Dom Luis bridge and head to the nearby lodges of Vila Nova de Gaia where you can sample the area’s famous port wine. There are a host of companies offering port tastings and tours, followed by the chance to buy a bottle or two to take home. Go to ivp.pt and click on ‘Historical Center’ in the ‘Visit the Region’ section for a list and further details. Sandemans and Taylors are just two of the many.

Alternatively, visit the Solar do Vinho do Porto, the Instituto dos Vinhos do Duoro e Porto’s wine-tasting and sales centre. It’s housed in the Palácio de Cristal, a beautiful old mansion house high above the river. Choose your port from an endless wine list then head out to the terrace and enjoy your drink with relaxing views of the garden fountains. (Closed Sundays).

Easy Jet (easyjet.com) flies to Oporto from London Gatwick and Ryanair (ryanair.com) from Liverpool and London Stansted.

Summer in the city but with the chance to relax

Porto, Portugal is a great choice for those who like the cultural activities that cities have to offer but are looking for somewhere with a more southern European pace and flavour. It’s a city with lots of old world charm and café culture. Porto is also the gateway to Portugal’s Costa Verde, so if the beach is a must-part of your holiday, this wonderful stretch of coastline is at hand!

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