Porto is once again basking in the glory of international praise after National Geographic Traveler magazine dedicated a whole article to its many and varied delights.
Penned by travel writer Gavin Haines, the piece describes Portugal’s second city as an “intoxicating destination”.
“The economic downturn may have hit it hard, but behind the crumbling façade is a resurgent city offering new diversions and old-fashioned charm,” he explains, adding that he had been left with “little more than an Inter-Rail ticket, a dog-eared guide book and a rapidly diminishing overdraft” while travelling around Western Europe in 2003.
“But Porto, a kind and lovely city, took me under its wing. It put a roof over my head, food in my belly and music in my ears for about the same price as coffee and cake in Paris.
“In short, it sold me the allure and sophistication of Western Europe for Eastern European prices.”
Although the city has “fallen on hard times” as a result of the economic crisis, Haines stresses that “new routes from budget airlines and a brand new cruise terminal have made it easier than ever to visit Portugal’s second city” – which he claims is “one of the most enjoyable places on the whole continent to spend a weekend”.
He particularly recommends a visit to Porto’s downtown area, which has undergone a “transformation” in recent years.
“The cobbled streets of Rua Galeria de Paris, Cândido dos Reis and Conde de Vizela, once the preserve of prostitutes and junkies, are now lined with bars, restaurants and shops. This regeneration is spreading to nearby streets, and the old town has new life,” he enthuses.
But to “really get under the skin of the city”, visitors must visit Porto’s suburbs, with Matosinhos, Gaia and Foz at the top of the recommendation list.
Haines goes on to explain where to shop, go out at night and eat in Porto, followed by a top-10 list of local tips.