It was in the Porto and in the North regions that Portugal was founded in the 12th century and the Portuguese became a people and a nation. Locals are known for the honest and genuine character of their people and their tradition of hospitality. Among its attributes is a rich cuisine, accompanied by the region’s excellent wines, secular heritage, top quality surf spots among other sports and activities. Discover Porto and the Douro Valley.
Porto, a UNESCO World Heritage city since 1996, is the gateway and departure point for a journey across the natural and cultural diversity of the region. It is known for the Port wine which is shipped from here all over the world, but also for a heritage which combines ancient churches and monuments, such as the Cathedral and the Church of São Francisco, and modern buildings, such as Casa da Música and the Serralves Museum.
The S. Bento train station that well worth a visit is the huge entrance hall covered with some twenty thousand pictorial tiles. The work of Jorge Colaço, they feature historical and ethnographic images. The coloured frieze running around the entire atrium details various forms of transport in chronological order from the earliest times through to the appearance of the train. Below, great panels depict scenes from the history of Portugal.
For surf, in the Porto region the most popular beaches for surfers boast good quality water and support services such as bathrooms, showers and first-aid posts. It is usually possible to hire surfing gear and even take private surf lessons with experienced instructors from local surf schools. Surfing the best spots of the city of Porto, such as Matosinhos on north and Espinho on south of Porto, spots that host international surf competitions from World Surf League.
The region is crossed by the River Douro which enters Portugal between the ravines and mountains of the interior to flow through the entire World Heritage landscape by UNESCO since 2001, where the Port and Douro wines are produced. It is from here that the wine is sent to the cellars at Vila Nova de Gaia, as the cruises touring the region make their way upriver in to the Douro Valley. Definitely a must do.
In gastronomy, the regional cuisine makes use of its natural resources, so Caldo Verde, appreciated all over the country, is a cabbage soup that originated here thanks to the fertile green fields of the region. In the west, bounded by the sea, the freshness and quality of the fish has a prominent place, as in all Portuguese cuisine, which prides itself in having the best fish in the world, in the opinion of renowned international chefs and gourmets. But in Porto and the North, trout, lamprey and shad are also fished in the rapid, abundant rivers, to the delight of connoisseurs.
It is a region of good grazing for the cattle that are bred here. The native breeds such as Barrosã, Mirandesa, Maronesa and Arouquesa have Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) classification. Pork is also available in regional varieties, not only in quality sausages but also such dishes as Rojões (braised pork chunks), Sarrabulho (pork rice cooked in pig blood) and Porto-style tripe, perhaps the most famous dish of the northern capital. There is another dish too, made on the basis of a sandwich that is a true institution: the Francesinha.