Cais da Ribeira: The soul of Porto

In Porto, tourists find that the most prominent tourist attractions, noteworthy landmarks and important monuments are generally just a stone’s throw from each other. Perhaps the best area of Porto is the vibrant riverfront Ribeira where many of Porto’s leading attractions reside, offering a particularly good insight into the city’s history and past. The riverside promenade is well worth looking out for and is actually where the city’s traditional boats (barcos rabelos) once ferried port wine along the River Douro.

Particular attractions in the Ribeira area of Porto include the renovated Caso do Infante, the Gothic church of Igreja de Sao Francisco, and the magnificent Palácio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange). The area is criss crossed with medieval narrow streets and narrower alleyways, with ancient buildings in some stage of decay. Old homes of multiple hues stand guard over the waterfront and the harbor is filled with typical boats, from small to large. In 1996 the Cais de Ribeira area was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The Cais da Ribeira is a romantic spot that springs to life as the sun sets, and numerous bars, pubs and discos in the area start buzzing with activity. Some of these places are pretty small, so it may get crowded. Bear in mind that for the Portuguese, a ‘night out’ only begins around 11 p.m. and often ends when the sun comes up. If you are lucky enough to be there for Saint John’s Day in June, you will be entertained by a must see fireworks display and a huge street party.

The Ribeira square is full of tables, that surround a bronze cube – part of a 20th century fountain by Jose Rodrigues that has pigeons on top. Around the corner on Rua da Alfandega is Casa de Infante or House of the Prince, birthplace of Prince Henry the Navigator which was born in 1934.

Cais da Ribeira Porto area also has a number of cheap and quality hotels to stay as well as various restaurants to quench your appetite.