Porto Area Map
Though it's the second-largest city in Portugal, Porto is still relatively small. The city covers about 16 square miles of land, with the Douro River running along its southern edge sandwiched between Porto to the north and neighboring town Vila Nova de Gaia to the south. Most of the top things to do and see in Porto are concentrated in the heart of the city near Avenida dos Aliados and the Dom Luís I Bridge.
Porto encompasses an oval-shaped area home to some 230,000 residents in northwest Portugal, about 200 miles north of Lisbon. Porto is known for its impressive bridges, which connect the city and its southern Vila Nova de Gaia neighbor. The heart of the city lies along Avenida dos Aliados in central Porto, which runs perpendicular to the Douro River; here, you'll find quite a few hotels and cafes.
This historic section of downtown Porto (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) rubs elbows with the Douro River. Important cultural sites like the Stock Exchange Palace and the Church of Saint Francis call this district home. Meanwhile, Ribeira's townhouses and storefronts boast multi-colored facades and overlook the riverfront square, Praça da Ribeira, where locals and visitors gather for meals and drinks. This section's charming atmosphere makes it conducive to jovial eating and drinking; you'll find several restaurants and bars serving up tasty bites and port wine. People also flock to this area during many of the city's festivals, such as Festa de São João in June, and on New Year's Eve to see the fireworks displays.
Foz do Douro
Located about 3 miles west of downtown Porto, Foz do Douro is part-residential area, part-beach town. It's bordered on the west by the Atlantic Ocean and offers visitors a tranquil respite from the city. Many beachside cafes, bars and restaurants welcome patrons and residents alike, and the boardwalk-like promenade that runs along Avenida do Brasil makes for a good stroll or bike ride.
Vila Nova de Gaia is situated south of the Douro River from Porto and is home to dozens of the region's port wine lodges. This area does not offer much in the way of hotels or tourist attractions, other than the wineries along the river and the beaches along the region's western coast. But visit at night and you'll be treated to a Las Vegas-like show of the wineries' illuminated signs jockeying for your attention.
Porto is a fairly safe city with a low crime rate. However, you should always be aware of your surroundings and belongings, especially if you're a solo traveler. Pickpockets tend to lurk around the touristy areas and on public transportation, so keep a hand on your purse or wallet. Be especially careful after dark and avoid walking through any alleys, where the homeless and some gangs congregate.
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