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Encyclopedia > Oporto
A modern view of the ancient city of Porto, the city that gave the name to the country.

Porto (in English also Oporto), population 263,000 in 15 parishes, with 1,551,950 in the metropolitan area, is Portugal's second city and district seat. It is situated in the north of the country, on the northern bank of the Douro River, just in from the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. The country and the Port Wine (Portuguese: Vinho do Porto) owe their names to the city of Porto.

One of Portugal's most internationally appreciated products is Port Wine. Its name comes from the fact that it ages in cellars in Porto's sister city Vila Nova de Gaia, just across the river.



Historic references the city go back to the 5th century and Roman times. In the period before the foundation of Portugal, it was named Portus Cale - Harbour of Cale in English. The surrounding county was thus named Condado Portucalense. This county later became the independent kingdom called Portugal, which eventually expanded to its current frontiers.


This city was the scene for the marriage of João I and Philippa of Lancaster, symbolising the long-standing military alliance between Portugal and England. This alliance was at times respected and at other times not.

An anecdote from the times of Portugal's expansion overseas tells of the citizens of Porto providing meat for the sailors and retaining only tripes (tripas in Portuguese) for themselves. The Portans thus acquired the nickname tripeiros, which is still in use today. From the same episode a typical dish from this city was created, Tripas à Moda do Porto (Tripes à la Porto in English), which still can be found everywhere in the city today.

Torre dos Clérigos

In 1754, the Italian architect Nasoni designed a tower that was built in one of the central zones of the city and became its icon: Torre dos Clérigos.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the city became an important industrial centre and saw its size and population increase. A two-level iron bridge - Luís I - and a railway bridge - Maria Pia -, both designed by Gustave Eiffel were constructed, as well as the central railway station (São Bento, considered to be one of the most beautiful in Europe). A university (Aula de Náutica, 1762) and stock exchange (Bolsa do Porto, 1834) were established in the city.

A tram network spanning the city was also built, but nowadays only one line remains, going through the river and sea marginals and is mainly used by tourists.


Ponte Da Arrábida, view from the West at ground level (East view)

During the 20th century, other bridges were built: Arrábida, which, at its opening, had the biggest concrete supporting arch in the world, for high speed traffic in the West side of the city. Then came S. João, to replace Maria Pia. And Freixo for high speed traffic in the East side of the city. The newest bridge ist Ponte do Infante, finished in 2003.

Currently the major project in development is the subway (http://www.metro-porto.pt). It is the most expensive public construction project currently in progress in Europe, mainly due to the city's soil, which is extremely complex from the technical perspective. Consequently, the Infante bridge was built, for urban traffic, replacing Luís I, which will be dedicated to the subway.

Porto and the Douro river at night
Porto and the Douro river at night


Avenida dos Aliados

In 2001, Porto shared the designation European Culture Capital with the Dutch city of Rotterdam). In the scope of these event, the construction of the major concert hall space Casa da Música (http://www.porto2001.pt/), designed by the Dutch arquitect Rem Koolhaas, was initiated.

In recent years, UNESCO recognised the historic centre (which dates back to the middle ages) as a World heritage site.

Today there is a discussion on whether the city of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia should amalgamate. The municipality would probably be called Portogaia.


Edifício do Jornal de Noticias, view from the west

Porto has always rivaled Lisbon in economic power despite its much smaller size. As the most important city in the heavily industrialised north, many of the largest Portuguese corporations are headquartered in this city.

The city's stock exchange (Bolsa do Porto) merged with Lisbon's, originating Bolsa de Valores de Lisboa, which later merged with Euronext, together with Amsterdam, Brussels, LIFFE and Paris.

Porto hosts the most popular Portuguese newspaper, Jornal de Notícias. The building where its offices are located (which has the same name as the newspaper) is one of the tallest in the city.

Porto Editora, the most important Portuguese publisher is also in Porto. Its dictionaries are considered the standard reference works for Portuguese.


The football clubs FC Porto and Boavista FC, playing in the highest Portuguese division, are both from Porto. SC Salgueiros, also from Oporto, used to play in the highest division until 2 years ago, now playing in the Segunda Divisao B.

In 1958 and 1960, Porto's streets hosted the Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix on the Boavista street circuit. Between 8 to 10 July 2005 a reenactment of the races is scheduled to take place.


Porto and Douro river
  • Aldoar
  • Bonfim
  • Campanhã
  • Cedofeita
  • Foz do Douro
  • Lordelo do Ouro
  • Massarelos
  • Miragaia
  • Nevogilde
  • Paranhos
  • Ramalde
  • S. Nicolau
  • Santo Ildefonso
  • Vitória

External link

  • Official homepage of Porto city council (http://www.cm-porto.pt/) (in Portuguese)

  Results from FactBites:
Oporto (1508 words)
Diocese in Portugal; comprising 26 civil concelhos of the districts of Oporto and Aveiro; probably founded in the middle of the sixth century.
In the time of Rodrigo Pinheiro, a learned humanist, Oporto was visited by St. Francis Borgia and the Jesuits established themselves in the city.
In 1618 Bishop Rodrigo da Cunha, author of the history of the Bishops of Oporto, was appointed.
  More results at FactBites »



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