The waterfront Ribiera district is the historic heart of Porto, with narrow, winding alleys that are so picturesque they have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite being Porto’s most touristy quarter, Ribiera is home to many low-key restaurants and shops, as well as the famous Igreja de Sao Francisco, which despite its plain exterior has an opulent gold interior. The highlight of the palace is the Arab Room, which emulates the style of Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. The Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis was the country’s first national museum and contains an impressive collection of 18th and 19th century paintings as well as 19th century sculptures, including The Exile which is probably the most well known sculpture in all of Portugal. Near this museum, the Torre dos Clerigos attached to the baroque church of the same name offer unparalleled views of the city. A short walk from here takes you to Mercado de Bolhao, which is the city’s main shopping area and where outdoor markets sell fresh fruits and vegetables every day.
The west side of Porto is home to some of Portugal’s most happening cultural centers. The Casa de Musica is a vast white building which holds concerts almost every night of the year. Next door is the Fundacao Serralves, which is the city’s museum of contemporary art located inside a beautiful public park. The area of Vila Nova de Gaia is dominated by the wine industry. The names of companies stand out in neon signs on buildings, and many offer tours to visitors which include wine tastings.