Porto: Portugal's 'second city' is second to none
Porto natives are known as "tripeiros" (tripe-eaters), compared to Lisboans who've been dubbed "cabbage-eaters," and you may encounter tripe stew on your food tour. Along with this local specialty, there's plenty of seafood and meat on Porto menus. A favorite sandwich is the "francesinha," which is like a Portuguese French dip with a tomato-based sauce. Picnic sandwiches and scenic perches -- for people-watching, views, or both -- are easy to come by in lively Porto.
The town's two most famous foods -- tripe stew and a quadruple-decker sandwich drenched in sauce -- say it all: This place is unpretentious. Locals claim they're working too hard to worry about being pretty. As an oft-repeated saying about Portuguese cities goes, "Coimbra studies, Braga prays, Lisbon parties ... and Porto works."
Portugal's second city is ever-changing, often chaotic and worth a visit now more than ever. Whether you're enjoying Ribeira's riverfront promenade, cruising the Douro or sampling port in this port town, Porto gives you a fine taste of authentic Portuguese culture.
IF YOU VISIT...
SLEEPING: Guest House Douro is in the heart of the Ribeira bustle, with eight small but cozy rooms (splurge, www.guesthousedouro.com). Moov Hotel Porto Centro has 125 sleek, modern rooms occupying a remodeled movie theater (budget, www.hotelmoov.com).
EATING: Restaurante A Grade is a small mom-and-pop spot serving good, home-style Portuguese food (moderate, Rua de São Nicolau 9, tel. 351-223-321-130). Café Santiago F, a basic diner, often wins awards for its version of Porto's signature sandwich, the hearty "francesinha" (budget, Rua Passos Manuel 226, tel. 351-222-055-797).
GETTING AROUND: While steep, Porto is walkable. The city's public-transit network includes buses, a subway, historical trolleys, a funicular and a cable car (see www.stcp.pt).
TOURIST INFORMATION: www.visitporto.travel.