Overview of the City
This gracious capital of the north is Portugal's second largest
city and one of the most beautiful in Europe.
Rich from centuries of trade, modern Porto is as much a cosmopolitan
centre as it is a city steeped in the historical events of the past.
Being built on the slopes of the steep hills that overlook the River Douro,
Porto has a truly unique appearance and its historic centre has already been classified by
UNESCO as a World Heritage site. The 'granite city' is also known for its
striking bridges and the much celebrated Port wine, which is stored and savoured by wine
lovers all over the world.
In 2001, Porto is an European Cultural Capital (together with Roterdam),
but every year the events held in this city bring together thousands of people. Amongst the
city´s most important events are Fantasporto (an International Festival of Science Fiction
and Fantasy Films), held in February/March and the city´s popular festivities held in June
in honour of St. John the Baptist.
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In the area where the Douro river ran through, existed a village called Cale
(V Century). Later it is referred as Portus Cale and Portucale, the origin of the
country´s name. When Vímara Peres repopulates this area in the IX Century, Portucale
also designates the territory dependente on it and in the X Century the whole area south of
the River Lima.
In the XIV Century the city receives a new mural. Though designated as
Fernandina, its construction must have happened between the reigns of D. Afonso IV and D. João I.
This fortification defines the historic nucleus of Porto.
In the end of the XV Century Oporto had only one parish and its population didn´t
go beyond the 10 000 inhabitants (far less than Lisbon, which had about 50 000).
However, in the XVII Century Oporto knows an important growth due to the wine commerce.
The signature of the Methuen Treaty (1703) favours the exportation of wines to Great
Britain and then creates the Royal Company of Wine Agriculture of the High Douro
(Real Companhia da Agricultura dos Vinhos do Alto Douro).
period of the urban history of Oporto happens in the XIX Century with the
Industrial Revolution. Many factories settle down in the city, bourgeoisie neighborhoods
are built and avenues are opened. Oporto becomes a commercial and industrial city, with
the parish of Massarelos as its center. In this place, that began as the center of the
salt production in the XIII Century, foundries, millings and the first thermal center of
town are built. In 1855 public lighting was inaugurated and in 1865 the Crystal Palace
(picture on the right) is inaugurated.
development of a city cannot happen without transportation and the River Douro was an
obstacle that was only surpassed with the technical progress of the XIX Century.
After some less important bridges, in 1877 was built the
D. Maria bridge (for trains) and in 1886 is inaugurated the D. Luis bridge, by Gustav Eiffel,
one of the ex-libris of the city.
Nowadays Porto has 5 bridges crossing the river, and 2 more are being built.
20th century brought even more development to Porto.
The renovation of the center begins, with opening of the Aliados's Avenue and the
new Town House, and the also the beautiful São Bento Train Station (inaugurated in 1909).
The University grows (it is now Portugal biggest academy) and its economy boosts.
Today, Porto is a thriving industrial centre (textiles, clothing, shoes and leather goods, beverages
and food processing, printing and publishing, and chemicals).
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