A city that bustles with intent either day or night, Porto can rightfully declare itself to be one of the leading cities in Europe. Existing before even Roman times, it played a crucial role in the European 'Age of Discovery' & has recently held the honour of being a European Capital of Culture (2001). It's prominent defensive position clearly influenced the early Iberian Peninsula settlers whilst the current cosmopolitan city uses the hillside location to even great effect... perhaps best viewed from the roof terrace of the 'Taylor's Port Cellars' on the south side of the River Douro...
But we learnt so much more than just that..! So here's our '5 Family Friendly Things About Porto You Have To Experience' for you to enjoy...
THINGS YOU SHOULD EXPERIENCE IN PORTO NUMBER #1
The city is one of the oldest in Europe, dating back to Roman times. In fact Portugal is even named after Porto's latin name.. so it's had plenty of time to create a unique history for itself. So where better to sit and enjoy the view than Porto's 5D cinema experience on the river bank in the old Jewish Quarter (Look at Porto)... be amazed at the famous artist (Vhils) artwork on the facade of the building... or experience every sensation as you whisked away on a 'dragon's eye tour of the famous city of Porto
'Look at Porto' 5D cinema promises an unforgettable experience... and we'd agree! With dynamic motion seats and sensations like water spray, wind and aromas, they promise that you'll know the city and the region in an exciting, fun way that simply can't be done by yourself... Well we can confirm, it's true and our kids 110% loved every second... they simply couldn't wait to get out and explore after watching this epic 5D experience... it really was the perfect starting point to discovering more about Porto in small easily understood chunks of information ... all presented brilliantly by the fantastic narrative and 'dragon ride' across the city
THINGS YOU SHOULD EXPERIENCE IN PORTO NUMBER #2
Portugal's role as pioneering explorers is well known. So whilst 'The Age of Discovery' may have been a period of European 'Global Exploration' in the early 15th century, it really began with the first Portuguese discoveries in the Atlantic archipelagos and Africa and the Portuguese discovery of the ocean route to the East in 1498 .So where better to learn more than (World of Discoveries) Use the highly interactive and modern displays or discover the touch screen boards and clever models... but you'll really love the boat ride across the countries explored...it's masterful!
As we've 'road schooled' our way across 415 days around Europe... we feel we've headed out on our voyage of discovery.... but boy did those Portuguese Explorers (& World of Discoveries) do it some style... and the fact we spent 5hrs in the museum just tells you how much our kids loved it... Hanging on the words of our guide they explored Celestial Navigation techniques, Ship Building Design, even stood in the bowels of a Portuguese Galleon! Learnt why biscuits are called biscuits and why Brazil is called 'Brazil'.... Before taking a guided boat ride across a history packed tour of the countries the Portuguese successfully explored... it really was a spectacular success that now makes it into the 'Highlights of our Roadtrip across Europe'
THINGS YOU SHOULD EXPERIENCE IN PORTO NUMBER #3
Marine Conservation is still a key ongoing concern for the world... far from simply offering chances to gaze at sea creatures, aquariums like the Sea Life Centre are putting that message out - front and centre! So as the waves crash in beside the Porto Sea Life Centre, where better to consider marine conservation concerns such as the fact Aluminium only degrades after 250 years in the Ocean or that Plastic takes even longer (450 years).. When are we going to take action? At least your kids will be better informed after a visit to Sea Life Centre
Every aquarium visit is eagerly anticipated by our youngest daughter, Libby, so we'd been through the cartwheels, constant chatter and beaming smiles before we even arrived... but as we learnt in our last visit to Den Blaa Planet aquarium in Copenhagen... it's important to learn as much as to enjoy! We'd even taken that one step further by seeing just how animal therapy can help children less fortunate than Lottie & Libby at Rio Safari in Elche, Spain...but at the Porto Sea Life Centre our girls devoured the important messages about marine conservation (even researching more after we left here) But as ever it's both about the message and the centre itself, and it wouldn't have been half as successful without the excellent staff on hand to help with the practical 'touch'n'learn sessions or the magnificent 'turtles' in the main tank!
THINGS YOU SHOULD EXPERIENCE IN PORTO NUMBER #4
Porto's nickname is Invicta (stands for unconquered in Portuguese) because during the 19th century Portuguese civil war, the city withstood a siege of over a year. So you should also find out why the people love their city so much, well there is really only one way to see Porto at it's best... by taking the 'Six Bridges' river cruise up the Duoro. Learn that Gustav Eiffel would have built more bridges here but didn't want to share the achievement with his apprentice, or that the soil of the wine region of the Duoro is not actually soil at all... just broken rock!
We've been really lucky across our European Roadtrip, as numerous opportunities to experience different boat trips have cropped up across the 26 different countries we've visited... including cruises down the Fjords in Næroyfjord or Geirangerfjords... or seeing the likes of Bruges or Strasbourg from it's canals.. or even the 3 island trip in Dubrovnik... but the River Duoro has a magical element that we couldn't place our finger on... was it the setting (truly stunning as the old city twists haphazardly down to the river bank), the Port Cellars and Gustav Eiffel bridges... or maybe it as the authentic Rabelo boats from Duoro Acima that even have the faintest whiff of freshly spilt 'port wine'.. Whichever it was, it worked as both girls loved every part of the 'dusk river cruise'... as we savoured an amazing end to the day in Porto.
THINGS YOU SHOULD EXPERIENCE IN PORTO NUMBER #5
Eat Porto Style but be wary!! Legend has it that back in the 15th century, when Henry the Navigator’s fleet needed supplies, the city of Porto provided them with every last bit of meat they had – leaving only the tripes behind. You might not find that to your liking, so perhaps consider a 'Francesinha'. A very special kind of sandwich, full of many meats, tomato sauce and eaten with beer and chips.....Or try to find something that links Porto's prominent role in the 'Age of Discovery' with the food taken back from the newly explored countries.. Perhaps the restaurant at 'World of Discoveries'? Or take your chance with the 'Francesinha' or the famous Tripas à Moda do Porto (Tripes Porto Style) downtown.... The choice is yours....
We're often asked by people we meet on our journey... "So what do we think the best country for food is?"... and we reply Italy, closely followed by France, with Spain tucked in behind.... but we're becoming converted by the simplicity of the Portuguse food we've tasted... sure it has it's more interesting dishes (but remember we've en tried an Andouillette in France so nothing can get worse than that!)... but we love the idea that food tells a story, it creates a visual memory as much as the taste... so the idea of creating a menu based on the 'Age of Discovery' relaly appealled to us... so what did we have...???? Here goes, we devoured plates full of Pumpkin / Sweet Potato Soup (carried in Portuguese ships), Octopus (think jelly fish - Portuguese Man of War and you understand why Octopus was found..) , Turkey (orginally from North American tribes!), Cinammon Bread Pudding (yummy!)
We'd love to hear from you if this helped you plan your trip to Porto with your family, and even better if you feel we missed something that we can add into our next trip to this amazing city... in fact, if you want to get a flavour for the rest of the city, then why not look at Part 1 of this article - Porto Bridge Climb' - something we intend to try next summer when they will be able to accept younger children... yet another way to see this beautiful city
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