'Second cities' best bet for price, ambience


Photographs by Rick Steves’ Europe/DOMINIC ARIZONA BONUCCELLI

Traditional “rabelo” boats, which were once used to deliver port wine from the Douro Valley, line Porto’s harbor at sunset.

I'm really into "second cities" these days. For generations, Industrial Age powerhouses in Europe turned into what we would call "the rust belt," while their elegant "first city" counterparts enjoyed the luster of the Information Age. But over the last decade or so, the rust has become a trendy accessory and industrial ruins have turned bohemian chic.


SLEEPING: Guest House Douro is in the heart of the Ribeira bustle, with eight small but cozy rooms (splurge, guesthousedouro.com). Moov Hotel Porto Centro has 125 sleek, modern rooms occupying a remodeled movie theater (budget, hotelmoov.com).

EATING: Restaurante A Grade is a small mom-and-pop spot serving good, home-style Portuguese food (moderate, Rua de Sao Nicolau 9). Cafe Santiago F, a basic diner, often wins awards for its version of Porto’s signature sandwich, the hearty “francesinha” (budget, Rua Passos Manuel 226).

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 stcp.pt).

TOURIST INFORMATION: visitporto.travel.


The colorful Ribeira district of Porto, Portugal’s “second city,” has been transformed from rust-belt drab to bohemian chic. + Enlarge

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