Oporto (Portuguese: Porto, population 263,000, with 1,200,000 in the metropolitan area) is the second city in size and importance in Portugal. It is situated in the north of the country, on the northern bank of the Douro River, just off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. The country and the Port Wine (Portuguese: Vinho do Porto) owe their names to the city of Oporto.
Historic references go back to the 5th century, to the Roman times. In the period before the foundation of Portugal it was named Portus Cale - Harbour of Cale in English. The surrounding county was thus named Condado Portucalense. This county later became the independent kingdom called Portugal, which expanded to its current frontiers.
This city was also the scene of the marriage of João I and Katherine of Lancaster, symbolising the long standing military alliance between Portugal and England, which was at times respected and at other times not.
An anecdote from the times of Portugal's expansion overseas, tells of the citizens of Oporto providing meat for the sailors and retaing only tripes (tripas in Portuguese) for themselves. The Oportans thus acquired the nickname tripeiros, which is still in use today. From the same episode a typical dish from this city was created: Tripas à Moda do Porto - Tripes à lá Oporto in English -, which still can be found everywhere in the city today.
One of Portugal's internationally appreciated products is Port Wine. Its name comes from the fact that it ages in cellars in Oporto's sister city Vila Nova de Gaia, just across the river.
|Porto cellars and the Douro River|
The Italian architect Nasoni designed a tower that was built in one of the central zones of the city and became its icon: Torre dos Clérigos.
During the 18th and 19th century the city became an important industrial centre and saw its size and population increase. A two-level iron bridge - Luís I - and a railway bridge - Maria Pia -, both designed by Gustave Eiffel were constructed, as well as the central railway station (São Bento, considered to be one of the most beautiful in Europe). A university (Aula de Náutica, 1762) and stock exchange (Bolsa do Porto, 1834) were established in the city.
A tram network spanning the city was also built, but nowadays only one line remains, going through the river and sea marginals, mainly for touristic purposes.
During the 20th century other bridges were built: Arrábida which, at its opening, had the biggest concrete supporting arch in the world. Then came S. João, to replace Maria Pia, Freixo, to complement Luís I and more recently Infante to replace the top level of D.Luis I, witch is being adapted to run the a surface metropolitan.
The most sold Portuguese newspaper (Jornal de Notícias) is also from this city and the building where its offices are located (which has the same name as the newspaper) is one of the tallest in Oporto.
The most important Portuguese publisher is also from this city: Porto Editora. Its dictionaries are considered to be the most credited ones.
The city's stock exchange (Bolsa do Porto) merged with Lisbon's, originating Bolsa de Valores de Lisboa, which later merged with Euronext, together with Amsterdam, Brussels, LIFFE and Paris.
Currently the major project in development is the subway (http://www.metro-porto.pt/). It's the most expensive public construction project currently in progress in Europe, mainly due to the city's soil, which is extremely complex, from the technical perspective. One consequence is another bridge being built, for traffic, and the dedication of Luís I to the metro.