Porto, also known as Oporto (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈpoɾtu] (listen)), is the second largest city in Portugal, serving as the capital of the district of Oporto and a major urban center on the Iberian Peninsula. The municipality of Porto, or the city of Porto proper, is relatively small compared to its metropolitan area, with an estimated population of about 231,800 people living in an area of 41.42 km2 With about 1. 7 million people (2021) living in a 2,395 km2 (925 sq mi) region, Porto’s metropolitan area is the second largest urban zone in Portugal, and the Globalization and World Cities Research Network recognizes Porto as a global city with a Gamma + rating.

Located on the mouth of the Douro River in northern Portugal, Porto is one of Europe’s oldest urban centers. In 1996, UNESCO declared its core, including the “Historic Center of Porto, the Luiz I Bridge and the Monastery of Serra do Pilar”, a World Heritage Site. The historic area is also a National Monument of Portugal The western region of the city extends to the Atlantic coast. Oporto’s history dates back to its time as an outpost of the Roman Empire, and its Celtic-Latin name, Portus Cale, is considered the basis for the name Portugal, derived from Latin transliteration and oral development. In Portuguese, the city’s name includes a definite article: o Porto (“the port” or “the harbor”), which is the source of its English name, Oporto.

Port wine, a famous Portuguese export, takes its name from Porto, as the metropolitan area, especially the Vila Nova de Gaia cellars, played a crucial role in the packaging, transportation, and export of fortified wine. In 2014 and 2017, the Best European Destinations Agency named Porto the Best European Destination. Oporto is also part of the Portuguese Way on the Camino de Santiago.

History Porto

Early History

Proto-Celtic and Celtic communities were among the first inhabitants of the region. Ruins from this period have been unearthed in various locations Archaeological finds indicate human settlements at the mouth of the Douro River as early as the 8th century BC, suggesting that a Phoenician trading settlement may have existed there.

During the Roman occupation of the Iberian Peninsula, the city flourished as an important trading port, mainly facilitating trade between Olissipona (modern Lisbon) and Bracara Augusta (modern Braga), Porto was also important during the Suebian and Visigothic periods, serving as a center for Christian expansion during these periods.

The cathedral of Porto, Sé do Porto, was built in the 12th century with Baroque and 20th century alterations.
Porto fell under Muslim control after the invasion of the Iberian Peninsula in 711, and in 868 Vímara Peres, an Asturian count from Gallaecia and a vassal of the king of Asturias, Leon and Galicia, Alfonso III, was commissioned to reconquer and secure the lands for Christian rule. This mission included the area from the Minho River to the Douro River, including the settlement of Portus Cale and what is now known as Vila Nova de Gaia. Portus Cale, later called Portucale, served as the basis for the modern name of Portugal. In 868, Count Vímara Peres founded the County of Portugal or (Portuguese: Condado de Portucale), commonly known as Condado Portucalense, after recapturing the region north of the Douro River.

In 1387, Porto hosted the wedding of John I of Portugal and Philippa of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt, symbolizing the longstanding military alliance between Portugal and England, the Portuguese-English alliance (see Treaty of Windsor) being the oldest recorded military alliance in the world.

Foz district, along the coast

A street in Porto

During the 14th and 15th centuries, Porto’s shipyards played a crucial role in the development of Portuguese shipbuilding. In addition, in 1415 Prince Henry the Navigator (son of John I of Portugal) set sail from Porto to conquer the Moorish port of Ceuta in northern Morocco This royal expedition, which included Prince Henry, began the Portuguese Age of Discovery, marked by navigation and exploration along the west coast of Africa. The nickname given to the people of Porto originated during this period; Portuenses are still colloquially called tripeiros (tripe people) in reference to this historical period. As higher quality cuts of meat were shipped out of Oporto with their sailors, offcuts and by-products such as tripe were left for the people of Oporto; tripe remains a culturally important dish in contemporary Oporto.

18th Century

As early as the 13th century, wine from the Douro Valley was transported to Oporto in barcos rabelos (flat-bottomed sailing vessels). The Treaty of Methuen, signed in 1703, established trade relations between Portugal and England. The first English trading post was established in Porto in 1717. Over time, port wine production gradually became dominated by a few English companies. To counter this dominance, Prime Minister Marquis of Pombal created a Portuguese company with a monopoly on wines from the Douro Valley. He demarcated the region for port production to ensure the quality of the wine, marking the first attempt to control wine quality and production in Europe The small winegrowers revolted against his strict policies on Shrove Tuesday and burned down the buildings of this company. The revolt was called the Revolta dos Borrachos (Revolt of the Drunkards).

Between 1732 and 1763, Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni designed the iconic Baroque church with a tower, Torre dos Clérigos (English: Clerics’ Tower). During the 18th and 19th centuries, the city became an important industrial center, and its size and population increased.

19th century

The invasion of Portugal by Napoleonic troops under Marshal Soult brought war to Oporto. On March 29, 1809, the Ponte das Barcas (a pontoon bridge) collapsed under the weight of fleeing residents, causing many deaths. The French army was expelled from Porto by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, when his Anglo-Portuguese army crossed the Douro River in a brilliant daylight coup de main, using wine barges to transport troops and outflank the French army.

A liberal revolution took place on August 24, 1820, and quickly spread throughout the country without resistance. A liberal constitution was adopted in 1822, partly through the efforts of the Liberal Assembly of Porto (Junta do Porto). However, when Miguel I of Portugal came to the throne in 1828, he rejected the constitution and ruled as an anti-liberal, absolutist monarch. A civil war between constitutionalists and absolutists ensued from 1828 to 1834. Oporto rebelled again and withstood an 18-month siege by the absolutist army between 1832 and 1833. Oporto is also called “Cidade Invicta” (English: Unvanquished City) after its successful resistance to the Miguelist siege. After King Miguel’s abdication, the liberal constitution was restored.

Known as the city of bridges, Oporto built its first permanent bridge, the Ponte das Barcas, in 1806. It collapsed in 1809 under the weight of thousands of refugees fleeing the French invasion during the Peninsular War, causing thousands of deaths. The Ponte D. Maria II, also known as Ponte Pênsil (suspended bridge), replaced it between 1841 and 1843; only its supporting pylons remain. The Ponte D. Maria, a railroad bridge, was inaugurated on November 4, 1877; designed by Gustave Eiffel, it was considered a feat of engineering. The later Ponte Dom Luís I replaced the Pênsil. This last bridge was built by Teophile Seyrig, a former partner of Eiffel. Seyrig won a government competition in 1879. Construction began in 1881 and the bridge was opened to the public on October 31, 1886.

A college of nautical sciences (Aula de Náutica, 1762) and a stock exchange (Bolsa do Porto, 1834 – 1910) were established in the city, but were later closed.

Unrest by republicans led to the first uprising against the monarchy in Porto on January 31, 1891. This eventually led to the overthrow of the monarchy and the proclamation of the Republic by the Revolution of October 5, 1910[43][44][45].

20th century
On January 19, 1919, forces for the restoration of the monarchy launched a counter-revolution in Porto, known as the Monarchy of the North[46][47]. During this time, Porto served as the capital of the restored kingdom, as the movement was contained to the north. However, the monarchy was deposed less than a month later, and there was no further monarchist revolution in Portugal.

The historic center of Oporto was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. The World Heritage Site is defined in two concentric zones: the “Protected Area” and the “Classified Area”. The Classified Area includes the medieval city center within the 14th century Romanesque walls[48].

Throughout the 20th century, Porto continued to grow and modernize, with improvements in infrastructure and public transport. The city became an important cultural and commercial center in Portugal, attracting tourists from around the world with its rich history, architecture, and unique culinary experiences. The development of new bridges, roads and transportation further connected Porto to the rest of Portugal and Europe, strengthening its economy and influence. Today, Porto remains a vibrant city, showcasing its storied past while embracing modernity and innovation.