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Porto and the North

Porto is a supremely lovable city full of character and quirk and life. How could one not love a city whose official name is Antiga, Mui Nobre Sempre leal e Invicta Cidade do Porto – “the ancient, very noble, always loyal and unvanquished city of Porto?”

And how could your kids not love the city whose most famous bookstore (19th century family-owned) is the inspiration for former Porto resident J.K. Rowling for her staircases at Hogwarts? Legend says she started the first Harry Potter on a napkin in Porto’s famous Majestic Café.

And, if you cherish the names Sandeman, Taylors, or Fonseca, how could you not love a city that gave its very name to port wine?

So, we feel that it deserves its full name evoking its age, nobility and all that other stuff.

Elegantly divided by the Douro River (famous for its reds as well as its port) where it empties into the Atlantic, Porto is a city that appeals to all your senses.

As you walk her streets, savor the scents wafting out from 19th century port lodges as well as the rich aromas of coffee in classic, high ceilinged classic fin-de-siecle cafes.

Indulge in the tasty specialties of the city’s local pastry houses, or of its talented Michelin-starred masters. Or perhaps her port-inspired (and rather talented, in our opinion) mixologists will win your hearts.

And yes, we can arrange for private tastings with experts and bottle openings the traditional way, with fire, in exclusive port lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia.

Porto has treats for the eyes, mind and soul as well. Feast your eyes on a world-class collection of contemporary art. And Porto is a must-see on the contemporary architecture circuit (yes, there is one). We can arrange for exclusive access to the studios of her two Pritzker laureates Alvaro Siza Vieira and Eduardo Souto de Moura. Other contemporary luminaries such as Rem Koolhaas have also built in Porto.

Or stretch your legs north of Porto in one of Portugal’s finest national reserves, replete with wild horses and excellent hiking.

Or if you love local markets, the Thursday market in Barcelos, not too far away as well, is said to date to the 15th century and is one of the finest in Europe.

Also north of Porto, in an area usually overlooked by many travelers, are some of the prettiest towns in Portugal – and some of our favorites. The well-preserved UNESCO World Heritage Site of Guimares was the first capital of Portugal and the birthplace of the Portuguese language. Other picture-perfect and highly walkable towns include Braga and Viana do Castelo.

And if you take us up on our offer, we might just share our ultimate insider secret for visitors to this area… an afternoon stop at a hole-in-the-wall bakery that produces what we vouch for as the world’s best doughnuts (with a Portuguese spin, of course). Pair one (or two, or three), with a “bica” (similar to espresso) and a bout of people-watching. The person ahead of you in line might have traveled from Lisbon and the person behind you might have traveled from France, all for a “Bola de Berlim.”