There are a lot of things that change about travel over the years, and the resurgence of the so called Second City is definitely one of them.
By definition, a Second City is simply a country second most populous city, a term that denotes a more inferior position than the celebrated capital, perhaps even when it comes to economic and political position.
But times indeed have changed, these days, on a travel point of view, being a second city no longer means a destination worth considering only when there is spare time to do so, but being a second city now means that the city does guarantee visitors first-rate experience, therefore put it in the must see list.
Porto is considered as one of the best examples of the so called Second City.
The second largest city of Portugal, a three hour train ride away from the capital of Lisbon, though there is nothing about Porto suggests that it is a lighter version of the capital or it is second rate after all.
Porto is a city on its own rhythm, it does not exist behind the shadow of Lisbon and surely, the term Second City is nothing but just a term.
True, some of the building facades are dilapidated, the colorful house walls are fading , the streets are sleepy, the ambiance is sometimes too provincial particularly on Sundays when every shop seems to be closed, but all these are exactly what gives Porto its character.
Isn’t better to walk on an empty street from time to time, than to always fight your way with the crowd?
The feeling of catching your breath as you walk one after another hilly “Rua” (streets), to just simply wander around with no specific direction and intention, not waiting to be mesmerized, but just to simply admire the colors of every nook and maybe imagine a bit of what it used to be like back in the olden days.
After all the aimless wandering, and when you are ready to really experience the city’s best offering, the only effort you need is a willingness to see them, as they are within a reachable walking distance from each other.
There is nothing second-class about Porto’s grandeur.
It is a city built to showcase arts, history, culture and beauty. From the marvelous double-deck iron arch bridge of the Dom Luis I Bridge, the UNESCO World Heritage area of Ribeira, the nostalgic ambiance of the azulejo filled interior of the São Bento Railway Station, and the several magnificent churches that prominently occupies and somehow unites Porto’s main city streets.
The Sé do Porto, Igreja de Sao Nicolau, the Igreja de São Francisco, Igreja dos Clérigos, Igreja de Santo Idefonso, Igreja dos Carmelitas, Igreja dos Congrejados to name a few of outstanding churches to be found in the city. These churches are not only spectaculary built with azulejo tiles from the outside, but they are equally impressive on the inside, but sometimes more spectacular due to the intricate gold ornate interior decorations.
The Torre dos Clérigos , or the church tower of Igreja dos Clérigos (Clerigos Chruch), is one of Porto’s most visible and visited sites. Standing at 76 meters high, accessible to visitors for a fee of 5 Euro, and with a steep 240 steps to the top, the view from the church tower is not only impressive but allows visitors to see the whole city too.
It is not a cliche to say that Porto exudes a unique atmospheric charm.
Start from the Municipal Council building towards the Praça da Liberdade (Liberty Square), then submerge yourself to the branches of dense maze like streets lined with cafes and shops. From the bustling Mercado do Bolhão (Bolhão Market), the popular Cafe Majestic, the busy shopping area of Rua Santa Catarina , the quirky street arts at Rua de Miguel Bombarda, despite all the commotions that is happening on these busy streets, there is nothing loud enough that will strip Porto of its charm.
Then when it is time to just simply relax and unwind, Porto top green space, the Jardim do Palácio de Cristal (Crystal Palace Garden) is the place to go, and does exactly that. The botanical garden might be smaller in size, but the series of themed gardens with romantic names (Jardim dos Sentimentos (Garden of Feelings), Jardim das Plantas Aromaticas (Garden of Aromatic Plants) and Jardim do Roseiral (Garden of Roses), makes up into one great city escapes.
For all the great things about Porto, perhaps it is suffice to say, that it is indeed one of the destinations in the world that need not to be compared or labeled. It doesn’t matter whether it is first, second, or nth city, after all Porto is just remarkable and uniquely Porto.
On a personal note, these are the things that I truly appreciate about Porto- delicious Pasteis de Nata, Porto wine, and the beautiful Gallery Hostel (one of the most amazing hostel I’ve ever stayed in). If all these things are the benefits of traveling in the so called Second City, then I’m all in.