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10 Interesting Facts about Porto

1. Portugal takes its name from Porto

The name Portugal comes from Porto, a port built by the Roman Empire. The Latin name for Porto was Portus Cale (Latin portus means “port”).  In the Middle Ages, Portus Cale became Portucale, and later Portugale, although in the 7th and 8th centuries the name referred only to the northern parts of the country, that is, the region between the Douro and Minho rivers.

2. One of the oldest cities in Europe

Porto is believed to have been inhabited since the 8th century BC. The earliest evidence of settlers in Porto dates back to the end of the Bronze Age in the 8th century BC, near the present Morro da Sé. This makes Porto one of the oldest cities in Europe.

3. Almost an Eiffel bridge

Gustave Eiffel was the original architect of the famous bridge Ponte Dom Luis I. However, due to disagreements over the number of levels, he dropped out of the project and his former student Teófilo Seyrig took over.

4. Little Frenchwoman

The famous Portuguese sandwich “Francesinha” originates from Porto. It consists of toast, various meats, gratinated cheese and a beer sauce.

The name means little Frenchwoman and is based on the French sandwich croque monsieur.

5. UNESCO World Heritage

The old town of Porto has been registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996.

6. Port wine not exactly from Porto

Porto wine does not come from Porto. The grapes are harvested and processed in the nearby Douro Valley before the wine is taken to Porto’s neighboring town of Vila Nova de Gaia for aging.

7. Magical City

It is said that J.K. Rowling got a lot of inspiration for the world-famous Harry Potter books in Porto when she lived there for 2 years in the 90s. 

Even though she claims not to have been to Livraria Lello (one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world) at that time, you can find a number of magical places in Porto.

8. One of the most beautiful train stations in the world

Built in the 20th century, the Sao Bento train station in Porto is considered one of the most beautiful train stations in the world.

Impressive architecture adorned by the famous blue Portuguese tiles the “Azulejos”.

9. Porto is home to one of the biggest street festivals in Europe

In June, Portugal celebrates the patron saints of their cities. The saint differs from city to city. And Porto celebrates St. John (Festas de São João) on June 23.

10. When getting hammered gets a whole new definition

Following an old Portuguese tradition, during the Sao Joao festival, people hit each other on the head with inflatable hammers and wave garlic in their faces. The whole purpose is to wish the other people on the street a happy Sao Joao celebration and good luck in the coming year.

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