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Porto’s sophisticated new edge

The Douro River and its valley are the incubator for the fortified wine named for Porto, a modern port city dating to the fourth century; graffiti in Lisbon (below).
The Douro River and its valley are the incubator for the fortified wine named for Porto, a modern port city dating to the fourth century; graffiti in Lisbon (below). Christopher Muther/GLOBE STAFF

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PORTO, Portugal – I read descriptions that called Portugal’s second largest city “gritty” and “emerging.” So as we drove into Porto the first evening of our visit, I anticipated towering smokestacks belching tinted steam into an orange sky.

What I found instead was a series of charming old stone buildings, church squares, and open-air markets. There’s a river that glistens as it snakes through city blocks that cling precariously to cliffs and a night-life scene that rivals any European hot spot on a summer night. I also had a guide book that lied to me. This book claimed that all of Porto could be seen in a day of brisk sightseeing. After one day, I extended my stay to four nights.

I had never heard of Porto until this summer when my partner, Alex, and I started planning a trip that would take us up the coast of Portugal and into Northwestern Spain.

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