>>>The clocks go forward in Oporto

The clocks go forward in Oporto

A “cool” Oporto has been born. The city with the world’s most venerable “saudade” also has an artistic and “indie” fast beating heart of festivals, art and tapas.
O
porto heads backwards in time. The first time I was in the capital that gave birth to the future Portugal, it seems to me that everything had ground to a halt in the eighties: the style of print, the asphalt of the city streets, the decoration of the neighbourhood bars. On my most recent visit, we are further back in the sixties: the pace of living, the shops with fresh cod uncovered, exposed to the air, the ladies with their headscarves, and the shops themselves and their wares, selling the likes of mousetraps. With this as a background, it’s a paradox to me to discover a modern Oporto that attracts the young to its Primavera  Sound Festival.
The colourful facades of the houses in the Ribeira are made of various materiales including tiles, the classic decorative material in Oporto.

Sleeping with art

Of all the hotels in Oporto, the one most fused with art is Gallery Hostel in Miguel Bombarda, an art gallery and hotel in an off beat 1906 building, and regularly used for cultural events. In Rua do Rosario, Rosa et Al Townhouse holds vintage style exhibitions in a homelike settings.

The heart that first pumped modernity into this World Heritage city is in the Serralves Museum. This avant-garde museum, designed in the nineties by Pritzker award winner Alvaro Siza Vieira, has become the symbol of the country’s contemporary art. Sculptures proliferate in the 18 hectares of parkland around the art deco mansion. Other examples of stylish contemporary art that scandalize the outmoded Oporto are: the diamond shaped Casa da Musica by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, or the colourfully decorated houses in the Ribeira district. Another Pritzer prize winner, Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura, restored the Alfandego do Porto that houses the Ministery of Transport and Communications and gives access to the modern part of the city. From there, in the streets that surround the Clerigos Church, modern businesses are mixed in with bars, clubs, cuisine d’auteur restaurants, cupcake shops, wineries offering Duero, Alentejo or Dao wines, and boutiques.
Joining in the mix are the small urban markets which, with patient searching, will finally yield a hand-crafted jewel. The Lello & Irmão bookstore, with its Neo-Gothic facade, stands out in Rua das Carmelitas. The Lello, one of the world’s most beautiful bookstores, has been serving the arts since 1946, and some 4,000 tourists visit there every day. Nearby is BASE, an open-air garden-bar inviting you to lie down and enjoy the Oporto sun.
In the Gallery Hostel, “every room tells a story”. The rooms of the main building pay tribute to the different generations of artists of the city.

Crafted ‘petiscos’

Portuguese aperitifs, petiscos, are in vogue in Oporto in restaurants such as Caldeireiros that offers a white meat sausage tapa, and Trasca, that offers a choice of aperitifs at prices from 1,50 euros, and Cantina 32, decorated with industrial motifs and offering futuristic servings to be shared.

But the street that best shows off Oporto’s vitality at its coolest is Miguel Bombarda, said to be the street with the most art galleries in Europe. Cafés, workshops, ecological shops, patios, and gardens that overflow with visitors every second Saturday when the galleries inaugurate their exhibitions. Their catalogue includes O! Galeria, focused on Portuguese illustration and drawing; Serpente, where paintings and video-art are displayed, and Quadrado Azul, where we can find collages and photography. The whole area is rich in urban art, graffitti, stickers and mozaics. And there is space for design fashion in the bustling Muuda concept store; for crafted design pieces in the unique Aguas Furtadas; or for an exquisite ritual tea in Rota do Cha, an Asiatic sanctuary spread over three floors and garden in the heart of the original Atlantic capital.
The garden-bar BASE offers open air activities out in the gardens. Healthy, natural living.

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