Visit the 2014 Best Destination in Europe: Porto

portoA poll of more than 200,000 respondents has selected Porto, the Portuguese city that’s nearly synonymous with one of the most popular dessert wines in the world, as the number one travel destination in Europe. The World Heritage city, the second largest in Portugal, offers fabulous gastronomy, picture-perfect views, and unmatched culture. Make your way to Porto this year with one of our favorite cycling tours, Porto to Coimbra Cycling.

The cycling trip begins in the award-winning city. You’ll be charmed by the city’s scenic River Duoro, the river of gold, which provides opportunity for gorgeous scenery as the city’s trademark bridges span the historic river, as well as by the skyline, filled with medieval relics, beaux-arts buildings and lavishly ornate baroque churches.

You’ll stay in the historic center of the city, the Ribeira district, where you can walk the plazas and see the remains of Roman ruins in one of the oldest urban areas in Europe. You’ll feel history alive around you: The history of the city goes all the way back to the Roman occupation in the 4th Century, though some ruins suggest that an ancient Celtic tribe, the Bracari, occupied the region as far back as 275 BC. Porto also played an important role in the Portuguese-English alliance in the 14th Century.

But the Porto is about much more than just history. It’s also a very modern city, with stunning cultural offerings—in 2001, it shared the designation European Culture Capital. It’s home to stunning concert halls, including the 20th Century icon the Coliseu do Porto by the Portuguese architect Cassiano Branco.

Porto1Your hotel in Porto, the Carris Porto Ribeira, has a charming restaurant that expertly combines the old world flavors of Portugal with modern sensibilities, and of course you’ll also have the opportunity to sample some of the local port wines in the hotel’s tasting room. And as you plan your trip, keep in mind that the most popular event of the year takes place in Porto on the night of June 23-24 (also a fantastic time of year for the local sardines, a favorite delicacy). The festival of St. John, also known as the São João Festival, is a lively street festival that dates back more than six centuries.

Our Porto to Coimbra Cycling trip also provides plenty of opportunities to enjoy the region surrounding the great city. Your ride out of the city takes you along the quay, passing by the boats stacked with barrels of port. And of course you’ll have the chance to stop in one of the famous riverside cellars to enjoy a tasting. Your ride will then take you along a waterfront path south to Furaduoro, Aveiro—known as the Venice of Porgugal—Mira and Coimbra—and before you head home, we recommend additional nights in Porto. You’ll never run out of corners of the city to explore, restaurants to discover, markets to visit, and charms yet to be discovered.