Like so many of the world’s great cities, Porto owes its prominence to its location. Situated where the Douro River, and the Atlantic Ocean meet, the seas provided a source of fresh fish, while the soil was rich, and perfect for farming. Settlers had been there since pre-Roman times but the original town was founded in 417. Over the years it was under the control of various factions including the Goths and Moors, who added their own architecture and culture.
Porto came into prominence in the 15th century, thanks to an increase in maritime trading and the importance of seaports. It was during this time that one of Portugal’s most famous son’s made his mark on the world stage. Henry the Navigator foresaw the need for a major navy, and convinced the Portuguese Crown to invest heavily in shipbuilding. Soon Porto’s shipyards were a hive of activity. The race was on to be the first country to find a route to India. Portugal one of the first countries sending ships round Africa, searching for the best passage.
It was during this time that British merchants arrived in Porto, and began setting up small businesses. Their presence can be seen today in the famous port-wine brands such as Graham’s, Taylors, and Sandeman. Indeed the British were so successful in the Port industry that at one time the British had a near-monopoly. Fortunately the government took steps to ensure local growers were protected as well.
Porto’s relationship with Britain continued through the centuries, notably when the British, and the locals, defeated Napoleon’s invading army, after a brief period of French occupation. Using the boats which were usually used for transporting wine, they drove back the French forces and liberated the city.
Today, Porto is known for its cobbled streets, colorful buildings, and UNESCO World Heritage sites. Porto has been put on the map to tourists and expats, thanks to numerous awards for tourism, infrastructure, and expat living.