Finding a local among tourists or a 21st century dandy sitting with the artists that are to be seen here comes as no surprise. In fact, this district is the definition of social contrast itself. It is noisy, messy and beautiful, the river and D. Luís bridge as the perfect setting for the surreal vision of the perfect city. You have to go to Praça da Ribeira, where the ‘Cubo’ is king, if you are to fully enjoy both the view and the hubub. If the cube is king, tourists, however, are little princes - there are esplanades, as well as small regional produce stalls where they can satisfy their consumerist fever for all things local.
Tourists are not the only ones to enjoy them though: as the shyest ray of sun makes its appearance, the locals come out to play and enjoy the sight of tourists mesmerized by picture perfect Porto.
Both vintage and modern, the atmosphere in Ribeira evokes the quintessential spirit of the city- the pride and love for Porto. Local sentiment and smiling faces, together with the colour of the quaint little houses on the hill, inspire tourists to explore alleyways and unmapped places - some of them lucky enough to be presented with the breathtaking view over the city.
So quaint and yet so cosmopolitan, old and yet so fresh – that’s why it is the emerging area in the city, or so does all the revamping and construction going on seem to imply.
Visiting places like the Artes Palace - the local talent factory- , the Bolsa Palace – all so executive – and wandering down Flores Street,making sure not to miss São Domingos Square, known as LSD among students at Porto Art School, are musts - if you are to experience the fresh, vibrant atmosphere of the district.
This is why both people and businesses have been making the district, with the river and its alleyways - once crawling with sailors on leave - their headquarters. These newcomers not only work here, this is where they relax, it is their go-to source of inspiration. Intimate, carefree and laidback are words the locals use to describe their lifestyle, a ‘total immersion’ experience.
The bankside promenade leads us into another area in this district, one of different character. The cost per square metre is no longer the same people used to pay in the good old days, when mostly fishermen and their families lived here. Its trademark is still, however, the privileged view over the river.
Somewhere along the way we find Alfândega (Customs), once a mandatory stop for goods, today mandatory spot for fashion.
It is the stage for the biggest fashion event in the area, Portugal Fashion - Porto Fashion Week. And let’s not forget Cais de Pedra, notorious for its legendary S. João (the local festival) parties.
Among the unmissable ‘by the river’ spots, such as Casa D’Ouro restaurant with its incredible view over the Douro, there’s FAUP. Renowned faculty, it attracts architecture lovers from all over the world with buildings that have been designed by one of our Pritzkers, Siza Vieira. We are now in Campo Alegre Street, where sightings of Boavista - the neighbouring district – locals are not uncommon, and where the air refined. Botânico Garden is also a local reference, both because of its vast areas and the numerous events it hosts. The winding road leading to Foz do Douro is swarming with joggers breathing in the fresh air. Body worshiping is becoming a ‘thing’.