I’ve written here before about tourism and the effect on certain cities, namely Venice and Dubrovnik, in the past. There are other cities I can add to the list of places truly threatened by mass tourism, and Porto is one of them. As I sit writing in my Ribeira district apartment outfitted for the traveler and rented solely to visitors I am quite aware that I am part of the problem, but I hope there can be some changes soon to stop the tide of renovation and reconstruction in this area (and other parts of Porto) so that the city does not completely lose its soul.
This is the Ribeira district from the other side of the Douro River. Built on a hillside and with many narrow, cobblestone streets, and colorful buildings, it is a very atmospheric place to walk around. Its a place that has its own unique voice, and in the past has had a reputation of being a little gritty. You can see a square behind the little church on the left. All around that square, there is construction, construction, and more construction. Investors are buying up everything and renovating buildings into hotels and tourist apartments. On the one block street I am staying on, there are no less than three buildings being renovated. People who lived in the buildings before they were bought, sometimes for their entire lives, are evicted. There are a lot of people living in those apartments on the waterfront, who when they hang their laundry out now see a totally different reality than they did ten years ago. Namely, a gazillion tourists.
Who knows if this entire area will eventually be sold, renovated, and turned into tourist lodgings and souvenir shops. I really hope not, but because I like the funkiness of this riverside warren of narrow streets and pretty, but run-down (or uninhabitable) buildings and I certainly do not want to see all the locals kicked out. So here is a little photo documentation of what parts of Ribeira look like, now.
This place intrigues me. Some kind of workshop, in one of the a-bit-beat-up traditional buildings. And the woman on the left, maybe she is waiting for someone to deliver her bread. Yes, there are still places that deliver bread here. She would be the one put out if the building is bought and turned into tourist apartments.
A square, just outside the main tourist zone, that looks like locals still live in it. There is a church in the square that is undergoing a facelift and I am glad to see that public buildings are being renovated too.
I’m posting this picture because this stairway down to the river is truly precarious. Yet on the right of it, there is a jazz club with a river view. The staircase has been there a long time. The jazz club, probably not. Will they ever renovate the stairs? Its another thing I could be happy about.
Ripe for a buyer, a little taste of Bucharest in Porto. Does everything have to be pretty? Not to me. Though I suppose the neighbors aren’t too keen on this ghostly looking place with graffiti all over it.
I love this hodgepodge of buildings. It is the Ribeira where local people still live. I am in Porto now and will come back in a year, and I am sure that there will be more change.
I will see for myself, and you can too, next June on the 2019 A Taste of Northern Portugal tour.
Shannon Essa leads small-group tours focusing on wine, food, and local culture in Croatia, Slovenia, Northern Italy and Northern Spain & Portugal.
Discover the backstreets of Venice or the wine, craft beer, and slow food of Piedmont, Italy. In Spain, experience the rustic foods and low-key lifestyle in beautiful Galicia, the wineries along the Camino de Santiago in the Bierzo region, or the justifiably famous wine regions and local food traditions of Catalonia. See many of Croatia’s most beautiful sights and learn about the rebirth of one of Europe’s oldest wine areas. And see all this with Shannon, who loves unique and out of the way wine and food experiences.
When not in Europe, Shannon does her eating and drinking in San Diego, California.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.