Porto is the second-largest city in Portugal, after Lisbon, and the name “Porto” itself influenced the name of the country “Portugal”.
Established by the Celts on the mouth of the Douro River, it was occupied by the Romans during the fourth century, transforming it into an influential commercial port and renaming it “Portus Cale”. In 456, it was invaded by Theodoric II, King of the Visigoths, who remained in their power until 716, when it fell under the Moorish Muslim invasion.
Alfonso III of Asturias fought against the Muslims and conquered Portus Cale in 868. In the subsequent years, Portugal emerged as a political entity. In 1096, King Alfonso VI of Castile married off his daughter Teresa of León to Henry of Burgundy and as a dowry gave Henry the County of Portugal, with Porto being capital of the county at this time.
Afonso Enríquez, son of Henry of Burgundy and Teresa of León, defeated the King of León in 1139 and established a new kingdom from the southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia. This is the base for Portugal’s independence.
Five years later, in 1143, Afonso Enríquez was recognized as the first King of Portugal by King Alfonso VII of León.
John I of Portugal was proclaimed King in 1385 and two years later married Philippa of Lancaster, Henry III of England’s niece. After their marriage, both countries signed the Treaty of Windsor, the oldest military alliance between two countries. The King and Queen had several children, including Henry the Navigator in 1394.
Prince Henry became an important figure during the Portuguese Empire and lead the Age of Discoveries, travelling to Western Africa. Portugal slowly became an influential commercial centre and its ports, including Porto grew substantially. The city’s renowned shipyards made the vessels used by Henry the Navigator for his exploratory voyages.
Since 1415, Porto’s citizens are known as “tripeiros”, which literally means tripe eaters, as the best parts of the animals were given to the sailors that sailed to conquer Ceuta in North Africa and the city’s inhabitants were left with the off-cuts.
From 1580 to 1640, the Iberian Peninsula united and came under the Spanish Habsburg kings Philip II, Philip II and Philip IV of Spain.
Porto and most other major cities in Portugal opposed this union and in 1640, Porto backed the riot in Lisbon that would finally break the joining of the Peninsula.
Nevertheless, Porto benefitted from the Habsburg reign and grew both in size and stature. It gave way to Porto’s Golden Age during the eighteenth century.
In 1756, Porto rose against Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, first Marquis of Pombal, who wanted to create a British monopoly on Porto wines. Porto became an important industrial centre due to its wines and many wealthy families built remarkable Baroque and neoclassical buildings consequently.
Under Marshal Soult, the Napoleonic troops invaded Portugal in 1807, and along with the rest of the Iberian Peninsula was under French control until their withdrawal in the winter of 1813-14.
Porto as a liberal and progressive city
Porto became a city recognized for its fight for civil rights and during the nineteenth century, important writers and poets lived in the city.
In 1820, a Liberal Revolution started in Porto demanding a constitutional monarchy in Portugal. After Miguel of Portugal took the throne, Porto rebelled against his absolutist rule and underwent an eighteen-month siege by the King’s army in 1832.
Porto was victorious and King Miguel abdicated due to the inhabitants’ numerous sacrifices, who heroically fought to defend the Constitutional Charter.
Leixões, one of the country’s major seaports, was constructed in 1890. This propelled the city’s economic growth and, at the beginning of the twentieth century, when the Republic was created in 1910, the city underwent many positive changes. An example of the urban development of this period is the city’s famous Avenida de los Aliados.
Porto became the capital of Portugal provisionally when Paiva Couceiros proclaimed the “Monarquía do Norte”. The immediate Republican reaction put an end to the uprising.
During Salazar’s dictatorship, until 1974, Porto’s infrastructure was greatly improved and the Arrábida Bridge was already constructed in 1963.
Porto was chosen the cultural capital of Europe in 2001 and the city built the impressive “Casa da Musica” in Boavisita for the occasion.