by Lydia Schrandt for USA TODAY 10Best

Explore picturesque Porto on this virtual tour

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Porto, Portugal’s second largest city, sits on the banks of the River Douro and enchants visitors with its atmospheric neighborhoods, distinctive fortified wine and a sense of soulfulness.

The Douro River flows for 557 miles through the Iberian Peninsula from Soria Province all the way to Porto, where it empties into the sea.

The Luís I Bridge across the river, built in 1886 by Teófilo Seyrig (a student of Gustave Eiffel), has become an icon of Porto. Cross the bridge on foot for some of the best views of downtown Porto.

The shady Virtudes Garden tumbles down a hillside in a series of grassy ledges. The green space is a favorite picnic spot among locals.

Photo courtesy of CC BY-NC-ND - Associação de Turismo do Porto e Norte, AR

The UNESCO World Heritage-listed district of Ribeira ranks among Porto’s most beloved neighborhoods, thanks to its winding alleys, pastel-colored houses and collection of local shops and restaurants.

Spend some time walking the streets of Porto, and you can’t miss the distinctive blue and white tiles, known as azulejo.

To learn more about the story of Portugal, step inside the São Bento Train Station. The interior walls are covered in some 20,000 azulejo depicting scenes from the nation’s history.

The 44-acre Serralves Park, just west of the city center, is comprised of formal gardens, a contemporary art museum (the most-visited museum in Portugal), lily ponds, fountains and woodlands.

Every great European city has an equally impressive market, and Porto is no exception. The neoclassical wrought-iron Bolhão Market dates back to 1914.

Bookworms won’t want to miss a visit to Livraria Lello, one of the oldest bookstores in the world, with a colorful stained glass roof, carved wooden balusters and a forked staircase.

Photo courtesy of CC BY-NC-ND - Associação de Turismo do Porto e Norte, AR

One of the best ways to get around Porto is aboard the network of historic trams. Line 1 offers the most scenic ride, as the tracks follow the banks of the river toward the Foz district.

No trip would be complete without trying a francesinha, a sandwich made with ham, Portuguese sausage and roast beef, covered in melted cheese and smothered in a tomato and beer sauce.

Wine tasting is pretty much a mandatory activity in Porto, a city known for its fortified wines. Many of the city’s wine cellars offer guided tours and tastings.

The Estádio do Dragão seats more than 50,000 soccer fans, making it the third largest soccer stadium in Portugal. The facility is home to FC Porto, one of the country’s top flight teams.

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