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City Fact Files - Bristol | Oporto

Oporto fact file - Part 1 | Part 2

Ponte de Dom Luís 1

Ponte Dom Luis 1 Bridge

This bridge is a famous tourist landmark of Oporto, and spans the Rio Duoro, which is Portuguese for 'River of Gold'. It was designed by a Belgian called Théophile Seyrig, who was trained by Gustav Eiffel, and was opened in 1886. It connects Oporto with Vila Nova de Gaia, and has a span of 170m with two levels open to traffic and pedestrians; the highest one, at 172m, gives fantastic views over the River Douro and the city. Until the 1990s the top deck carried trolley buses, this level will eventually be closed to road traffic, as the metro line is due to run across it.

The bridge is named after Dom Luís 1st, who was King of Portugal from 1861 until 1889. The River Douro, which is spanned by the bridge rises in Spain and reaches the Atlantic in Oporto. The city is built on the sides of a granite gorge, created by the river. Nowadays Oporto has five bridges crossing the river, and two more are being built.

Gustave Eiffel was responsible for another railway bridge, the Dona Maria Pia bridge, 1640 feet upstream. It is similar in appearance to the Ponte Dom Luís 1 bridge, but a single decker bridge for carrying the rail line out of Campanhã station to Gaia. It was built by Eiffel between 1876 - 77, and was taken out of use in the 1990's being replaced by the Ponte de São João.

Rua de Santa Catarina

Rua de Santa Catarina

This street, named after Saint Catherine, is in the heart of Oporto in a busy pedestrian area full of shops and cafés. The famous Café Majestic, with its opulent art nouveau interior, is found here. Opened in 1921, this was one of many coffee houses which were frequented in the 1960's by political groups and those invovled in the arts; forces opposing the dictatorship of the time. Nowadays this popular café is frequented by Portuguese film stars and artists.

Coffee houses are very important in Portugal. One can be found on nearly every street corner and people gather for hours on end, meeting friends and family, and exchanging ideas.

Batalha de Ceuta

Batalha de Ceuta

This Azulejos (hand painted tiles) fresco is one of several in the São Bento railway station. Azulejos are prevalent all over Oporto on the walls of churches, houses and other secular buildings. This fresco depicts the battle of Ceuta and was painted by Jorge Colaço (1868 - 1942), who is famous for his historical scenes painted onto ceramic tiles. Close to the station is the church of Santo Ildefonso, which also has a stunning Azulejos by Jorge Colaço. It depicts scenes from the life of the saint, and was created in 1932, although the church building itself is much older.

The clock at São Bento Railway Station

The clock at São Bento Railway Station

The clock hangs in the immense atrium of the São Bento railway station, which is covered in 20,000 tiles, with pictures depicting the history of the city and the railways. The first stone of the station was laid in 1900 by King Carlos, on the site of the former Convent of São Bento de Ave-Maria, which provided the station with its name, and it was completed in 1916. It was designed by architect Marques da Silva, (1869 - 1947) and shows the influence of French architecture of the Fontainebleau school which ran from the Renaissance to the Belle Epoch. This building represents one of the most important artistic initiatives of the turn of the century.

Now only regional trains run in this station, and a new station terminal has been opened next door to accommodate increasing numbers of travellers.

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