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Porto

Portugal's second-largest city, with a population of roughly 280,000, considers itself the north's capital and, more contentiously, the country's economic center. Locals support this claim with the maxim, "Coimbra sings, Braga prays, Lisbon shows off, and Porto works." Largely unaffected by the great earthquake of 1755, Porto has some fine baroque architecture, but its public buildings are generally sober. Its location on a steep hillside above the Rio Douro, though, affords exhilarating perspectives.

Porto is also a cultural hub, thanks to the Serralves Contemporary Art Museum, the cutting-edge galleries along Rua Miguel Bombarda, and to the stunning Casa da Música (House of Music), designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. Foz do Douro, where the river flows into the Atlantic, is another fashionable spot that some might call "surfer-chic."

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