Decrepit homes and crumbling shops: this Portugal tour starts here

Decrepit homes and crumbling shops: this Portugal tour starts here
Three portuguese architects set up "The Worst Tours" to show the other face of Porto to tourists. "Porto is not just a postcard and a few streets where tourists do their shopping.

PORTO, Portugal - Forget the ornate cathedrals, the glitzy bars or gourmet restaurants. On what is billed as "The Worst Tours" of Portugal's second city Porto, the highlights are decrepit homes and crumbling shops.

Three out-of-work architects have concocted the tours to show visitors the impact of Portugal's debilitating economic crisis on the city that was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996.

"Porto is not just a postcard or some streets where tourists do their shopping. My city is also all this," said tour guide Margarida Castro Felga, 31, gesturing at the dilapidated facades in the city's Fontainhas district.

Also on the itinerary are empty stores whose owners have long gone bankrupt and dozens of houses with boarded windows and doors, even at the upper end of the Porto's main shopping thoroughfare Santa Catarina street.

In short, what they are offering is a walking tour of "the alleys, the abandoned buildings, the square, the mean streets, the old markets... the stories behind them all, and great discussions on very partial points of view".

Disbelieving local youngsters watch the group led by Castro Felga pass by and stop outside the crumbling buildings.

"It's sad to let such a beautiful city get run down," said Dean Watson, who had signed up for the tour with his wife Louise.

For the American-English couple in their fifties, the tour brings to life the economic malaise plaguing the eurozone nation, which only managed to shake off 2.5 years of recession in the second quarter of 2013.

"This kind of visit helps us understand what's happening in Europe today," said Louise who has lived in Germany - the European Union's biggest economy - with her husband for the last 30 years.

"People in Germany prefer not to think too much about it," she said.

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