It’s #TravelTuesday and even though none of us are leisurely traveling right now, I still wanted to share this post because reading about possible future trips and daydreaming about travel has been uplifting my mood and getting me through these times.
This post is here to tell you to make sure that the city of Porto is on your list and today’s Foodie Travel Guide to Porto, Portugal and will tell you all the reasons why this coastal city in northwest Portugal, known for its stately bridges and port wine production, is a a must on your culinary travel bucket list once we can all get back to traveling for fun!
Oh Porto, how I miss you. A city that captivated us the moment we arrived at the airport, it was a city that had been on my bucket list for years. We came by way of Madrid and knew that Porto would be an experience of a lifetime for food lovers like ourselves and a starting point to loving the Portuguese as we would be heading to Lisbon afterwards. There are so many reasons to visit Porto but our main reason was that of the food – to discover and rejoice in whatever culinary journey awaited us. You’ll find it unusual that this travel guide to Porto does not include any port wine and that’s a personal choice – I don’t drink alcohol anymore so focusing on the food makes it all even more worth it for me. If you do drink alcohol, the port side of Porto is a must of course.
Where to Stay: Hotel NH Collection Porto Batalha
A good trip, at the age of 34 and 40 respectively for my husband and I, include a good hotel. Not even a good hotel, but a very good hotel if the budget and city allows for it. Long gone are the days of hostels and for that, we are grateful. We’re also grateful to hotels that hook us up and Hotel NH Collection Porto Batalha did just that. When booking a hotel in a new to us city, location is key and this hotel, within a newly renovated 18th century palace, is in the heart of Porto. The palace, once home to a prominent wine-producing family, is reminiscent of a time gone by, but with the luxuries of modern travel.
The rooms are spacious, with gorgeous light coming in from the windows and doors that open to the balcony overlooking the National Theater. The decor are of pictures of historic postage stamps allude to the building’s past uses (it also used to be a post office). It was the perfect spot to rest our head every night after discovering the delicious flavors of Porto. And now, without further ado, here are the top culinary spots you must visit in Porto – follow along as I take you to some hidden gems (quite literally, as there was one spot we walked by four times without realizing we were there!)
Where to Get a Quick Snack: Republica Dos Cachorros
Whenever we check into a new hotel, we take those few minutes to ask the front desk agent any immediate food questions we might have. Typically, it’s where to get coffee close by and where the local grocery store is, but arriving in Porto, we were starving but didn’t want to ruin our appetite so we were looking for a quick and local bite to eat. He recommended Republica Dos Cachorros a few blocks down from the hotel, where they made the best Portuguese hot dogs. We dropped our bags and walked over and let me just tell you, this might look like the simplest hot dog ever but it was so delicious. The linguisca sausage was house made and served on a crusty, thin baguette with melted cheese, which all came together for a tasty bite. A great start to our trip!
Where to Go For Coffee: Cafe Progresso
When traveling to new cities, something that’s always on my list is finding the best coffee shops in the area, because honestly – I can’t fully wake up without two cups of coffee in a new city (the first one at the hotel and the second one afterwards in a coffee shop). So Porto was no different! Cafe Progresso – one of the oldest downtown, but far less touristy than Majestic cafe that you will certainly hear/read about was our favorite. Frequented mostly by locals, it was established in 1899 so they know what they are doing. Not only that, but it’s a bakery as well and their croissants were to die for. If you love coffee and find yourself in Porto, Cafe Progresso is a must.
Some other coffee shops, recommended by Taste Porto:
- Mercador Café – in the trendy area of town
- Mesa 325 – off the beaten track
- Café Guarany – super typical art noveau coffee shop, which we visit on our Downtown tour, it is owned by the same family as Majestic, but is far more local
- Casa de Chá Mil Folhas – a lovely cofee and tea home in Matosinhos, remember it was the Portuguese who brought tea to Europe – Matosinhos is technically its own city, but is part of the greater Porto area and is where people go to for the beach and fresh grilled fish
- Booínga Coffee Store – for the coffee lovers, in Matosinhos
Where to Go For a Special Lunch: DOP Restaurant
Discovering Porto through their culinary offerings was the best way to explore this city, and one of the best meals we had was at DOP Restaurante, which I wrote in length over on another post:
“When traveling to Porto, Portugal, a meal at DOP Restaurant is a must. This chef-led restaurant is a kitchen of memories that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Today, I’m sharing our lunch experience at this incredible restaurant and my reasons as to why you must put this on your foodie bucket list in Portugal!”
Where to Go For a Special Dinner: Camafeu
After much research, we knew Camafeu was going to be our special dinner in Porto, as we had heard all about it not only from online sites, but at our hotel, the staff recommended it as well. As we type the address into Google Maps and head over, we take in the sights and sounds of Porto at night. What a gorgeous city, what lovely people. We suddenly realize we have walked by the place twice but can’t find it. Google Maps says we have arrived but we have no clue where the place is. We then decide to Google it to see what it looks like, it there’s a sign. The photo shows us a light blue door – exactly the same door we walked by twice. It was worth the hassle, because it was one of the best dinners in Porto. The ambiance is like you’re dining in someone’s home, but someone with very fancy flatware and a gorgeous bar (see below). The menu changes consistently, so order it all!
The Dessert You Must Have Every Day: Pastel de Nata, also known as Portuguese Custard Tart
I’ll preface this with the fact that I ate anywhere between 3-6 of these tarts on the daily while in Porto, and I’m sitting here at my desk in New England wishing I had consumed even more of them. How to explain this utterly perfect Portuguese dessert? Let’s start with the thin, shattering laminated dough crust that holds the perfectly sweetened egg custard, that’s broiled slightly on top for a bit of that burnt goodness. So simple, yet so delicious. You can find them everywhere in Portugal, but our top favorite spots were:
The Free Tour That Leads to Chocolate Cake: Porto Walkers
Throughout visiting Europe, you can book specialty tours all over, but we also discovered that there are plenty of free tours offered as well. Free in terms of that you pay at the end, whatever you think was thee value of it and Porto Walkers is one of those companies. Lively free walking tours around the city, we always save free tours for days when we just want to walk around with no set schedule, but still want to explore the city. We visited São Bento railway station, Santa Catarina, Batalha square, Santa Clara church, top of the Bridge Luis I, Cathedral (Sé), Barredo neighborhood, Ribeira quarter.
About 2 miles of walking around the city for a couple of hours, the tour ended up in a neighborhood called Ribeira and I was smart enough to snap a quick photo of the bakery name: Cozinha Doce. The baker makes three options of desserts daily, and chocolate cake is always one of them. Let’s just say this was one of the simplest yet most marvelous slices of cakes I’ve ever had. Maybe it was the fact that we “stumbled” upon it, on a random walking tour in Porto, and consumed it while sitting on these stone steps. Whatever magic happened in that alleyway in Porto, I wish everyone can experience it.
Porto amazed us from start to finish, from the people to the food, to the gorgeous architecture. In 1996, UNESCO recognised Porto’s historic centre as a World Heritage Site and we understand why. Below are the Azulejos at São Bento and you can see just how beautiful the city is, if this is the train station. The “Azulejos” or painted tiles, are world-renowned and you can find them all over Portugal.
I love this “don’t miss” list from Visit Portugal and happy we did most of the things listed:
- visit Casa do Infante, by Ribeira
- admire the old houses of Miragaia, very close to the Ribeira quay
- by day or by night, stroll through the Galeria de Paris and the adjacent streets, close to the Torre dos Clérigos
- pop up to Rua Miguel Bombarda for a taste of contemporary art and design
- stroll through the Parque da Cidade, down to the sea front
- enjoy the great beaches and café terraces at the mouth of the river Douro
- try a francesinha (a sandwich with cured ham, sausage, and steak covered in molten cheese and a hot tomato and beer sauce), one of Porto’s specialities
- try some fresh fish or seafood, or some cod fishcakes
- get to know a little of the coast to the north or south of Porto
- explore Porto by night
- participate in the São João Festival
If you’re looking to discover a new city that is packed to the brim with incredible food, drink, people, art, architecture and history, put Porto on your list – you won’t be dissapointed!