Portugal’s northerly wine city - the gateway to the Douro Valley - has some of the country’s richest pickings when it comes to cuisine. Find the best places to eat and drink in Porto with extracts from the Lonely Planet’s latest book Food Trails.
Food Trails: Where to eat in Porto
Eating out in Porto can be as casual or as elaborate as you wish, but it’s rarely formal – even at the pinnacle.
And naturally, this being Porto, these are matched by some knockout Douro wines and Port from grand lodges – many established by 17th-century British merchants.
Find the full reviews below, and see a map of where they are here:
See also: Top 20 Ports for Christmas
An entire culture revolves around coffee in Porto, and every local has a soft spot for one particular cafe, but Café Majestic is a name that crops up time and again.
Push open the door of this belle époque coffee house and it’s as though the clocks stopped in 1920 – with cherubs frolicking on mirrored walls, opulently gilded woodwork and gold-braided waiters.
Artists, philosophers and writers – including JK Rowling in the midst of penning Harry Potter – have gathered here over the years. And there’s no place like the Majestic for easing into the morning over potent coffee and still-warm pastéis de nata, custard tarts sprinkled with cinnamon. Go local and order, say, a cimbalino (espresso) or a latte-like galão, served in a tall glass with frothy milk.
Rua Santa Catarina 112, Aliados & Bolhão
Tel +351 222 003 887
Mercado do Bolhão
Head five minutes northeast to reach the 19th-century, wrought-iron Mercado do Bolhão. At its lively best on Friday and Saturday mornings, the market hums with vendors doing a brisk trade in local produce – ripe fruit, tangy raw sheep’s cheese from the Alentejo, Atlantic-fresh fish, glossy olives, smoked meats and sausages made with every bit of the pig except the oink, plus pulses, lentils, tremoços (lupin beans) and great fat bulbs of garlic.
Make a morning of it and linger over a glass of sparkling Vinho Verde and a tasting plate of cheese, olives and ham at the market’s hole-in-the-wall Bolhão Wine House, run with a passion by Patrícia and Hugo in their grandmother’s old florist shop.
Rua Formosa, Aliados & Bolhão
Tel +351 222 009 975
Central Conserveira da Invicta
While you’re in this neck of town,squeeze in a mooch along Rua Sá da Bandeira, right next to the market,where old-fashioned grocery stores are a blast of nostalgia. They are piled to the rafters with beans, nuts and pulses, bacalhau (dried salt cod), piri-piri chilli peppers and the like.
Strolling further south brings you to Central Conserveira da Invicta, where the walls are a mosaic of tins of fish in colourful retro wrappings. Here you can stock up on tinned tuna, bacalhau and sardines as well as Portuguese wine, port, oils and preserves.
Rua Sá da Bandeira 115, Aliados & Bolhão
Tel +351 912 833 884
Café de Santiago
Wander east along the Rua de Passos Manuel to reach Café de Santiago. The francesinha here is legendary and with good reason. If you’re planning on tackling this gut-busting monster of an open sandwich, come very hungry.
Since 1959, the good folk of Porto have been pouring in for this winning combo of wood-fired bread, linguiça (smoked cured pork sausage with garlic and paprika), roast meat and ham, topped with cheese and a fried egg and drenched in rich beer sauce. You might have to wait for it, but it’s worth it, we swear.
Rua de Passos Manuel 226, Aliados & Bolhão
Tel +351 222 055 797
Leitaria da Quinta do Paço
Continue west along Rua de Passos Manuel, bearing left onto Rua de Avis, then right onto Rua de Santa Teresa to emerge at this slick café patisserie, with a nod to its 1920s origins as a dairy in the backlit photos gracing the walls. A cheeky slice of Paris in Porto, the cafe is renowned for its éclairs. And what éclairs! These deliciously crisp, light choux-pastry numbers come in flavours from zesty lemon to blue cheese, apple and fennel, and chocolate with port wine. Chances are you won’t stop at one.
Praça Guilherme Gomes Fernandes 47, Aliados & Bolhão
Tel +351 222 084 696
Taberna do Largo
Swinging south leads you to this tasca (tavern) in the Ribeira neighbourhood, which hooks you the instant you walk in. Perhaps it’s the aroma from the deli counter as you pass through to snag a table out back – your eye alighting on a succulent ham or an unctuous mountain cheese. Perhaps it’s the soulful glow of lamplight cast across cheek-by-jowl tables, or the warm welcome from Joanna and Sofia.
A lot of attention to detail has gone into the menu, with handpicked wines marrying beautifully with tapas-sized dishes and tasting plates. Be it meltingly tender black pork from the Alentejo, black sausage from the Beira, feisty Douro peppers, oven-baked alheira sausage from the Minho, or Algarvian salt-cured tuna, the food is delicious, generous and prepared with a pinch of love.
Largo São Domingos 69, Ribeira
Tel +351 222 082 154
Ruby, vintage, aged tawny or white; mellow and nutty, complex, sweet or fruity – whatever your preference, no visit to Porto is complete without a port tasting. To race back to the 17th-century origins of port wine production, cross the Ponte de Dom Luís I to reach the Vila Nova de Gaia neighbourhood. Here imposing port lodges open their doors for tours of barrel-lined cellars and tastings.
Picking just one is tricky, but venerable, British-run Taylor’s has been decanting some of the Porto’s finest since 1692. Hour-long tours (€5) give an insight into Douro Valley grape varieties and take in the staggering cellars, piled high with huge barrels, including a whopper containing 100,000L of late bottled vintage. Your visit will finish in the refined Library Room, with a tasting of three ports – an extra dry white, a late-bottled vintage and a 10-year-old tawny. Rua do Choupelo 250, Vila Nova de Gaia
Tel +351 223 742 800
Flor dos Congregados
Slip down a lane off the regal beaux-arts Avenida dos Aliados to reach Flor dos Congregados – a rustically beamed, stone-walled tavern that looks like it has been teleported from a wooded mountainside. A deeply satisfying lunchtime treat here is the ‘Terylene’ – slow-cooked, marinated pork in a bun – which pairs superbly with a glass of sparkling red Tinto Bruto wine.
The family that runs the place likes to keep the blackboard menu simple– fresh fish, veal cooked until tender in wine, and smoky, smooth-textured alheira sausage. Using season-driven recipes handed down over generations, this is good honest Portuguese grub at its home-cooked best.
Travessa dos Congregados 11, Aliados & Bolhão
Tel +351 222 002 822
As the setting sun warms the medieval facades of the Ribeira district, follow the lead of wine-loving locals and head to Prova. Wine bars are two a penny in Porto but this one is different; this one has Diogo Amado, whose enthusiasm for wine is contagious and knowledge unsurpassed. A crisp, citrusy white from the Alentejo, a spritzy Vinho Verde from the rain-drenched hills of the Minho, a noble red from the Dão, or a robust, oak-aged wine from the terraced slopes of the Douro – you’ll find some of Portugal’s best here, along with appetising tapas, mellow jazz beats and a nicely chilled vibe.
Rua de Ferreira Borges 86, Ribeira
Tel +351 916 499 121
Just around the corner is DOP, a stylishly minimalist address that breathes new life into the historic walls of the Palácio das Artes. Much-feted chef Rui Paula heads up the kitchen. The menu speaks of a chef who loves his country and takes pride in careful sourcing.
Rui allows each ingredient to take centre stage in dishes that walk a fine tightrope between tradition and creativity, such as perfectly roasted kid goat, creamy lobster rice or codfish prepared with precision and flair. The seasonal tasting menu is the way to go, with a nod to the techniques, textures and flavours that underpin modern Portuguese cuisine.
Largo São Domingos 18, Ribeira
Tel +351 222 014 313
Click below to buy Food Trails
Edited by Laura Seal for Decanter.com
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