With its resurgent cultural scene, sumptuous food and centuries-old wine tradition, Porto is fast becoming a favourite destination for the gastro-tourist.
Located in the north of Portugal on the Douro river, and known for its colourful houses, landmark double-decker Ponte de Dom Luís I, and world renowned Fundação Serralves Museum of Contemporary Arts, Porto is a vibrant, modern city with a rich trading history that dates back hundreds of years. Stroll through the historic Ribeira district, stop for coffee or brunch at one of the dockside cafes, explore the UNESCO World Heritage listed old town with its quaint cobbled streets and fascinating architecture, climb the 200 plus steps to the top of the Clérigos Tower, visit the interactive exhibits, wine school, bars and restaurants at WOW (World of Wine), cross the Douro to Vila Nova de Gaia and take a tasting tour at one of the city’s famous Port cellars.
As growing numbers of travellers have descended on the city over the past decade, Porto’s range of accommodation has grown astronomically. Today it offers a diverse hand of hotels, B&Bs and private rentals, with everything from tiny boutique guesthouses to contemporary design hotels and large international chains. For the wine lover, the most famous address in the city is undoubtedly The Yeatman. Around 15 minutes on foot from the charming old town, this stylish, unique hotel - centred on wine - boasts incredible panoramic views, a two star Michelin restaurant and a celebrated wine cellar comprising some 25,000 bottles. But this is not the city’s only upmarket accommodation. In fact, the luxury sector has seen perhaps the most dramatic growth over the last few years with numerous boutique gems popping up all over town. Offering a refined experience from its idyllic location, Vinha Boutique Hotel, nestled in beautiful gardens on the left bank of the Douro, grants its guests a luxury urban retreat with first-class spa facilities and a host of wining and dining options led by two star Michelin chef Henrique Sá Pessoa.
Porto is a fantastic city for foodies. From quirky coffee shops to wine-focused restaurants, small neighbourhood eateries to Michelin star establishments, Porto’s diverse and ever-evolving culinary landscape continues to attract visitors from all over the world. Of the numerous dishes which have originated in Porto none is more synonymous with the city than Francesinha. Believed to be inspired by the less audacious and less calorific Croque Monsieur, Porto’s signature sandwich - the name of which translates as ‘little French woman’ - typically comprises stacks of mixed meats (pork, beef, sausage) served on toasted bread, topped with cheese, gravy, a fried egg and fries! The sandwich is ubiquitous around here and there are a few variations on the traditional recipe; amongst the best places to try this regional speciality are O Afonso and Café Santiago. Other local dishes worth sampling include Camarao de Alho (garlic shrimp), Bolinhos de Bacalhau (Portuguese codfish balls) and Tarte de Amêndoa (almond tart). And if you’re looking for sophisticated fine dining, there’s plenty of places serving outstanding regional cuisine paired with the very best in Portuguese wine.
In addition to the aforementioned hotel eateries, Porto boasts a number of superb restaurants, many of which have received the coveted Michelin recognition. Amongst these Casa de Chá da Boa Nova in Palmeira stands out for its exquisite location on the rocks above Praia da Boa Nova, as well as its sumptuous seafood and vegetarian menus. Inspired by poetry and complemented by a curated list of classic and contemporary wines, the food here is simply divine. By the same chef in the centre of town, Restaurant DOP runs a dynamic, creative kitchen with simplicity at the heart of its menu, and the restaurant’s wine offer has been recognised for both its breadth and thoughtful pairing selections. One other restaurant to note is Euskalduna Studio - a modern eatery serving a 10 course tasting menu from an open kitchen. The cuisine here aims to showcase the best local and seasonal produce through innovative, internationally influenced flavour combinations.
Food and wine are, and have always been, integral to Porto’s identity. Wine tourists can visit Real Companhia Velha - Portugal’s oldest Port Wine company - to learn more about the luscious fortified wine that put this region on the world wine map, taste through a range of samples and buy bottles to take home. There’s a bar and restaurant named Enoteca 17.56 whose wine list contains 500 plus labels comprising the company’s own Port, the best Portuguese wines from appellations such as Alentejo and Vinho Verde, and Old World classics from France and Spain. Other notable venues to enjoy both a glass of local wine and / or international varietals, include Taberna Folias de Baco which serves an exciting range of natural / organic wines alongside delicious small plates, and Dick’s Bar at The Yeatman which offers a wide selection of wood-aged and Vintage Ports in a convivial atmosphere.
Full of charm and character, Portugal’s second city offers visitors a perfect combination of the cultural and the culinary. Whether you’re a seasoned tourist looking for a new destination to indulge your passion for the finer things in life or a casual wine lover wanting to immerse yourself in what is a true wine city, Porto, with its relaxed ambiance, fascinating history and superb restaurant scene, is sure to hit the spot.
Rua do Almada 51, Porto, 4050-036
Avenida dos Aliados 151, Porto, 4000-067
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