A few weeks ago I visited Porto, Portugal’s second biggest city, for the first time. I hope it won’t be the last, because I fell in love with the Portuguese city, its welcoming and friendly people and – of course – their fantastic food and wine!
I was only in Porto for three (very rainy) days, so I didn’t get to visit all the restaurants and shops I had marked on my to-do list. It’s incredible how many great restaurants there are just in the small city centre of Porto! I have been in bigger European cities with much less variety and choices for eating out, so I was definitely impressed with Porto.
We stayed at Homey Guesthouse which was lovely, affordable and very central.
Most of all, I fell in love with the people: kind, friendly, helpful and welcoming. My husband and I had a great time, despite the bad weather, despite not speaking the language, despite not knowing our way around the city. Everyone we met was happy to give us directions and recommend us the best things to see, do and eat in Porto.
I have made a little video of all the food specialties I tasted during my short visit to Porto, I hope you’ll enjoy it!
Without pretending to have tasted everything or the best that Porto has to offer, here are my highlights:
Bolo de Arroz (rice flour cakes).
Éclairs from Leitaria da Quinta do Paço.
Croissants – soft like a brioche and sticky with sugar glaze!
Pastel de Nata: the famous egg tart pastries are originally from Lisbon (try them at Belém!) you can find them all over Porto as well.
The flaky Pasteis de Chaves from A loja dos Pasteis de Chaves. We tasted one with almonds and one with chocolate, both warm and freshly out of the oven. Delicious! They do savoury ones too.
The Bifana is a pork meat sandwich and it can be found in every region of Portugal. In Porto, try the one from Conga, better enjoyed with a glass of cold sparkling wine or beer!
Petiscos are Portuguese “tapas”, ie. small dishes to share usually to accompany a few glasses of delicious local wine! We had a fantastic dinner at Taberna do Largo in the historic district of Porto.
When eating Petiscos in Porto, don’t miss to taste Bolo de Bacalhao (pictured the ones from Flor dos Congregados, another highly recommended restaurant) and tinned fish famous of the area, like sardines, tuna or mackerel.
The next day we had dinner at Cantinho do Avillez, also in the centre close to Sao Bento station and the Ribeira. What a great meal we had! I loved my Portuguese-style steak with chips and the delicious red wine, from the Douro region of course.
Finally, no guide of Porto could be complete without mentioning the Port Wine cellars. We booked a tour of the cellar at Calem, followed by wine tasting and a show of Fado music. All the cellars are located on the other side of the Douro river from Porto, in Vila Nova de Gaia, and they are all open for public visits.
Port is a fortified wine made by adding a proportion of grape spirit, or brandy, to the wine during the production process. So it is not a table wine, instead it is served towards the end of the meal with cheese or as a dessert wine. White Port can also be enjoyed as a pre-dinner aperitif.
One dish missing from my food guide is arguably Porto’s most famous one: the Francesinha. It’s a sandwich made with bread, wet-cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausage like chipolata, steak or roast meat and covered with melted cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce served with french fries. It sounds way too heavy for my delicate stomach, so I wasn’t brave enough to try it during this trip. It’s also advertised on the menus of all touristic restaurants around the Ribeira, so I didn’t want to risk trying a “bad” version of it. If you are from Porto or know where to find the best Francesinha in the city, let me know and I will try it next time!
For a more comprehensive food guide of Porto, read Chiara’s blog post on Machedavvero.