On the Northwest coast of Portugal on the banks of the Douro River, sits historic Porto. Dating back to the 4th century, Porto is the 2nd largest city in Portugal and boasts its historical center as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The streets of Porto are bustling with tourists and locals. The banks of the Douro Valley are filled with vineyards which produces the wine that bears the name of the city. Since the 17th century, port wine production has been a major attraction and export for Porto. A long weekend is plenty of time to explore this historical city.
While Porto is a charming city from history, it also has evolved into the 21st century. Harry Potter fans can visit the hot spots that JK Rowling frequented while living in Porto. Inspiration was all around her as she wrote some of the first book in the series at the unique and charming, Majestic Café. It’s the perfect stop for afternoon tea and a snack. Livraria Lello, one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, is must see location that can make you wonder if you are mistakenly in Dumbledore’s office.
You cannot leave Porto without discovering the food and drink of Porto’s people. Port wine is unique to Porto. The Douro Valley’s topography and specific climate is challenging but produces the perfect grape for this fortified wine. You can taste different types of port wines at local wineries. Taylor’s and Graham’s are the most popular port wine cellars to visit in the area. You can also find a wine cruise that takes you on a boat tour of the Douro Valley vineyards.
A visit to Graham’s will take you on a historical tour of the cellar by an experienced wine maker and explain the process of making port wine among thousands of wooden barrels. The tour ends with a tasting of white, rose, tawny and ruby port wines. The differences and tastes of these fortified wines all depend on the type of grape and the aging process. You won’t be hungry, thirsty, or disappointed if you make a dinner reservation at Graham’s restaurant, Vinum. It is a true extension of the wine makers. The local cuisine is paired flawlessly with port wines.
The best way to get to know the people of Porto is to experience the food that they eat. Taste Porto Food Tours can help you understand the cuisine by stuffing you full of it. Bring your walking shoes as you go down hidden streets to explore delicious bites of local favorites. In this tour, you receive 10 generous food tastings. A favorite part of the tour is a visit to Bolhao market. This 2-story market in the city is full of fresh food and small, local shops and restaurants. The market is filled with vibrant colors from all the fresh produce. The smells from the restaurants make you want to come back later for a quick meal. If you can, schedule your food tour at the beginning of your trip so you will know the places to go and eat.
They sell shredded kale that they use in their soup.
Douro Valley grapes are so delicious!
These walnut stuffed figs were so amazing! I still crave them!
These local beans are served in bars and local restaurants like peanuts are served in the states.
Plenty of fresh meat can be found in the market.
We stopped by Cafe Guarany for a quick cup of Porto coffee and chocolate.
Flor Dos Congregados is a tiny restaurant on a hidden narrow street. Originally opened in 1852, you will get the most mouth watering, slow roasted meat. It literally melted in my mouth. It’s a must when in Porto!
Sardines are a local favorite in Porto!
A gastronomic experience of Porto cannot be complete without tasting Portuguese olive oils. A trip to a little shop called Oliva & Co will show you the distinct differences in the country’s olive oil. Just walk in the store and the knowledgeable owner will take you through a vast selection of olive oils. You can’t help but leave with some. They come in the perfect airline size for travelers.
If time permits, a quick ride out to Matosinhos to the Fish Market will be well worth it. Matosinhos is a city outside of Porto. Restaurants line the street in front of the beachside markets where fresh catches are grilled on the street in front of patrons. You can pick your fresh fish straight from the case and dine on large meal for very little money. O’Lusitano was an excellent find among the many restaurants. After you fill your belly, you can take a walk on the beautiful beaches or take a tour of the fish markets.
I hope you have enjoyed my culinary tour through Porto! Have you been? What’s your favorite food there?
Note: This article originally appeared in Stars and Stripes international publication, Stripes Europe, Spring Edition 2017.
Author: Betsy Ramirez
Betsy is a registered dietitian/nutritionist, homeschool mom, & fairy tale junkie, who loves getting crafty. Being on my bike and lifting weights are my therapy. Thinking outside the box is my jam!