A walking tour of a city I've never visited which includes food that mostly the locals know of? Why not?!
If you know me, you know that my love for food is die hard. Growing up in a Caribbean household where cooking is an art and something we take pride in made my love for food start at a very young age. Our trip to Porto was to experience Portuguese culture and of course their food!
So, the best option for our first visit to Porto, was of course, to engage in one of the city's private food tours. I researched quite a bit before contacting Taste Porto about their Downtown Food Tour. Taste Porto is run by a team of three friends. "Partnering two Porto natives and one American, the three forged ahead with the business idea that combines their love of Porto with their second love, the cuisine of Porto." I quickly made contact with Carly, one of the founders and a native of Florida, and she was very helpful with my trip planning. Apart from assisting with our food tour bookings, Carly went a step ahead and put together a list of places to eat and drink while visiting Porto. This list is at the bottom of this blog post for your reference when you visit Porto :)
Our tour guide, André, was by far the best person to lead any type of tour involving food. André was actually born and raised in Porto and is a proud lover of Porto’s food and culture. He definitely showed his passion for his home town during the tour, which to be quite honest, was one of the reasons I fell even more in love with Porto. He sees each tour as an opportunity to show people all the beauty of Porto, which he does through a combination of facts, memories, and personal, everyday experiences.
Taste Porto runs tours throughout the streets of Porto showcasing what and where the locals eat. My one piece of advice: Book the food tour as early in your trip as possible. Richard and I booked the tour three days into our trip and we wished we had booked it for the first day.
There were 6 stops on our tour. The first stop was at Merceraria Do Balhao. Here, we tasted folar, which is a bread with chourico and presunto baked in. This was accompanied with a yummy goat's cheese and a delicious sweet jam!
Though all of our spots were fantastic, there were a few that really stood out for me.
One of the places we were introduced to by Taste Porto, Loja Das Conservas, allowed me to experience the canned fish industry on a whole new level. This little shop had different variations of canned fish and sardines with what seemed like hundreds of different flavours. I ended up purchasing a few of these tiny cans to bring home with me as they were just the right size to take home! Something André mentioned to us that was intriguing was that these little cans of fish were better if open towards the end of their can life! So, pretty much open and enjoy just before the expiry date and the flavours will be at its' best!
The other place that I really enjoyed was Taxca. This restaurant was so beautiful and serene, yet so simple. It was a locals only spot with one of the best cured pork sandwiches I have ever had! The photo below pictures the endless ham they have cured on site which was just so delicious!
We ended our tour here and the group took turns buying rounds of beer and wine and sharing stories of our travels! A round of beers were around 8-10€ for a group of about 8 people! Seriously, the wine and beer are so cheap in Portugal! The tour ended with two Canadians and about six Germans who were visiting Porto for its' culture and delicious food enjoying the company of new friends. It was a great tour and I know that I have made some friends as well. André gave us lots of tips and things to do while in Porto which included a lot of his favourite places to eat in the city!
I would highly recommend a food tour with Taste Porto for you to truly be able to understand and appreciate the Portuguese culture. The next time I am back in Porto, I am going to try their other food tour as I am sure it will not disappoint! Let me know when you book your food tour as I would love to follow along with you on your journey!
Taste Porto/Carly's Recommendations:
Regarding rooftop bars, it is not actually a bi cultural phenomenon here like you have in big cities like New York or London. That is mostly due to the fact that Porto is not a city of sky scrappers. Nevertheless, we have put together a list of bars and restaurants that will definitely give you a unique view over the city.
- 17º Restaurante & Bar - R. de Guedes de Azevedo, 179 (Bar is open from 12pm to 2pm; Lunch from 12.30pm to 3pm; Dinner from 7.30pm to 10.30pm - Thursday to Saturday until 11pm). On the last two floors of Dom Henrique Hotel, this bar offers you the perfect location to take in all of Porto will sipping and snacking!
- Vip Lounge - Avenida da Boavista, 1269 (everyday from 10.30pm to 1pm). A terrace on the last floor of Porto Palácio Hotel, with a unique view to the city. On Sundays they have an amazing brunch, from 12pm to 3.30pm.
- Gull - Rua Cais das Pedras, 15 (Monday to Thursday, 12pm to 3pm and 8pm to 11pm; Friday from 12pm to 3pm and 8pm to midnight). A perfect mix between bar, terrace and Japanese / sushi restaurant, right next to the river.
And on the other side of the river, which is where you go for the best view of Porto:
- Barão Fladgate - Rua do Choupelo, 250, Vila Nova de Gaia (Everyday, from 12.30pm to 3pm and then from 7.30pm to 10.30pm). At Taylor's cellars, this restaurante has a very nice terrace with an amazing panoramic view from Gaia to Porto, a good option in case you also want to visit the wine cellars.
- The Yeatman - Rua do Choupelo 88, Vila Nova de Gaia (Restaurant: everyday, from 12.30pm to 3pm and from 7.30pm to 11pm. Bar is open 24h). Great wine list, this is definitely a luxury terrace. The best place for a sunset with a view.
- Espaço Porto Cruz - Largo Miguel Bombarda 23, Vila Nova de Gaia (Tuesday till Thursday – 12:30pm till 00:30am; Friday and Saturday – 12:30pm till 01:30 am; Sunday- 12:30 pm till 7 pm). Besides wine tasting, you’ll have access to the multimedia center, workshops and chocolate and cheese tastings, while also enjoying the 360º terrace for a truly memorable view!
Regarding Portuguese sweets, wow! I don't know where to being, there are so many! But I promise to give you a good introduction, though I will warn you that you are on an honorable and delicious mission.
- Pão de Ló at Confeitaria do Bolhão: An very old recipe of one of the most typical portuguese sweets (Rua Formosa 339)
- 'Paparoca' at Paparoca da Foz: Another old recipe created by this pastry shop that they recently decided to revive (Rua do Passeio Alegre 318)
- Jesuítas da Confeitaria Moura: a classic regional pastry (Praça do Bom Sucesso 132)
- Pastel de Nata da NATA Lisboa: the original recipe of one of our most famous pastries, from Lisbon to Porto (Rua de Santa Catarina 499)
- Éclairs at Leitaria da Quinta do Paço (Praça Guilherme Gomes Fernandes 47): way better than the french version! This actually is a stop on our original Downtown Food Tour
- Pastéis de Chaves at Loja das Pastéis de Chaves: a flaky moon shaped pastry traditionally filled with veal, but you can get it with a homemade chocolate hazelnut spread, it is available in many places, but make sure to go to this shop (R. da Firmeza 476)
As for fresh fish, you actually don't want to be eating it in downtown Porto. Instead, we always recommend to people to go to the source, Matosinhos. Matosinhos was originally a small fishermen's village that has grown up into a city in its own right, but the focus and importance of fish has never wavered. In fact, right in front of the fisherman's port is a street entirely lined with fresh fish restaurants, more than 20 in fact! Walking down the street itself is an experience as you become surrounded by the sweet smell of grilled fish. Though there are more than 20 restaurants, I have my personal favorites that I will share with you.
- Sempr’Assar - Rua Heróis de França, 185 , 4450-158 Matosinhos - sets itself apart as one of the best restaurants in Matosinhos, not only is the fish as fresh as possible, but they also have expanded their offering to include world class sushi! It can sometimes be overwhelming to decide, which is why Taste Porto has partnered with Sempr'Assar to create a special menu just for our guests. This is beautiful location with 3 separate dining areas and white tablecloth.
- Restaurante O Lusitano - R. Heróis de França 329, 4450-158 Matosinhos - is on a totally different level. This is as local and homey as you can possibly get. The service is friendly and informal, while the fish is simple and fresh. Ask them what is freshest and then sit back to enjoy your freshly grilled fish with a glass of vinho verde (young white wine). If old-school is what you are looking for this is the place.
A huge thank you to Carly for putting this list together. We were able to to a few of these sites and look forward to returning to Porto to finish the list!
Richard and I took part in the Downtown Food Tour with Taste Porto. Tickets for a 3.5 hour walking tour were 62€/person, which may I add, was well worth the price!!
If you have the pleasure of meeting either Andre or Carly, please do say hello for me!
With Love | Nikki xo
Disclosure: Select photos were taken off the Taste Porto website along with some of their commentary from their brochure and about page.