On the steep banks of the Douro, Portugal’s northern jewel gleams with tradition, buzzing eating places, bars and artisan retailers, plus cool locations to go to and keep
Dom Luis I bridge over the River Douro, Porto.
Sitting in my customary Porto cafe, a non-descript place on Praça Carlos Alberto throughout from my children’ faculty, a troupe of Asian vacationers march by. They are sheltered beneath umbrellas, heads down, following their information in an orderly step to the following vacationer honeypot.
For a whistlestop go to to Portugal’s pleasant second metropolis, a guided tour might be a good suggestion. Porto’s vacationer route is now well-worn, however fantastic nonetheless.
It begins with a climb up Torre dos Clérigos, then a stroll throughout Ponte de Dom Luís I, a go to to a port wine cellar in Gaia, a pastel de nata (or three!) in Majestic Café, and at last a bacalhau (cod) dinner in one of many metropolis’s picturesque riverside eating places.
Porto is well-known for its trams and church buildings. Photograph: Alamy
For these with extra time to spare, take a stroll down the bustling Rua das Flores, or a ship trip alongside the Rio Douro, or perhaps a bus out to the Atlantic coast at Matosinhos.
There is little doubt: this Unesco heritage metropolis makes for the proper weekend break. It comes as little shock that holidaymakers have named it Europe’s finest vacation spot twice within the final 4 years, nor that the low-cost airways are actually jetting right here of their droves.
With mass tourism comes inevitable change, nevertheless. Only 15 years in the past, locals admitted that the cobbled medieval streets of downtown had been “mortas” (dead). Today, cool kerbside cafes and hip inns are changing the derelict tenements of yesteryear.
But what of town away from the vacationer path? Construction cranes could these days be cramming the skyline and the clickety-clack of cabin-sized suitcases could also be filling the air, however life within the backstreets nonetheless goes on. So, as soon as completed with town’s hotspots, or in the event that they don’t attraction, right here’s another information to a few of Porto’s finest off-beat gems.
Be positive to eat at this incredible restaurant within the up-and-coming Bonfim bairro. With simply six tables round an open kitchen, the house is unpretentious and intimate. That’s all to the nice as a result of it takes some time to sort out the 10-course tasting menu (€37 with out drinks). A former architect, chef Pedro Barreiros produces every particular person dish with an eclectic mixture of mathematical precision, gastronomic mastery and artistic flare. The result’s a whirlwind of ingenious delight, with easy but chic programs like chestnut cream and mushroom foam, masala-spiced tuna tartare, and squid risotto. Each dish arrives on the desk with a brief introduction by the charming employees, who are completely satisfied to suggest accompanying wines and different tipples. If chef Pedro had been in London, and even Lisbon, he could be fêted as a trailblazer in Portuguese modernist delicacies. Luckily for Portuenses, he’s stayed true to his home-city roots.
• Rua do Morgado de Mateus 49, on Facebook
Hidden away down the backstreets near Aliados, Porto’s essential avenue, Café Candelabro is a relaxed, convivial bolthole a world away from the vacationer rigmarole. It is open day and night time throughout the week (Mon-Fri 10.30-2am; Saturday 4pm-2am; Sunday 4pm-12am), its morning fare of espresso and cake slipping languidly into lunchtime snacks (bruschetta, €three.50, hummus, €three.50, soup, €2) and a glass or two of wine. Candelabro is uncommon within the breadth of its wine choice, with 60 varieties from throughout Portugal. Be positive to strive an alvarinho, the nation’s solely terroir wine. The cafe can be atypical in promoting wine by the glass (common worth €three). By mid-afternoon in summer time, college students start to float in, filling the sun-drenched pavement patio. Occupying a former bookshop, Porto-born house owners Hugo and Miguel have saved true to the spirit of the place and the partitions are lined with secondhand books on the market. Most mirror the house owners’ private pursuits in pictures, cinema, music and the humanities typically and there’s a “playlist” of video artwork projected on the wall (Thur-Sat evenings). Because of its late opening that is additionally the place to go for a quiet, postprandial glass of port.
• Rua da Conceição three, cafecandelabro.com
Porto is now awash with short-term leases, however discovering an house that’s not furnished ground to ceiling by Ikea is one other matter completely. For a singular different, guide into the exquisitely adorned myhomeinporto. Former Lisbon-based inside designer Juan de Mayoralgo has turned this basic 1930s townhouse into an oasis of fashionable calm. True to its title, every part has a familial, cared-for really feel to it, from the household pictures on the partitions to the collector’s items sprinkled concerning the place. Light and ethereal, the three en-suite bedrooms are decked out with the identical trademark style and a spotlight to element. Breakfasts brim with a do-it-yourself freshness, because of the each day provides from Porto’s well-known Mercado do Bolhão. Originally from Spain, Juan retains a newcomer’s fascination with this metropolis and is very happy to move on insider ideas.
• Doubles from €110 B&B, myhomeinporto.com
Gostar de Ler bookshop
For a marker of how a metropolis is holding out towards the tide of global manufacturers, rely up its impartial bookshops. By that measure, Porto stays in good condition. It’s true that just a few bookshops have been lost of late to boutique inns, however books – and book-selling – nonetheless survive. For Instagramable biblioporn, be a part of the queue exterior Lello & Irmão, the wood-panelled bookshop that seemingly impressed JK Rowling, who taught English in Porto within the early 1990s. Otherwise, head to close by Gostar de Ler. A latest creation of Lurdes Paiva (previously of the four-storey Chaminé da Mota on Rus das Flores), this dinky bookshop feels part-film set, part-living room, stuffed as it’s with furnishings and picture albums, trinkets and typewriters. Books are organized collectively as a lot by aesthetic sensibility as material, a form of Dewey Decimal system for the soul. Livraria Académica subsequent door can be price a go to, as is the close by poetry bookshop Poetria and the comedian retailer Timtim por Timtim.
• Rua Mártires da Liberdade 120, on Facebook
Edge-of-town hypermarkets and their miniaturised city-centre offspring are actually firmly entrenched in Porto, however the metropolis’s mercearias (grocery shops) have not given up the ghost but. Far from it, the truth is. The finest examples might be found on the streets surrounding Mercado do Bolhão. Start on the splendidly named Comer e Chorar por Mais (Eat and Cry for More). Founded in 1912, this diminutive retailer is packed to the rafters with Portuguese wines and regional foodstuffs. Everything is conventional and engaging, from the sardines and Portuguese pâtés, to the port wines and tinned sardines. Try the Montesinhos sausage (€30 per kg), the dried figs (€eight.80 per kg) and the sun-dried pine nuts (€69 per kg). For oriental herbs and medicines, like antioxidant-rich gingko and “super-detox” chia, head to Casa Chinesa on the following block. It’s additionally the place to go in Porto for pulses and lentils, teas and spices. Save some house for some salted cod, finest procured from close by Casa Natal.
Cantinho das Aromáticas
Porto is known for its eponymous wines. By all means, go stick your nostril right into a glass or three of the sturdy stuff. But don’t depart with out testing one of many metropolis’s lesser-known olfactory treats. On an elevated plot over the Rio Douro, in Vila Nova de Gaia, sit the aromatic fields and nurseries of Cantinho das Aromáticas. From simply 2½ hectares, this lovely natural farm manages to supply a whopping 150 or so completely different plant species. Visitors are invited to wander alongside the neat rows of fragrant flowers, medicinal vegetation and kitchen herbs. (Don’t fear concerning the children: the farm’s stone dovecote makes for the proper playground). For these eager to get their arms soiled, alternatives additionally exist to volunteer. At the top of the go to, take pleasure in one of many farm’s freshly plucked infusions (two of those gained two stars on the 2017 Great Taste Awards) within the well-stocked café-cum-shop. The farm’s 50-plus merchandise embody bee glue extract (€9.60), additional virgin olive oil (€6.90-€38.00) and numerous fruit and floral liqueurs (from €10)
• Rua do Meiral, Vila Nova de Gaia
Mercado de Matosinhos
Such is the draw of town’s vibrant, historic riverside that it’s straightforward to overlook that the Atlantic Ocean lies only a stone’s throw away alongside its banks. On summer time days, surfers and sun-bathers fill the sandy shoreline. The year-round stalwarts of the ocean, nevertheless, are Porto’s fishermen. For a sight (and odor) of their deep-water catches, take a half-hour bus trip to Matosinhos and stroll across the fish stalls of the bustling Mercado Municipal, the place talkative stallholders will fortunately advise not simply on what’s freshest that day, however on how finest to organize it. If descaling and gutting sounds a bit a lot, concern not – dozens of cooks are ready alongside Rua Heróis de França to do the honours. The eating places could all look a bit spit-and-sawdust, however that’s only a signal of their harbourside heritage. The meals is universally glorious, with Salta o Muro and O Lusitano significantly really helpful (two programs from round €20 a head).
• Rua França Júnior, Matosinhos. Most eating places closed Monday, on Facebook
New science museum
When the 20th-century Portuguese poet and author Sophia de Mello Breynar Andersen was a toddler, she preferred to say that her palatial household home was large enough to deal with a whale. So when the University of Porto selected it to deal with town’s first Natural History and Science Museum, they hung a whale’s skeleton from the ceiling. The museum’s interactive and informative displays have proved successful with locals since its inauguration final summer time, though it’s nonetheless a novelty on the vacationer path. Book in time to have a potter across the fantastic botanical gardens, which occupy the grounds of this spectacular mansion home. The gardens home the college’s herbarium, containing 1000’s of historic specimens from throughout Portugal’s former colonies. The better-known Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, which can be inside the partitions of a one-time grand property, is only a 25-minute stroll away.
• Adult €5, little one €2.50, household of 4 €14, Rua do Campo Alegre 1191, sigarra.up.pt, closed Monday
Porto Running Tours
Photograph: Oliver Balch
Porto affords countless alternatives for getting round. Hop on and off one of many open-top metropolis tour buses or totter alongside in an old-school tram. Helitours will whiz these with deep pockets excessive above Porto’s red-tiled rooftops. For smaller budgets, strive renting a motorcycle and heading out alongside the coast (Foz-based Dourobike is price renting from, if just for the chutzpah of its advertising and marketing slogan: “The last bike shop before New York”). But discover on foot to get an actual style for town’s again streets. To escape the herd, head out alone however for the actually adventurous, there’s an alternative choice: Porto Running Tours. Run (actually) by the ever-friendly and well-informed Sérgio Miranda, it is a likelihood to train and discover town on the similar time. Sérgio is a historical past and avenue artwork buff, however excursions are tailor-made to all pursuits. The similar goes for various age ranges and health ranges.
• €30 for one (€20pp thereafter, most of 5 to a bunch), portorunningtours.com
Way to go
Easyjet flies to Porto from Bristol, Gatwick, Luton and Manchester from £22.66 a technique. British Airways flies from Gatwick from £36 a technique.
Best time to go
March/April for Easter celebrations, together with concert events and performs. The São João pageant in late June commemorates the patron saint of town with barbecues and avenue music. Also in June, NOS Primavera Sound is the largest city music pageant in Portugal. And the Porto marathon takes place on four November.
£1 = €1.14
Small beer in neighbourhood bar: €1.20-€1.50