A Short History
Port Wine, Francesinha, and Caldo Verde
Eating in Porto
Rabanadas is the Portuguese version of French Toast. Rabanadas is usually made with a baguette and not sandwich bread. Another nice thing about Rabanadas is that it is topped with a syrup of Port wine!
The Majestic is the most famous cafe in Porto and for good reason. It is absolutely opulent. And the prices reflect it. 5 € for an espresso? Are you kidding me? But, they make a very good Rabanadas.
Cafe Guarany is owned by the same people as The Majestic and has the same menu as its sister cafe. While Guarany isn’t as fancy as the Majestic, it has great style and the prices are cheaper.
Caldo Verde is the most popular soup in northern Portugal. Made with potatoes and greens (usually Kale but other greens are sometimes used) and flavored with onions and garlic, the soup sausage added.
Almost every little cafe in Porto has Caldo Verde on the menu and even high-end establishments offer it as well. O Astro Cervejaria Petisqueira in the residential neighborhood of Fontainhas has an excellent version (their Bifana, a pork sandwich is also famous) and if you a vegetarian version, Em Carne Viva is the place to go.
Francesinha (aka Little Frenchie) is a massive meat sandwich that was based on the French sandwich, the Croque-Monsieur, a ham and cheese sandwich. The Francesina is loaded with ham, sausage, steak, roast beef, and/or linguiça. The sandwich is covered in melted cheese and a sauce made of beer and tomato.
The sandwich can vary based on how much and what kinds of meats is added to the sandwich. But, the sauce is the real difference between purveyors of the Francesinha. It can be spicy or mild, have special herbs added, and have different ratios of beer and tomato (or no tomato sauce at all).
Francesinha is available all over town and diners in Porto will argue endlessly about who makes the best one. Cafe Santiago F is famous for theirs and believe it or not, there is a vegetarian version of this meat bomb available at Em Carne Viva.
Drinking in Porto
Port British names and influence, just like sherry. Stomping grapes with your feet.
Port wine lodges
About 25 miles northeast of Porto is Singeverga Monastery. Benectine monks from the monestary make a herb liquor called Singeverga. The recipe for Singeverga is a secret kept by the monks, but it is said that the monks themselves cultivate the aromatic plants that are used in making the flavorful liquor.
Because the production is done by the monks, Singeverga is not widely available. But, you can get a glass at Monstra Nacional in Porto, a lovely little bakery that also sells bottles of stuff.
I’ve found a few places online where you can order Singeverga (it doesn’t seem that they have a U.S. distributor), but the cost of shipping one bottle will, in effect, triple the cost.
Things to do in Porto
Away from the crush of riverfront Ribeira and the tourist attractions of Baixa is one of my favorite parts of Porto, the Fontainhas neighborhood. There’s no real attractions here. An abandoned slaughterhouse is fenced off with weeds growing all around, but look at the building and tell me you’d think that used to be a slaughterhouse. Karen and I walked by and we speculated on it being a school, a rectory, a several other things, but it wasn’t until I looked it up that we discovered it used to be a slaughterhouse.
No, Fontainhas’ charms lie in the Tripeiros (people of Porto are called Tripeiros because of their fondness for tripe) who reside in the neighborhood. Without all the tourists, Fontainhas can breathe and live. Restaurants cater to local tastes. Every cafe, it seems, has Francesinha, Caldo Verde, and Bifana on the menu.
Fontainhas is the kind of place where you will want to wander the streets and get lost. Stop and listen to people shouting from balconies, even if you don’t speak a word of Portuguese. Then again, they could be shouting in Russian.
There’s a small Russian Orthodox Church and Russian market that serves the Slavic ex-pat population in Fontainhas. Since 1999, their numbers have grown as Portugal has imported workers from Eastern Europe and Russia.
The Alameda das Fontainhas has one of the most scenic views in Porto, and that’s high praise for a city filled with spectacular vistas. And speaking of spectacular vistas, the Guindalense Futebol Clube challenges for the top spot in Porto. A small bar on the far end of Fontainhas, the Guindalense Futebol Clube has views of the river and Porto’s famous Dom Luís I Bridge.
Porto is often called the “City of Bridges.” That’s not because of the number of the bridges, but because of their exceptional beauty.
Dom Luís I Bridge
By far the most famous bridge in Porto is the Dom Luís I Bridge. This double-decker bridge connects Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia, the town across the river where all the Port Houses are located.
Many people believe that Gustave Eiffel (of Tower fame) designed the Dom Luís I Bridge. Although Eiffel submitted a plan for the bridge, it was not accepted. Instead, Eiffel’s protege, Théophile Seyrig, who had recently left Eiffel’s company to work for Belgium’s Société Willebroeck won the job with his design.
The bridge is accessible to pedestrians and it’s quite a thrill waking across the upper deck. From here, you can see most of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia which makes for stunning photos.
The upper deck is also less crowded that the lower deck. I’ve crossed the bridge on foot (both lower and upper decks) and frankly the lower deck can be uncomfortable, especially around sunset when it seems everyone is jockeying for position. I was concerned for Karen’s well-being because of all the jostling and the fact that there are cars running along the bridge as well, so I had to position myself in front of her as we made our way across to prevent her from being knocked over. Needless to day, I’d suggest crossing at other times of day or, better yet, crossing on the less crowded upper deck.
Maria Pia Bridge
The Maria Pia Bridge isn’t far from the Dom Luís I Bridge and it also crosses the Douro River. The Maria Pia is often confused with the Dom Luís because they have a similar design and are near eachother.
Although Gustave Eiffel is credited with the design, it is likely that Théophile Seyrig, Eiffel’s business partner did much of the work. Looking at the bridge, it is easy to see the similarity to Eiffel’s famous tower in Paris.
The bridge is rather lightweight for its size and has undergone several series of repairs over the years to correct structural issues. It was closed to traffic in 1991.
Porto can seem like a very traditional city. From the painted tiles to the stuffy port houses to Gothic churches to magnificent brides, it can seem like you’re in an outdoor museum.
But, in some ways, Porto is a very modern city as well. The Porto Leixões Cruise Terminal and the Vodofone Headquarters building are both very contemporary in design.
The street art scene in Porto is vibrant and definitely falls on the modern side of the design spectrum. Murals range from the abstract to the figurative and from small works to giant pieces that are several stories high.
If you want to take a tour of street art in Porto, Joao has created one at With Locals. Joao is an enthusiastic guide and the tour only costs €12
Douro Valley. In addition to port, the region produces olives (olive oil) and fruit trees (jams).
Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport aka Porto Airport (OPO)
International airport serves most of Europe, Dubai, some former colonies, Toronto, and (seasonally) Newark.
4470-558 Maia, Portugal
Campanhã Railway Station
Arrival station for most long haul trains within Portugal and outside the country.
4300-173 Porto, Portugal
São Bento Railway Station
Local and regional train station with magnificent tiles inside.
Praça Almeida Garrett, 4000-069 Porto, Portugal
The local transportation system includes buses and the metro. Get an Andante Card, load it with Euros, and swipe on and off.
Not covered by Andante Card. Purchase separate ticket. Three trolley lines stop near many tourist attractions.
Funicular dos Guindais
Funicular connects the Ribeira and Batalha neighborhoods in Porto, saving a tough walk. Not covered by the Andante Card.
R. da Ribeira Negra 314, 4000-509 Porto, Portugal
Douro River Taxi
Quick trip on the water from Ribeira to Vila Nova de Gaia. Not covered by the Andante Card.
Apartado 1311 | 4401 – 501 Vila Nova de Gaia, Porto, Portugal
Taste Porto Food Tours
Several excellent food tours.
Food tours, pub crawls, and walking tours.
Roto do Douro
Several river cruises available.
Street Art Tour
Experience Porto’s vibrant street art scene with Joao, a local street art enthusiast.
Sao Bento Station
Train station whose interior is decorated with 20,000 azulejo tiles from the early 20th century.
Praca Almeida Garrett, Porto 4000-069, Portugal
Dom Luís I Bridge
Porto’s iconic double-decker bridge.
Pte. Luiz I, Porto, Portugal
Statue of Prince Henry the Navigator
Statue of Porto’s favorite son.
Praca Infante Dom Henrique, Porto 4050-295, Portugal
Igreja de São Francisco
Baroque church with unbelievably intricately carved panels with gold leaf. Catacombs below.
Rua do Infante D. Henrique, Porto 4050-297, Portugal
Church of Saint Ildefonso
18th century church with azulejo tile facade.
R. de Santo Ildefonso 11, 4000-542 Porto, Portugal
Igreja do Carmo and Igreja dos Carmelitas
Side by side churches with a strange three foot wide house between them.
R. do Carmo, 4050-164 Porto, Portugal
Sé do Porto (Porto Cathedral)
12th century cathedral with fanciful 18th century alters.
Terreiro da Sé, 4050-573 Porto, Portugal
Banco de Materiais
Tiles are so important to the culture of Portugal that there is a tile bank. Located in the Palace of the Viscounts of Balsemão.
Praça de Carlos Alberto 71, 4050-159 Porto, Portugal
Palácio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace)
Grand building headquarters of the Porto Commerce Association.
Rua Ferreira Borges S/N, Porto 4050-253, Portugal
Igreja de Santa Clara (Church of Santa Clara)
Dull facade with intricately carved Baroque interior.
Largo 10 de Dezembro, Porto 4000-404, Portugal
Capela das Almas
Church with amazing tile exterior.
Rua de Santa Catarina 428, Porto 4000-444, Portugal
Serra do Pilar
Monastery in Vila Nova de Gaia with great views.
Largo de Aviz, Vila Nova de Gaia 4430-329, Portugal
Excellent Port Wine Lodge with fancy restaurant on site.
Rua do Choupelo 250, 4400-088 Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
The largest, and busiest Port Wine Lodge. Good introduction to Port.
Largo Miguel Bombarda 3, Vila Nova de Gaia 4404-507, Portugal
Port Wine Lodge with tastings and optional Fado show.
Avenida Diogo Leite 344, Vila Nova de Gaia 4400-111, Portugal
Port Wine Lodge and inventor of Rose port.
do Barão de Forrester 412, 4400-034 Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
Kopke Wine House
The lodge isn’t open for tours, but tastings available in the wine house.
Avenida Diogo Leite 312, Vila Nova de Gaia 4400-111, Portugal
Quinta de Santa Eufémia
Tasting room for one of few port houses that haven’t been gobbled up by an international conglomerate.
R. de Santa Marinha 77, 4400-266 Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
Cruises on the Douro River
Rua de Miragaia 103, 4050-387 Porto, Portugal
Quinta da Pacheca
Winery and hotel in the Duoro Valley.
Rua do Relogio do Sol, 261, Lamego 5100-424, Portugal
Quinta de La Rosa
Winery and B&B in Pinhão.
Quinta de La Rosa 215, Pinhão, Portugal
Quinta do Panascal
Winery famous for Fonseca Port.
N222, 5120-496 Valença do Douro, Portugal
Quinto do Vallado
Winehotel and winery.
Quinta do Vallado, Vilarinho dos Freires, 5050-364 Peso da Régua, Portugal
Quinta de Marrocos
Winery and farmstay in an old Franciscan monastery.
N222, 5100-840 Valdigem, Portugal
Food and Drink
Historic cafe is a great spot for a cimbalino (espresso) or Rabanadas (Portuguese French Toast).
Rua de Santa Catarina 112, Porto 4000-442, Portugal
Sister cafe to the Majestic. Not as fancy, but the same menu and less expensive.
Avenida dos Aliados 85 89, Porto 4000-066, Portugal
A Loja dos Pastéis de Chaves
Bringing their filo dough filled pastries from the town of Chaves to Porto.
Rua da Firmeza 476, Porto 4000-226, Portugal
Árvore do Mundo
Excellent vegan restaurant.
Rua Duque Loule N 228, Porto 4000-324, Portugal
Cafe Santiago F
Famous for their massive Francesinha.
Rua de Passos Manuel 198, Porto 4000-382, Portugal
Confeitaria do Bolhão
Rua Formosa 339, Porto 4000-252, Portugal
Petiscos (Portugues tapas)
Rua do Almada 151 A, Porto 4050-037, Portugal
Sleek, upscale restaurant.
Rua O Comercio do Porto 161, Porto 4050-211, Portugal
O Astro Cervejaria Petisqueira
Good spot for Caldo Verde and Bifana (pork sandwich).
Rua da Estacao n 16, Porto 4300-171, Portugal
Padaria Ribeiro Express
Praca Guilherme Gomes Fernandes 27, Porto 4050-293, Portugal
Family run spot with homestyle meals.
Rua Sao Nicolau 9, Porto 4050-561, Portugal
Taberna Santo Antonio
Busy spot for Portuguese comfort food.
Rua Virtudes 32, Porto 4050-630, Portugal
Em Carne Viva
Vegetarian Caldo Verde and Francesinha.
Av. da Boavista 868, 4100-421 Porto, Portugal
Vegetarian food, buffet style.
Rua de Mouzinho da Silveira 249, Porto 4050-421, Portugal
Small pastry shop that also carries Singeverga.
Rua dos Caldeireiros N. 51, Porto 4050-140, Portugal
Leitaria da Quinta do Paco
Cafe with amazing eclairs.
Praca Guilherme Gomes Fernandes 47,| Baixa Do Porto, Porto 4050-293, Portugal
Flor dos Congregados
Family-run traditional restaurant famous for their slow roasted pork sandwich.
Travessa Congregados 11, Porto 4000-179, Portugal
Top flight restaurant in Taylor’s Port Wine Lodge
Rua do Choupelo 250, 4400-088 Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
Expensive restaurant and wine bar worth the price for the view.
Rua do Agro 141, Vila Nova de Gaia 4400-281, Portugal
Wine Quay Bar
Wine bar with petiscos (small plates). Outside seating along the riverfront.
111 and 112 Muro dos Bacalhoeiros, Porto 4050-080, Portugal
Prova Wine Food & Pleasure
Wine bar with port and so much more.
Rua Ferreira Borges 86, Porto 4050-252, Portugal
All in Porto
Terrific wine bar with small plates.
Rua Arquiteto Nicolau Nazoni 17 27, Porto 4050-423, Portugal
Great bar for port tasting.
Rua de Sao Joao 28-30, Porto 4050-551, Portugal
Hip outdoor bar with beanbag chairs on lawn.
Passeio Dos Clerigos, Rua Das Carmelitas, Jardim, Porto 4050-162, Portugal
Guindalense Futebol Clube
Great views at this little bar in Fontainhas.
Escadas Guindais 43, Porto 4000-277, Portugal
Cute little snack bar with Francesinha (of course)
Rua de Justino Teixeira nr 19, 4300-273 Porto, Portugal
Rooftop bar has some of the best views in the city.
Largo Miguel Bombarda 222, Vila Nova de Gaia 4400-222, Portugal
Gorgeous Neo-Gothic bookstore with a stained glass ceiling. Usually crowded. 5€ entrance fee refunded with purchase.
R. das Carmelitas 144, 4050-161 Porto, Portugal
Touriga Wine Shop
Excellent selection of wines. Port tastings, too.
Rua da Fábrica 32, 4050-245 Porto, Portugal
Mercado na Invicta
Handmade crafts and souvenirs.
Rua Fabrica 15 19, Porto 4050-247, Portugal
Wine House Hotel
Sleep in a huge wine barrel. At the Quinta da Pacheca winery.
Rua do Relogio de Sol 261, Cambres, Lamego 5100-105, Portugal