PORTO | Porto is a great city for lovers of good food and drink, but if you only have a day in the city, you’ll want to be efficient when it comes to choosing your meals. Luckily, we spent a day with a local visiting a range of places showcasing the best of Porto, and created this gastronomic itinerary which will allow you to experience Porto’s culinary delights in a day.
Breakfast At Cafe Guarany
Opened in 1933 and known as the musicians’ coffee house, Cafe Guarany is less well-known than its older sister, Majestic Cafe (considered one of the most beautiful cafes in Europe).
Majestic Cafe might dazzle with its grandeur, and it is great, but Cafe Guarany has its own quiet charms. The artistic spirit is strong here, from the colourful wall paintings, to the piano frequently played, and the table mats which contain a printed poem about Cafe Guarany and how it captures the essence of Porto.
Here you get food and service that matches Majestic Cafe, at lower prices and without the long queues.
Francesinha At O’Golfinho For Lunch
A must try dish when you visit Porto is Francesinha (Portuguese for “little French girl”). It’s a hearty, generously filled sandwich, bathing in a divine special tomato sauce. Fillings include ham, melted cheese, sausage, beef between two bread slices, with an optional sunny side egg on top. Any combination is good, however, the star of the show is the sauce, which is an appetising symphony of sweet, salty and sour, with a bit of spice (hence the name).
A great place to try Francesinha is O’Golfinho, a family-run restaurant, where we’ve been told the secret recipe to the sauce is well guarded, such that the wife has to vacate from the kitchen while the husband is making the sauce afresh.
A Few Dinner Options
Dinner options in Porto are abundant, and the standard of food high, with lots of fresh, locally sourced ingredients. A local’s tip to ensure you’re eating at a place that serves only the freshest produce is to choose restaurants with as short a menu as possible, because that means there’s a big chance that the ingredients have been sourced on the day.
One such restaurant is O Caraças, with typically just two main, home-style dishes on the menu: fish or meat. When we visited, steak and fried fish in home-made sauce were on the menu, and as promised, everything was fresh and flavoursome, even the thinly cut crisps. O Caraças is a family-run restaurant, with the mother being the excellent cook, and the son and daughters running the remaining operations. There is a warm, friendly ambience to the place, with attentive, but never overbearing, service. We arrived relatively early for dinner and were invited to the kitchen to have a taste before deciding what to eat – a proper family dining experience.
If you’d like to have a larger range of options, Taberna d’Avó is worth a try, especially for the wide variety of fish dishes. We recommend starting with Papas de sarrabulho.. It’s a thick soup made with pig’s blood, chicken, pork, ham, salami, lemon, bread (or cornmeal) and cumin. The soup doesn’t have the most appetising colour, but is very flavoursome and goes well with a Duoro red. We enjoyed it so much that we ordered a second bowl.
Porto has great nightlife, with many late night bars and cafes downtown along the two parallel streets of Rua Galeria de Paris and Rua Cândido dos Reis, and along both sides of the Douro river. Era Uma Vez no Porto is a popular café/bar right in the centre of town, near the beautiful bookshop Livraria Lello. It’s on the 2nd floor of the building, with a balcony view and great atmosphere.
Alternatively, in a less touristy but hip and happening part of the town, Maus Hábitos is a good choice for a great night out. It’s a bar, a restaurant with a lovely interior yard and terrace, a concert venue, a club, a gallery all combined in one. Maus Hábitos (meaning bad habits) is a contemporary place that promotes all forms of cultural expression, where you can see suited high-flyers sitting next to trendy artists or just frequent local customers.
Have you visited Porto before? What’s your ‘must visit’ tip for someone who only has a day in the city? Let us know in the comments section below.