Home Institute’s ten best tips for enjoying Porto, a city of stunning beaches, striking architecture and beautiful craftsmanship.
Stay in Foz
Central Porto is well catered for in terms of accommodation but our personal favourite is to stay in the beachside suburb of Foz, a 25 minute bus trip from the central city. Local chef Vasco Mourão has established a family of restaurants in Foz, all within ambling distance from the beach, including corner bistro Casa Vasco, the Porta Rossa pizzeria, Cafeína and Terra both serving contemporary Portuguese cuisine.
Matosinhos is exactly what you might expect of a regional working port town. Beyond its gridded streets, double-lane highway and high-rise condos is one of the best fish markets in Portugal. On the coast you’ll find two of Álvaro Siza Vieira’s architectural gems: the Boa Nova Tea House (Casa de Chá da Boa Nova), recently restored to house Rui Paula’s Michelin-starred restaurant, and Piscinas de Marés, an outdoor salt-water swimming pool complex built into Matosinhos’ sculptural coastal rocks.
Experience Traditional Portuguese Food
What’s not to like about a culinary tradition that serves cake at breakfast? Traditional Portuguese food is hearty, salty, generously portioned, drawing on the abundance of the Atlantic’s resources and Mediterranean ingredients. Pre-refrigeration preservation techniques remain current, seeing salted cod (bacalhau) and cured meats prominent on many menus. Visit a family-run taverna like A Grade in Baixa, or a more contemporary iteration like M’o in Clérigios, to experience traditional rural food in central Porto, savouring dishes like black Iberian pork belly, octopus and cabbage stew, and chicken and bread sausage.
Contemporary Portuguese Food
Portuguese chefs such as celebrated chef Nuno Mendos have made a name for themselves both at home and abroad for their reinterpretations of traditional fare. Porto is increasingly well catered for in terms of fine dining establishments including Pedro Lemos’s eponymously named restaurant, which was one of the first in recent years to achieve a Michelin star. If you’re looking for something more casual, visit his wife’s fast food restaurant Stash.
Porto’s enviable access to an abundance of fresh fish makes it a great place to eat Japanese. Established by London expats Sako Arao da Cunha and Miguel Cunha, the Namban Oporto Kitchen marries locally grown organic produce with Japanese home cooking to bring fresh bento boxes to central Porto. Alternatively, take your time in Foz over Ichican’s sushi menu, which makes excellent use of Atlantic horse mackerel.
Port and Wine
Originally developed and made for export, port wine could be said to be more native to Britain than to Portugal. However, Porto’s namesake has a dramatically different expression when served chilled under a hot midday sun. We recommend signing up to a tour of Taylor’s port wine cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia, on the south bank of the Duoro River, and lingering in their garden over a chip dry white port with toasted almonds. The Duoro also has Portugal’s highest wine classification as a Denominação de Origem Controlada. The hottest and driest region in Portugal, many of the best wines comes from the dramatic and historic Duoro Superior region, including Quinta da Zaralhôa.
Home to Álvaro Siza Vieira and Eduardo Souto de Moura, two of Portugal’s most celebrated architects, Porto is delightful mix of contemporary and modern architecture in combination with terracotta roofs, azulejo tiles and monumental stonework. Put aside a day to visit Serralves – a grand, art deco house within extensive grounds which is also home to a Siza-designed contemporary art gallery, and take your time as you pass through the beautifully tiled São Bento train station. Pick up an architectural city guide map that pin-points the locations of contemporary buildings across the city including Rem Koolhaas’ Casa da Música whose music programme is incredibly accessible at only €10 per concert ticket.
What gifts to buy
Thanks in part to Porto’s strong architectural and fine arts schools, there are lots of young creatives at work in the area. Ziggymaps keeps abreast of the latest retail spaces that are invariably popping up around the city, bringing the work of illustrators, artist, publishers, and designers to the attention of the wider public. For handmade jewellery, hats, prints and ceramics, pop into CRU atelier in the art gallery district around Rua Miguel Bombarda, and for new and vintage clothes, accessories and homewares, linger indefinitely in Coração Alecrim.
Our favourite beach in Porto is Foz for its accessibility to central Porto but if you fancy something more remote, take the train from São Bento station to Miramar and find your own swimming spot somewhere along the 15 km of uninterrupted beach. For an entirely unique experience, spend the day in the open air pools built into the rocks at Leça da Palmeira, north of Matasinhos, designed by Álvaro Siza Vieira.
Buy an Andante card at any Metro station to use on both buses and the metro throughout Porto. The metro joins the airport to the central city, and the city to towns such as Matasinhos, while the bus system approaches the likes of the Serralves Museum (above) from multiple angles. Check the Metro do Porto website for ticket prices and timetables and the SCTP for local bus routes.
Products from Portugal
Bote Cork Boats, by Big-Game£60.00 Select options
Portuguese Glass Bottles with Cork Stopper£3.00 – £7.50 Select options
Par Salt and Pepper Shakers, by Nendo£75.00 Add to cart
Furo Centrepiece Cork Bowl, by Fernando Brízio£150.00 Add to cart
Parte Cork Bowl, by Nendo£100.00 Add to cart
Portuguese SECLA Reissue Fluted Ceramic Jugs£45.00 Select options