Fish and Francesinha: The Taste of Porto

Fish and Francesinha: The Taste of Porto

you travel several kilometres out from Porto‘s
centre, you enter siesta-still neighbourhoods that only come alive
towards sundown. On our first evening in the city, we crossed Luís
I Bridge and entered Vila Nova de Gaia. From this side of the
river, you could see the city spill across the hillside, houses
shining red, yellow and blue as tiles reflected the softening
light. We walked for a while along the water’s edge, passing
derelict warehouses that trailed ivy.

As we turned the corner towards the Douro’s mouth, the murmur of
tourists fell away, and we reached São Pedro da Afurada, a
traditional fishing village occupying a handful of cobbled streets.
Here the rows of houses stood bright in dappled sunlight and
shadows cut across coloured tiles in sharp shapes. The streets were
sleepy and near-silent. Washing hung on pink pegs and locals sat by
their doorways in plastic chairs.

When we reached Taberna São Pedro, the restaurant was just
setting up. Chefs stoked red-hot coals and placed skewers of
calamari on the outside grills. Soon the air was filled with smoke
and the smell of barbecued fish. We sat outside, sipping cold beer
and picking apart the shrimp shells with increasingly sticky

Come morning, we walked in the same direction on the opposite
side of the river, tracing a coastal boardwalk next to the waves of
the ferocious North Atlantic. At points, we stopped for beer and
padron peppers and sat facing the spray, eyes dazzled by a
cloudless sky.

Eventually, we arrived at Matosinhos, a major fishing port and
beach that’s home to many traditional seafood restaurants. Here,
Rua Heróis de França is so full of charcoal-burning grills that the
smoke stings your eyes and clings to your clothes. We stopped to
watch the men flip and prong the seared skin of crisping sardines
before finding a free roadside table on which we tried the local
delicacy. These fish – thin, spider-web bones and head still
attached – are best eaten with a side of buttery, boiled

Not all of the best cuisine is situated outside the city centre,
however. Traipsing along Porto’s charming maze of streets, we found
lively restaurants serving francesinha – a sandwich stacked with
ham, sausage, steak and cheese, and covered in a beer-and-tomato
sauce. You can opt for a fried egg on top and chips on the side. We
tried this traditional Portuguese dish in Cervejaria Brasão Aliados, and it proved great fuel
for strolling up and down the city’s many hills.


Discover More
City Guide: Porto, Portugal