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Four volumes of SUITCASE Magazine, with a new issue delivered to your door each quarter
“Ancient, very noble, always loyal, undefeated city of Porto”. This is one of many adages that inhabitants will proudly repeat when an outsider talks about their city – and they want you to cherish their city in the same way. Their warmth is exemplified in the way that by simply asking for directions in the street, you may end up having dinner with whoever you approached, dancing late into the night or at the very least sharing some port.
Eating out in one of the many tavernas is nearly always cheap and very cheerful: everything from a cup of coffee to a sandwich is made with characteristic Portuense love and dedication. Perhaps it’s because Porto people have had to fight for what they want, transforming, renewing and adapting in order to survive – most recently when they were badly hit by the economic crash of 2007. Take one of their most traditional dishes: tripas à moda do Porto. It is made with beans, carrots and, of course, tripe. Rumour has it that when Porto was preparing to take down Ceuta in North Africa, the city’s very best meat was reserved for sailors and soldiers, so only offal was left for city dwellers. To this day, locals are known as tripeiros (tripe-eaters), and it’s a badge they wear with pride, having taken one for the team.
Stroll along the medieval Ribeira and get lost down winding cobbled streets lined with old-world merchants’ houses, 15th-century churches and bustling cafes. Then cross over the River Doura for a mandatory holiday snap on one of the city’s impressive bridges. The grandiose 19th-century Palácio de Bolsa, formerly a stock market, was built to impress potential European investors – just as Porto will not fail to impress you either.
Technically, The Yeatman Hotel is not in Porto. You’ll need to cross the Rio Douro (the city’s river) and search for it next to the Port Wine cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia. However, it is one of the most beautiful hotels in Portugal – and has one of the most beloved pools in the world that’s shaped like a bottle. Since its opening day, it has won tons of national and international prizes including: best wine menu, best wine service and and an award of excellence, by Wine Spectator for three years in a row. Have you noticed the common denominator? That’s right, wine. The Yeatman calls itself a wine hotel and even the spa is titled Caudalie Vinotherapie. It offers services like The Barrel Bath Experience, which consists of a relaxing bath in a barrel-inspired tub with a sweeping view of the city’s historic centre. When you stop soaking up the sights, you can enjoy dinner at The Yeatman’s Restaurant, where chef Ricardo Costa proves his Michelin star through a menu that values Portuguese products like the lamprey, served with foie gras and bordelaise sauce – a new vision on a typical dish from the north of the country.
This rustic building by the river was abandoned for years and burned to the ground twice before Teresa Aguiar and her partner bought the forgotten structure and brought it back to its glory days. That legacy is honoured in every detail. The guesthouse hangs over the river, hence it’s name. The number, however, has a long history. Historians couldn’t define a construction date for the building, and could only find that it is between 200 and 400 years old. Nevertheless, the owners managed to figure out the age of the street where it’s located and named the hotel accordingly – 1872. The eyre starts with a long corridor surrounded by coloured stained glass. With only eight rooms, every guest receives personalised service. You can sleep with a river view or with a window to the historic alleys and city life.
Before entering this original townhouse, take a moment to enjoy the beautiful façade. The owners preserved the typical Portuguese tiles, these ones coloured a striking shade of yellow. The rooms are decorated with mod 60s-inspired furniture, aged wooden beams and vintage Downton Abbey-style bathtubs. The guesthouse also has a hidden, bucolic back garden. There you can enjoy your breakfast, their magnificent brunch or perhaps five o’clock tea. The townhouse is located in the heart of the art district. Every six weeks the surrounding streets fill up with young people there to enjoy the art galleries opening, with music, food and drinks.
Casa do Conto means ‘House of Tales’. While the project was growing, six years ago, a fire destroyed the house and delayed the reconstruction of this 19th-century domestic architecture building. Fortunately, they dusted it off and finished the project. It’s a place that combines residence with culture. Casa do Conto is also very well located. If you choose to stay there, you are near downtown via Rua de Cedofeita – a long pedestrian street that has been growing with local businesses, charming restaurants and craft beer shops. It is also a 10-minute walk from Boavista and Casa da Música.
This restaurant is named after the chef who won his first Michelin star at the end of 2014. Seven years ago no one knew who he was – but now the restaurant struggles to accommodate the constant stream of reservations. Pedro Lemos is absolutely mandatory for gourmand travellers. After he received this recognition, he closed up for a few weeks and changed the entire restaurant, renewing the house, located in a tiny, narrow alley in Foz Velha – an old, charming district near the river. Another tasty place to eat is the place where chef Lemos was when he learned about his Michelin star recognition: Stash – The Sandwich Room. It’s a little sandwich shack that Pedro and his wife developed downtown. It is located in the heart of Porto with fair prices and remarkable sandwiches like the buttered crab and lobster – homage to a typical Portuguese ritual: buttered toast with seafood.
This restaurant is divided across two floors. The first floor is perfect for an after-work drink. It contains a wine bar with a list of focaccia that you can stuff with roast beef, vegetables or truffled sausage and they have a selection of cheese boards. On the upper floor you’ll find a meat realm, with Porto’s best steaks, chops and other cuts of meat. If you are aiming for a relaxed evening, you should call and ask for a spot at the beautiful hidden terrace just outside the restaurant. If you’re a game type of person, than the steakhouse is the best option. There you can choose the meat by the kilogram and add as many side dishes as you can eat.
Luís Américo was one of the first Porto chefs to view food with through a fun and unpretentious lens. How? First he launched a forneria – a pizzeria with a wood oven – with no tools or cutlery on the table. He encouraged diners to eat with their hands, chat to friends, share food – and if you really needed a knife you could pick one from a vintage can at the table. He applied this same approach to all of his businesses. First a cervejaria (a typical Portuguese restaurant with beer and seafood) at Mercado Ferreira Borges near Ribeira, where you can grab a bottle of beer from your own ice bucket. Cantina 32 is located on a recently turned pedestrian street in the city called Rua das Flores. At Cantina 32 the tables are long with room for groups of friends or strangers who may very well become friends by the end of the night. The restaurant’s atmosphere has a nice contrast between its concrete walls and vintage armchairs. You can taste a multitude of creative dishes, some of them divided as ‘proposals for two people who are not very hungry’ or ‘suggestions for two people who are starving’. You can also eat ‘dirt’ here. Well, not dirt, but Oreo dust served in a clay vessel with a surprise cheesecake underneath.
This is what you call an authentic Porto bistro. Nabos da Púcara is a place which only uses Portuguese ingredients – it’s also a grocery store, so you can eat in or take it home – and it stocks a variety of products from local producers. You should try anything and everything. They combine less noble products with exquisite cooking techniques and get perfect results. This restaurant may have the best quality-to-price ratio in the city. Scout’s honour.
Zé Bota has marvellous Portuguese food – just how mama would’ve made it. It’s a difficult task recommending dishes because they are almost impossible to translate, that’s how genuine they are. Bacalhau à braga is fried codfish with caramelised onions, peppers and perfect chips; polvo à lagareiro is roasted octopus with olive-oil sauce, garlic and grilled potatoes; and costela mendinha is tender veal chops slowly cooked in the oven before a long marinade. We could keep going, but it’s making us hungry…
If we had to choose one thing to do in Porto, and one thing only, eating at Casa Guedes would be it. This is the worst place on earth to take a date or your parents for lunch. It is filthy, crowded, noisy, old and ugly, but they happen to serve the best pork sandwich in the whole world. Plan your visit there with caution. Choose an off mealtime hour – 4PM in the afternoon would be great – and get in line. Ask for “sandes de pernil” with or without artisanal cheese, a bottle of white wine and cheese with pumpkin jam for dessert. You’ll probably find a table outside or, if you’re lucky, you can sit at the counter and drool while Mr Cesar slices the massive, juicy pork leg.
Well, well, well, here is what you’ve been waiting for: where to eat a francesinha? Travelling to Porto and leaving without a big francesinha in your gut is an unforgivable sin. And Santiago is the best place to fulfil that task. You’ll have to wait to get a table (don’t even try to make a reservation). You should get there early: at 11.30AM for lunch or 6.30PM for dinner. Go for a seat at the counter to watch the cooking process of this incredible meaty, cheesy sandwich, ask for a beer (or ‘fino’ if you want to pretend to be local) and finish the whole thing or the waiter will mock you.
New life has been given to this little Lumière mall. It was built in the 80 and was home of the Lumière cinema but left to rot for the past decade. Last year, the same people that have been transforming the city with urban markets, decided to get together and breathe new life into Lumière. The 15 shops are now full of life and it’s difficult to decide which one to visit first: the croissant place, the ceramic store, the vintage outlet or the Brazilian stand. Galerias Lumière is always trying to find reasons to bring people inside. You may find a Saturday brunch, DJ set, book talks or a pasta workshop – you name it.
You can’t visit Porto and not visit the Bolhão market. It’s no San Miguel market or a Boquería, but a place built in 1850 which has a decadent side. There is something fascinating about visiting a place which has stayed in tact for so many years and you tend to discover lots of little secrets from it, such as the very particular way francesinha is made. A good francesinha has to be made with steak, ham and two kinds of sausages. Most of the best places to eat francesinha in Porto buy their sausages from a butcher in Bolhão, called Leandro, who happens to be the king of sausages. Luisa, another butcher, maintains a tradition that is allowed only in Bolhão. She bases it on her homemade recipe of floured tripes – tripes filled with a mix of flour and spices and served fried as a snack. Stroll through the market for a little while, get to know the fishmongers yelling the daily price of sea bass, buy some flowers or some white bread and maybe have lunch at the charming little restaurant.
Fifty years ago, Foz was the French Riviera of Portugal. This place by the sea still has a beautiful cream-coloured pergolas to remind the inhabitants of its former glory days and remains a sunny, desirable place to be in Porto. Besides the sea, sand and promenades, you’ll find good restaurants, expensive shops and beautiful people. If you walk towards the river, the Foz reverts back to its ancient self. Similar to a village with alleys, people hang out their windows and jovially shout “good morning” to welcome you.
If you’re in Porto on a Tuesday afternoon, the place to go is Adega Rio Douro, a little tavern down by the river where from 4PM to 7PM locals sing visceral fado songs documenting painful stories in rumbled voices. It’s a touching moment mixed with some excellent food. The place is pretty small and crowded, but you can always ask for food and wine at the counter, where you’ll find steaming pans of chicken gizzards, pork stomach salad, fried codfish and salted liver with onions. If offal isn’t your thing, just grab a beer and listen to the music.
Serralves Contemporary Museum has two reasons to brag about its art: the well-curated exhibitions and the idyllic gardens. Take a whole morning to explore the facilities, preferably on a Sunday, when entry is free. Walk through the museum, step into the gardens, be amazed by the delightful lake, before sitting quietly to enjoy the cooling breeze at the Tea House.
This Porto suburb by the sea is a must-do. Here, you’ll find a street teeming with grilled fish shacks; while it’s not the most aesthetically pleasing place, you will forget the setting the moment you see all the fish grills assembled in the street. You can also eat the best pizza in town at a Neapolitan pizzeria near the docks called La Pulcinella, while you must try sweet, broiche-style croissants at Mix Pão. Last but not least, take a sneak peek at the local market, a stunning 50s building hosting fishmongers, florists, street food, sushi corners and flea markets.
Aduela is the trendiest, hippest spot in town. It has reasonable prices, good wine and a lively atmosphere. They’ve recently added an esplanade with an olive tree – one of the city’s symbols. People work the bar during the day but by 8PM you can’t see for young people standing with a glass of red wine in hand.
Baixaria is the place to come if you want to drink good mojitos while listening to samba or a casual jam. It is located in one of the most vivid night spots in town. From there you can stroll into another five or six bars nearby – though none are quite as cheerful as Baixaria.
Plano B closes at 6AM (if you survive that long) and is a surprising place. It’s a nightclub inside of an old building decorated with chandeliers, dummies on the bar and stage curtains – choose between three different rooms, each playing different music. Remember not to turn up before 3AM, unless you want to be dancing alone…
Passeio dos Clérigos’ was an exhilarating market before its closure in the 90s. Two years ago it was revamped into a promenade which links Livraria Lello – one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world – to Clerigos Tower. Passeio dos Clérigos is now a place for shopping and eating. On one side you have Clerigos restaurant, a versatile food court with sushi, bread, ice creams, pizzas, tapas or fine dining. And the opposite corridor houses fashion brands such as Hugo Boss, Pinko, Hoss Intropia and Paez.
This block breathes art and design because of the dozens of galleries, fashion labels and illustration shops. Be warned: here you can lose your head – and your money. Explore the different streets, suhc as Rua do Rosário where you’ll find Japanese shop Kuri Kuri; Fine&Candy, an exquisite craft notebook brand and Muuda, a melting pot for Porto’s young fashion talents. Rua Miguel Bombarda has a little mall where shops are constantly shifting to bring diversity into the area. There you’ll stumble across a bonsai sellers, vintage clothes stores and a DIY tea shop.
Ribeira is the most touristy area in the city with a memorable riverside view and a long promenade where locals often walk. Be careful where you choose to buy your stuff. We recommend Hats & C.A.T.S, where you’ll find handcrafted hats from all over the country; La Paz, a cool menswear store and Take Away Porto, which sells Portuguese canned food, wine, olive oil and lots of well designed Porto merchandise – the perfect place for souvenirs. There is also a new market called Mercado Ferreira Borges which, unlike the others in the city, is dedicated to concerts, nightlife and weekend exhibitions.
You know how you have that one incredible friend who knows their city inside out? That’s us. We take the world’s most dynamic destinations, hand-pick the best bits and give them to you in one place. This is the kind of guide that you don’t need to run by a local – it was written by one. Eat your heart out, shop until you drop, drink like a fish, dance your socks off, sleep – then repeat.
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