Our very first stop on our European adventure – Porto! We spent 4 full days (5 nights) in the Porto area before heading down to Comporta. On one of those days we rented a car and drove out to Douro Valley to explore the local wine region. I feel like it was the perfect amount of time to explore the city without feeling too rushed. Had we stayed any longer I think I would have gotten antsy, and any shorter we probably would have skipped Douro Valley which ended up being one of my favorite parts of being in Porto. Below is a quick guide to everything we did and ate and a few saves for next time. Enjoy!
We rented this AirBnB in the Historic City Center. After doing a bit of research I found that we could get a lot more bang for our buck going the AirBnB route. It didn’t have AC which wasn’t the smartest idea given how warm it was, but we did have a washing machine and full-kitchen.
In terms of location, it was very centrally located. It was a short walk to the water front and a stones throw away from lots of restaurants, wine bars and shops – a great spot for a first time visit. That being said there were tons of people. Not sure if this was due to the time of year or perhaps a music festival that, I think, was in town, but it felt like there was a lot going on every time we walked around. Next time, I think I’ll opt for something a little north of the Center in the Vitória area (around Nicalau Porto). We walked around up there and it had a much for laid back vibe with tons of restaurants, coffee shops and bars that weren’t crawling with tourists.
Explored Ribeira – Our first day we strolled down to the water front. Depending on the time of day there will be a lot of people, usually arriving from or departing on a Douro River boat tour. There are lots of restaurants and cafes to sit at and people watch. We chose to cross the bridge to the other side of the water and find lunch. On the other side of river there are tons of port houses where you can do port tastings and learn all about the process of making port.
Explored The City – My sense with Porto after spending a long weekend there is that there are a lot of hidden gems in the city. Whenever I travel I love to simply meander, popping in and out of shops as I go and stopping into any wine bar or cafe that tickles my fancy along the way. It’s always been how I discover places like MANNA or the little art gallery across the street from it that I otherwise wouldn’t have known about.
São Bento Station – One thing I did not know about Porto was that they use beautiful tile on many of their building facades. I was in awe just walking around the city! After getting numerous recommendations about the interior of the train station, we decided to pop in and see what all the fuss was about. It sure did not disappoint! Each wall is covered in blue-painted ceramic tiles depicting Portuguese history with a full color frieze along the top of each wall. The wall facing the street is dominated by three floor to ceiling arched windows that fill the space with natural light and adding a wonderful glow to the space.
Portugues Flannel – One of my favorite short-sleeve button downs of Chris’ is by Portugues Flannel so I was excited to stumble across their store directly across from Nicalau). They are technically a mens store, but can easily be worn by women. I like wear their short sleeve button downs as a cover up or pair with shorts or trousers for an easy summer look.
Araucana – a women’s boutique that specializes in slow-fashion and upcycled fashion. Think headstock fabrics, natural fibers, and recycled materials. Most of the brands they carried were Portuguese with a few Italian and Spanish brands.
Douro Valley – One of the days we were in Porto we rented a car and drove out to Douro Valley, a well-known wine country in Portugal that was giving serious Tuscany vibes. Highly recommend if you have the time! It is a bit of a drive to get there – anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours. Our original plan was to do lunch, a few wine tasting, and/or a boat tour, but it was so hot (like 95+ hot) that we ended up just doing a wine tasting at Quinta Nova and lunch at their restaurant Terracu over looking the valley. I cannot say enough good things about this place. Everything was delicious, the staff and sommelier were super friendly and informative and the property was *chefs kiss*. What I came to learn about Douro Valley is that there are lots of “quintas” (like Quinta Nova) that are both wineries and hotels such that you can make a whole trip out of Douro Valley or simply stay for a few nights without having to drive back to Porto or another city.
Uva by Calem – we had a late start on our first full day in Portugal which left us with few lunch options at 3:30/4pm. In quest to find somewhere on the water to eat we stumbled across Uva after striking out at Casa Adao. It’s a bit pricier than a lot of other more local restaurants, but at that point we were desperate. They have a large menu with a variety of meat and seafood (very few vegan options) that caters to a more international crowd. We opted for a salad and the octopus (when in Portugal right?) and were both pleasantly surprised. It’s right on the water, with lots of seating, so if anything go for a drink and enjoy the view.
Drinks at Wine Quay – we went here a few times during our time in Porto, once for a glass of wine before dinner and once after dinner for a glass of port. I think they also do dinner or at least snacks, but we did not partake. Being a wine bar they naturally have lots of options and a very knowledgeable staff willing to help you navigate what you’re in the mood for. The location is perfect for taking in the river and people watching.
Raiz – another favorite of ours (along with Almeja). They specialize in fresh, local ingredients and Portuguese cuisine with a contemporary style. They were easily able to accommodate dietary restrictions and had a few vegan options. I had the most delicious vegan cauliflower steak and Chris opted for the grilled octopus which we both decided was the best we had during our time in Porto. If you go, ask for a table on the second floor by the window – it’s a much better experience than the first floor!
Nola Kitchen – a plant-based gem! We ate here the night we got in for something green and leafy and every morning before heading out to explore. They have tons of vegan, vegetarian (they do have eggs), and gluten-free options, as well as a few fish and chicken options. My personal favorites were the overnight oats, açaí smoothie bowl, green smoothie (banana, spinach, matcha, ginger and lime) and yogurt (with non-dairy yogurt) bowl. They also had fresh-pressed juice which is always a major plus in my book.
Almeja – our favorite dinner restaurant in Porto. They specialize in local and seasonal ingredients and working with Portuguese ingredients without compromising the quality and flavor and their heritage. Rather than write a menu and build the food suppliers around it, they start with the farmers and what is available and build their menu around that. We were so hungry when we went we ended up wording two entrees each. I’d definitely make a reservation in advance (a week or so before you plan to go) as they fill up.
Essência – a predominantly vegetarian restaurant a little outside of downtown Porto (we ubered there). They have a beautiful garden terrace which is where we ate. I personally didn’t love the entree that I ordered which was a vegan, soy-free, portobello tower style dish, but we enjoyed our starters. It could have been that they hadn’t yet switched to their summer menu which is often when vegetarian and vegan restaurants shine or that their tempeh and tofu dishes are really the star of their menu. Either way it wasn’t our favorite, but we’d give it another shot if the opportunity arose.
C’alma Coffee – popped in here for a coffee the first day we were in Portugal. It’s much more of a specialty coffee shop with all the fancy ways of taking your beans. They even have coffee flights and tastings. Also a great spot to work or sit and read a book if you need a break from the sun or city.
SO Coffee – they have two locations – one on the second floor of The Feeting Room and another cafe location further north. No decaf, but a great vibe and coffee for the caffeine drinkers.
Fabrica Coffee – stumbled in here on the hunt for decaf coffee, which sadly, they did not have. They did, however, have a delicious homemade iced tea that I oped for instead. Coffee looked legit and they also had a full cafe menu making it a great spot for breakfast, brunch or an afternoon snack.
Combi Coffee – a bit outside of downtown Porto so we decided to stop in on our way out of town to head down to Comporta. Super cute vibe and interiors with delicious decaf (and caffeinated according to Chris) coffee.
Planned, But Didn’t Get To
Port Tasting – we had high hopes of doing a port tasting and tour one of the days that we were there, but chose to enjoy some sunshine and a glass of wine by the water instead. There are loads of places in Porto for this, many of them dotting the river opposite Ribeira. I had Churchill’s on my radar, mostly for their lodge and garden. A friend recommend.
Swimming Holes – I had my eye on a morning trip to these swimming holes that look like an absolutely dream. They’re a bit out of the city, but if you pack a picnic lunch and a bottle of vino verde it could be a fun little day trip.
More Time Douro Valley – even though we knew how long it would take to get to Douro Valley, I don’t think it really connected just how much time we would spend driving. We also didn’t leave until 11:30am which was probably our downfall. We ended up only visiting one winery which was probably for the best given how hot it was, but we would have loved to spend more time out there and explore a few of the towns near by.
On My Radar For Next Time
MANNA Porto – stopped in here on a hunt for decaf coffee and discovered a quaint dining room and fabulous menu loaded smoothies, juices, and healthy vegan options. Definitely on my radar for next time!
Meia-Nau Restaurant – recommended for fresh and local seafood. They have two locations, one closer to the coast and one in downtown Porto