Posted by Kirsty Holmes on 18th Dec 2018 -- Read Time: 4 minutes
A taste of Porto
No matter where in the world I travel, one of the things I love the most is enjoying the food – whether it’s a case of relaxing over a long meal, trying some tempting street food or sampling dishes I’ve never heard of. If you love food & drink like myself then you should definitely pay Porto a visit – there’s plenty to excite your taste buds and satisfy your craving for delicious local flavours. As well as having an enticing offering of mouth-watering food and drink, Portugal’s second-largest city is bursting with beautiful architecture and a lively culture, and my memories of Porto mingle with the tastes I experienced.
Porto is a wonderfully vibrant coastal city with a unique atmosphere: rising steeply from the banks of the Douro River, the striking palette of bold colours floods the cityscape – reds, yellows, oranges and blues dominate the architecture. The city’s workaday past is still evident amongst the more recently gentrified buildings, but intricately decorated azulejo tiles make even the most dilapidated buildings look pretty. It is, in fact, this contrast that I found interesting: my only previous experience of visiting Portugal was in the Algarve, and Porto felt very authentically Portuguese in comparison.
It won’t come as a surprise that there’s a huge variety of Port to drink everywhere you turn in Porto. Historically a drink enjoyed by the British, it’s not just for export – it really is the drink of the city and forms an important part of Porto’s culture, with locals enjoying it as much as visitors to the city.
A Port tasting at the cellars is an essential part of any visit to Porto! There’s an overwhelming choice of port lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia, so it’s a great idea to have a tour pre-booked to save you time trying to decide which one to visit. During my tour at the Porto Cálem port lodge, I was impressed at how knowledgeable the guide was, covering everything from the history of port wine, to interesting facts about the city, to information about the rural regions in the Douro Valley where the grapes are grown.
Having learned about the differences between Ruby and Tawny Port (both delicious!), I was intrigued by White Port as this was a drink I wasn’t familiar with. Not usually a fan of sweet wines, I was surprised to find that it was delicious! When mixed with tonic water, this drink was not dissimilar to a gin and tonic. I furthered my, erm, ‘research’ in a few local Porto cafés following the tour and found that this cool, refreshing drink was an unexpected delight to enjoy in the sunshine. Each café added its own unique twist on the drink: mint leaves, orange or lemon slices, and coffee beans are just a few of the delicious combinations I came across.
Tantalising tastes by the Atlantic Ocean
The local ‘delicacy’ is quite un-delicate by nature, yet is something which the Porto locals take great pride in. The Francesinha is widely available and very affordable – but haute cuisine this is not! It’s essentially a pimped-up version of the French Croque Madame: an enormous and hugely unhealthy mound of several different meats, smothered in mountain of melted cheese, topped with a fried egg and a rich, spicy tomato sauce. As if this wasn’t enough, it’s usually served with fries – though the dish itself is more than enough food! But if you can’t indulge a little whilst you’re on holiday, when can you?!
One of the highlights of my trip was visiting Foz do Douro; just a 15-minute drive (or a few stops on the antique tram) from the city centre, it felt a million miles away from the built-up urban area. Sitting in a buzzing beachside restaurant along the coast with a crisp glass of vinho verde in hand, enjoying some fresh seafood caught just hours before being served up, we soaked up the splendour of the coastal views. As we ate, the wild waves of the Atlantic Ocean crashed into the rugged rocks and golden sands of the beach – the perfect way to unwind.
If you’re a lover of flavoursome food and delicious drink, all with a backdrop of rich history and stunning architecture, then Porto will certainly whet your appetite!
My tips for a visit to Porto:
- Arrange your port lodge tour & tasting beforehand, so you know exactly where you’re heading.
- Take the time to get out of the city – perhaps an afternoon by the sea at Foz do Douro, or a relaxing cruise down the river to experience the Douro Valley