Food and Drink in Porto (Leixoes)
As with most traditional Portuguese cuisine, Porto features a lot of seafood, with cod particularly popular (the local saying is that the Portuguese have 365 different ways of preparing the fish, one for each day of the year). The centuries' old tradition of serving tripe continues today, with tripas a moda do Porto (Porto-style tripe, prepared with chicken, beans, vegetables and spices) found throughout the city. Similarly, Portugal's little pasteis de nata (sweet egg custard pastries) are found everywhere, even in McDonald's, and caldo verde (green soup), made with potatoes, shredded kale and chorizo, is easy to find.
One dish unique to Porto is the Francesinha -- little French (female). The popular "snack" is a heavy-duty sandwich layered with several different meats and smothered with cheese and a sauce made with beer and other ingredients.
Last but by no means least, the Port wine that takes its name from the city is a key part of culinary life here. Whether you choose a glass of ruby, tawny or chilled white Port, you'll fall for this syrupy elixir, particularly when enjoyed with tapas on a sunny terrace overlooking the Douro.
Ribeira and the Gaia waterfront are lined with little bars where you can enjoy a glass of Port or a beer with some tapas. However, Bar Ponte Pensil takes pride of place, located at the base of the Dom Luis I bridge on Ribeira. As such, it's the perfect spot to enjoy sundowners and snacks while soaking up views of the Douro, Ribeira, Gaia and the bridge itself. (Rua Cimo do Muro 27; 222 085 342; open Monday to Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.)
Also good for light bites washed down with a wide selection of local wines and beers is the Wine Quay Bar, located in one of the original fisherman's homes on Ribeira's waterfront. (Muro dos Bacalhoeiros No. 111 e 112; 222 080 119; open Tuesday to Saturday from 4 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.)
For a more substantial meal, the charming Abadia do Porto offers traditional Portuguese dishes, such as grilled octopus and prawns, tripe and spiced sea bass, in cozy, informal surroundings. Portions are extremely generous, ensuring good value for money and full stomachs! (Rua Ateneu Comercial do Porto 22-24; 222 008 757; open Monday through Saturday from 11:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and from 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.)
The diminutive Andor Violeta delivers considerable culinary punch for its size. The delightful little restaurant offers superb value for money, with gourmet dishes such as sea bass carpaccio and duck breast with chestnut puree offered at reasonable prices. The staff are unfailingly friendly and accommodating. (Praca de Carlos Alberto, 89; 222 016 618; open Mondays from 7.30pm to midnight, Tuesday to Friday from noon to 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. to midnight, and on Saturdays from noon to midnight)
The sleek Barao Fladgate Restaurant is part of the Taylor Port warehouse and cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia. Take a tour of the cellars and then taste the produce over a leisurely lunch in the garden or dinner overlooking Porto. Dishes are predominantly traditional Portuguese favorites, such as salted cod and sea bass risotto, albeit served in thoroughly contemporary style. (Rua do Choupelo 250; 223 742 800; open daily for lunch only)
Dom Tonho is something of a Porto institution -- a smart, classy restaurant owned by one of Portugal's most popular pop singers -- and is the venue of choice for star-struck lovers, slick businessmen and lunch outings. The original restaurant is located in restored buildings on the waterfront in Ribeira, with sweeping views of the Douro and Gaia. Cuisine is modern Portuguese, with each dish presented as a small piece of art. The bar, built into Ribeira's original 14th-century walls, is a great spot for aperitifs, with a comprehensive wine list featuring more than 600 wines. A smaller sister restaurant, Dom Tonho II, is located in a contemporary glass building on the Gaia waterfront and serves a lighter, slightly simpler menu. (Dom Tonho: Cais da Ribeira 13; 222 004 307. Dom Tonho II: Cais de Gaia; 223 744 835; open Monday through Sunday from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to midnight)
Don't Miss in Porto (Leixoes)
Between 1732 and 1763, Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni designed a baroque church with a tower that would become Porto's architectural and visual icon: the Torre dos Clerigos (Clerics Tower). Standing 249 feet, it takes 225 stone steps to reach the top of the tower, where you will be rewarded with spectacular views of Porto, the Douro and the ocean (Rua de Sao Filipe de Nery; 222 001 729).
The Palacio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace) is an impressive neoclassical building built on the site of a former Franciscan convent. No longer active as the stock exchange, the palace serves as a museum featuring priceless pieces of Portuguese art. The building is itself a masterpiece of 19th-century architecture, with intricately carved chestnut ceilings, inlaid wooden floors and a stunning Arabian ballroom, which glitters with gold leaf and semiprecious gems (Rua Ferreira Borges; 223 399 000).
The grand Avenida dos Aliados (Aliados Avenue) is lined by towering 19th- and 20th-century buildings, with Placa de Liberdade (Liberty Square) at its southern end. You will find a highly unusual McDonald's, complete with original 1920's murals. Located just off the square, on Praca de Almeida Garret, is the stunning Estacao de Sao Bento (Sao Bento railway station), adorned with over 20,000 blue and white "azulejos" (tiles).
Enjoy a Portuguese coffee and irresistable "pasteis de nata" (traditional little Portuguese pastries filled with light custard) in one of Porto's two oldest cafes: Guarany Cafe (Avenida dos Aliados 89/85; 223 321 272) and Majestic Cafe (Rua de Santa Catarina 112; 222 003 887). Porto once rivaled Lisbon with its Art Deco cafes, frequented by great authors, artists and thinkers. Today, these two grandes dames continue the tradition, providing a welcoming space to read newspapers and catch up with local gossip, listen to live music (fado or Cuban on Fridays and Saturdays in Guarany) and literary presentations.For its size, Porto boasts a disproportionate number of remarkable concert halls, such as the Coliseu do Porto -- an exquisite example of the Portuguese decorative arts designed by the Portuguese architect Cassiano Branco (Rua Passos Manuel 137; 223 394 940). Other notable venues include the historical Sao Joao National Theatre, the Rivoli Theatre, the Cinema Batalha and the modern Casa da Musica. Attending a concert in any of these superb venues will not disappoint, particularly if you're fortunate enough to see one of Porto's famous bands or performers, such as Rui Veloso, Sergio Godinho and Ornatos Violeta.
Porto is home to what is consistently rated as one of the world's most beautiful book stores: the Livraria Lello & Irmao. This magical establishment has been selling books since 1881 and is rumored to have inspired J.K. Rowling to start writing the Harry Potter books (Rua das Carmelitas 144; 222 002 037).
Head out of central Porto to visit Foz do Douro, a prosperous suburb located at the mouth of the Douro (its name means "mouth of the Douro"). There, you will find long beaches, cafes overlooking the ocean and countless fishing boats that bob just off the coast. Enjoy lunch at the Praia dos Ingleses restaurant, perched above the beach of the same name (Rua Coronel Raul Peres; 226 170 419) and stroll along the beach to the 16th-century Forte S. Joao Batista (Saint John's Fort) and Cantareira pier, a picturesque stretch of Porto's old seafront, where you can still find fishermen working on their boats and nets.