Porto Underground

Opulent but humble, bustling but laid-back, Porto has long been recognized as the epicenter of port wine production. But it’s so much more than that: from its medieval center to the waterfront cafes of the Ribeira, this city has lots to discover if you know where to look. We asked our expert local guides Alex Timon and Pedro Carvalho for their favorite places to eat, drink, sleep, and explore in the city like a local—especially after a DuVine Douro Valley Bike Tour.

Cafés

“There is coffee, and there is ‘café.’ Some prefer coffee in a cardboard mug, and others prefer the real deal served in a porcelain cup. Italy is widely considered to be one of the best countries in the world to have a perfect espresso, but this is simply because not many people have had an opportunity to try Portuguese coffee. Porto doesn’t disappoint.” –Alex

Café Candelabro. Borrow a book to read and sip wine by the glass at the trendy Café Candelabro, Porto’s hipster café-bookstore. Lounge on the sunny terrace with a bright yellow cup of cha da limao (Portuguese lemon tea), then come back at night to join the city’s young, creative spirits at the bar.

Majestic Café. Opened in the 1920s, the Majestic Café is beloved by locals and visitors alike not only for its velvety, aromatic coffee, but also for the original Belle Époque decor that has barely changed in 100 years. Once a meeting point for Porto’s elite artists, politicians, and thinkers, the Café was neglected and fell into disarray for decades. Happily, it reopened in 1994. For those who can’t get enough nostalgia, pop back to the Majestic for afternoon tea and warm French toast topped with custard and cinnamon.

Beer + Wine

“A visit to Porto wouldn’t be complete without sampling Port wine. For hundreds of years, the city was a main seaport through which upper Douro Valley wines were exported to Britain and the world. Until recently, Porto was mainly a destination for wine buffs who would come to taste vintage Port in the wine houses of Vila Nova de Gaia.” –Alex

Taylor’s. Established over three centuries ago in 1692, Taylor’s  is one of the oldest and most respected Port producers among in-the-know wine connoisseurs.

Capela Incomum. Located inside a 19th-century chapel, the décor at Capela Incomum mixes old and new with an engraved wooden altar as the focal point and bold pink walls. This trendy wine bar is a great place to sample wines from the Douro and Minho regions with small plates of Portuguese cheese and cured meats.

Miradouro Ignez. Kick back with a beer at Miradouro Ignez to watch boats glide by as the sun sets over the Douro River. The terrace overlooking the red tiled roofs of the city is our pick for lazy summer afternoons and warm evenings. Enjoy a variety of cocktails, smoothies made from seasonal fruit, savory snacks, and traditional tinned delicacies.

Catraio. It’s not all Port wine! Craft beer lovers can get in on local beer culture thanks to Catraio’s tastings, workshops, and beer releases. A great place to find a new favorite brew, with over 100 Portuguese and international breweries.

Arts + Culture

Maus Hábitos. A visit to Maus Hábitos is a must while you’re in Porto, but be warned–you may not want to leave. This hip and happening spot is a restaurant, concert hall, club, and art gallery all in one. Stop by to admire artwork and enjoy a fantastic brunch by day, then come back to party with the locals at night.

Miguel Bombarda Street. Visit dozens of art galleries and creative stores in this culture-rich neighborhood. Check out the Presence Gallery for Jorge Santos’ work, the Gallery Hostel for innovative design pieces, and the Ap’arte gallery for young talent mixed with established artists. Every two months, all the galleries open on a Saturday to inaugurate new exhibitions with a day of drinks, food, and festivities.

Manifesto. A bright and creative space in the Matosinhos Market, Manifesto is inspired by the slow movement and Japanese aesthetics. Spend an afternoon wandering the photography gallery with specialty drip coffee in hand or leafing through independent publications at the specialty kisok. Their website is a great resource for finding out about workshops in writing, photography, and more.

Going Out

Hot Five. Pay homage to jazz, blues, and the art of being a bon vivant at one of the Porto’s best live music venues. Situated in an old part of town, a dimly-lit table at Hot Five is reminiscent of Jazz Age nightclubs. Join the party for the ever-popular Wednesday night jams sessions or plan ahead and get tickets to a weekend gig. We like the mezzanine for fantastic acoustics and a bird’s eye view of the stage.

Embaixada Lomografica. Browse the collection of vinyl records and retro cameras before hitting the dance floor at Embaixada Lomografica. This artsy spot plays great music with a different theme each night of the week, ranging from Brazilian to American funk.

O Meu Mercedes é Maior Que o Teu. Tucked into a narrow alleyway in Porto’s historic center, the cheeky name of this Ribiera bar and concert hall translates to the Portuguese expression “my Mercedes is bigger than yours.” O Meu Mercedes (for short) is one of the oldest venues in the city for alternative rock concerts featuring both Portuguese and international artists.

Hard Club. Situated inside the old Ferreira Borges market, Hard Club‘s industrial atmosphere hosts all kinds of shows from hip hop to tango. Check out the restaurant and head to the terrace for an incredible view of the square below.

Restaurants

“Portuguese restaurants often have very basic interiors as locals tend to be more concerned about what actually happens on the plate rather than on the walls. There are a huge number of incredible restaurants to choose from in Porto, from tapas-style to tavernas, family restaurants serving local dishes that haven’t changed in generations, and seafood or modern Michelin-star meals.” –Alex

Panca. Fresh Atlantic ingredients meet the exotic flavors of Latin America at this inviting restaurant. Go for the best ceviche in town, or put your faith in Chilean chef Camilo Jaña’s daily specials, like chorizo steak with chimichurri and yucca topped with samba curry. Everything on the menu pairs well with a Pisco sour.

Restaurante Flor dos Congregados. This rustic, 160-year-old family-run restaurant serves an outstanding seasonal menu. Locals flock here at lunchtime to order the double-decker sandwich made from slow-roasted pork tenderloin and smoked prosciutto, which must be accompanied by a glass of sparkling Bruto red wine.

Brick Clérigos. One of Porto’s most beautiful restaurants, Brick Clérigos feels like eating at the home of a good friend. Sit side-by-side with other diners at a large wooden table laden with tapas, cheese boards, soups, and colorful salads. Kitchen utensils hang from the ceiling and you can watch the chefs in action in the open kitchen. Take our word for it: reserve a table ahead of time and sample the restaurant’s fantastic wine selection.

TapaBento. Friendly and efficient wait staff weave their way between cozy tables at this gourmet restaurant. The stone walls may seem rustic, but the food is the real deal: razor clams with garlic and coriander, oysters in a shallot vinaigrette, and freshly caught sea bass topped with crunchy strips of onion.

Época Porto. This sun-soaked café serves up an amazing vegan and vegetarian brunch. Light timber furniture and white walls give the place a Scandinavian feel, and the couple behind the counter make every veggie-friendly dish with love. Be sure to check out the blackboard for daily specials.

Shiko. Porto has a number of Japanese restaurants, but Shiko leads the way with gastronomical genius and chef Ruy Leão at the helm. We always order yakisoba noodles, Japanese “pancakes” stuffed with seafood, bacon, and ginger, marinated mackerel, and mouth-watering salmon tataki.

Hotels

Casa do Conto Arts & Residence. This renovated bourgeois home is truly gorgeous. Each of the hotel’s six suites are ultra-modern and high design, plus a balcony with city views. Relax by the fireplace in the lounge and sip your morning coffee surrounded by fruit trees in the hotel’s private garden.

Malmerendas Boutique Lodging. Located in the up-and-coming downtown neighborhood of Mercado do Bolhão, this tastefully refurbished 20th-century townhouse is boutique-style lodging with sleek Scandinavian style. Five rooms are given individual design attention with splashes of color from traditional Portuguese textiles.

Pestana Vintage Porto. Set amidst old, colorful buildings on the banks of the Douro River, this 5-star hotel is rich in Portuguese character: think original, medieval walls, cave-like nooks and crannies, and luxurious marble bathrooms. Watch fishermen arrive with the morning’s catch from your balcony and enjoy the hotel’s outdoor café and restaurant.

Intercontinental Palacio das Cardosas. For downtown luxury, this renovated 18th-century palace is a showstopper. The hotel ushers you in with impressive marble floors, glimmering chandeliers, and spacious, contemporary rooms. Porto’s main attractions are a hop, skip and a jump away, including the Bolhão Market, Ribeira District, and the magnificent São Bento train station.

Rosa Et Al. Brother-and-sister owners Patricia and Emanuel welcome you into this boutique townhouse like it’s your second home. Natural light floods six elegant suites, each one decorated with hand-crocheted throws and artfully selected antiques from all over the world. Relax in the sunlit garden out back and enjoy piles of fluffy pancakes at the hotel’s legendary brunch.

Descobertas Boutique Hotel Porto. Tucked away in on a side street, Descobertas blends old-world style with modern comfort. Each floor is creatively themed, drawing inspiration from the different places Portuguese explorers discovered. It’s also plenty close to buzzing riverside cafes.

Up Next: Meet Our Guides: Alex Timon