Tiles are just for bathrooms, you say? Head to Porto, and you might rethink that statement. Perhaps one of the most emblematic representations of Portugal’s second city is the coloured tiles, or azulejos, that adorn its buildings. They’re a physical reminder of the Islamic Expansion through the Iberian peninsula during the Middle Ages and a ceramic cacophony of willow pattern landscapes, sunny flowers and geometric shapes that stud the façades of churches, train stations, cathedrals, houses and street signs all over the city.

That said, there are many reasons to wax lyrical about Porto beyond its tiled assets. Its burgeoning culinary scene makes it a top foodie destination and the kind of place where you plan which street-food markets, bars and restaurants you want to head to and then just fill in the blanks around them. It’s an affordable city in which to dine like a glutton, with plenty of €3 glasses of wine and reasonably priced tasting menus that won’t break the bank.

It is also a place with a rich history, not least because of the legacy of its eponymous alcohol production. Port houses stud the Vila Nova de Gaia district located on the south of the Douro River, with more than three centuries of world-leading fortified wine flowing through it – literally. Water also flows on its shores, where the wild Atlantic Ocean crashes onto beaches to the west of the city, attracting surf and sail enthusiasts alike.

Okay, so it seems that Porto is more than a triple threat – but where to begin? Here’s our foolproof guide to getting the most out of a city break in Porto, including where to eat, drink, stay and visit.

Where to eat?

Cozinha das Flores

Largo São Domingos 62, 4050-545 Porto

Cozinha das Flores is the kind of place to go if your relationship is on the brink of collapse because the food is so good that it’s all you’ll be able talk about. Cozinha das Flores is the latest offshoot from Nuno Mendes, the chef patron and mastermind behind Lisboeta in London, and the sort of restaurant you get giddy about – the produce is unrivalled, much of it is cooked over fire, and the menu splices tradition with zany creativity. On the menu are snacks, starters, a bread course, mains and dessert, and we insist you don’t skip the turnip pastel de nata, cloud-like egg buns topped with cold blue shrimp, sugar-dusted spider crab doughnuts, and the bread course served with slivers of melting Paleta Ibérica.


Restaurante Tito I

R. Heróis de França 279, 4450-000 Matosinhos

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You know you’re onto a winner when you arrive at a restaurant and the chefs are out front stoking red-hot coals while flipping charcoal-crusted fish on grills. Tito 1 resides on a street packed with similar outdoor fish grills, and while all of these joints will hit the spot, Tito 1 might just take the biscuit. The clams arrive swimming in an emulsion of olive oil, garlic and parsley that can only be described as Mediterranean crack, and the whole fish, like seabass, bream, turbot, and sole, comes to the table grilled-kissed with plenty of salt, lemon and olive oil and a hefty bowl of parsley butter-drenched potatoes on the side. Even better, all this incredible seafood comes at an incredibly reasonable price.



R. de Alexandre Braga 24, 4000-049 Porto

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As a wise man said, not all pastéis de nata are born equal, and you’ll find the upper echelons of these vanilla-laced delights at Manteigaria. Located close to Mercado do Bolhão, you can ogle at the production line of tartlets as a Portuguese baking maestro fills them with a gigantic funnel of vanilla custard operated with a robust and robotic arm. The bakery is conveniently shared with a craft coffee shop, so you need not walk far for some caffeine to pull you out of that pastry slump.


Meia-Nau Porto

Tv. de Cedofeita 48, 4050-183 Porto

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Another restaurant for those with a taste for shellfish cooked in white wine and garlic, Meia-Nau is one of the best places in the centre of Porto to get good seafood. The menu is not overly exhaustive but has all the crowd-pleasing classics like deeply savoury seafood rice jewelled with juicy prawn heads, garlicky clams, grilled octopus and fish served by weight. The service is fiercely efficient, the wine delicious, and the dining room decor suitably naval – what’s naut to like?


Tábua Rasa

R. da Picaria 68, 4050-477 Porto

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Blink and you’ll miss this new-school Portuguese restaurant – but to do so would be a massive shame, because although Tábua Rasa might be unassuming, it’s an ambitious project and, more to the point, a brilliant place to eat. The focus is on cheese, cured meats and tinned fish (a Portuguese speciality) all sourced as close to Porto and the Douro Valley as possible. Order a menu for the whole table – even the most expensive is a steal at €95 for four, including wine – which comes as a giant board of assorted goodies, with choices of Portuguese Iberian pork sausage, Douro Valley cheeses and very good own-label wine from the Dão region.


Semea by Euskalduna

R. das Flores 179, 4050-266 Porto

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Portuguese chef Vasco Coelho Santos puts an experimental spin on his 16-course tasting menu at the Basque-influenced, tasting-menu-only restaurant Euskalduna Studio. For those looking to try some contemporary, creative dishes at a more accessible price point, though, head to Semea. Menus change almost daily, but expect modern takes on eclectic dishes: on our visit, we tried everything from a classic bacalhau salad to brioche with foie gras, stuffed veal tongue, cuttlefish stew and a ‘lamb sandwich’ reminiscent of The Quality Chop House’s classic minced lamb on toast. There’s a long list of Portugese wines, from classics all the way to newer-school pét-nats, topping out at €40 a bottle, with most hovering around €22.


Mercado Beira Rio

Av. de Ramos Pinto 148, 4400-261 Porto

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If it’s street food you’re after, there are a few markets to be found around the city, but Mercado Beira Rio, next to the river at the bottom of Vila Nova de Gaia, offers an eclectic mix of traditional Portuguese and newer-school international traders, wine stores, retail and more. Stop by for a decent version of what’s become Porto’s staple snack, the francesinha – a kind of croque madame made with white bread, cheese, cured meats and topped with a tangy, fiery gravy.


Where to drink?


Quisque Jardim, R. das Carmelitas 151, 4050-163 Porto

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Forget rooftop bars; we’re all about hilltop bars, thanks to Base. Slap-bang in the middle of the tiny triangular park Jardim da Cordoaria, it’s a hexagonal bar kiosk where hip bartenders serve beers, cocktails, and port and tonics, backed from late afternoon onwards by a soundtrack of Euro house tunes. With 360-degree views of Porto’s church spires, sweeping tiled roofs and curling streets, it’s the perfect spot to enjoy a crisp glass of vinho verde on a beanbag under a shady tree. Expect to pay a little more than other bars in Porto, but rest assured, you won’t find a better-stocked public park in the city.



R. da Alegria 101, 4000-042 Porto

Wondering whether the craft beer movement had hit Portugal, a country known for port and wine? Don’t. A trip to Letraria, a taproom and beer garden by Portuguese brewer Letra, will convince you if you’re curious: enter via a tiny frontage on a quiet side street and you’ll be greeted by a line of 16 or so taps of new-school Portuguese beers – from fruit-infused IPAs to red ales and sours – but head downstairs and it opens up into an obliging beer garden, with benches, tables and the feel of a little oasis in an urban-feeling part of the city. There’s another bar there, too, so you don’t have to navigate the stairs while grasping your cold pints.


Big Bad Bank

R. do Ateneu Comercial do Porto, 4000-380 Porto

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Right in the middle of the old town is this cocktail bar at the Zero Hotel, styled after (you guessed it) an old bank vault, which would feel just as at home in Hoxton as it does here. Cocktails aren’t cheap – around €9 a pop, which feels expensive when you’ve been drinking excellent wine for €2 a glass in most places – but they’re expertly made, with a house list that adds tweaks to classic cocktails without trying to reinvent the wheel. There’s comfy seating – both at tables and at the bar – and long banquet-style tables in the dining room at Zero’s adjoining barbecue restaurant O Carniceiro (the butcher).


Where to stay? 

Hotel M.Ou.Co

R. de Frei Heitor Pinto 65, 4300-252 Porto

Themed hotels risk feeling gimmicky, but the vibe of M.Ou.Co is far from it. The hotel, whose identity revolves around music, features a 600-record music library, record players in the bedrooms, and a 300-capacity basement gig venue welcoming everything from samba-funk Brazilian girl bands to traditional Portuguese fado music performers. The hotel exudes California cool – a flat-roofed concrete building filled with sharp lines, dark wood mid-century furniture and tan leather reclining chairs. Located in the trendy residential neighbourhood of Bonfire means you’re not limited by the spatial constraints of the city centre, and the hotel feels roomey as a result, with large bedrooms (some with private gardens), sweeping corridors, floor-to-ceiling windows and an outdoor saltwater pool. For food, there's a bar serving up cocktails and casual snacks and a traditional Portuguese restaurant in the basement, which also doubles as the breakfast room, slinging out pastéis de nata and coffee in the morning. M.Ou.Co is also well equipped for the digital nomad with space to work in either the music library or co-working space.

Rooms from £72pn based on two people sharing including breakfast, moucohotel.pt

Hotel Infante Sagres

Praça D. Filipa de Lencastre 62, 4050-259 Porto

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If you’re looking for a bright, breezy, tastefully decorated and central hotel, Infante Sagres is a great shout. It’s situated in between the neighbourhoods of Bolhao and Ribeira, meaning it’s perfectly located for food, drink and nightlife and walkable to most of the city-centre restaurants and bars mentioned above. It’s also a pretty nice place to stay in its own right: decorations of the lounges and hallways hark back to the historic port houses of Vila Nova de Gaia, rooms are luxurious without going overboard, and its restaurant, Vogue Café, serves ambitious, modern European menus, with cocktails and bar snacks, too. 

Rooms from £160pn based on two people sharing; infantesagres.com

What to do? 

Douro Valley Tours

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If you can spare a whole day, a trip to the bucolic Douro Valley is another brilliant way to learn about the Anglo-Portuguese fortified wine. While the likes of Taylor’s, Sandeman’s and other big-name port houses are mainly located in Vila Nova de Gaia, there’s a more distinctly Portuguese flavour to the single-estate producers dotted along the Douro Valley next to the river. You’ll find plenty of operators offering packages – we went with Magical Douro, whose tour included a trip to the excellent Quinta do Lago, a trip to the riverside village of Pinhão, a short cruise along the Douro, and lunch at port house and restaurant Vintage Theory, higher into the mountains in Vila Real – led, of course, by a charismatic and knowledgeable tour guide.

Tours from £75 per person; magicaldouro.com

Mercado do Bolhão

R. Formosa 322, 4000-248, Porto

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We’re used to food markets laced with fish guts and rotten fruit, so Mercado do Bolhão is a surprise and a half, as one of the cleanest markets you’ll ever encounter. This pristine white haven located in the centre of the city is an epicurean paradise, filled with throngs of food stalls selling everything from local delicacies like salt cod, salchichon and farinheira to spices, pulses, wine and pintxos. The tinned fish stalls are particularly fun to browse – vendors of every preserved seafood imaginable sealed into retro tins. What’s more, you legally can bring tinned fish in your hand luggage without putting it in your liquids bag. Christmas presents sorted.


Burmester Cellars port tour

Largo Ponte Luiz I, 4400-111, Vila Nova de Gaia

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Visiting Porto without touring its port cellars is like going to Rome and not seeing the Colosseum. Plus, an excuse to day drink in the name of cultural immersion is always a bonus. Ancient laws from the 17th century dictate that for the fortified wine to be classified as port, it must be stored and aged within the city of Vila Nova de Gaia, which sits adjacent to Porto, separated by the Douro River. This legislation means you’ll find the port cellar tours concentrated within this area, with plenty to choose from. Having tried several (all in the name of market research), the one at the Caves Burmester came out on top. The tour takes around an hour, and you’ll tour the port cellars, get an overview of production and the company's history, and finish off with three glasses of different types of port for €19 euros. Just don’t try and do anything civilised afterwards – you’re going to be rowdy.

Tours from £13; burmester.pt/en/caves