A taste of Porto

A taste of Porto

by Betsy Ramirez, MEd, RDN
Stripes Europe

On the northwest coast of Portugal, along the banks of the Douro River, sits historic Porto. Dating back to the 4th century, Porto is the second largest city in Portugal and boasts a UNESCO World Heritage Site city center. The streets of Porto are bustling with tourists and locals, while the banks of the Douro Valley are filled with vineyards that produce the city’s namesake wines. Since the 17th century, port wine production has been a major attraction and export for Porto. A long weekend is plenty of time to explore this historical city.

While Porto is a charming historical city, it also has evolved into the 21st century. Harry Potter fans can visit the hot spots that J.K. Rowling frequented while living in Porto. Inspiration was all around her as she wrote some of the first books in the series at the unique and charming Majestic Café. It’s the perfect stop for afternoon tea and a snack. Livraria Lello, one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, is a must-see location that will make you wonder how you ended up in Dumbledore’s office.

Port Wine


You cannot leave Porto without discovering the food and drink of Porto’s people. Port wine is unique to Porto. Though the Douro Valley’s topography and climate pose challenges for growers, the environment produces the perfect grape for fortified wine. You can taste different types of port wines at local wineries. Taylor’s and W. & J. Graham’s are the most popular cellars to visit in the area. You can also book a wine cruise that takes you on a boat tour of the Douro Valley vineyards.

A visit to W. & J. Graham’s will take you on a historical tour of the cellar by an experienced winemaker who explains the process of making port wine as you stand among thousands of wooden barrels. The tour ends with a tasting of white, rosé, tawny and ruby port wines. The differences and tastes of these fortified wines depend on the type of grapes used and the aging process. You won’t be hungry, thirsty, or disappointed if you make a dinner reservation at Graham’s restaurant, Vinum. It is a true extension of the winemakers. The local cuisine is paired flawlessly with port wines.

Fruit stand at Mercado do Bolhão | Photo by JOSE JUAN PASARIN VAZQUEZ


The best way to get to know the people of Porto is through the food they eat. Taste Porto Food Tours can help you understand the cuisine by stuffing you full of it.

Bring your walking shoes as you go down hidden streets to explore delicious bites of favorite local dishes. On this tour, you receive 10 generous food tastings. A highlight of the tour is a visit to Mercado (or Mercearia) do Bolhão. This two-story market is full of fresh food, small shops and eateries. The market is filled with vibrant colors from all the fresh produce. The smells from the restaurants will make you want to come back later for a quick meal. Schedule your food tour at the beginning of your trip, so you will know the places to go and eat.


A gastronomic experience of Porto cannot be complete without tasting Portuguese olive oils. A trip to a little shop called Oliva & Co will show you the distinct differences in the country’s olive oil. Once you walk in the store, the knowledgeable owner will take you through a vast selection of olive oils. You can’t help but leave with some. They come in the perfect airline size for travelers.

Grilled sardines with thyme, chili and lime


If time permits, a quick ride out to the Matosinhos fish market will be well worth it. Matosinhos is located on the outskirts of Porto. Restaurants line the street by the beachside markets, where fresh catches are grilled on the street in front of patrons. You can pick your fresh fish straight from the case and dine on a large meal for very little money. O Lusitano was an excellent find among the many restaurants. After you fill your belly, you can take a walk on the beautiful beaches or tour the fish markets

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