Arrival at the Pestana Vintage Porto Hotel, facing the riverbanks
5:00 p.m. – Comfortably settled in my room, I admire the coming and going of various boats sailing the Douro River. The docks are just in front and the view calms me down. This is actually the reason why I chose the hotel in the first place, for it is the only one in town to offer such panorama. It is located in the heart of the lively and popular Ribeira district. From the outside, it retains a typically colourful style of historical Portuguese architecture. When inside, the vintage decoration recently revisited by Lisbon designer Cristina Matos directly takes me back to the 1950s. I love the furniture selection, the result of various bargain-hunts and custom-designed orders. I occupy the only room on first floor, where I like the idea of putting together portrait galleries with designer items, contrasting with cut stone walls.
Pestana Vintage Porto
Praça da Ribeira 1
+351 22 340 2300
Visit of Graham's wine cellars
5:30 p.m. – Right when I walk in, I get a feel for the place and taste a special kind of port wine. I've been given a choice between Graham's Six Grapes, a 30 Years Old Tawny, the 2000 Vintage Port and the Dow's Vintage 1985. I booked my fascinating visit of the cellars beforehand. The best port wines sleep here, in more than 2,000 oak casks. But be careful where you step! Still wines run deep.
Graham's 1890 Lodge
Rua do Agro 150, Vila Nova de Gaia
+351 22 377 6484
Dining at the Ode Porto Wine House restaurant
8:00 p.m. – I have a great “hunger” for this city, as its gastronomy and wine tell a lot about its identity. I picked the Ode Porto Wine House restaurant for its authenticity. Exposed beams, ochre-coloured walls and small slate tables, as well as thoughtful service all contribute to a warm atmosphere. On the menu, I find exactly what I was looking for: dishes that change according to the chef's whim, but always favouring traditional and organic elements. I just have to make up my mind between Bizaro pork alheira (sausage), soft octopus and baked potato, spinach and tomato sauce.
Ode Porto Wine House
Largo do Terreiro 7
+351 913 200 010
Late night in Porto's city centre
11:00 p.m. – What better way to end the night that at Aduela Taverna-Bar? There, near the old town, it is possible to drink strawberry sangria under an olive tree. Such a rare treat! I feel so good, far from touristic mayhem. As I've been offered some sides which look very appetising, I glance around at the other customers, hip… but not too much. A group at the table next to me also mentions the trendy Pausa Bar, situated a little further down the neighbourhood, to enjoy cocktails on leather bench seats. If I feel like dancing, I've been told Maus Hábitos, a cultural area of bohemian style decorated with old objects. It seems the place is in opposition with the current trends. Enticing enough for me. It's only a ten-minute walk, and I'm on my way to a concert – different performers every night!
Rua Oliveiras 36
+351 22 208 4398
Rua Jose Falcao 82
+351 91 675 1359
Rua Passos Manuel 178, 4° Piso
+351 93 720 2918
Breakfast at Café Majestic
9:30 a.m. – The marble façade hasn't changed. Since 1921, Porto's intelligentsia used to meet here at the Majestic, around a cup of coffee. Today, it is still consistently successful and you will have to slip into the waiting line if you want to come in at rush hour. If this little Art Deco gem is very popular with tourists, it has always retained its local customers, used to the historical salons adorned with Belle Époque mirrors. As I'm keen on Art Nouveau, I instantly recognise the leather sofas, typical chandeliers and nicely painted ceilings. Once at my table, I order a coffee and a pastel de nata, an egg tart in crunchy pastry that is truly to die for! For a few minutes, all the commotion around me disappears. I am back in the 1920s, when various writers came here to socialise or meditate for hours.
Rua Santa Catarina 112
+351 22 200 3887
Visit of the Porto Cathedral
11:00 a.m. – More commonly referred to as Sé do Porto, this cathedral is a 12th-century fortress church located in the heart of the old town. In spite of its massive nature and the many modifications that altered it through the ages, the fabulous azulejos-covered cloister remains. A true marvel! My gaze is directed at the silver altarpiece and the 13th-century rose window. They are absolutely magnificent.
The construction of the cathedral started in the early 12th century but lasted throughout the next 100 years. As for the main chapel, it was entirely rebuilt in the 18th century. The frescoes that dress the walls are the creation of Niccoló Nasoni, a Tuscan artist and architect who rose to fame in Portugal. Inside, I can't take my eyes off the original granitic pillars and vaults.
Besides the architecture, the cathedral is also worth a visit for its location. It towers over Porto, offering a gorgeous vista over the city roofs and typical alleyways.
Terreiro da Sé
Lunch at Taylor's wine cellars' restaurant
1:00 p.m. – When in Porto, one has to learn about port wine and its history. With the cellar visit from yesterday, I feel a little more knowledgeable now. Or should I say enough to savour other tastings. Taylor's is probably one of the very best places in town to do so. With three centuries of experience, this venerable firm quite simply houses one of the region's oldest wine cellars. I seat at the recently renovated restaurant terrace for a few wine-food pairings, namely some beetroot linguine with grilled chicory, served with a glass of Quinta do Vale Meão. And in the meantime, I revel in the spectacular vista of the old town.
Rua do Choupelo 250
+351 22 374 2800
Visit of Livraria Lello, a world of books
3:00 p.m. – In front of the entrance, I raise my eyes and linger over the two figures framing the façade's large window: Art and Science. Since 1906, this bookshop of indisputable decorative beauty has been a house of letters for all the city counts of intellectuals and writers, coming to browse rare books. Ever since then, this architectural gem of the Gothic Revival has been a temple of literary culture in Porto (sheltering more than 60,000 titles digitally indexed). And it has remained intact…
I happen to walk among book lovers, students and intellectuals. In front of the sublime central staircase, I open a few books stuck between old grimoires on wooden shelves. I find a few treasures, like the three volumes of Reynaldo dos Santos' Oito séculos de arte portuguesa, or the facsimile of Os Lusíadas, Luís de Camões' (1572) large-scale epic. Those are actually preciously stored away in keeper of the flame Antero Braga's office. British writer J.K. Rowling drew her inspiration from this place to create the Hogwarts school of sorcerers, and some Harry Potter enthusiasts often try to squeeze in.
Rua das Carmelitas 144
+351 22 200 2037
Sweet stop at the Leitaria Quinta do Paço bakery
5:00 p.m. – Leaving with a beautiful book in hand, I indulge in a sweet stop to quietly browse my purchase. There's an abundance of choices in Porto, between the various pastelarias, where it's easy to have a coffee break and a pastry. I simply choose the best, the Leitaria Quinta do Paço, opened since 1920. The pastries I see in the shop window are each more appetising than the next, especially the puff pastries and whipped cream, famous all over town. The most popular éclair is the doce do Porto, with whipped cream and milk chocolate, but I finally go for a red fruits éclair…
Leitaria Quinta do Paço
Praça Guilherme Gomes Fernandes 47
Dinner at the Euskalduna Studio restaurant
8:00 p.m. – I treat myself to a dinner at the Basque, translation of Euskalduna… I like the intimate yet sophisticated atmosphere of the address. Impeccable service helps too. It is for that matter at the green marble counter that I sit for dinner. Right off the bat, I pick the tasting menu, consisting in ten servings of traditional Portuguese dishes, brilliantly revisited, with intelligence and creativity, by chef Vasco Coelho Santos. A succession of surprising flavours. With each new plate, the thoughtful waiter goes in detail about the chef's concepts and experimentation methods. Dishes change regularly, depending on the time of year and product availability on the markets. For a grand finale, I enjoy an unforgettable dessert: French toast with pumpkin seed ice cream.
Rua de Santo Ildefonso 404
+351 93 533 5301
Party time at Galeria de Paris
10:00 p.m. – Historical artery of the city, Galeria de Paris welcomes night owls looking for entertainment each night. Bars and trendy restaurants rub shoulders, in an ever playful and good spirited atmosphere. All night long, crowds of people keep passing each other on the busy sidewalks. After a full day of walking around and visiting the city, I feel like relaxing, open and curious to what might come next. Good spots where to have dinner are plentiful. I elect to stop at the Galeria de Paris, which managed to keep the old charm of the former fabric factory it used to be. Peaceful during the day, this restaurant become incredibly lively at night. It is actually among the locals' favourite places to party. Bring it on!
Galeria de Paris
Casa da Música, for all music lovers!
10:00 a.m. – The inception of the project goes back to 1999, when Porto was about to become the European Capital of Culture (in 2001). Today, Casa da Música clashes with the rest of the city's more traditional architecture. Located only a few minutes from the historical centre in the Boavista district, this House of Music quickly became a symbol of the modern side of Porto. I came for a symphonic concert, but all kinds of performance actually take place. You'll be able to enjoy clubbing nights, or simply a thrilling guided tour. And if you are a little bit hungry, Casa da Música houses an excellent restaurant, open for lunch and dinner. Of course, you'll also be able to listen to some music there.
Casa da Música
Avenida da Boavista 604-610
+351 22 012 0220
Comer e Chorar por Mais, the grocery of yesteryears
11:00 a.m. – This grocery is mostly visited by regular customers, proof that it is not a tourist trap. In a 1900s setting, food lovers can find various quality products, especially a large selection of cheeses, Portuguese hams on hook, baskets full of dried sausages and chorizo, honey, dried fruits and even premium olive oil. Everything is stacked on shelves, and even on the counter. In one corner of the shop, I find traditional bread loafs smelling of yesteryears baking. As for wines, the grocer will advise you on which bottle to pair with that francesinha or cold cut platter. Leaving this magical shop, I better understand the meaning of its name: “eating and crying for more”.
Comer e Chorar por Mais
Rua Formosa 300
+351 916 641 607
Typical delights at Brasão to discover the francesinha
1:00 p.m. – Amid stone walls and raw wood beams, Cervejaria Brasão generously fills both your plate and heart. I take a seat at a small table around the central bar, waiting to discover the francesinha, a typically Portuense speciality. According to the legend, a Portuguese immigrant in France found the croquet-monsieur too bland. To treat himself, the creative Lusitanian decided to fill it his own way. We therefore end up with a sort of croquet-monsieur whose loaf bread is covered in cheese, stuffed with beef, ham, spiced pork sausage with garlic and paprika, as well as mortadella… Grilled in the oven, it is coated with a garlicky and spicy sauce, tomato pulp, meat and of course port wine. So rich and generous, just like Portugal!
Rua de Ramalho Ortigão 28
+351 934 158 672