As a vacation destination, Porto has a lot going for it. The fascinating history of the old town makes it a great place to explore, and the pleasant weather of northern Portugal means exploring downtown Porto is great at any time of year. Drop off your unneeded bags at a Bounce luggage storage in Porto, and you'll be ready to enjoy everything that makes the place so special.
That includes the food. Portuguese cuisine is as rich and unique as everything else about the country, and Porto is a great place to try Portuguese food. You'll find plenty of Porto restaurants serving traditional dishes, along with vegetarian options at the best vegetarian restaurants in Porto. And you can even sample innovative takes on traditional Portuguese cuisine at the many street food vendors in the city as you munch your way through the best street food in Porto.
Approach your journey through traditional Porto food with an open mind, and you'll find some incredible dishes you'll want to eat again and again. Here's a guide to the famous traditional dishes you shouldn't miss while you're in Porto.
Porto Food: Pastel de Nata
If there's one Portuguese dish that's become internationally famous, it's pastel de nata. These egg custard tartlets are served in cafes and bakeries all over Portugal, and they make for a delicious snack or light dessert. Everyone has their own opinion on where to find the best pastel de nata in Porto, but a strong contender can be found at Pastéis de Belém, a bakery that's been serving up these tarts since 1837.
Pastel de Nata has its origins in the 18th century and the Monastery of Santa Maria de Belém. The nuns used egg whites to starch their robes, leaving them with tons of egg yolks left over from the process. They used the egg yolks to make these delicious tarts, and a national icon was born. Pastéis de Belém claims to be the only bakery making this traditional Portuguese food according to the original recipe, so they are definitely worth a visit to try this famous dish. Pastel de nata makes for a great light breakfast and a dessert and can be eaten at any time of day.
Porto Food: Caldo Verde
This traditional Portuguese soup is made with kale, potatoes, and onions, and is often served with chouriço, a type of Portuguese sausage. Caldo verde is a hearty dish that's perfect for a winter meal, and you'll find it on the menu at many restaurants in Porto. If you're looking for a great caldo verde, head to O Paparico, where the soup is made with locally sourced ingredients and served with fresh bread. This restaurant also has an excellent selection of wine, making it the perfect place to enjoy a leisurely lunch or dinner.
Caldo verde originates in Portugal's Minho region, which is known for its green countryside and abundance of kale. The dish is said to date back to the 18th century and was traditionally a peasant food made with whatever ingredients were on hand. These days, caldo verde is enjoyed by people of all backgrounds and has become one of the most popular Portuguese dishes both in Portugal and abroad.
Porto Food: Tripas à moda do Porto
This dish of stewed tripe (beef stomach) is a Porto specialty and something you'll see on menus all over the city. While it might not sound appetizing, tripas à moda do Porto is actually a delicious and hearty dish that's perfect for a winter meal. The best place to try this dish is at Restaurante Tripeiros, where it's been made according to traditional methods for over 50 years.
Tripas à moda do Porto is said to date back to the 18th century, when it was created by Poor Clare nuns as a way to make use of every part of the cow. These days, the dish is made with beef instead of tripe and is often served with white beans, cabbage, and a sprinkle of Portuguese olive oil. If you're looking for a hearty and filling meal, this is the perfect dish to try.
Porto Food: Bifanas
Bifanas are another Porto specialty and something you'll see on menus all over the city. These sandwiches are made with grilled pork and are usually served with mustard and a side of french fries. Bifanas make for a great lunch or snack and can be found at most cafes and restaurants in Porto. For a truly traditional bifana, head to Bodega Ribeiro de Carvalho, where they've been serving up this sandwich since 1885.
Bifanas are said to date back to the 19th century when they were first made by a butcher in Lisbon. The dish quickly became popular all over Portugal, and today it's considered one of the country's national dishes. Bifanas are usually made with pork loin, but you'll also find versions made with chicken or veal. No matter what meat you choose, these sandwiches are sure to hit the spot.
Porto Food: Bolinhos de Bacalhau
This dish is so iconic in Portugal that there's even a saying that there are 365 ways to prepare bacalhau, one for each day of the year. Bacalhau is salt cod, and it's usually served as a main course with potatoes and vegetables. The best place to try this traditional Portuguese food is at Restaurante Botequim Bottega, where the bacalhau is cooked to perfection and served with a delicious olive oil and garlic sauce.
This dish dates back to the days of Portuguese sailors, who preserved cod by salting it and taking it on long voyages. Since salt cod was a staple of the Portuguese diet for many years, there are now hundreds of different ways to prepare this dish. Whether you want to try the traditional version or something more innovative, you're sure to find a bacalhau dish you love in Portugal.
Porto Food: Feijoada
This hearty stew is made with black beans, pork, and sausage and is usually served with rice, collard greens, and orange slices. Feijoada is a filling dish that's perfect for a cold winter day, and can be found at most restaurants in Portugal. For a truly traditional experience, head to Restaurante Zazà, where the feijoada has been made according to a family recipe for generations.
Feijoada is said to date back to the 16th century when it was first created by African slaves in Brazil. The dish quickly became popular all over Portugal and Brazil, and today it's considered a national dish of both countries. Feijoada is usually made with black beans, but you'll also find versions made with white beans or lentils. No matter what type of bean you choose, this stew is sure to warm you up on a cold day.
Porto Food: Francesinha
The name of this dish translates as "little French girl," which doesn't give you much of a clue as to what to expect. But it's a classic of Portuguese cuisine that you'll find in many Porto restaurants and takeaway joints.
This sandwich is made with bread, ham, sausage, and steak and is smothered in a delicious tomato and beer sauce. It's sometimes topped with a fried egg, too. The best place to try this Porto specialty is at Restaurante Solar Moinho de Vento, where the francesinha has been made according to a secret recipe for over 50 years. Then again, Café Santiago also offers a great version with melted cheese and a signature spicy sauce.
This dish is said to have been first created back in the 1960s by a Portuguese man who had recently returned from France. The man missed the sandwiches he used to eat in France, so he decided to create his own version using ingredients that were available in Portugal. The result was the francesinha, a delicious and hearty sandwich that's sure to fill you up.
Porto Food: Alheira
This sausage is made with a variety of different meats, including pork, chicken, and duck. It's then smoked and grilled and served with a side of potatoes or bread, or possibly French fries. Alheiras are a popular Portuguese food that can be found in many restaurants across the country. For a truly traditional experience, head to Restaurante Aroeira, where the alheiras are made according to a family recipe.
Alheiras are said to date back to the 15th century when they were first created by Portuguese Jews. The dish quickly became popular all over the country, and today it's still considered one of Portugal's national dishes. Alheiras are usually made with pork, but you'll also find versions made with chicken, duck, or even rabbit. No matter what type of meat you choose, this sausage will surely be a delicious addition to your meal.
Porto Food: Cachorrinho
This Portuguese specialty is a type of fresh sausage made with pork, beef, or chicken. It's then grilled and served with a side of bread or potatoes. Cachorrinhos are a popular food in Portugal that can be found in many restaurants across the country. If you want the best in town, and you probably do, head to Restaurante Botequim Bottega, where the cachorrinhos are made according to a family recipe.
First created in the 19th century by Brazilian immigrants in Portugal, the dish quickly became popular all over the country due to the amazing flavor and versatility of the meat.
Of course, you can't write about what to eat in Porto without mentioning what to drink, and if you want to try Portuguese wine, the conversation in Porto begins and ends with port. Port is a fortified wine that's made in the Douro Valley, which is located just outside of Porto. This wine is typically sweet and heavy, and it's often served as a dessert wine.
Port wine has been produced in the Douro Valley for centuries, and today there are many different types to choose from. If you're not sure where to start, head to one of Porto's many port wine lodges, where you can try a variety of different wines and learn about the production process. Or, if you're feeling adventurous, go on a port wine tour, where you can visit the vineyards and taste the wines right at the source.
If you don't have time to tour the vineyards, make sure to include at least one glass of port with some of the delicious meals you'll have in Porto. You won't regret it, especially if you like your wine on the sweet side.
No matter how you decide to enjoy it, port wine is a must-try when you're in Porto. And, if you want to take some home with you, most of the port wine lodges offer bottles for sale.
The more you look around in Porto, the more delicious food items you'll find. Whether it's a Francesinha dripping with spicy sauce and topped with melted cheese and a fried egg or a refreshing bowl of caldo verde, you'll have no problem finding traditional dishes well worth trying in the city. Porto restaurants keep old traditions like bolinhos de bacalhau alive, so finding something great to eat in Porto means you'll also be experiencing the culture of the city at the same time.
Of course, if you overindulge and feel a need to burn off some calories, northern Portugal is a great place to do that, too. Drop off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage and explore the best hikes in Porto for some inspiration on how to stay active on your holiday.