One of my favorite activities while traveling—well anytime, really—is eating and drinking. And there’s no better place for that than Portugal.
Bacalhau or cod fish on display at a restaurant on Rua Heróis de França.
I’d already fallen in love with Lisbon, so on my third trip to Spain’s neighbor, I decided to give the country’s second-largest city, Porto, some love.
I have yet to hear a negative thing about Porto, so I had high expectations. As with most solo trips, I did little planning. Instead, I prefer to wander and leave things mostly for discovery. I relied on recommendations from friends as well as my hostel to fill in the rest.
What I learned is that Porto is a foodie destination: a city best explored through bites and sips. Its winding cobblestone streets led me to my next glass of vinho verde while it’s uphill alleys led to a well-deserved francesinha.
Needless to say, I was captivated, and left with a full heart and belly.
Here are five of the many things you should eat and drink in Porto.
A francesinha with egg from the popular Cafe Santiago.
I’ve never used the phrase “heart attack on a plate” to describe a dish outside of America. That is until I discovered the francesinha, a typical sandwich from Porto. Brace yourselves—it’s stuffed with a variety of meats like ham, sausage, and steak, then grilled panini style, and covered in melted cheese and gravy. You can also opt for a fried egg on top and a plate of french fries to sop up the sauce
Perhaps Portugal’s most famous dish is bacalhau, or salted cod. It can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, but some of the best can be found in the Matosinhos surf neighborhood. Find Rua Heróis de França and follow the smell of grilled fish. You’ll find a row of family-run seafood restaurants, many with large grills outside where you can see them cooking fresh catches.
Port tasting at Espaço Porto Cruz, a space for one of the most popular brands of port. From left to right: white, rose, tawny, ruby.
Port is a strong, sweet wine often known as “dessert wine” in the U.S. Despite the name, port actually has little to do with Porto; not only is it produced in a separate region, but it’s then transported to port wine lodges in a town across the river. There are also a variety of ports, including white and rose.
Pro tip: Porto Walkers does a great wine tour with seven tastings over three different wine lodges, ending at a rooftop bar with incredible views of Porto.
A glass of vinho verde overlooking the river at Coffee Pier.
Yes, I added more wine to this list; you are in Portugal after all. Vinho verde translates to “green wine,” but has nothing to do with its color. Instead, it refers to young wine produced in a northern region of the country. White vinho verdes are light, tangy, and delightful, perfect for an afternoon apertif.
Pastries and sweets can be found on almost every street corner in Porto at a confeitaria or pastelaria. Sweet or savory, you can hardly go wrong with just pointing at something you want on display. Try a sweet pastel de nata, an egg custard tart, or a savory rissol, a dumpling filled with meat or fish.
And if you’re a robot and still not convinced to book a trip to Porto, check out some pictures of the city below.
The cable car passing by a wine lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia, across the river from Porto.