This was a long weekend away, with a few firsts. My very first solo weekend away, and my first time in Portugal. The right decision on all counts, as Porto is friendly, safe for solo female travellers, easy to navigate (with the help of google maps and uber!), and has plenty to do…..and more importantly to eat and drink. My only culinary expectations were to have amazing port, and my expectations were surpassed as I not only had amazing port, I enjoyed phenomenal wine, delicious traditional food, and dipped my toe into Porto fine dining too.
Porto is aesthetically charming, buildings packed in close proximity, it is colourful, ceramic and coastal.
My first stop was Quinta Do Castro, which is vineyard located on the Douro River. Epic views of the acres of vineyards, and unusually placed swimming pool overlooking the river. To my surprise, they actually produce more wine than Port, and the factory, and cellar tours were followed by a wine tasting, and hearty three course lunch. Some of this vineyards largest export markets are Switzerland, and Germany, but I do not recall seeing much Portuguese wines heavily featuring within restaurants within the UK, that is not to say they do not feature. The producer explained that the UK is a growth market for Portuguese wine exports, and one with great opportunity due to the the volumes of wines that Brits consume. My visit was a full day trip, with a 90 minute train journey to/from the centre, and so with 3 hours of travel, and a lot of food and drink, I concluded day one with a early night.
My favourite places to travel, are those rich in culture, and tradition and so organised by a company called Taste of Porto, I arranged to do a “vintage food tour”, which was 3.5 hours wandering the streets of Porto, and trying all of the traditional foods of Porto. Firm favourites included Loja das Conservas (House of Canned Foods), where they had every fish type imaginable and seasoned in a variety of ways. I also learnt that Porto is one of the largest exporters of canned fish into the UK market, producing on behalf of big brands such as John West.
Next on the trip was a place called Mercearia do Bolhao, where I enjoyed a few different dishes, my favourite being a hearty bread with smoked ham and sausage through it called Folar de Murca.
My favourite and most ‘familiar’ dish on this food tour was at a restaurant called Tacso. A dish called Patanisca de Bacalhau, which is codfish deep fried in egg, flour, parsley and onion, was near identical in both taste and looks to one of my favourite Jamaican snacks Saltfish fritters. Portuguese migrants went to Jamaica back in the 1400s, and as a result Jamaican cuisine takes influence in a couple of dishes.
The perfect end to the vintage food tour was of course tasting the cities most obvious and popular export, Port. The port was delicious, but ended up being a lowlight because the food was just so good. The number of restaurant stops totalled 7, and by the end of it, I was bursting by the seams. A food tour is a really hassle free way for a solo traveller, or even a group to be guided throughout the centre of porto, tasting the traditional foods at a really reasonable price.
Porto is a great walking city (wear flat shoes though, it is very hilly), and the best way to do this was by being shown the sites of the city, by the locals. A company called Porto Walkers, arrange for free of charge city tour lasting over 2 hours, taking you through the history and key landmarks of the city. Ceramics have heavy feature on many building, churches and restaurants.
On my final day in Porto, still having almost half of my trip spending money (it is really cheap to eat in Porto), combined with the heavens opening up, I decided to treat myself to a Porto Michelin star experience. Having been so impressed by all the food and drink consumed so far, I figured, it would be worth its while, and I was right. I contacted several restaurants on the morning of the booking (to my surprise such a small city hade several one Michelin star restaurants), and managed to book a table at Antiqvvm. Opting for the tasting menu (of course), each dish presented like a work of art, with views and service to match. An absolutely perfect way to end a spectacular city break, and food tour in Porto.
When travelling on a short weekend break , you have to accept that you simply will not see it all. The part of Porto that I will definitely be returning for to explore the coast. Porto, you were amazing, I will be back! x