The British summer has been no less than dismal, and with Europe’s scary heatwave finally at bay, we’re back to embracing languid city breaks and all the delicious encounters that accompany them. Not just the door to the Douro Valley, Porto is making a name for itself as a vibrant hub of music and gastronomy, not to mention the tipple from whence it takes its name.
WHERE TO STAY IN PORTO
Eschew the city centre for the achingly cool M.Ou.Co, is an indie gem with slick mid-century modern interiors and music seeping under every doorway. Situated in Bonfim, down a nondescript side street, it’s a hub of musical activity with a programme of regular live music sessions, DJs and dance classes, many of which take place on the terrace overlooked by the outdoor pool. Inside, each room is kitted out with a record player – for guests to enjoy the library of vinyl available to all in the listening room – along with an amp should the desire strike to bring your guitar or keyboard along for the ride. Jamming is encouraged, and who knows what you might find in the room next door; perhaps it will be the beginning of the next big thing. From €85 per room per night moucohotel.pt.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK IN PORTO
Of course the old town and banks of the Douro are filled with authentic little joints for cosy candlelit suppers, we’re big fans of Tia Tia and its quite frankly delicious menu. With a husband and wife team creating new interpretations of classic Portuguese dishes, in an elegant Nordic-tinged minimalist dining room, sip outside and you’ll find a chic courtyard garden in which to enjoy your dinner. Music once again takes the floor, with a selection of records available for guests to soundtrack their own dinner, a unique touch.
The seasonal menu is ever-changing, but expect dishes like roasted pumpkin with coriander, coconut and seeds, mushrooms and turnip with cured egg yolk and buckwheat and fresh local mackerel with apple. Every bite is exceptional. Stop off en route for an aperitif in the cosy secret garden of Good Things Will Happen Soon, a very cool concept store and bar with a great selection of local wines, while our top tip for seafood has to be Esplanada Marisqueria – a mainstay of Porto’s dining scene for over 65 years and worth a visit even if just for the lobster stewed rice.
It would be remiss of us to overlook the city’s drink of choice, and when it comes to Vila Nova de Gaia’s port lodges there’s only one choice. Established in 1890, Graham’s ihas held court over the Douro for 133 years. It’s where all the brand’s wine is aged and we can heartily recommend a tour and tasting; if you’re lucky you’ll enjoy a sip of the nectar that is the exquisite Lodge Edition Single Harvest Tawny, released to celebrate the lodge’s centenary. Tuck into an exceptional lunch at Vinum restaurant, the light-drenched dining room overlooking the river, with dishes like Iberian black pork and roast beef salad showcasing its roots in both Portuguese and Basque cuisines.
WHERE TO MOOCH IN PORTO
Make sure you’re hungry for a visit to the Bolhão Market. The 185-year-old market recently reopened after extensive renovation and under its roof, you will find dozens of delicious restaurants and merchants to sate even the emptiest of bellies. For an evening tipple, you can’t beat Guidalense. Despite its lack of a wine list or cocktails for that matter, you won’t care when you see the view – a beer will suffice. The view is the view; you’re practically sat on the illuminated Luíz I bridge, the perfect spot when accompanied by live Portuguese music, as it often is.
When it comes to shopping, Porto is the city for vintage lovers. M.Ou. Co. has developed a vintage walking tour, taking in interiors, fashion, lighting and more, taking in some of the city’s most popular neighbourhoods. For a final stroll before departing, we adored the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal, dotted with cute cafés and a beautiful 19th-century pavilion. Haul yourself up the 150 steps and you’ll be rewarded with the best view in town – the perfect place for a sunset.
WHAT TO KNOW
Four airlines fly direct from London airports to Porto; TAP Air Portugal, British Airways, easyJet, and RyanAir. For more information on Port visit www.visitporto.travel
Visit Porto visitporto.travel