- Food Tours
- Culinary walks
- Our Story
Porto’s homegrown cooking continues to survive in a way that mirrors the image of the river Douro that runs through the city: certain of its origins and (almost always) faithful to its path. There are certainly obstacles in the way, from flashy culinary trends to unbridled tourism, but traditional cuisine continues to flow forth, helped along by the fact that offering the “authentic” has become good business. The recipe for long-term success still remains elusive, for both the most old-school spots and the most gourmet chefs, and the city is still looking for the balance between staying true to tradition and opening the door to a new world of gastronomy. But we tripeiros will continue to have a stomach, as the Portuguese expression goes, for these changes, as long as there are still places for restaurants to open and affordable (and maybe even finger-soiling) meals to be had.
By publishing the stories of our local heroes, visiting them on culinary tours, or directly fundraising for them when they are in need, we attempt to honor their work and their essential role in maintaining the fabric of the city. Our purpose is twofold. Yes, we want to get travelers to some good places to eat. But we also want to make sure that some of these spots and the artisans making food there find a new audience and get the recognition and support they deserve. They are holding back the tide of globalized sameness, which is not easy work – even if it’s done unknowingly. But we believe that every meal counts and, with the help of our audience, they will add up. We are committed to their perseverance and hope that our modest efforts encourage them to keep at it. Our work is also guided by a belief in: Honest Tourism: The places where we eat and craftsmen that we feature on our culinary tours are all selected with this purpose in mind. We’d never accept a free lunch or consider a discount for our tour groups, because that would contradict our central goal, to support them. Nor do our guides receive any commissions from shopkeepers. Honest Journalism: The same principal is applied to the publishing of stories. There are no sponsored posts or even advertising on CB. The writers and photographers are paid fairly for their work on stories that we all believe in.
The cities we are drawn to all have a culinary tradition of untold richness as well as a certain tension, be it political instability, the tug between East and West, the clash between modern and ancient identities, migration, rapid gentrification, bankruptcy, or a post-colonial hangover. Our decision to get started in a city is always the result of a trip filled with many meals where we are given in intimate view of that tension, right there on the table. By getting lost in this warren of independent food purveyors struggling to preserve or adapt tradition in fast-paced urban life, we start to discover the deep complexity and true flavor of the city. At present, you’ll find our regular dispatches from Athens, Barcelona, Istanbul, Lisbon, Los Angeles, Marseille, Mexico City, Naples, Porto, Queens (NY), Shanghai, Tbilisi and Tokyo.
As travel to most of the cities where we work has resumed, Culinary Backstreets is working with a new set of safety guidelines designed for the physical well-being of our guests, guides and members of the local community that we encounter. These guidelines have been developed in line with the best practices published by governments and health officials in the countries where CB works with regard to restaurant and tour and trip operation. With these procedures in place, our guests — led by our team of professional guides, who are being trained accordingly — can explore with peace of mind. The new procedures we are instituting include:
Culinary Backstreets’ mission has always been to preserve, protect and celebrate local culinary traditions and the unsung heroes of the kitchen. Now, more than ever, we remain focused on this goal. These days, we are paying close attention to the physical, economic and psychological well-being of the local communities and the people who keep them fed. We view this as an opportunity for cities to develop a tourism model that makes sense for them and that avoids the mistakes of the past, and for companies like Culinary Backstreets to be part of that process by renewing our commitment to a more sustainable way of traveling and working. By joining our tours and trips, you are contributing to this effort, which includes:
Culinary Backstreets is offering maximum flexibility for our guests, as we realize that travel this summer and fall might involve unexpected cancellations or postponements. So that our guests can book with confidence, we are putting in place the following cancelation policies:
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Tour the Backstreets of Porto With Us
Beyond Francesinhas: Neighborhood by Neighborhood, Bite by Bite
Our Backstreets Envoys, Always Searching for the Next Hidden Gem
Carine, Porto Walk Leader
A native of Porto, Carine was raised in Paris where her father worked as a chef and exposed his children to the world of gastronomy. Her childhood home was filled with foie gras and French charcuterie, but her mother’s cooking was fully Portuguese comfort food- Porto style tripe, blood-thickened chicken stew, and, of course, codfish. As a teenager Carine moved back to Portugal, studied tourism and become a guide in the Port Wine cellars of Porto. There she dug deep into the city’s wine and food culture, rediscovering dishes from her past and witnessing the birth of new culinary traditions. She loves her city and will never say no to a plate of tournedos with port wine.
Cláudia, Porto Correspondent
Originally from the town of Espinho, Cláudia is now based in Porto. Her work as a journalist is informed by the conviction that everyone has a story and the desire to tell those stories in an engaging way. This has taken her from Bangladesh’s clothing factories to rescue boats in the Mediterranean Sea. Cláudia has also worked in communication in the areas of climate change, technology, music, cinema and engineering. Her interest in humanitarian work has taken her to Guinea-Bissau, Nepal, Palestine and Greece.
Marta, Porto Walk Leader
Marta is an academic researcher and teacher of Portuguese language and culture. She’s passionate about the other side of History – the everyday life of people and the curiosities you can’t learn in school. She lived in Italy and France and did her PhD in Spain, but she keeps coming back to Porto, where she was born and raised. After all, she says, Porto has the best restaurant in the world: her grandmother’s home. As any typical Portuguese, Marta loves being around a table. For her, the best evenings are spent with family and friends, with nice food and tasty coffee, discussing politics, and playing nerdy games.
Rafael, Porto Correspondent
Rafael is a journalist and food writer living between Brazil and Portugal and traveling the world to eat and write. He covers food trends, eating traditions and the restaurant industry. His work has appeared in publications such as Eater, Munchies (Vice), Slate, Epicurious, and Atlas Obscura.
Ricardo, Porto Photographer
Based in Porto, Ricardo completed a Bachelor’s degree in photography in 1999 and has worked for several daily Portuguese newspapers. He’s been working as a freelanceer since 2009. Along with his work in the press, he has been developing projects in the area of corporate photography.
Carioca based in Porto. Food lover, translator and former cook apprentice.
CB’s work was started in 2009 by Ansel Mullins and Yigal Schleifer as a humble food blog called Istanbul Eats. The following year we published a book of our reviews, now in its fifth edition. That year we also launched our first culinary walk in Istanbul, a route we are still using today. In 2012, we realized that what we built in Istanbul was needed in other cities we knew and loved. We started CB that year with Athens, Barcelona, Mexico City and Shanghai as pioneering members of our network. In 2013, we added Rio and also launched our iPhone application in Istanbul. In 2015, Tokyo and Tbilisi came into the fold. That year we published mini-guides to Barcelona and Athens and also launched an iPhone application in those cities. Our Eatinerary service, which provides travelers with tailor-made culinary travel itineraries, was also launched in 2015. In 2016, Lisbon – the latest city to kindle our curiosity – joined the CB network. In 2017 we added Naples and Queens, NY – two places with very compelling stories to tell – to our roster and also published full-size eating guides to Athens and Barcelona. In 2018, Porto joined the list of cities we cover.
Visual Dispatches from the Frontlines of Local Eating
Where is Porto?
Porto is the second largest city in Portugal, located on the northern coast of the country. It sits on the banks of the Douro River, extending to the Atlantic Ocean, where the river empties. It is considered the “capital of the North” and it is close to the Douro Valley region (to the east) and the Minho region (to the north).
What are the best things to do in Porto?
While Porto is a good base for a daytrip to the Douro Valley, the city makes for a diverting stay, with beautiful museums, palaces and cathedrals. Eat at a local tasca (homestyle restaurant), watch the sunset over the river, order fresh grilled fish (or a Francesinha!) and grab a cable car to Gaia.
When is the best time of year to visit Porto?
The best time to visit the city is the month of June, when the most important celebration takes place: São João or Saint John’s Festival. It is a city-wide event that lasts the entire night of June 23rd, into June 24th. The weeks leading up to the holiday are filled with activities as well, and the city is full of decorations as well as folks grilling sardines. In June, the weather is usually warm (but not too hot), and the days are longer. We also have several big events around this time, like the Primavera Sound music festival, the FITEI theater festival and the Serralves em Festa arts/music festival. Other good times to visit, especially for milder weather, are spring/early summer, as well as September/mid-October.
What is the weather like in Porto?
Generally, the climate in Porto is moderate, influenced by the proximity of the Atlantic.
Summers are usually pleasant and mild. Most days never get too hot, around 78 F, though on the rare occasion temperatures can hit 100 F.
In winter, temperatures rarely drop below 40 and maximum temperatures hover around 57. It almost never snows – the last (small!) snowfall was almost 20 years ago, but it does rain a lot.
In spring/fall months, the weather can be very unstable. Locals know to check the forecast before leaving the house, to always dress in layers, and prepare for “several seasons in a day.” Warm days are more common in May/June and September, but windy periods, drizzly mornings and chilly nights are not rare.
Rain is a part of life in Porto, sometimes gracing us even in the summer (albeit usually weak and lasting for short periods of the day). However, if you are coming during winter or in wetter months (like April and November), we recommend a raincoat and shoes fit for our (wet) steep cobblestone streets.
Is Porto expensive?
Prices in Porto are lower compared to the United States and Central Europe.
A café (espresso) costs less than $1, a glass of local beer is around $1-2, and you can have a nice, mid-range dinner for around $15-20 person. However, prices can be significantly higher in touristic areas and restaurants, so check out our Porto archive to find the best local tips.
Is Porto safe?
Portugal consistently ranks in the top 4 of the safest countries in the world. You should still keep an eye out for your bag and phone in more crowded/touristic areas, but violent crime is rare, and people in Porto will usually go out of their way to help you and make you feel welcome.
What is the most famous food in Porto?
Arguably, one of the most famous dishes of Porto is the meaty, sauce-covered sandwich called francesinha. Although it is part of the culture of the city (debating which is the best francesinha is almost a sport here), Porto has much more to offer than this heavy comfort-food. The dish that gives Porto natives their national nickname – Tripeiros – is a casserole-like bean stew called Tripas à moda do Porto. It consists of tripe as well as other meats, sausage, vegetables and white beans).
Caldo verde is a soup made with Portuguese (or Galician) kale, flavored with a piece of chouriço. It is a simple but comforting recipe, that is a common first dish in many Porto (and Portuguese) homes.
Fresh fish and seafood is a must in every coastal city in Portugal, and Porto is no exception. A simple grilled fish (like the famous sardines), or octopus dishes are one of the best things you can have in Porto.
Where is the best place to stay in Porto?
If you’re visiting for a few days, the best option is to stay in the city center, as you will be in walking distance of the main attractions, restaurants and nightlife. However, the areas surrounding the center (like Constituição, Boavista or Bonfim) are very close and well connected, and may be an option if you want a quieter neighborhood or a base to explore other parts of the city.
What is the COVID-19 situation in Porto?
The vaccination rate in Portugal is one of the highest in the world. Masks are only mandatory on public transport (this includes taxis and similar private passenger transports), and health facilities (as of June 2022). You can find updated info about the measures implemented here.
Can Americans travel to Porto?
Americans can travel to Portugal visa-free for up to 90 days. Those traveling from the US need either a negative Covid-19 test result or proof of vaccination. You can find updated info about entry requirements here.
Can I fly directly to Porto?
Porto has an international airport (Aeroporto Francisco Sá Carneiro), and you can fly directly there from many locations worldwide. The city center is not far from the airport (around 10 miles – or a 20-minute car ride), and it is directly connected by metro and bus.
What is the best restaurant in Porto?
Porto has a diverse dining scene, ranging from Michelin-starred restaurants, trendy and innovative new venues to traditional down-to-earth eateries – it’s impossible to pinpoint just one. Check our top 10 essentials list for our latest tips.
Are there beaches in Porto?
Porto has beaches within the city limits, located in the Foz district. Although very pretty, the beaches in this area are small and rocky, and locals usually go to this area to walk, jog or bike on the promenade, or to watch the beautiful sunset from one of the many bars, cafes and restaurants that overlook the Atlantic.
The best beaches in the region are found in the adjacent towns of Matosinhos (to the north) and Vila Nova de Gaia (to the south), both a short car-ride away (15-20min), and easily accessible by public transport. At these spots, you can find large beaches with golden sand and waves suitable for surf and bodyboarding.
Is Porto suitable for children?
Being a safe and friendly city, Porto is good for families with children. There are several parks and gardens, nearby beaches and many venues (like the Contemporary Art Museum or the Casa da Música concert hall) have dedicated areas and regular activities for children. Nevertheless, some of the areas of the city (especially in the most touristic areas) may be difficult to navigate with strollers, as they are hilly and covered in cobblestones. Families with children may want to avoid hotels in the busier (noisier) areas like the bar district (known as Galerias, around the Clérigos neighborhood).