When it comes to food destinations around the world, Portugal is right up there with the best of them; a country where the food scene is just as much part of the cultural experience as it’s history and nature.
While you’ll find most traditional Portuguese dishes served widely across the country, each region has their own specialties, and if we had to choose a favorite, we’d award the title of best foodie experience to Porto.
Porto’s cuisine is defined by its terrain and landscapes; a coastal city in northwest Portugal flanked by mountains, the food scene here is defined by delicious Atlantic seafood, and a hybrid of meats, cheeses and vegetables.
Everything here bursts with character and aroma, and you’ll find hearty meals all over the city. But, if you’re looking to avoid the tourist traps and ensure what you’re eating is truly Portuguese, and authentic to the region, it’s a great idea to take a food tour.
How Porto Food Tours Can Be an Enriching Cultural Experience
The Concept of Food Tours
The very concept of a food tour is that is is designed to show travelers around some of the most authentic food spots in the city. You’ll be introduced to local delicacies, and taste traditional treats.
But, more than just satisfying your stomach, food tours are actually designed to offer travelers an enriching cultural experience; to have the opportunity to learn about a city’s culture, and immerse themselves more fully.
Food tours don’t take you to KFC, or popular tourist cafes; they’re more focused on how locals live, what they eat, and how they celebrate their festive feasts. And they often include exclusive insight behind the scenes.
Several food tours for instance, include cooking workshops, which gives tourists practical experience. They may have you up at the crack of dawn to visit local markets and buy seafood directly from the hands that caught it, or take you behind the scenes at a winery.
Food being so closely and intricately tied to a city’s identity, these tours also give you insight into how food has shaped the city’s unique culture, and dive into how food, and eating habits have evolved throughout history.
Yes, there’s a tonne of delicious food involved, especially if the tour you choose involved hopping between restaurants for tasters, but the cultural and historical context that is worked in is always equally as fascinating.
Private vs Group Food Tours
Being that Porto is one of Portugal’s most famous food regions, it’s important to book your food tour in advance. Many companies run these as group tours, meaning you’ll join 10 – 20 other people, though it can also be worth considering booking a private tour.
Locals in Porto are incredibly proud of their culinary heritage, and sites like Withlocals.com will allow you to customize a private tour with a local guide as per your convenience; you can hand-pick a food tour with the local food expert of your choice.
This is a great way to have more control over your food tour, as there are options for everything from a 10 tasting tour which offers the highlights of Porto, wine tasting experiences, private farm brewery visits, cooking classes, or joining locals for dinner and a live music show.
Group tours are a fabulous way to go, though private tours do offer a far more immersive experience, which allows one-on-one time with your local guide, and feels more like a friend showing you around their city, as opposed to joining a group of tourists being led around.
The Best Dishes in Porto
From the delightful Pasteis de Nata to traditional Bolinhos de Bacalhau, and the authentic Port wine, food tours are a great way to make sure you try the best dishes in Porto.
Dishes you definitely shouldn’t miss include the Pastel de Nata, also known as Portuguese custard tart. This is a Portuguese egg tart pastry dusted with cinnamon, and while not specifically a Poto specialty, it is a famous Portguese treat.
In terms of authentic Porto specialties, there’s the Francesinha Sandwich, which is a real local treat, with bread, ham, sausages, and steak, covered in melted cheese and an egg on top. There’s also Alheira (white sausages), and Bolinhos de Bacalhau, a fried cod dish.
It would be a foodie crime, however to visit Porto and not taste Tripas à Moda do Porto, and this is almost guaranteed to be on every food tour itinerary.
Known in English as Porto Tripe, and the city’s official, namesake dish. This is a stew of cow tripe, complete with other smoked meats, beans, sausage, vegetables and herbs. There’s a fascinating story behind the dish; your local guide will fill you in!
So, what are you waiting for?! Book a food tour in!