In Porto, it’s impossible to walk along most streets without seeing one café, although you’re more likely to walk past quite a few more. Porto’s Ribeira and the historic ‘downtown’ have no shortage of cafés perfect for sitting back and taking a break, but how do you choose one? While Culture Trip can’t make the decision for you, we can help by narrowing down the selection significantly.
Porto’s café culture is stronger than its coffee, despite the latter leaving occasional drinkers jittery after one espresso. Lining the streets with an overwhelming abundance, cafés may be the most popular venues in the country, selling coffee in addition to pastries, sandwiches, appetizers, and beer. They come in all shapes and sizes, some doubling as restaurants and bars, and also offering wine and cocktails. As social centers, they are normally where friends meet, co-workers unwind, and where locals congregate to catch up on gossip.
Peter Café Sport
Cafe, Bar, Wine Bar, Restaurant, Portuguese, European, $$$
The Peter Café Sport is a popular hangout/restaurant in Porto with roots from the Azores. Founded by an Azorean sailor, the café first opened in Horta, Faial, where it still stands today. The establishment in Porto opened decades later in 2008. This is a top spot to kick back on a lazy day with their signature gin and tonic in hand and gaze at the iconic Dom Luís Bridge. Being so close to the river, it’s also a great place to catch an unbelievable sunset.
Casually stroll along the river from Peter Café Sport, with the Dom Luís Bridge at your back, and in a few minutes you’ll stumble across the patio seating at Café do Cais. Sitting in the heart of the Ribeira’s historic district, this modern café sticks out like a glass thumb against concrete, with floor to ceiling windows making up the walls. Serving a full menu in addition to drinks, it’s another excellent location to enjoy a mixture of tapas or a full meal with a view.
Looking for coffee with a side of culture? The Pinguim Café is known among artists and other creatives as a hip spot to enjoy art, poetry, and theatrical shows. Also a bar, it’s open day and night, from 9AM until 4AM – although it’s not the only late-night venue on this list. This isn’t the place to go if you want peace and quiet, but it is a top spot for laughter, engaging conversation, and quite a bit of alcohol. Bar-style food is also served.
Further inland from the river, is a café that will transport visitors back in time with its beauty. The Majestic Café, as its name suggests, isn’t only one of the most romantic cafés in Portugal but also one of the most beautiful in the world. Dating back to the 1920s, the interior is decorated in antique Belle Epoque style. Located centrally, on the popular Rua de Santa Catarina, the Majestic Café is very easy to find. The coffee may be a little more expensive than expected in Porto, but when surrounded in an exquisite setting, the price is worth it.
Anyone who knows a bit of Portuguese may be doing a double-take right now since piolho translates into louse, but the name has nothing to do with lice breakouts. Originally called Café Âncora D’Ouro, the name changed when the venue’s popularity reminded people of lice infestations; just like there is never one or two lice there are rarely a couple of patrons at Café Piolho, and it is said to be the most popular café in Porto. So why is Café Piolho so popular? It may be the coffee, but it may also be its long-term reputation as both a university and local hangout.
Although not as old as the Majestic Café, Café Guarany is also one of the oldest hangout spots in the middle of historical Porto. Although opened in 1933, the renovations from 1994 are responsible for the café as it’s known today. This location is another with a history of attracting creative patrons, from writers to musicians, and hosts a number of cultural and social events including fado and cuban music nights.