If you would have asked me 10 years ago if Porto was vegetarian friendly, my immediate response world be “ah, not really”. Fast forward 10 years and the city has learned not only to embrace vegetarianism also but 100% plant-based diets. A beautiful city by the water, well known for some of the best wines in the world (Port wine), Porto is, in my opinion, one of the most stunning cities in Europe.
I lived in Porto for 3 years. I studied in the infamous Cedofeita street and took the bus with fishmongers every day. For 3 years, I saw the sunset by the beach, had meals in the city centre for less than €5 and met amazing people. In this city, you can expect great food, a lot of history and plenty of unforgettable moments.
It’s still not easy to be vegan in Porto (compared to cities like London or Vienna). However, with the tourism boost, many restaurants and cafes are opening in the city. Very recently, the city’s first cat cafe opened and it offers 100% vegan food.
If you’re looking for sun, culture, history and beautiful views, this is the city for you.
My favourite spots in Porto
View from Gaia
One of favourite things to do in Porto is to admire it from the nearby city of Gaia. You can take the cable car and get a stunning view of the city. Go to Porto Cruz to find some of the best views of Porto or just walk along the river until you reach the other side.
Foz do Douro
Here you can stroll alongside the sea, hear and watch the waves breaking on the shore. This also brings me so many dear memories. I highly recommend it!
Casa da Musica
If you love architecture, this is a place you can’t miss. The crazy lines of this building will make you want to sit and look at it for hours. As the you can guess by the name, it is also a great spot for live music. Plus, you might be lucky and find some skaters there.
Eat a vegan Francesinha
The city’s most famous traditional dish does contain a lot of meat but, luckily, you can visit “Francesinhas da Baixa” for a vegan one!
Have the best coffee, Portuguese style
Portuguese people love siting outside and relax with a coffee in hand. Sit by the river in Ribeira and watch the people go by, the boats floating and the birds flying. Just enjoy the moment.
If you love indie rock and green scenery, you’ll love this festival. From The XX to PJ Harvey and Nick Cave, some of the best names of Indie Rock have played in Parque da Cidade. The festival usually happens at the end of May/beginning of June.
If you only have time to visit one museum, let it be Serralves. From the contemporary exhibitions to its surreal park, you’ll have a great and relaxed time.
Tips and tricks
Some people in Portugal are not yet familiar with what a vegan diet entails. Some might know we are fighting for animal rights and that we don’t eat them but you might still be asked if it’s ok to eat cheese.
Despite that, most restaurants are more than happy to make you a vegan dish, if you take some time to explain what you don’t eat. Last Christmas, I went to a Francesinha café in central Porto and they served a vegetarian Francesinha. Instead of asking for a vegan option, I asked if they could kindly remove any cheese and egg from my meal.
More often than not you’ll find that people will go out of their way to accommodate you and make sure you have a great experience – and hopefully, go back 🙂
Most supermarkets already sell soy, rice and almond milk but you can now see many selling vegan sausages, oats or gluten-free food.
The supermarket “Continente” has a healthy eating aisle with vegan options. Ask the nearest staff member where you can find “Area Viva” and you’ll find lots of snacks there.
Extra tip: Depending on where you live, you might have been tempted to buy Açaí Berry powder and wondered how to buy without breaking the bank (in London, you can buy Açaí powder at Holland and Barrett for £14£). Buy yours in Portugal as it’s only €3.90.
The best time to go
Porto is located by the sea so winters are usually cold and rainy. Try to avoid winter if you can and go late spring instead. Most people visit during the summer period or even autumn, during wine season. Unless you’re a “wine lover”, try to go either in May, June or even September. The temperatures are warm during the day and it’s most likely sunny.
So get your walking shoes on, don’t forget to take your camera and “boa viagem”!