In recent years, downtown Porto has changed completely. Restaurants, bars and clubs for every taste are pretty much everywhere, on every corner, in every street and square. This effervescent movement has turned the heart of the city into the hub of nightlife. Moreover, the historical places are also brimming with life. Regardless of where you are, you’ll be sure to enjoy yourself.
If you’re looking for a cosmopolitan, yet family-type of destination, where cuisine – a typical restaurant or an exquisite restaurant of traditional flavours or author cuisine – and nightlife are unique experiences, with options for every taste, age and purse, then Porto is the perfect place.
In recent years, many bars, cafés, clubs, concert halls, gourmet grocery stores, fashion stores or specialized liquor stores have opened business in downtown Porto and the historical centre. All these spaces have in common a top-class and attentive service, and an innovative and entrepreneurial vision.
Some spaces are cosy and intimate – many of these entrepreneurs have rehabilitated buildings with a long history and preserved the memory of these places in the decoration of their restaurants and bars –, some are modern, with innovative and broad concepts, spaces for market niches and multipurpose spaces – to cater for culture, concerts and live DJ performances, and for various events.
Some are outdoor spaces, art galleries, stores, theatre stages and places with alternative sounds and retro atmospheres. In the downtown area – currently the liveliest place in the city at night –, you can also come across some urban “tribes” and different cultures, from university students to young adults, a more mature age bracket, artists, journalists, politicians, hipsters and the gay community.
Nightlife in Porto is long and varied, so let’s take it slowly. At the end of the day, the best place for you to relax is in one of the historical cafés, like the famous Majestic in Rua de Santa Catarina, the busiest in the city. Sitting at one of its tables is like travelling back in time to the luxury and glamour of the 1920s. Porto’s main square is Avenida dos Aliados, where you will find the Guarany café, built in the 1930s, currently featuring live music shows and fado singing at dinner time.
You won’t be short of options for dinner: try a francesinha, the brilliant spicy meat and sausage sandwich (some say it’s the best in the world), try also the new restaurants with signature or fusion cuisine; some offer traditional Portuguese cooking, and there are international cuisine restaurants, hamburger places and Japanese restaurants.
You could dine out at one of the restaurants in Cais da Ribeira and see the River Douro with its lit-up bridges. This is where you will find plenty of regional dishes that go down well with a glass of Douro wine or Vinho Verde. We suggest you try the octopus rice, salt cod with bread panade and turnip leaves, or salt cod fritters.
After dinner, the best thing to do is to walk over to the historical centre. Some of the streets have recently been done up, like Rua das Flores connecting to the former São Domingos Convent, now an event centre.
If you feel like it, why not take in a show at the Coliseu do Porto, a landmark in the city’s cultural life; otherwise, go to Casa da Música, in Boavista, to listen to a live concert (from classical to modern dance music) and admire the work of Rem Koolhaas, renowned throughout the world.
Downtown Porto has become the centre of nightlife in recent years. Not a month goes by without a new bar, restaurant, disco or café opening up.
Begin your evening at the Piolho café (Piolho is the name given by all locals to Café Âncora D’Ouro), in Praça Parada Leitão. On your left, you have the Church of Carmo and its impressive glazed-tile panel and in front of you, the Rectorate of the University of Porto. Ever since it was founded, in 1909, Piolho has been the meeting point of university students in Porto. The café walls are covered with messages from former students. Inside, at the weekends, the café is bustling with activity, but most of the time you can find a free table.
Alternatively, you can go to the revamped Largo de Mompilher, a very short walk from Piolho (you can walk to everywhere downtown at night). This is where you will find some bars that have recently joined the 1930s kiosk. At the weekend, dozens of locals and tourists come here to drink sparkling wine, regular wine or the fino – the name used in Porto and in northern Portugal for draft beer.
Nightlife in downtown Porto is enjoyed out in the streets (talking and drinking) or in one of the many bars. The newest is BASE, an open air bar with an amazing garden, with a fantastic view to Clérigos Tower! There are also many gay friendly spaces and mix spaces, a very common trend in Porto, a mix between an art gallery, a concert hall and a bar.
Most of these new leisure places are now housed in buildings that once served other purposes: textile, tea or coffee warehouses, bookshops, sweets factories … and most of them have preserved the original architecture. A night out like this is also a history lesson.
You will find most of these places in the two parallel streets Cândido dos Reis and Galeria de Paris, known by the locals as the “galleries”: bars with varied soundtracks – from killer house music to the secrets of indie rock. Places really get going after midnight. Try Plano B bar&disco or Casa do Livro 😉
Until then, perhaps you should visit one of the many vintage cafés and sip a glass of wine or some tea. There are also plenty of snacks to keep you fuelled – try a cured or uncured ham sandwich at the famous tascas (taverns).
In Porto, the night only ends when the first sunrays peek through the sky and Porto is already on the agenda of many of the most popular DJs in the world.
Whether downtown or in the historical centre of Porto, there is a wide range of accommodation….ask us, and let’s the party begin!