In addition to palaces, gardens, museums, and even seeing a bookstore that helped to inspire the Harry Potter series, visiting Porto, Portugal includes a great emphasis on food. Let’s get one thing clear, it is not super easy to eat vegan in Portugal. Their food has great influence from Mediterranean cuisine, and they rely heavily on spices and seafood. Their most popular dishes often have meat, fish, eggs, and sardines. For example, Bacalhau or Portuguese Cod Fish, the Francesinha Sandwich, which is basically cheese, meat, and sauce, chicken piri piri, and many more. In other word, everything a vegan cannot eat.
So, when I decided to visit the northern city of Porto, Portugal, I knew it was going to be a bit of a challenge. But never fear! This article contains some surprising, must try vegan restaurants I stumbled upon during my travels.
Around 9 am, our journey began. We hit the streets of central Porto and checked out a local market. I was drawn in by beautiful flowers and stumbled upon a vegan/vegetarian spot: Natura Bolhao.
Rua Fernandes Tomas, 506 (at Rua de Santa Catarina), Porto, Portugal, 4000-211
The great thing about this spot is you can sit and rest while enjoying some Portuguese staples or take your snacks to go. To all my ‘fine diners’ out there, this place is simple and breezy, so you may not find it as alluring. But for anyone interested in great food, tasty desserts, and a relaxed atmosphere Natura Bolhao is the place for you!
Natura Bolhao is located in the Bolhão market. A quick aside about the market; Bolhão means big bubble. This market place is known for its vast array of fruits and vegetables from local farmers. The market also has quite a wine selection for anyone interested. Definitely a great place to check out if you ever find yourself in Porto! Now, back to Natura Bolhao.
Natura Bolhao offers breakfast, lunch, and snacks. They have gluten-free options. And perhaps most important, a vegan version of the famous Portuguese dessert, Pastel de Nata, which is traditionally a custard (also called egg) tart with cinnamon and relies heavily on dairy. However, thanks to Natura, you can try this popular dish dairy-free! This place is also budget-friendly. With all of these offerings, they are sure to have something for almost everyone!
For our quick snack, we selected vegan Pastel de Nata (because in Porto you must!), a veggie quiche, vegan mushroom pie, and veggie empanadas. Needless to say, it hit the spot!
Go to daTerra, I Dare Ya!
The other place to make our list was daTerra Vegetariano. daTerra went fully vegan as of May 2018. They offer cheap eats in a buffet style. Typically, I am not one for buffets, as I often end up overpaying for a cold salad and maybe some rice. However, daTerra has deterred 😉 those thoughts, as they have numerous hot and cold dishes; all very delicious!
The venue was casual, creative, and healthy. They offer lunch and dinner options, and even sandwiches during certain hours. It was cheap and ‘all you can eat.’ The service was also very friendly. We even had a chance to talk with the owners who speak English, Portuguese, and French! Another great thing about daTerra is its desire to educate their community about plant-based foods. They offer cooking classes, meal workshops, and baking courses.
Each week, daTerra creates a new weekly menu. The price of the buffet is only 8,5€. The coffee and cakes will cost you a little extra, but, just like the buffet, they are very reasonable. According to their Facebook page, daTerra aims to contribute to both the well-being of society and of the planet. They want to teach people the benefits of a veggie diet, and the impacts it can have on one’s mental and physical health. The goal is to use what the earth offers and cook whole foods. This is central to every dish they make.
As you can see, we had so many great options to choose from, including pastas, mushrooms, kabobs, and desserts! Our plates were full, and our appetites, satisfied!
A Quick Aside – Livraria Lello
Now that we’ve covered the food, let’s take a quick trip to the library. As I said before, there is a bookstore in Porto, which is rumored to have inspired pieces of the Harry Potter series. Author, J.K. Rowling lived in Porto between 1991-1993 and regularly visited the Livraria Lello bookstore (this was one of the highlights of my trip). The shop bears a striking resemblance to the descriptions of Hogwarts (the series’ school) and Flourish and Blotts (the series’ bookstore).
Things to know before visiting:
The library is always packed during summer!
You need to pay 5€ to just get in, but it is deductible if you buy books.
- At the store, Armazéns do Castelo, a few meters away. The ticket costs 5€, fully deductible in books. Then you simply need to face the long queue to enter the bookstore!
- You can also buy tickets online. However, it is slightly more expensive—5,5€. When you buy it, there is a field to include your VAT Number. For this section, you can type the following: 999999990 (this is legit information, I actually called the managers of Livraria Lello bookstore to know how to go around this VAT issue). Also, no printing necessary, just show it on your smartphone.
Expert tips: if you are getting several online tickets for the Livraria Lello bookstore, don’t buy them in bulk, but rather one-by-one. If you buy them in bulk, only the value of ONE ticket will be deductible in books, whereas if you buy them separately, the value of each ticket will be deductible.
Finally, I got an insider tip from an employee that the best time to visit is between 1pm-3pm. It is often less crowded during this time.
So Long Porto
And there you have it folks, these are two great food options (plus a sightseeing option) for plant-based, vegan, vegetarian, or curious people. If you fall into any of these categories or simply enjoy new sites and delicious food, these spots are a must! Each spot is unique and inviting with plenty of options for all. Be sure to have an extra vegan Pastel de Nata for me the next time you are in Porto. Now, go out, explore, and enjoy every bite!