Jewelry Journeys - Porto, Portugal
Where to buy the best jewelry, and make some friends along the way, in one of Europe’s oldest cities
In mid-August of last year, I found myself sitting at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean as the sun was languidly descending in the sky.
It was my first night in Porto, Portugal’s second largest city after Lisbon, so I decided in order to get under the surface of the city, I would walk the hour and a half back from Foz, Porto’s beachside neighbor, to my apartment in the center of the city.
I set out along the coast of the Atlantic, which led a path to the banks of the Douro River, on which Porto sits. As the light of dusk set in, it was as if a life size filter had descended on the city, blurring out any imperfections and enhancing its natural magic. Lights flickered from under the orange terracotta tiled roofs on the buildings that dot the inclines on either side of the river. Fishing boats, abandoned for the day, filled the river like toys that a child had left after a bath and restaurants with walls made exclusively of glass to welcome in the scene were beginning to wake from their daytime slumber. It was truly a magical intro to the city that I will always remember.
Porto and its surrounding area is a combination of my favorite elements: lively city life, rich in history and full of greenery with easy access to a body of water. As one of Europe’s oldest centers, wandering the narrow, winding inclines and declines of its Medieval streets can be strenuous, but it also offers so much in the way of discovering its hidden gems. And gems it is plentiful in!
As you know, what really brings a city to life for me is discovering all of the beautiful little gems that it has to offer, so here is an overview of a few that stood out for me.
On my jewelry tour of Porto, my first stop was Anselmo 1910 which was around the corner from where I was staying in the central Clerigos neighborhood. Its specialties are the region’s notable gold filigree pieces, which Northern Portugal is famous for as a result of its large deposits of gold. In addition to its own brand, it carries a range of other Portuguese designers alongside global brands. Its collections focus on traditional fine jewelry, but each piece makes a big statement, like an amethyst ring the size of my head (almost), the gold tarantula by Bruno da Rocha or pieces of Portugal’s famous azulejos tiles set in rings by Felipe Fonseca.
Rua Dr. Ricardo Jorge, 46
On to Made to Envy jewelry, whose modern shop looks like a beautiful Pinterest board come to life. Its dainty silver and gold necklaces and rings are perfect for layering and stacking and feature of the moment motifs, like a figure meditating, evil eyes or custom messages.
Rua de Cedofeita, 433 Lj.2
From there, my jewelry journey took me to the wonderful studio of Joana Mieiro, designer of Mimata and MMUTT, in the ultra-cool Cedofeita neighborhood. Beyond the door of a charming bright pink clad building with white trim, I encountered Joana’s husband Hugo who was working in the studio at the time. He generously invited me in to see her work while she was out. Of her two collections, Mimata has a celestial magic that is achieved by using precious stones in playful and at times dainty shapes, while MMUTT is almost its polar opposite, using industrial materials in sculptural designs. I subsequently connected with Joana herself to find out more about her beautiful lines. Learn more about her story in Little Gems.
Rua Do Rosario n 129
At Mimata, Hugo provided me with a map of the area, showing the best of design, art and culture in the neighborhood, which led me to the enchanting studio of Liliana Guerreiro, where drawer after drawer slides open to reveal the designer’s modern take on the region’s famous filigree. She achieves the lacy effect by fusing together tiny circles, a shape that she uses throughout her collection. Sometimes it’s oversized, sometimes it’s enameled, but it’s always thoughtful. A definite must do in Porto.
And with that it was off to the aqua blue tidal pools of the Leca da Palmeira.
more faves in Porto
Torel Avantgarde – An upscale, yet fantastically quirky hotel set on a hillside overlooking the Douro River. Spectacular views of the city and the water. Definitely have a bite at their restaurant, Digby, and try not to take a photo of the Instagram worthy flower covered walls and ceiling on your walk back there.
Miss’Opo – A charming guesthouse in the center of the city, set among the winding Medieval streets and home to another must visit restaurant of the same name.
Rosa et al – The townhouse, which is surrounded by art galleries in Cedofeita, is home to only 6 rooms, giving it the intimate feel that a stay in Porto deserves. Add in their of the moment classes and events like “Knitting Mindfulness” and “Wellbeing Booster” and you’ll feel right at home.
Semea by Eskalduna – One of my most favorite meals in Porto. A delightfully tiny space, with the most thoughtful and flavorful seasonal menu you’ll want to order everything on it. I almost did.
Café Candelabro – The perfect stop for lunch to sit outside and read a book, potentially from one of their library’s selections. The staff will hate you, but they’re so cool that you’ll be ok with it. I got a glass of Vinho Verde and a Croque Madame for under 4 euros.
Epoca Café – A sun drenched café serving all the trendy egg dishes with every inventive garnish. I tried barley coffee and never went back to caffeine.
Leca da Palmeira and Praia da Luz – Found in the neighborhood of Matosinhos, Leca da Palmeira beach is Insta famous for its two natural fresh water pools which were designed and realized by Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza Vieira. They are quite something to behold. Go early to avoid the lines. A short skip down the Atlantic you’ll come across Praia da Luz, which is where I was enchanted by the coastal town of Foz on my first night. Set on a little stone beach inlet, the restaurant/club can be a bit sceney, complete with DJ and cool kids, but the setting is magical.
Sunrise walking tour – One of my most favorite experiences in Porto! I took a chance on an Airbnb experience and was so glad I did. I met Laurem, a Brazilian who has been living and studying in Portugal for over 6 years now, and a hand full of fellow tourists at 7 am, before the crowds descended on the city. We walked from the center of the city, out over the Luis I Bridge. Laurem is doing her Ph.D thesis on museum studies, so she is infinitely knowledgeable about the hidden gems of the city. I won’t ruin it by giving away more, but this tour is so worth discovering!
Igreja do Carmo and the Azulejos of Porto – The azulejos are the famous tiles, usually blue and white, that cover so many buildings in Portugal. In Porto, one not to be missed is the Igreja do Carmo, an 18th century baroque church whose tiles were added in 1910. Some more of my personal favorites: the Sao Bento train station, where the tiles depict historical scenes (also visited on the sunrise walking tour!), the Capel das Almas, which is also worth taking a peek inside the chapel, and the Igreja de Santo Ildefonso.