Monday, 16 May 2011

Going boho down in (O)porto

North west of Porto's main boulevard, the Avenida dos Aliados, there lies an unassuming area that's far removed from the much-visited lanes of the waterside Ribeira quarter. On Rua da Conceicao and its continuations, there are no grand views, no key sights to tick off. What you'll find instead are an eclectic mishmash of old school shops peddling secondhand jewellery, religious goods and fruit and veg, comfortably co-existing with tiny independent galleries, trendy boutiques and design stores, with some laid-back bars and cafes thrown into the mixture for good measure.

The graffiti that adorns many of Porto's walls moves up a creative gear here, adding to the bohemian feel of the area. Sitting in the walled 'garden' of bakery turned cafe-bar Casa de Lo (Travessa de Cedofeita 20A) sipping one of their many teas, my travel companion Rachael observed that we could be in East London. A very laid-back pocket of East London, you understand: you won't find an overload of geek chic specs and checked shirts in these streets.

A nice cup of tea and a sit down at Casa de Lo

Shops selling secondhand books, clothing and furniture are well worth a browse, as is the Centro Comercial Miguel Bombarda on the street of the same name. No ordinary shopping centre, this smart space offers vintage clothing alongside the work of local designers, in addition to a cafe and a teashop retailing its own deliciously fragrant blends. Also worth a look as evening draws in is Cafe Candelabro at the start of Rua da Conceicao, the gateway to the area: an inviting dimly-lit bar with bookcase-lined walls, a relaxed atmosphere and huge glasses of good wine for €1.50. You certainly wouldn't get that in East London.

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