Porto: Stories from Portugal’s Historic Bolhão Market

August 11, 2018
Porto: Stories from Portugal's Historic Bolhão Market

It’s easy to fall in love with Porto, Portugal’s second largest city. Among the many reasons we did:

  • The city enjoys a scenic location on the Douro River, offering spectacular views.
  • A spate of museums, shops and other landmarked buildings display a playful mix of baroque, art nouveau and modern architecture and interior design.
Typical street in Porto

Typical street in Porto (Credit: Jerome Levine)

  • With a long tradition for producing port wine, Porto provides ample opportunities for port wine tastings at cellars and bars.
  • The characteristic blue and white azulejo tiles, which cover the walls of the main Sao Bento railway station and can be found on the facades of many buildings, couple beauty with a sense of history.
Tile walls at the Sao Bento railway station in Porto

Tile walls at the Sao Bento railway station in Porto (Credit: Jerome Levine)

So combining all of the above with the city’s safety record and affordability, it’s not at all surprising that Porto was named Best European Best Destination for 2017.

View of Porto from Gaia (credit: Jerome Levine)

View of Porto from Gaia (Credit: Jerome Levine)

Oh, we left out the magnificent foods of Porto, from fish to pastries and more, including it’s one-of-a kind franceschina sandwich!

Half a Franceschina sandwich

Half a Franceschina sandwich (Credit: Jerome Levine)

The Book – Porto: Stories from Portugal’s Historic Bolhão Market

Authors Gabriella Opaz and Sonia Andresson Nolasco have written a new book entitled, Porto: Stories from Portugal’s Historic Bolhão Market (Agate, August 2018). A mix of food, history and culture, the book tells the stories of the market through the voices and recipes of the vendors and food producers, now in their 70s and 80s, whose families have worked there for generations. To broaden the context, the authors also consulted widely with other regional culinary experts and chefs.

For more than a century, the open-air Bolhão Market (the primary market of the city) was one of the city’s oldest and most popular tourist attractions, too, playing a seminal role in the culture and cuisine of northern Portugal. Since opening in 1814, farmers, fishmongers and artisan producers of wine, cheese and olive oil gathered at the market to sell their wares and swap stories.

When we visited the deteriorating, neoclassical market in October 2016, it was still open but under renovation. A couple of months later, we learned the market had closed down and moved to a temporary location at a shopping center. Describing the new site, one TripAdvisor member commented, “It looked like a parking garage.”

In a preface to the book, the authors confirm that the market did, indeed, shut down at the end of 2016 and “nearly a year later, timelines and details [for its reopening] remained sparse, leaving the vendors in a state of flux. Some of the eldest began to leave after enduring some of the harshest years at Bolhão, working under the barest of conditions.” It is speculated, but uncertain, that the market will re-open in two years.

Passionate advocates for the market, its people and its cuisine, the authors have compiled and preserved a compelling oral history of the market that comes alive with evocative photos by Ryan Opaz. The book’s chapters are broken down by different types of foods.

Gabriella Opaz writes:

It took one trip through Bolhão to set our hearts on fire. The market embodied everything both of us were fighting for: connection, community, kindness, authenticity, sustainability, tradition, and of course, food. It was the perfect muse to tell our story.

  • Reply
    Shannon Baas
    August 11, 2018 at 3:35 pm

    I love to read a wide variety of books.

  • Reply
    Renee G
    August 11, 2018 at 11:46 pm

    I would love to explore the cuisine in the book.

  • Reply
    Jean F
    August 12, 2018 at 8:29 pm

    I enjoy drinking port and would like to know more about where it comes from.

  • Reply
    Penny Sadler
    August 13, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    First of all Porto, and well, all of Portugal, is on top ten list of places to visit. Second, I love markets! What a great way to get to know the culture and people of an area. I recall the first time I saw the Bocqueria in Barcelona, I was so fired up I started calling my friends in the USA. No joke!

  • Reply
    Joan Haladay
    August 14, 2018 at 10:05 pm

    I love Portuguese food. Years ago, I took cooking lessons in Lisbon, a city that I’ve visited many times. It feels like the right moment to get reacquainted with Porto, which I’ve only visited once.

  • Reply
    August 16, 2018 at 12:52 pm

    Mouth-watering. Just put this on my bucket list! Thanks for the tempting insights!

  • Reply
    Christine Geaney
    August 16, 2018 at 1:42 pm

    What an opportunity to visit Porto, Portugal through the eyes of the generations of vendors who have been there for decades in one of the oldest tourist attractions in the area. Unfortunately for me I will never actually be able to see, hear and taste the original treats of the Bolhao Market. Fortunately, when I am reading I have a vivid imagination and can truly immerse myself in whatever culture and atmosphere described by the writer. I look forward to experiencing the descriptions of Bolhao Market through the voices of the many vendors as detailed by Gabriella Opaz and Sonia Andresson Nolasco. Please let me win.

  • Reply
    Jana Leah
    August 16, 2018 at 7:13 pm

    I would love to see all the photos in this book. The ones here are so pretty.

  • Reply
    August 17, 2018 at 1:45 am

    I would love to read this book because Im in love with Portugal <3

  • Reply
    Abigail Gibson
    August 23, 2018 at 12:18 am

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful book. I take one big trip every year and Portugal is on my list.

  • Reply
    Jennifer S.
    August 23, 2018 at 11:51 am

    I just really love books like this. I’ve always loved reading travel books to sort of experience places I probably will never get to visit. I find it fascinating reading about other cultures and also looking at the different architecture.

  • Reply
    Leslie Davis
    August 26, 2018 at 5:36 pm

    I love learning about different place.

  • Reply
    Marta Witt
    August 30, 2018 at 11:46 am

    I visited the Bolhau Market in September 2017 and would love to read more about its history! Beautiful building, colorful veggies and amazing breads, among lots of other things.

  • Reply
    Laurie Benjamin Emerson
    September 1, 2018 at 10:06 pm

    I would like to read this book as I love to read books about different countries that I can only dream of visiting.

  • Reply
    September 1, 2018 at 10:52 pm

    Sounds like a great book and I’m very interested in Portugal given that I have some Iberian ancestry.

  • Reply
    Jennifer Cervantes
    September 3, 2018 at 10:51 am

    The I would love to see all the photos and learn about the cuisine.

  • Reply
    amy red
    September 7, 2018 at 9:08 pm

    I homeschool and this book would help out with teaching my kids about yet another wonderful place in the world.

  • Reply
    Anne Perry
    September 10, 2018 at 8:33 am

    Beautiful. I would love to share this book with my son.

  • Reply
    September 10, 2018 at 10:54 am

    I would love to visit there, the food looks amazing!

  • Reply
    September 10, 2018 at 7:10 pm

    My husband was born in Portugal so I would love to gift him with this book!

  • Reply
    Shakeia Rieux
    September 10, 2018 at 10:44 pm

    It looks like a great book, and it’s different from other books I’ve read.

  • Reply
    kelly woods
    September 10, 2018 at 11:26 pm

    Sounds great. would love to win. thank you

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