With a name that literally translates to “happy port,” it should come as no surprise that the city of Porto Alegre, Brazil is a must-visit. Located along coastal and freshwater lagoons on the shores of the country’s southernmost state, Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre is beautifully understated. The things you must do in Porto Alegre, Brazil, characteristically follow suit.
Today, Porto Alegre is an artistic metropolis of 1.5 million residents as of 2010, though its population balloons to over 4.4 million when its metro area is factored in. And while the city can’t boast the tropical beaches; lush, picturesque mountainsides; and iconic favelas that more popular Brazilian hotspots like Rio de Janeiro can, Porto Alegre is a traveler’s dream.
History of Porto Alegre
The city known as Porto Alegre first popped up as a village called Porto de Viamão, founded by 60 couples from the Azores in 1752. Originally meant to be the site of Portuguese Missions, the village was later named Freguesia de São Francisco do Porto dos Casais in 1772. A year later, the name changed again to Nossa Senhora da Madre de Deus de Porto Alegre.
In July of 1773, Porto Alegre was named the province’s capital city. It’s also the capital of the region of fertile lowland plains known as the Pampas region. This region, encompassing Rio Grande do Sul, all of neighboring Uruguay, and five Argentinian provinces, is the home of the Gaúchos, the legendary horsemen and warriors known for fighting off European invaders.
The city was the site of the first confrontation of the Farrapos War, a decade-long uprising over trade between rebels and the Brazilian Empire that lasted from 1835-1845. Despite the war, Porto Alegre continued to grow, and eventually became known as the birthplace of prominent Brazilian intellectuals, politicians, writers, artists, and more.
My Time in Porto Alegre
The time I spent in Porto Alegre was quite short but sweet. Gaúcho culture is a major part of the city’s identity, and is reflected in the beef-heavy local cuisine. I was told by my guides Guilherme and Rafa from Rio4Fun and Rio4Food that Porto Alegre was a fantastic foodie city, and it did not disappoint one bit.
Carnivores visiting Brazil would be remiss if they didn’t spend at least a couple of days eating their way through the city, which has mastered the art of Brazilian barbecue. There are also enough unique sites to keep non-foodies interested! These are the 10 things you must see and do in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Eat All-You-Can-Eat Brazilian Steak at Churrascaria Freio de Ouro
As a massive foodie and meat lover, I couldn’t start my list of top things to see and do in Porto Alegre, Brazil with anything other than Brazilian barbecue! Churrascaria Freio de Ouro in the Menino Deus neighborhood is arguably one of the city’s top Brazilian steakhouses. This all-you-can-eat-style steakhouse serves over a dozen different cuts of meat, which you can enjoy for only 60 Brazilian Real, or about $12 USD!
As is the norm in Brazilian steakhouses, the waiters serve customers pieces of meat as they travel table to table. If you’re a true meat lover, I recommend trying a bit of everything to see what you like the most.
What to Eat
I highly recommend their massive beef ribs, which are juicy and tender and coated in a generous amount of salt. Their top sirloin with parmesan comes topped with gooey, stringy cheese. They also have an amazing top sirloin without parmesan, iron-rich chicken hearts, and fatty skirt steak.
Perhaps my favorite cut was the entrecôte, which is a boneless ribeye that’s thinly sliced from between the ribs. It’s typically served rare and is extremely juicy, but you can choose how rare or well-done you’d like your meat.
Beyond the meat, Churrascaria Freio de Ouro also serves a number of mouthwatering sides and desserts. The fried cheese with guava was a favorite of mine, as was the caramelized pumpkin. If you’re looking for something more decadent, try their mousse-like chocolate pie or rich and fluffy flan! It’s hard to go wrong there!
Churrascaria Freio de Ouro
R. José de Alencar, 460
Menino Deus, Porto Alegre – RS, 90880-480
+55 51 3029-3052
Buy Brazilian Coffee at William & Sons Coffee Co.
In addition to high-quality meat, another thing I’m passionate about is good coffee. I’m a bit of a coffee snob, as I truly believe quality coffee doesn’t need to be masked with cream or sugar. If you’re like me and want to try some of the best coffee in Porto Alegre, you need to head over to William & Sons Coffee Co.
There are two locations in Porto Alegre, but I visited the one in the Mont’Serrat neighborhood. This modern hipster café is pretty small with limited seating, but it’s also extremely charming. Because of its size, you can see the employees roasting and brewing the coffee. Everything here is done in-house, which greatly boosts quality and makes visiting one of my top things to do in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
You can buy bags of their strong and aromatic coffees in the shop, and you can also enjoy a fresh cup with a snack. I recommend ordering their longo, a dark, strong double espresso that gave me a huge energy boost!
Enjoy it with a freshly baked Brazilian cheese bread called pão de queijo, which you can find throughout the country. The gooey, salty artisan cheese inside is downright heavenly and made it one of my favorite pão de queijos of my entire trip!
William & Sons Coffee Co.
R. Pedro Ivo, 492
Mont’Serrat, Porto Alegre – RS, 90450-210
+55 51 3508-0107
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Try a Gaúcho Sandwich at Nova Bréscia Lanches
Like the iconic cowboy-like figures of the same name, the gaúcho sandwich is a staple in Porto Alegre. They’re essentially monstrous grilled sandwiches that can contain various meats, vegetables, herbs, and an almost sinful amount of gooey, melted cheese inside a fluffy, crispy bun. To get your fix, I recommend visiting Nova Bréscia Lanches in the São Geraldo neighborhood.
The resident mother-and-son duo serve their gaúcho sandwich golden brown with a beautiful, crispy crust. There are several varieties you can enjoy, but I recommend taking a jog on the exotic side and trying the chicken heart gaúcho. If you’ve never had them, chicken hearts have a strong, iron-rich flavor similar to liver.
The Chicken Heart Gaúcho
The gamy flavor of the chicken hearts pairs perfectly with the cheese, which oozes out of the sandwich the moment it’s cut open. Bolstering the flavor are a generous helping of creamy mayo, fresh and juicy tomatoes, and crunchy lettuce. It’s almost like a gamy cheeseburger, only better!
Be prepared to get messy, as the sandwich tends to fall apart on you after you dive in. The filling gets all over your hands and your plate, but that’s part of the fun of eating it! The contrasting textures and fresh flavors of the filling, combined with the buttery, toasted bun, are phenomenal together!
As a sandwich with some real heft, I actually recommend splitting the gaúcho with a friend, as a whole sandwich is enough to keep you full all day. And at just R$27, or roughly $5 USD, it’s one of the best and most inexpensive things to do in Porto Alegre, Brazil!
Nova Bréscia Lanches
Av. São Pedro, 1359
São Geraldo, Porto Alegre – RS, 90230-124
+55 51 3343-7489
Visit 360 POA Gastrobar & Boardwalk
If you head to the coastal Parque Moacyr Scliar in the Centro Histórico neighborhood, you’ll come across a beautiful, peaceful boardwalk area. There, you’ll find lots of boats and a round, futuristic-looking restaurant like something straight out of The Jetsons. This is 360 POA Gastrobar, which is covered in big glass windows that offer 360-degree views of the area.
The gastrobar is a great place to grab a quick Brahma beer. You can stay inside if you want, but I suggest heading below the restaurant to enjoy your beer on the small stretch of sand outside.
You can also explore the boardwalk area, which on nice days is full of bicyclists and rollerbladers. The boardwalk overlooks the water, where it’s not uncommon to see boaters and jet-skiiers.
If you have time, you can also take a short walk to the nearby Usina do Gasômetro, a historical and cultural site that was once a power plant. Opened in 1928, it now is home to art galleries and a movie theater!
360 POA Gastrobar
Av. Pres. João Goulart, 551
Centro Histórico, Porto Alegre – RS, 90010-120
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Eat a Brazilian Hot Dog at Cachorro Quente Do R
If you’ve followed my Brazil travel episodes or my travel guides, you’ll know that Brazil is passionate about their hot dogs. Brought over by German immigrants, they’re now staples in the local cuisine and have been given an ostentatious makeover. To try some of the top hot dogs in town, head over to Cachorro Quenta Do R in the Independência Porto Alegre area.
This nearly 60-year-old street food cart along Praça Dom Sebastião is a giant in Porto Alegre. It’s known for serving juicy, classic hot dogs with a wide variety of toppings, which range from peas to mustard to cheese to guacamole.
I don’t love hot dogs, if I’m being honest. That said, I always like to eat like a local when I travel. I ordered a German-style chicken sausage and went a little nuts with the toppings.
I added spring onions, green peppers, peas, tomatoes, diced onions, mustard, cheese, guacamole, and ketchup, which made for a creamy, rich, spicy, and filling combination! It can get a little messy, so I recommend posting up right on the curb and going to town on it!
While it wasn’t my favorite hot dog of my trip—that honor belongs to the one at Hot Dog Du Piru in Florianópolis—it was still very tasty! If you’re a hot dog fan, visiting Cachorro Quente Do R is easily one of the top things you must do in Porto Alegre, Brazil!
Cachorro Quente Do R
Praça Dom Sebastião, 02
Independência, Porto Alegre – RS, 90035-030
+55 51 3022-1911
Have a Beer at Apolinário Bar
In addition to my passions for food and coffee, I’m also a huge fan of craft beer. I’ll take anything from a small microbrewery over the watery, mass-produced brews that tend to get all the attention. One of the many places I explored Brazil’s craft beer scene is a cozy joint called Apolinário Bar in Porto Alegre’s Cidade Baixa neighborhood.
A traditional, non-pretentious bar with the feel of an Irish pub, Apolinário Bar serves 8 draft beers, hundreds of craft beers, and bar food appetizers. It’s pretty unassuming, so you may have to search for it, but the laid-back atmosphere is worth the trouble.
While dark beers like stouts and porters are my jam, I also like a good IPA from time to time. At Apolinário Bar, I enjoyed a light, sessionable IPA, which was the perfect way to unwind after a long day of exploring the city! Kicking back and just enjoying myself was honestly one of my favorite things to do in Porto Alegre, Brazil!
R. José do Patrocínio, 527
Cidade Baixa, Porto Alegre – RS, 90050-003
+55 51 3013-0158
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Explore the Porto Alegre Public Market
As is the case with just about any other southern Brazilian city, the best way to get a true taste of local life and local food is to visit the local market. The Porto Alegre Public Market, which was built in 1864 and has endured multiple disasters, is an absolute must!
This expansive Portuguese-style building is divided into four sections and has four entry points. Along its lanes are hundreds of vendors selling everything from meat to baked goods to dried bacalao to fresh produce. Each vendor’s stall, or banca, is numbered.
The vendors are quite friendly, and many of them are more than happy to give potential customers free samples to entice them to buy. Several vendors at the market, including those selling tons of fruits, sausages, and cheeses allowed me to try some of their mouthwatering products.
The vendors at Banco 26, which has been open for over a century, allowed me to try a delicious colonial cheese that reminded me of one I love from Asturias, Spain.
When you’re ready for a full meal, I suggest finding a sit-down area near six vendors serving a variety of cuisines. Their offerings include Brazilian, Japanese, and Italian. I suggest trying their delicious charque fried rice, which contains jerk beef; as well as the charque beef chop and fried egg. They’re out of this world!
Porto Alegre Public Market
Historical Centre, Porto Alegre – RS, 90020-006
Try Brazilian Snacks and Sandwiches at Lancheria do Parque
There are a couple of amazing spots in Porto Alegre where you can get a top-notch gaúcho sandwich. If you find yourself in the Bom Fim neighborhood, head over to Lancheria do Parque on Av. Osvaldo Aranha. Not only can you try a number of Brazilian favorites, but you can also enjoy an array of fresh juices!
They offer Brazilian favorites including huge hot dogs, pasteles, pão de queijo, coconut balls, chocolates, and other sweets, but their top seller is the chicken heart gaúcho. It’s popular for good reason, as its filling also includes corn, mushrooms, lettuce, mayo, and a fried egg.
The crispy, toasted bread pairs so well with the earthy mushrooms, crisp corn and lettuce, and the delicious egg! It tastes like an upscale burger but doesn’t have the industrial feel you often get with American fast food. It honestly blows every burger I’ve ever had out of the water! And at just $3 USD, it’s practically a steal.
I suggest enjoying your sandwich with a fresh juice. For just $1.50 USD, you can get an entire blender full of refreshing watermelon juice or a sour and tangy passionfruit-mango-orange juice. Best of all, a party of three can easily eat there for under $10 USD, so it’s great if you’re traveling on a budget!
Lancheria do Parque
Av. Osvaldo Aranha, 1086
Bom Fim, Porto Alegre – RS, 90035-191
+55 51 3311-8321
Dine at Churrascaria e Galeteria Komka
Brazilian barbecue is practically a way of life in Porto Alegre, where grilled meat reigns supreme. Another fantastic spot to enjoy some is Churrascaria e Galeteria Komka, an a la carte Brazilian steakhouse that has been feeding ravenous carnivores since 1967. It’s run by a friendly man named Deco, who was once a professional basketball player!
Unlike most other Brazilian steakhouses, you order what you want at your table and then pick it up at the window when it’s ready. The restaurant focuses on premium cuts of meat from the state of Rio Grande do Sul, which they season with high-quality rock salt.
I suggest ordering a number of dishes, including assorted skewers, parmesan-crusted chicken wrapped in bacon, polenta, entrecôte, and fried yucca. If you’re into craft beer, enjoy your feast with a light and crisp Heilige pale ale. But if cachaca, or distilled sugarcane juice, is more your jam, they serve several varieties of that, too.
The meaty entrecôte rib filet, is a highlight and pairs wonderfully with their flavorful chimichurri. The polenta and the sausages in the skewers had some nice Italian herbal influences. Meanwhile, the parmesan-crusted chicken was crispy, salty, and one of my favorite dishes in Porto Alegre overall.
I also cannot praise their fried polenta sticks and fried yucca enough. They were both light and airy, with a lot more flavor than traditional French fries. The fried yucca, in particular, were fantastic with parmesan cheese and a bit of olive oil drizzled on top.
For dessert, I highly recommend the sagu de vinho, an creamy, alcoholic pudding that contains tapioca pearls, eggs, vanilla, sugar, and red wine. It’s a traditional dessert from Rio Grando do Sul and is served chilled. Trying it is among the top things to do in Porto Alegre, Brazil!
Churrascaria e Galeteria Komka
Av. Bahia, 1275
São Geraldo, Porto Alegre – RS, 90240-550
+55 51 3222-1881
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Stay at the Hotel Intercity Cidade Baixa
If you want to stay somewhere in Porto Alegre that’s both comfortable and centrally located, your best option is the Hotel Intercity Cidade Baixa. Located next to Parque da Redenção in the Cidade Baixa neighborhood, it’s just minutes from top restaurants and bars, as well as the city center.
Offering three styles of upscale, modern rooms, the Hotel Intercity Cidade Baixa was easily my favorite hotel I stayed at in Brazil. Their rooms are comfortable and practical and offer a king-sized bed, flat-screen TV, a small couch, air conditioning, a safe box, a work station, a fridge, a minibar, and a minimalistic bathroom.
Guests can enjoy the hotel’s complimentary breakfasts, as well as WiFi, fitness center, and event rooms. Their Rooftop Restaurant is the perfect place to enjoy one of Porto Alegre’s famous sunsets. Guests can even bring their furry companions along, as the hotel is pet friendly!
Hotel Intercity Cidade Baixa
Av. Loureiro da Silva, 1960
Cidade Baixa, Porto Alegre – RS, 90050-240
+55 51 3303-2400
BONUS: Explore the Moinhos de Vento Neighborhood
You can’t do a trip to Brazil without partaking in the country’s legendary nightlife. In Porto Alegre, arguably the best and safest area to explore at night is the posh Moinhos de Vento neighborhood. This classy, European-inspired area is the perfect place to enjoy a nightcap!
The streets in the neighborhood are lined with trees, shops, bars, and restaurants. It’s very walkable, and as you explore, you’ll pass by a number of upscale bars and eateries. Keep in mind that they’ll be packed with young people on the weekends. If you’re looking for a more chill experience, visit during the week.
My favorite spot in the area was Void General Store, a funky hipster joint that sells craft beer and cachaca. Their yellow cachaca is one of the most bizarre drinks I’ve ever had, as it numbed my tongue like a Szechuan pepper!
It’s definitely one of the best things to do in Porto Alegre, Brazil, but the sensation takes some getting used to!
Void Lohas Generais – Poa Padre Chagas
R. Luciana de Abreu, 364
Moinhos de Vento, Porto Alegre – RS, 90570-060
+55 51 3372-8023
With a seemingly endless supply of meat and alcohol, Porto Alegre is a great city to indulge in some of the finer and more fun things in life. Whether you’re looking for a laid-back bar experience or a pulse-pounding spot where you can mingle with Millennials, there’s something for everyone. Add in the phenomenal culinary experiences and beautiful boardwalk and you have a well-rounded travel destination that’s just waiting to be explored. Book a trip to Brazil today to experience the wonders of Porto Alegre for yourself!
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