The Spot – hangouts you should visit at least once in your life
Porto is a charming town. Among its many charms is its wine culture. This is, after all, the place that gives its name to that delicious, special wine. Despite having a population in excess of two million in its greater metropolitan area, Porto retains a relaxed laid-back atmosphere that is just one of the reasons that it remains so popular for city breaks.
In a city where its very name is synonymous with prized wine, what could be more appropriate than kicking back in a wine bar? Not just any wine bar, though, but La Bohème. This watering hole is smack in the centre of town, popular with locals and visitors alike for years. But its more recent makeover is less of a face lift and more of a full-blown reinvention. The handy location is retained while the inside was entirely renewed about seven years ago.
AVA Architects, the established Portuguese practice responsible for its reinvention, pulled apart the three-story premises to bring a whole new world of possibilities into play with clever use of stairs, platforms and void spaces. The unifying theme is matt black and the grain of the light timber used extensively throughout. Ribbed wooden frameworks act a bit like a skeleton, pulling off clever engineering feats to hold the building together, but also bringing dramatic visual motifs into play. The result is a series of different spaces that flow easily into each other. You can choose to hang out in the busy social area front of the main bar, pull up a stool in a semi-private alcove or even find a secluded eerie amidst the turns of the wide stairs.La Bohème provides a range of interlinking spaces suited to everything from dining to dancing and, because of clever flow design, it does so in a way that each of these activities is readily accessible without impinging on each other.
The natural wood grain is here fittingly traditional for a bar that serves up some of finest wines from the oldest Portuguese vines, yet simultaneously contemporary for the mixed crowd of young trendies and local professionals it attracts. The Francophile style of the brand design identity, in contrast to the stark architecture, allude strongly to a Parisian Art Deco. Or should we say an Oporton Art Deco?
The elite of Portuguese society long held an affinity with France and Paris in particular and this is a city where, in addition to its Medieval and Baroque architecture, you’ll find many a fine example of Art Deco, much of it based on the ideas the Portuguese cognoscenti brought back to the city with them from Paris. La Bohème is even located on the Rua da Galeria de Paris.
For a long night of good wine and conversation with friends –not to mention that the place also offers a tasty menu of snacks and light meals– or simply as time out over a glass of that famous port between relentless bouts of sightseeing, La Bohème is one.