Do you know the ones I am talking about? They show a zoomed in version of the most famous part of town with all of the major sites magnified 10x their actual size? The border of the paper is all advertisements for things to do in the city? You never actually know how you acquired the map, but one day it is just in your pocket?
Yeah, those ones.
Usually the sites highlighted are churches, monuments, and museums... which is why I was very surprised that in Porto, Portugal, the tourist map highlighted a cafe.... just a normal commercial cafe.
What the heck? This must be some cafe.
The famous cafe in question is the Majestic Cafe on Rua Santa Catarina in Porto, Portugal. It is commonly hailed as a must see in the city because of its authentic art nouveau interior and illustrious history.
Everyone, and I mean everyone..... guides, servers, maps, and of course, uber drivers....will tell you to stop by.
Here is the thing: when a place becomes a 'must see' attraction, its beauty or history must negate the abominable creatures that come with this designation - tourists. Tourists have the potential to ruin any site - no matter how special. So if the hoards are flocking, the site better be packing something big to make up for this.
So the Majestic Cafe? It just doesn't cut it. It doesn't even have a special delicacy that makes the trip worth it - like beignets from Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. It is just a cafe.
Sure, it has a stunning art nouveau interior... but what European city doesn't have an art nouveau cafe? Moreover, what European city doesn't have an art nouveau cafe that a whole bunch of famous people used to hang out in?
Like most famous historical cafes, the days of Majestic being a space for artists and thinkers have passed... and there just isn't much left.
The Majestic Cafe has a legitimate bouncer like it's a nightclub. There is a line to put your name in for a table... a table so crammed you might get whacked with a selfie stick from the patron next door.
And what is all of this hype for? Some gilded ceilings and a lukewarm cappuccino?
I have to hand it to the Majestic Cafe - for some reason, no one seems to think their trip to Porto is complete without instragramming their coffee art from the Majestic Cafe.
If you feel like that, then fine. Go. Get your picture. Just don't expect it to be a transformative experience.
Worth the hype? PASS.
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