But did you also know that the Café Imperial was not always a fast-food restaurant? Dive into the story of one of the most historical and famous cafés in Porto.

The origin

The café was founded during the 20th century and became a place of gathering for the inhabitants of Porto, one of the most important cities in Portugal. Close to Avenida dos Aliados, the Café Imperial is situated in Praça da Liberdade, near one of the most important arteries of the city.

In May of 1936, the Café Imperial opened to the public who were at the time thirsty for a refined and sophisticated place. The uniqueness of the building can be seen even before entering. By the door, there is a giant eagle and massive doors and windows that show the grandiosity of the Café Imperial. The architectural work made by Rogério de Azevedo still awes those who pass through the Café Imperial, awakening a spirit of curiosity in every Porto visitor.

Cultural importance

It is usually in spaces such as Café Imperial that people with different ideas gather and share their thoughts and dreams with others. This café was no exception. The Café Imperial opened before the beginning of World War II, being the place where people would share new information and talk about what was happening around the world, during the hard times being lived around the globe.

Artists, such as writers, would probably find this place amazing to write their new stories, in such a refined environment, joining other experts and academics who would have a drink in Café Imperial, nurturing Porto’s creative spirit.

Portugal did not participate in World War II, but other historical events have passed by, and Café Imperial remained open to the population. The Café Imperial survived the Revolução dos Cravos, for example. People against António de Salazar’s regime would hide from the police in Café Imperial, as its spinning doors would be an obstacle to the agents that were chasing those who were thought to be criminals.

The preservation

All the construction of the Café Imperial has been preserved and maintained, however, during the 90’s the café closed, without any justification from the owners. It was also during that period that the fast food chain McDonald's decided to open a restaurant in the location, in 1995, maintaining the decoration and some of the most important features of the Café Imperial, such as the stained glass and the chandeliers.

Café Imperial clearly shows how past, and present may live together. What used to be a historical place, for people to drink their coffee and have their breakfast, during the 20th century, is now a place for all the community, housing one of the most famous fast-food restaurants in the world.


Deeply in love with music and with a guilty pleasure in criminal cases, Bruno G. Santos decided to study Journalism and Communication, hoping to combine both passions into writing. The journalist is also a passionate traveller who likes to write about other cultures and discover the various hidden gems from Portugal and the world. Press card: 8463. 

Bruno G. Santos