The second largest city in Portugal, Porto brims with charisma…
Its die-hard fans claim it as the city of cities, with a grace beyond compare…
Does that sound a bit over the top?
Perhaps, but it’s a reflection of the character of the city and its people.
Even though Porto is smaller than Lisbon, it’s packed with services, has solid infrastructure, and offers never-ending things to do, see, and enjoy.
Art, impressive architecture, historical neighborhoods, beaches, parks, and gardens are some of the perks of this city—and port, of course. Don’t forget about port wine.
Known as the capital of the north, and home to some 220,000 inhabitants, Porto is a great jumping off point for exploration of all of northwest Portugal… Cities like Braga and Guimarães, the banks of the Douro River, and the national park of Peneda-Gerês, and more are easy to reach. Many people who walk the Portuguese Way of Saint James start their itinerary here.
What Life In Porto, Portugal Is Like
Like most of mainland Portugal, Porto has hot summers and moderate winters. Because it’s in the north of the country, it’s colder and rainier than southern cities. Temperatures can reach the 104ºF (40ºC) mark in the summer and drop to below 32ºF (0ºC) in the winter.
Over the last few years, an increasing number of expats have started favoring Porto in place of Lisbon or the Algarve. The fact that Porto is more affordable than Lisbon but still offers all the perks of a city no doubt plays a role.
As is the case with most cities in Portugal, in Porto many people speak and understand a reasonable level of English, especially the younger generations.
Learning Portuguese is a wise move if you’re planning on living here. You’ll find several language schools offering Portuguese lessons, both online and in person. The University of Porto also has Portuguese language courses in several modalities (semester, intensive, and summer courses).
Porto is also home to the international English-speaking church of Saint James (Anglican) and the Kadoorie – Mekor Haim synagogue, which is the largest synagogue on the Iberian Peninsula and one of the largest in Europe.
In terms of restaurants, bars, and cafés, Porto has a lot to offer. From the little places that only the locals know about, to any of the 16 restaurants mentioned in the Michelin Guide, you won’t run out of options in this city.
If you prefer cooking your own meals, you’ll be glad to know Porto has several markets. Among the most well-known are Bolhão, Porto Belo, Bom Sucesso, Foz, and Afurada.
Supermarkets cater to different tastes and budgets. Minipreço is on the cheaper end, while Pingo Doce and Continente Bom Dia are a bit pricier, but still pretty affordable.
You’ll find an array of small supermarkets and grocery shops scattered around the city. These are usually fantastic places to buy local and gourmet products. A Pérola do Bolhão is one such famous shop.
Depending on what you like to eat and on where you do most of your shopping, I’d say about 200 euros a month would cover the grocery expenses for two adults, although costs are rising everywhere because of inflation.
When it comes to getting around the city, depending on where you live and your daily routine, you might be able to get a lot done simply by walking. Besides, roads are often quite narrow and parking isn’t always easy.
The most popular choices for public transport in Porto are the buses and trains, both underground and surface ones. There are also trams, although they’re mostly used by tourists when visiting the older parts of the city.
Taxis, Uber, and other similar companies, like Cabify, are also available.
The monthly cost of rentals here, as anywhere, varies greatly depending on the neighborhood.
The parish of Aldoar, Foz do Douro, and Nevogilde is the most expensive area in the city and home to breathtaking villas. Here, you’ll find several beaches and some of Porto’s main attractions, like Parque da Cidade (a public garden of over 83 hectares), the fortress of Castelo do Queijo, and the Foz market. A two-bedroom apartment in this area will cost you an average of 2,600 euros a month.
In less touristy areas outside of the city, such as Bonfim and Campanhã, you can find two-bedroom rentals starting from 500 to 1,000 euros a month.
Porto combines dazzling urban landscapes, plus the services and infrastructures of a city, with the tradition and proud authenticity of a not-so-big city. And the warmth of the local people makes up for the city’s slightly colder temperatures.
It offers all the perks of a city with the benefit of lower prices and has its very own vibe and loves beating to the rhythm of its own drum… if that sounds like your kind of place then you might be right at home in Porto…
Portugal Letter Contributor