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Porto, Portugal

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Porto History

Porto History

Like so many of the world’s great cities, Porto owes its prominence to its location. Situated where the Douro River and the Atlantic Ocean meet, the seas provided a source of fresh fish, while the soil was rich, and perfect for farming. Settlers had been there since pre-Roman times but the original town was founded in 417. Over the years it was under the control of various factions including the Goths and Moors, who added their own architecture and culture.

Porto came into prominence in the 15th century, thanks to an increase in maritime trading and the importance of seaports. It was during this time that one of Portugal’s most famous son’s made his mark on the world stage. Henry the Navigator foresaw the need for a major navy and convinced the Portuguese Crown to invest heavily in shipbuilding. Soon Porto’s shipyards were a hive of activity. The race was on to be the first country to find a route to India. Portugal one of the first countries sending ships around Africa, searching for the best passage.

It was during this time that British merchants arrived in Porto, and began setting up small businesses. Their presence can be seen today in the famous port-wine brands such as Graham’s, Taylors, and Sandeman. Indeed the British were so successful in the Port industry that at one time the British had a near-monopoly. Fortunately, the government took steps to ensure local growers were protected as well.

Porto’s relationship with Britain continued through the centuries, notably when the British, and the locals, defeated Napoleon’s invading army, after a brief period of French occupation. Using the boats which were usually used for transporting wine, they drove back the French forces and liberated the city.

Today, Porto is known for its cobbled streets, colorful buildings, and UNESCO World Heritage sites. Porto has been put on the map to tourists and expats, thanks to numerous awards for tourism, infrastructure, and expat living.

Things To Do

Clérigos Church

One of Porto’s most popular tourist attractions, the campanile offers some of the best views of the city. After ascending the 225 tower steps, you are greeted with a panoramic view of Porto, which can be enjoyed through the day, until 11pm. The tower is home to 49 bells, try to make sure you’re not standing near the edge when they start ringing.

The church was built by Nicolau Nasoni, an Italian, who began construction in 1732. It was built for Brotherhood of Clerics and was one Portugal’s first buildings in the Baroque style.

As well as a trip up the tower, there’s a museum which provides a tour of the spaces where the clerics once lived and worked. The museum also contains various artworks collected by the church throughout the years.

Douro River Cruise

While many choose to take day-long, or even week-long cruises on the Douro River, you can have a great experience on a short one or two-hour river cruise. Unlike the big, slightly bland, cruise ships, the short tours are held aboard traditional rabelo boats.

The best tours start in the Pinhão region, in the Douro Valley. Conveniently this is where most of Porto’s best port vineyards are located and combining the cruise with a wine tasting is a popular option. This part of the river is also home to some of Porto’s most beautiful countryside.

Visit Places That Inspired Harry Potter

J.K. Rowling was living in Porto while she wrote many of the Harry Potter books. Fans will recognize the stairs in Lello bookstore, which has become one of the most famous bookstores in the world.

The Majestic Café, is where Rowling jotted down her first tentative ideas and plotlines for Harry Potter. While (probably) nursing one of their exceptionally coffees she would apparently make notes on the napkins. Situated in one of the busiest streets in Porto, Santa Catarina, you can file this under impressive, but expensive. Be sure to check the prices on the menu before you order anything.

The Gardens of Palácio de Cristal are said to be the inspiration behind the Forests in the Harry Potter books. Whether that is true or not, it is certain that Rowling used to enjoy visiting the gardens, and also wrote some chapters for the book here. The Gardens are a pleasant place to visit, at any time of year.

Where To Live

Expats tend to base themselves in one of four areas in Porto.

Campanhã is popular with families, benefiting from a low cost of living, and plenty of parks and green spaces. It doesn’t have as much to do as other areas in terms of nightlife, but down town is easily reachable via public transport. Close to the ring road so you also have easy access by car.

Ramalde is an up-and-coming area which has recently benefited from an influx of property investment. The area is popular with students, meaning plenty of opportunity to rent your property when it’s not in use.

Foz do Douro, known locally as Foz, is probably the most expensive area to buy property in Porto. Situated in the western zone, Foz is built where the Douro River meets the ocean. An area of great natural beauty, it Foz has some of the best architecture in Porto and a number of heritage sites.

Ribeira is a bustling neighborhood, full of small cafés, restaurants, and some of Porto’s most distinctive housing architecture. Ribeira sits on the River Douro and has a long walkway where you can enjoy a drink watching fishing boats. Ribeira retains its authentic feel with lots of traditional food stores.

Cost Of Living In Porto, Portugal

Apartment Or House Ownership Budget (For A Couple)

 
Expense Monthly Costs Notes
Mortgage 3% to 4% It’s difficult to get a mortgage unless you deposit comparable funds in a Portuguese bank account.
HOA Fees €50 Average cost, depending on the unit size and value as well as property amenities.
Property Taxes €37.5 About €450 annually. This price varies depending on location.
Transportation €63 New cars range from €14,000 and up. Extensive coverage car insurance ranges from €500 per year (for a new car) and up.
Gas €31 For cooking and a water heater.
Electricity €100 Electricity used for cooking plus air conditioning and heating in each room. Exact amount depends on the energetic efficiency of household appliances.
Water €21 Water costs vary across the country.
Cell Phone Included with cable package.
Internet Included with cable package.
Cable TV €61
Household Help €60 For bi-monthly, four-hour visits. The standard rate is €7 per hour.
Entertainment €300 Eating out twice a week at a mid-range, local restaurant: €80 to €90.

Local drinks twice a week in a local bar: €20 (€10 to €15 for a bottle of wine; €2 for a beer; €7 to 10€ for a cocktail).

Movie theater trip twice a month: €36 (€6.50 each for seniors, plus snacks).

Groceries €200 The exact amount varies depending on where you shop.
Gym Membership €79.50 Monthly membership at Holmes Place.
Medical Appointment €45 Dental cleaning at  Clínica Dentária Dra. Isabel Jorge is €45 (without insurance). Private GP visit at Clínica Médica do Porto is €45 (without insurance).

National Health System charges tax only on visits (€4.50) and basic tests (upwards from €10). No dental or specialist services are available at the local health center.

TOTAL €1,048

Apartment Or House Rental Budget (For A Couple)

 
Expense Monthly Costs Notes
Rent €1,000 Cost of an apartment (70 square meters, two-bed/two-bath roughly) in a desirable location.
Transportation €63 New cars range from €14,000 and up. Extensive coverage car insurance ranges from €500 per year (for a new car) and up.
Gas €31 For cooking and a water heater.
Electricity €100 Electricity used for cooking plus air conditioning and heating in each room. Exact amount depends on the energetic efficiency of household appliances.
Water €21 Water costs vary across the country.
Cell Phone Included with cable package.
Internet Included with cable package.
Cable TV €61
Household Help €60 For bi-monthly, four-hour visits. The standard rate is €7 per hour.
Entertainment €300 Eating out twice a week at a mid-range, local restaurant: €80 to €90.

Local drinks twice a week in a local bar: €20 (€10 to €15 for a bottle of wine; €2 for a beer; €7 to 10€ for a cocktail).

Movie theater trip twice a month: €36 (€6.50 each for seniors, plus snacks).

Groceries €200 The exact amount varies depending on where you shop.
Gym Membership €79.50 Monthly membership at Holmes Place.
Medical Appointment €45 Dental cleaning at  Clínica Dentária Dra. Isabel Jorge is €45 (without insurance). Private GP visit at Clínica Médica do Porto is €45 (without insurance).

National Health System charges tax only on visits (€4.50) and basic tests (upwards from €10). No dental or specialist services are available at the local health center.

TOTAL €1,960.5

Penny-Pincher’s Budget (For A Couple. Bare Minimum Costs For All)

 
Expense Monthly Costs Notes
Rent € 500 Cost of an apartment (one-bed/one-bath) in the cheapest part of town.
Transportation €30 The price for the seniors using Andante Metropolitano, which lets you use any public transportation on any line that is part of the Andante intermodal system.
Gas €31 For cooking and water heater.
Electricity €100 Electricity used for cooking plus air conditioning and heating in each room. Exact amount depends on the energetic efficiency of household appliances.
Water €21 Water costs vary across the country.
Cell Phone €7.99 Cell phone service for one phone with a pre-existing number with MEO.
Internet €26.99 Stand-alone internet fee (only available where fiber optic service is in place with MEO). Where no fiber optic service exists, a landline must be added for an additional €12.49 per month.
Cable TV €34.99 Most basic TV package with MEO.
Entertainment €150 Eating out twice a week at a mid-range, local restaurant. Lunch on weekdays is usually the cheapest option in local restaurants.
Groceries €150 All local-brand items only, shopping at markets and grocery stores.
TOTAL €1,051.97

Click here for currency conversion at today’s exchange rate.

Wine And Festivals: A Glimpse Of Life In Porto
By Cátia Lima

View of Porto, Portugal
Adobe Stock/Alexi Tauzin

The second largest city in Portugal, Porto has plenty of charisma and makes no excuses about it.

Considered one of the country’s most charming cities, its die-hard fans swear by Porto’s exquisite allure and 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. More on that later. Even though Porto is smaller than Lisbon, it’s packed with services, it has solid infrastructure, and it 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!

The cities around Porto, like Vila Nova de Gaia, Matosinhos, Gondomar, and Maia, are home to roughly 1.7 million people, although Porto itself only has about 220,000 inhabitants.

Known as the capital of the north, Porto is a wonderfully central spot to explore all the northwest parts of Portugal. Cities like Braga and Guimarães, the banks of the Douro River, Peneda-Gerês national park, and more are easy to reach. Many people who walk the Portuguese Way of Saint James start their itinerary here.

A 30- to-45-minute drive will take you to a few river beaches along the Douro. If you want to go for a swim and don’t feel like facing the Atlantic, you have more options not far away.\

Eat, Drink…

Going out for a meal in Porto is a real pleasure. The city takes great pride in its traditional recipes and in preparing them with a generous amount of tender loving care. Caldo verde, probably the most famous Portuguese soup, originated in the region of Minho (to the north of Porto), so you can expect to find it here in abundance. Made up of thinly shredded cabbage in a broth of onions and potatoes (with a couple of slices of chouriço floating on top), this soup is far from fancy. Think of it as Portuguese comfort food… so much so, in fact, that you’ll find it in many parts of the country besides the north.

Like in any coastal city or town, fish and seafood dishes are easy to come by. Good old bacalhau (salted cod), in any of its shapes or forms, is still the most favored fish.

Tripas à moda do Porto is the quintessential Porto dish. This hearty stew with tripe, vegetables, and white beans rules supreme in the hearts of many Portuguese, not only the people of Porto… but it does have its nemesis: the francesinha. Loosely based on the French croque monsieur, the francesinha (literally, “little French girl”) is a 20th-century creation that is not for the weak. This sandwich has several layers of meat, is covered in cheese, and surrounded by a rich tomato and beer sauce.

Too much? Wait until you realize it comes with a side of fries.

… And Be Merry!

Porto hosts many events throughout the year. From music festivals to sports events, and not forgetting about Fantasporto, the acclaimed international film festival, the city has something for everyone. But the event Porto is most famous for is, without a doubt, Saint John’s Festival. Like most festivals in Portugal, this one is a mix of Christian and pre-Christian traditions. In this case, you have a religious celebration dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, that takes place in midsummer, and which includes jumping over bonfires.

On the evening of June 23, the streets of Porto are flooded with people from the city and surrounding areas, ready to eat, drink, and dance until the next day. Expect strangers to hit you on the head with leek flowers and soft plastic hammers. At midnight, the sky lights up with an epic display of fireworks.

To Call Porto Home…

Prices per square meter have been escalating in Porto and Lisbon, for both rentals and property ownership. Yet, although technically the increase has been bigger in Porto, the truth is it is still cheaper than Lisbon.

If we consider all the perks of Porto, plus the fact that it is smaller than the capital but has a lot of investment-worthy areas (especially touristic ones), it’s clear this invincible city has a lot going for it.

 

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