“Everything you need to know you have learned through your journey.” - Paulo Coelho
While Spain and Portugal share the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal covers a much smaller part of it than its larger neighbour. However, as any travel guide will tell you, there are plenty of things to see and do in Portugal and Porto, in particular.
Porto is Portugal’s second city and an increasingly popular destination for spending a weekend or longer. From the historic centre with its typical architecture to cruises on the River Douro, the fine examples of Azulejo, or the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Porto has a few tricks up its sleeves.
Porto was voted the best tourist destination in Europe for the third time in 2017.
Not bad, is it?
There are plenty of reasons to visit northern Portugal, the Douro Valley, or the paved streets of the old port city.
Porto is a large city with a lot to offer.
So how can you get the most out of Porto? So what should you know about Porto before you visit it? Is the tram expensive?
All these answers and many more can be found in this article.
What Are the Different Neighbourhoods in Porto?
Like most cities, Porto is divided into neighbourhoods and areas, each with a different vibe, famous monuments, and hospitality. When you visit this beautiful, romantic, and welcoming city, you might feel a bit lost with so much on offer.
Don’t panic, we’re here to help.
You can divide Porto into two main sections: the city centre and the suburbs.
Porto City Centre
Of all the different neighbourhoods in Porto, the historic city centre, or old town, is home to plenty of typically Portuguese streets and buildings.
The Ribeira neighbourhood is adjacent to the historic centre. This area includes the most important sights in Porto, including:
- The Lello Bookstore, which inspired J.K. Rowling, the author of Harry Potter.
- The Clérigos Tower, one of Porto’s must-see sights.
- The Bolhão Market for an authentic experience in Porto.
- The São Bento Railway Station and it’s fine Azulejo.
- Palácio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange Building) is wonderful.
- Cais da Ribeira, the quays by the banks of the Douro in the Ribeira neighbourhood are a great place to go for a walk.
- And many others!
This neighbourhood leads onto Vila Nova, one of Porto’s surrounding suburbs.
Vila Nova de Gaia can be accessed by crossing the famous Dom Luís I Bridge and is home to plenty of wine cellars filled with Port, the famous wine from the city itself.
We should also mention São Nicolau, an area of the city that’s just as interesting as the city centre and home to the Soares dos Reis National Museum, Palácio de Cristal, and Quinta da Macieirinha romantic museum.
Boavista is one of the more typical neighbourhoods with its fashion boutiques and trendy restaurants. This is a great place to make the most of the nightlife in the city!
Find out more about Porto's neighbourhoods.
How Much Does it Cost to Visit Porto?
Of all the money you’ll have to spend to visit Porto, the flights there are the most significant costs. The cheapest way to get there is by air using a low-cost airline such as Ryanair, Vueling, or EasyJet. For as little as £30, you can get flights to Porto and get yourself a pasteis de nata.
There’s a good choice of accommodation in Portugal and you can find hotels, furnished holiday flats, youth hostels, or even guesthouses and you can spend between £15 for a dormitory in a youth hostel and £50 for a hotel room or Airbnb. You should keep in mind that CouchSurfing is free and you’ll stay at somebody’s home.
It’s much cheaper to eat in the Porto than in the UK. You can pay around £10 for a meal in a basic restaurant and around £1 for a coffee. This is where your money will go the furthest and where you can get the most enjoyment out of Porto.
You should bear in mind that you’ll have to pay to visit most of the city’s monuments, excluding the Palácio de Cristal, and the Centro Portugues de Fotografia.
- Lello Bookstore: €5
- Stock Exchange Building: €8 (adult) and €4.50 (child)
- Porto Cathedral: €3
- Clérigos Tower: €5
- Casa do Infante: €2.20
- Serralves Foundation: €10
When it comes to getting around the city, the most cost-effective way is to get an Andante Card, a €0.60 travel card that you can top up for €1.20 a journey on the bus and metro and use on the tram and the funicular railway.
A taxi ride will cost you between €4 and €6 (and €20 if you’re going to the airport).
You can also get a Douro river cruise for €12 for 50 minutes and see another side of the city and even the mouth of the river at the Atlantic Ocean.
You might want to get Portuguese tutorials before you go!
Where Should You Stay in Porto?
“I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list.” - Susan Sontag
We’ve just mentioned the different types of accommodation you can get, but where should you stay in Porto?
With Airbnbs, pensão (Portuguese guesthouses), hotels, flatshares, and even youth hostels, each neighbourhood has its specialities. In terms of accommodation, you can also split Porto into the city centre and suburbs.
In the centre, you’ll be closer to all the tourist attractions and the River Douro, where you can walk in the evening.
What’s better than having a drink on the quayside opposite the Dom Luís I Bridge?
On the other hand, this all comes at a cost and the most expensive accommodation, especially during the high season, will be found in the city centre. Availability can also be an issue as the city centre is very popular. Of course, these neighbourhoods are touristy, central, and can sometimes burn a hole in your pocket.
The surrounding neighbourhoods and suburbs have the advantage of being cheaper, quieter, and each has a particular feel. Be careful though as some might be very far from the monuments you want to see:
- Boavista, in the northwest of the city, is full of shops and restaurants.
- Miragaia, near the old town and the Douro, is very quiet.
- Massarelos, to the west of the city centre, is full of students and is the best value for money.
Porto is a very accessible city and you’ll want to choose your neighbourhood based on what you want to see.
Don't forget that you can find Portuguese tutorials on Superprof, too.
Find out more about the cost of visiting Porto.
When Should You Visit Porto?
Over the years, more and more people have decided to visit Porto thanks to cheap flights. Some periods throughout the year are better than others for visiting the city.
So when should you visit Porto and why?
Let’s have a look.
Your first criteria when choosing when to visit Porto should be the weather. We often want to go on holiday when the weather’s at its best but the winters in Porto aren’t that bad either.
The summer period runs from April to November and it’ll be warm with July, August, and September being the warmest months. The other months of the year aren't that bad either!
However, if you want to go at the hottest time of the year, you need to bear in mind that plenty of other tourists will also descend upon the city. If you want to go for quiet walks through the city, you probably want to opt for the low season.
Spring and autumn are a good time to visit because the weather’s still nice and there are fewer tourists about! If you’re looking for peace and quiet, avoid the summer.
There are also events throughout the year in Porto, especially once the summer arrives.
Whether you’re visiting for a couple of days or a whole week, there are plenty of things to do in Porto including wine-tasting and visiting gardens.
So while there’s something for everyone at Porto, there are certain activities which are better at certain times of the year. In short, Porto is home to everything Portugal has to offer.
Are you ready to go?
Whether you're interested in seeing a UNESCO World Heritage Site, cruising down the Douro River, drinking some Port Wine, the largest city in the north of Portugal is waiting for you.
Before you go, you might want to learn some of the lingo from one of the many talented tutors on Superprof. If you get a tutor from Porto, they could also act as your travel guide!