Porto, Portugal is a city with a history that predates even the Roman Empire and it continues to captivate people from all around the world.
Despite our arrival coinciding with one of the worst rainy seasons in recent memory, we were lucky enough to have a few hours of sun and blue skies to explore the city. We didn’t let the weather stop us!
Porto is extremely popular with tourists and foreign residents but it isn’t perfect. In this article, we share what we love about Porto, as well as some of the downsides, to help you decide if it is a good fit for you.
Watch Our Video About Porto, Portugal
The Pros of Porto, Portugal
This historical city has a lot of great things going for it, starting with…
Safety and Friendliness
Porto boasts a reputation as one of the safest and most peaceful countries globally, ranking #7 on the Global Peace Index.
The locals were friendly, helpful, and welcoming. We didn’t experience any anti-foreigner sentiment during our stay there.
The minimal language barrier is a significant advantage, as English is widely spoken, and Spanish is common.
We were surprised that we could read Portuguese because many words are similar to Spanish.
The spoken language is much different, however. It sounds like Russian and the pronunciation is different from what we’re used to when speaking Spanish.
Overall we felt comfortable communicating with the locals and we were able to pick up some Portuguese quickly.
The city is clean. We saw very little litter or graffiti, and the air is clean, thanks in part to all the electric cars and buses.
You can drink the tap water, but it does have a strong mineral taste.
We were given bottled water when we asked for water in restaurants. They didn’t offer us tap water at all.
Rich History and Architecture
With a history spanning 900 years, Porto showcases a blend of old historic churches, monuments, and captivating architecture.
People have been living in Porto for over 2000 years!
The influence of Moorish culture, visualized in the Azulejo Ceramic Tiles, adds a unique charm to many buildings.
Compact and Walkable
When we looked at the map of Porto we thought the city was big and our walks from monument to monument would be long.
The reality is that Porto is a compact city and everything is close and convenient. Most of the places we visited were 5 to 15 minutes on foot.
If you don’t want to walk, Porto has excellent public transportation options, including Uber, Taxis, Metro, and Trains. Getting around the city is quick and easy.
You can also take trains to neighboring cities, such as Braga and Lisbon. The trains will take you all the way to the Algarve region as well.
The city’s culinary scene, featuring street-side cafes and beautiful restaurants, offers a wide variety of delectable dishes.
From the traditional Portuguese sandwich, the Francesinha, to exquisite desserts like Maracuya Tiramisu and Hazelnut Chocolate Mousse, Porto caters to diverse tastes.
We loved the restaurant scene a little too much; we both put on a few pounds! We couldn’t resist the variety of food and the different ambiance. Plus everything was very affordable.
There are several small grocery stores around the city as well as specialty stores and mercados.
Groceries are affordable and the prices were similar to those in Ecuador, with some exceptions (tropical fruits are more expensive in Porto).
We were able to buy a wide variety of local and international food, although we did have to shop at a couple of different stores.
We were surprised by the drinking culture at first but, because the Portuguese wine is quite good and very inexpensive, in retrospect it is understandable.
We saw people drinking wine at all hours, even in the mornings. People enjoy wine at the mercados as well as the street-side cafes, bars, and restaurants.
Porto has a lot of shopping, including outdoor malls, specialty shops, and unique markets.
We especially liked the pedestrian areas since we didn’t have to watch for cars.
There’s a variety of stores including local and international chain brands. You’ll also find a lot of specialty stores, such as chocolate shops, shoe shops, and tourist shops.
The shopping experiences in the pharmacies reminded us of Ecuador. Most of the items are behind the counter. You have to take a number and meet with the pharmacist who will then get you what you need.
The Cons of Porto, Portugal
No place is perfect and Porto is no exception. Here are the drawbacks…
We knew we were visiting in the rainy season but we weren’t prepared for the intensity of rain. It can definitely be a drawback.
We were shocked by the amount of tourists and we were there during the shoulder season! At times it was overwhelming.
We wouldn’t want to visit during high season and we wouldn’t want to live in the historic center. There were just too many people for our comfort level.
There are a lot of big construction projects throughout the city which made it difficult to navigate, especially since the maps weren’t updated and kept trying to send us through closed areas.
NHR Scheme Deadline
The Non-Habitual Residency (NHR) scheme, ending in 2024, presents potential tax consequences that may influence decisions about living in Portugal.
Since we’re not retired and still work online, the tax rates in Portugal on our active income would make living there cost-prohibitive.
Could We Live in Porto?
We’re glad we stayed in the heart of the historic center but we found some other neighborhoods where we would prefer to live.
We liked Bonfim, an older and less touristy area with lower rents.
We liked Marques and Lapa as well, there is a younger vibe in both areas.
Vila Nova de Gaia is another popular area, especially with expats. It is located south of the river and is less touristy once you get away from the riverfront. We had fun exploring the neighborhood and we saw lots of locals. It is very hilly though, we were out of breath a few times!
The challenges posed by the weather, crowds, and ongoing construction, didn’t diminish our time in Porto. The city’s unique blend of history, modern amenities, and restaurant scene makes it a place worth considering for future visits or as a permanent residence.
Whether it’s strolling through its ancient streets, savoring local delicacies, or exploring its diverse neighborhoods, Porto has left an indelible mark on our experiences.
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I grew up in the Chicagoland area and spent most of my career working as a sales rep in the commercial lighting industry. I still work online for a company in Denver doing sales CRM administration. YouTube is my part-time gig, but I'm so happy we can share our Unconventional Life and hopefully inspire you live yours!