Your Guide to Living in Porto: Top Tips From an Expat
Updated: March 30, 2023
Porto is the secret gem of western Europe that is often overlooked despite its many exciting and excellent opportunities. Regarded as one of the best cities to live and work in right now, Porto, located in the north of Portugal, has a lot to offer, not just for its locals and tourists, but the city is a buzzing and eclectic hub for its international community of existing and new expats.
In the following guide, we will share a detailed overview of living in Porto, drawing on the experience of expats who love the city and have started a new life on the Iberian peninsula.
The Labor Market in Porto
Porto’s labor market has grown significantly over the last few years, despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the current recession. With a growing economy, jobs are not in short supply, so you should find employment opportunities available to lead a comfortable life.
Are there jobs for expats?
Of course, finding a suitable job as an expat will depend on the industry you are interested in. As a popular destination for holidaymakers, the hospitality industry always has lots of job offers. In addition, the advent of new businesses and start-up companies in Porto means that the variety of work available has increased exponentially in the last few years.
Whether you’re looking for a job in IT, marketing, engineering, healthcare, or agriculture, these are just a few of the versatile fields in which you’ll be able to find employment in Porto. As with everything, we recommend that you thoroughly research the job market beforehand and, should you find a job, negotiate pay and other remuneration before committing to your move.
Finding a job in Porto
Before you find a job in Porto, consider if you require a visa to live and work in Portugal. As a citizen of the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area (EEA), you won’t need a visa to relocate and work in Portugal. However, any non-EU, non-EEA, or non-Swiss citizen will need a valid visa to stay in the country for longer than 90 days.
Once your residency or work permits are sorted, finding a job in Porto is similar to finding a job in other markets in western Europe. We recommend you start your search online and join job agencies in the area that can do the hard work for you.
Speaking Portuguese fluently is not necessary for many jobs, as Porto is home to many international businesses. What’s more, if you choose to work remotely for an international company, language proficiency will not be at the top of your requirements when you live in this vibrant city. If you speak English, you won’t have any issues getting by, especially not in an international job.
Of course, to enjoy life to the fullest in a foreign country, we’d recommend attending language courses before you move to or after you’ve relocated to Portugal. Understanding the lingo and being able to communicate will make it much easier for you to settle and be part of the friendly and welcoming community of Porto’s residents.
What's the weather like in Porto?
Porto is located in the north-western part of Portugal’s peninsula, and its urban area spreads to the Atlantic Ocean to the west of the city. Porto’s summers are warm but not too hot, and winters are cold and wet, but temperatures rarely fall below 1 degree C (33.8 degrees F).
Porto is hottest in August and coldest in January, so appropriate clothing for both summer and winter is recommended. Whether you’ll rent or buy property, make sure there is central heating for the winter and the place is well-insulated. However, good weather is generally part of living in this beautiful city.
Cost of Living in Porto
Living and working in Portugal is more affordable than in other European countries, and this is also the case for Portugal’s cities. While Lisbon, as its capital, has its own price range, Porto’s cost of living is significantly lower.
Of course, your spending habits and circumstances determine how much money you will need per month, but the costs below will give you an idea of the basics.
Food Costs in Porto
According to Numbeo, the cost of living in Porto is over 36 percent cheaper than living in London, in the UK. This also includes food costs, which can make up a large proportion of a person’s monthly budget. Daily essentials can be bought on a low budget, and eating out is also affordable, with an average inexpensive meal at a restaurant costing around €9 and a cappuccino costing around €1.71.
The table below gives an overview of prices of food basics:
Water (1.5 liters)
Above costs are estimated and from Numbeo as of December 2022.
Cost of Utilities in Porto
The current cost of living crisis has not spared Portugal either, but warm summers and milder winters could curb excessive spending on gas and electricity bills. Based on an 85 m² apartment in Porto (an average-sized one-bed apartment), you can expect to pay around €115, which includes gas, electricity, water, and waste disposal.
Accommodation in Porto
City living is never cheap, but you’re more likely to find value for money in Portugal’s second-largest city. It’s good to do your research before you move, and Goldcrest will give you a head start with the advice below whether you’re planning to rent or want to buy property.
Is it easy to rent a house in Porto?
Renting apartments in popular tourist destinations is never easy as landlords prefer to rent out spaces to tourists, so short-term lettings are easier to come by than long-term rentals. However, websites such as Casa Sapo, Nestpick, or Imovirtual can be a good starting point, and they cater to non-Portuguese speakers, too.
Local Facebook groups have recently become popular for landlords to advertise, so if you converse in Portuguese, this may be an excellent way to find a good place to rent and possibly avoid higher prices. You’ll find anything from studio apartments, and one-bedroom apartments to three-bedroom apartments, as well as townhouses and bigger real estate.
Buying a House in Porto
Although Porto is fast becoming an exciting hub for investment and employment opportunities, house prices have remained relatively low in comparison with other European cities, as well as Lisbon.
Porto has many beautiful and favorable neighborhoods and depending on your preferences, there is something for everyone.
Upscale neighborhoods of Porto
If money is no object and you’re after an upscale lifestyle, Porto can cater to those who want a more exclusive living experience. There are plenty of properties with stunning views, beautiful architecture, and a unique charm.
Foz do Douro
This affluent municipality of Porto doesn’t just boast some of the best beaches, such as Praia da Luz, but also offers some great architecture and excellent restaurants, that serve traditional and international cuisine.
If you want to live in a historic neighborhood with the stamp of UNESCO World Heritage approval, Ribera is the place to choose. Close to the Douro River, its cobbled streets, colorful houses, and lively cultural and gastronomic scene make it a treasure trove for locals and expats alike.
Budget neighborhoods of Porto
Porto’s neighborhoods cater to all spending habits, and there are plenty of places to live comfortably at no additional cost if you prefer to live an expat life on a more modest budget.
This modern neighborhood is the home to bustling restaurants and rooftop bars and also features Porto’s longest avenue, the Avenida da Boavista. In this less touristy quarter with lots of green areas, you can also find botanical gardens, a concert hall, and a synagogue.
A small parish in Porto, Campanhã is home to the important Campanhã train station, which is the hub of Porto’s railway and metro transport system. It provides an essential connection for Porto’s commuters, and its historic building dates back to the 19th century.
Downtown Porto is small, compact, and beautiful, and you can get anywhere within a 5 km radius. It is home to the stunning São Bento Railway Station with iconic blue tiles. The 20th-century building is now a National Monument of Portugal. What better way to start a daily commute than in this historic building?
Avenida dos Aliados
Avenida dos Aliados, historically named after the treaty between Portugal and the UK, is located in the city center of Porto. With historic and impressive buildings, this part of Porto is a dream location for those who appreciate exquisite architecture and elaborate façades.
Porto’s public transport system is as versatile and efficient as that of Lisbon. Getting around on foot in Porto is possible if you have time, but if not, you can choose one of its public services and transport options.
Porto’s metro, trams, and busses cover the city’s area on a budget, but if you fancy something a bit different, then the funicular allows you to see the city from a different angle. Metro tickets start at €1.20 for a single ticket, but if you buy the Porto Card or Andante Tour card, you can use the metro as much as you like.
Taxis are cheaper than in other European cities and a great alternative if you need to be driven to an exact location. Transfers to the airport start from around €25. What is more, taxi, Uber, and Bolt drivers are incredibly knowledgeable and can give you useful hints and tips about life and getting around in Porto.
The Airport in Porto
Porto’s international airport caters to national and international travel and is Portugal’s second busiest airport, after Lisbon. Most major airlines fly to and from Porto Airport, and it’s relatively close to the city center, a mere 11 km away, meaning that you’re never too far away from a getaway, be it for business or pleasure.
Leisure and Things to Do in Porto
Porto isn’t just a fantastic place to live and work in, but there is always something to do. Whether you’re a thrill seeker, a homebody, want to enjoy Porto’s vibrant nightlife, sample port wine or prefer getting out and about in nature, Porto offers an eclectic mix of things to do for everyone.
The list below is not exhaustive but provides a snapshot of what you can do while living in Porto.
Porto is a city with many art galleries and art exhibitions. Living in Porto offers art lovers all the benefits of city life culture. Here are some you should definitely visit:
Espaço Mira features a lot of lesser-known and emerging artists
Galeria Fernando Santos houses works of well-known and famous artists
Galeria Pedro Oliveira has a stunning view across the Douro river
Kubikgallery exhibits new artists and also shows some new and daring inventions
Casa da Música
Porto’s modern concert hall is an impressive piece of architecture inside and out. Its exterior is a simple, asymmetrical polyhedron, made of white-washed stone, but its interior boasts nine floors with stunning designs. Casa da Música opened in 2005 and is solely dedicated to music.
Parque da Cidade
This park is considered Portugal’s largest urban park and a great place when living in Porto. Local families, EU citizens, digital nomads, and foreigners alike flock to this impressive park which is also Europe’s only park with a seafront.
Climb the Arrábida Bridge
If you’re not scared of heights and want to marvel at Porto’s beauty from above, then climbing the impressive Arrábida Bridge may just be the perfect way to spend a day out. While Porto’s transport whizzes above your head, you can take part in a guided climb and tour, examining the bridge’s architecture.
You can book in advance on a day of your choice for yourself or a group of people. Payments must be made at the venue, and tickets start from €17.50 per person.
Go-karting in Porto
If you’re a thrill seeker and like an adrenaline rush, go-karting on one of Porto’s many tracks should be on your to-do list. You can choose from one of many race tracks, and some are even close to the sea, so you get that extra adventurous buzz. We’d recommend you book in advance to avoid long waiting times and disappointment.
Camping around Porto
Nature lovers will rejoice at the opportunity to get out of the city and enjoy a camping adventure. There are plenty of campsites around Porto, but the facilities at each vary. Prices depend on the campsite’s amenities but start from around €15 per night.
Hiking in and around Porto is highly recommended, and you’ll be able to enjoy some incredible views. Porto has many fabulous hiking paths on which you can explore the stunning countryside.
You’re spoilt for choice with three national parks close by (Peneda-Gerês National Park, Vicentine Coast National Park, and Galician Atlantic Islands Maritime-Terrestrial National Park). Many hiking paths also lead through Porto’s famous vineyards, so make sure you plan a tour to sample some of its country’s wine and fabulous local food, which is known as being amongst the very best that Portugal has to offer.
As with every adventure, ensure you have valid health insurance and don’t leave for a hike without plenty of water. Snacks and food are also recommended, although you may want to stock up on some local specialties on your way.
Beaches near Porto
When you live in Porto, there are plenty of beaches to enjoy in winter and summer months. Some of the best beaches close to the city are Praia de Matosinhos, Praia do Homem do Leme and Praia do Carneiro. Praia de Fuzelhas is popular with families, because of its many rock pools which children enjoy.
Water sports in Porto
Porto’s proximity to the sea is a paradise for those who love water sports and those who want to, quite literally, test the waters. Different activities are abundant on offer, so there is something for everyone.
You can book small group surfing experiences, enjoy a paddle in a kayak through the Peneda-Gerês National Park and go canyoning and sailing. Prices vary per activity, starting from €20 for a 90-minute surf lesson.
Castelo do Queijo
Castelo do Queijo, also called Cheese Castle, is a short drive outside Porto. Built in the 15th century, the castle is worth a visit, not just for its location by the beach. Inside, history lovers can enjoy a military museum and the medieval architecture of the fort.
Vila Nova de Gaia
When living in Porto, a visit to Vila Nova de Gaia, which is located south of Porto, is a must. It is easily reached by public transport. The city is central to port wine production and home to many wine cellars. Port wine lovers will enjoy a day trip to sample this popular tipple.
Is Porto a good place to live?
With its mild climate and relaxed way of life, friendly people, and many opportunities, Porto has become known as one of the best places to live in Portugal, and with good reason. Whether you’re single, traveling and working remotely, living as a digital nomad, or planning to relocate with family, Porto is a safe city that can provide you with everything that you’ll need.
The Pros of living in Porto
Porto is sometimes overlooked as a favorable living destination, but many factors make the city one of the best places to settle as an expat, either temporarily or long-term.
1. Relaxed and friendly culture The Portuguese are known for their welcoming and friendly nature. Porto, in northern Portugal, is no different, and you’ll instantly feel at ease with a less frantic atmosphere. It’s no wonder that Porto attracts foreigners to live here and is one of the most popular destinations for families to relocate to.
2. Epic fine dining
Portuguese cuisine is famous for its variety and influences from many parts of the world. Whether you’re a fan of meat and seafood dishes or prefer vegetarian and plant-based foods, Porto caters to it all. Best of all, you won’t have to pay a premium price to eat a five-star meal.
3. Life by the beach
Porto’s perfect location close to the Atlantic Ocean means that you won’t just be able to enjoy regular walks by the beach, but there are plenty of opportunities for water sports activities. We’re sure you’ll spend many leisurely hours near the sea to enjoy the semi-Mediterranean climate.
4. Spectacular architecture
Porto offers a spectacular variety of architecture, from traditional and national buildings and monuments that are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site to modern architecture, such as the Casa da Musica Theatre. Even the shortest walks through the city are a treat for those who treasure diverse architecture.
5. Great connections
Porto is well-connected regarding national and international travel. With one of Portugal’s three international airports, Porto has excellent flight connections. Internally, Porto’s public transport system caters not only to the city, but its train station ensures that journeys can be made across the whole of Portugal, to other towns and different cities.
6. Top-notch healthcare
Portuguese public healthcare system (serviço nacional de saúde) is considered one of the best in the world. Whether you live as a legal resident or an expat with a visa, you’ll have access to this national health service. Portugal’s private healthcare and private hospitals are equally exceptional, making life abroad easy and attractive for expats moving to Portugal.
As with living in any city, there are drawbacks, and it’s good to be aware of all the facts before making a decision.
1. Paperwork bureaucracy
Portugal is well-known for its bureaucracy, which can sometimes be frustrating. Portuguese natives are used to this, but it may prove time-consuming and confusing for expats. Rules may also vary depending on who you speak to, so we’d highly recommend speaking to an experienced and trusted advisor.
Goldcrest has many years of experience and a 100% success rate of helping expats buy a property and get residential visas. If you would like to speak to one of our professional advisors about a Golden Visa or an investment fund, contact us.
2. Less international entertainment
Although a city, Porto is less influenced by international sources. Although you will get by speaking English, you’ll find it more challenging to find an English-speaking cultural event. On the plus side, you’ll get used to the language more easily and can immerse yourself in the authentic Portuguese way of life.
3. Tourists descend
Porto’s popularity with tourists has steadily increased over the past few years. Especially during peak season, you’ll notice a lot of tourists in the city, which may not be most convenient for you as an expat. However, you should u have Porto primarily for yourself during the shoulder seasons and during the winter months.
4. A smaller expat community
In comparison to Lisbon, Porto’s expat community is less developed and much smaller. However, this does not mean it’s less welcoming. Porto is home to plenty of foreigners of all different backgrounds and ages, making it a great place for expats.
5. Colder winter month
Due to its northern location, Porto gets colder in winter than in other cities, such as Porto. For that reason, it’s important to ensure that the apartment or house you rent or buy is well-insulated, to prevent excessive heating bills.
The expat community in Porto
Porto is an excellent choice for expats, and its growing expat community is a testament to this. Although learning some Portuguese will help you impress the locals and make life a lot easier, English is widely spoken.
With its many coworking spaces and cultural events, there are plenty of opportunities for expats to meet and swap notes, meaning you’ll never feel alone in this warm and friendly city.
Living in Porto has much to offer, no matter your background and circumstances. This charming city is extremely safe and delivers for many expats where many other cities fail: a relaxed lifestyle, quality of life, job opportunities, free time activities, local cuisine, and welcoming locals.
Whether you’re an American expat or from anywhere else in the world – contact us and see if we can make your Porto dream a reality.
Frequently Asked Questions about Living in Porto
Is living in Porto expensive?
Living in Porto is cheaper than in cities in other Europe countries, around 36 percent cheaper than London. Rental, property, and grocery prices are lower than in most European cities, without compromising on quality.
Is Porto good for expats?
Porto is considered to be one of the best places to work and live in right now and is a great city for families, retirees, and singles to relocate to. With many job opportunities in a variety of sectors, Porto is fast becoming a favorite place for expats from all over the world.
What is life like in Porto?
Porto is a welcoming city with lots of opportunities and things to do for everyone. Its Mediterranean location makes for warm summers and mild winters, and there is a relaxed and friendly atmosphere among locals and expats.