Living in Porto: What’s it Like and Should you Move There?

Portugal’s second city has long been overlooked by expats interested in moving to Portugal but, as rental and purchase prices continue to rise in Lisbon, more and more people are seeing the appeal of Porto.

It isn’t just cheaper accommodation costs and an overall lower cost of living that make Porto appealing, however. Porto is an incredibly beautiful city and, when it comes to choosing between Lisbon or Porto, it’s usually the city that the Portuguese prefer.

Pros & Cons

Everywhere has its pros and cons, and the following are some of the pluses and minuses of living in Porto.

Pros

  • Affordable – Although Porto’s cost of living has increased in recent years, particularly in terms of renting, Porto is still very affordable when compared to most Western cities.
  • Safe – Portugal is one of the safest countries in the world, and that includes Porto as well.
  • Compact – Porto’s city centre is small and walkable, which is ideal for those that don’t like the big city life.
  • Good public transport – Public transport in Porto is very good, particularly thanks to its excellent metro system. Porto is also well connected to the rest of Portugal by trains, buses, and flights.
  • Good Airport – Although Porto Airport isn’t as big as Lisbon Airport, it does have a good number of international flights – particularly to other European cities.
  • Access to beach – Praia de Matosinhos, Porto’s nearest beach, is just around 15 minutes by car from Porto City Centre or around 30 minutes by public transport. In comparison, people living in Lisbon will take around 25 minutes to get to Estoril or Costa da Caparica by car. Public transport from Lisbon to Estoril normally takes around 40 minutes and even longer to get to Costa da Caparica.
  • Proximity to Spain – Porto is situated close to the Spanish border: around 70 minutes from Tui and around 90 minutes from Vigo by car. This proximity to Spain is ideal for those that are moving to Portugal with the aim of also exploring other parts of Europe.

Cons

  • Weather – Porto may have easier access to the beach than Lisbon, but Lisbon has more days of sunshine to enjoy the beach. While Porto has plenty of good summer days, winter is normally wet, grey, and damp – similar to a Northern European country but without the central heating to make it bearable.
  • Rising costs – Although Porto isn’t as expensive as Lisbon, rental costs and the cost of buying a home have increased dramatically and pushed up the cost of living.
  • Tourism – Tourism has increased dramatically and during the summer months the city is often crowded with tourists. This problem isn’t specific to Porto or even Portugal – it’s a problem you can expect in most nice European cities.
  • Smaller expat community – Most expats flock to either Lisbon or the Algarve, which means there are less internationals to make friends with. While this is a con it can also be a pro as it means you’re less likely to end up getting caught in an expat bubble.
  • Smaller airport – Porto does have a good airport, and often it has some great deals, but there are definitely less flights out of Porto Airport than Lisbon Airport.
  • Smaller job marker – Most big companies and most tech startups are based in Lisbon, so there are often less opportunities to find a job or switch jobs in Porto when compared to Lisbon.

Cost of living

Porto may not be as big or have as good weather as Lisbon, but it does have a lower cost of living – particularly when it comes to renting and buying property.

(For more information, see Portugalist’s guide to the cost of living in Porto)

Healthcare

Anyone living in Portugal normally has access to Portugal’s public healthcare service (Serviço Nacional de Saúde or SNS).

The service is reasonably well-ranked at #12, according to the World Health Organization (WHO): below France, Italy, and Spain, but above the UK, Ireland, and Switzerland. It also ranks higher than both Canada or the United States.

Many expats living in Porto take out private health insurance as well. This comes with a number of benefits including more of an ability to select your own doctor, as well as being less at the whim of waiting lists that are common with the public health sector.

Renting & Buying

Renting

Even if you plan to eventually buy a property in Porto, it’s a good idea to rent initially while you get a feel for the city and where you might want to live.

In Portugal, it’s not uncommon to find a property through a classifieds website like Olx and rent directly from the landlord. Other similar websites include Idealista, Sapo, and Custo Justo, and all of these websites normally include adverts from letting agents as well.

For short term rentals (less than 6 months) many people rent through Airbnb (often negotiating the rent down from it’s very above market rates).

Although renting directly is normally the cheaper way to rent, many expats prefer to rent through a letting agent as they feel this provides them with more security.

For more info, please read the guide to renting long-term in Porto.

Buying

As with rentals, classifieds websites tend to be the best starting place when it comes to finding properties to buy. Popular sites include Olx, Idealista, Green Acres, and Imo Virtual.

Making Friends

While Porto doesn’t have as many meetup groups as Lisbon, there are a few – enough to hopefully make some friends. This includes meetups like book groups, tech meetups, hiking groups, and general get-togethers.

As well as the organised meetups, it’s also worth joining some of the Porto Facebook groups and posting there to see if anyone wants to meetup.

(See the guide to making friends in Porto for more information)

Studying

Porto is home to several universities, including the University of Porto, and many international students choose Porto as a destination for an Erasmus or even to do an entire degree.

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