If you’re thinking about moving to Portugal, Porto may have made your list of possible places to live. It’s one of Portugal’s two major cities, although with a population of around 230,000 (and 1.7 million in the metropolitan area) it’s much smaller than the capital Lisbon. However, what it lacks in size, it makes up for in culture, beauty, a lower cost of living, and, even though there are plenty of tourists, a more typical Portuguese feel. It also offers a gateaway to Northern Porto and even Northern Spain, allowing you to explore nearby cities like Braga and Guimarães, and green areas like Parque Nacional Peneda-Gerês.
The city is home to several universities, most famously the University of Porto, and so there’s a strong international feel. Although expats have often shied away from Porto in favour of the warmer climes of Lisbon and the Algarve, more and more people are moving here in search of an authentic taste of Portuguese city life.
Useful Resources for Moving to Porto
Resources to bookmark! Our essential resources for moving to Porto
- NIF Number: The definitive guide to getting a NIF number, with lots of discounts for Portugalist readers.
- Portuguese Bank Account: Find out how to open a Portuguese bank account in Portugal or from abroad, again with plenty of discounts.
- Home Internet Checker: Check whether you can get fibre internet at a property (ideally before renting or buying it).
- Mortgage Calculator: Find out how much you could borrow (doesn't affect credit rating).
- European Portuguese Courses: The top courses and resources for learning European Portuguese - tested and reviewed.
- Get the Book: Get Moving to Portugal Made Simple, the best-selling book that simplifies the process of moving to Portugal.
Is Porto a good place to live?
Porto is an incredibly beautiful city with lots of historical and cultural attractions. It has a growing expat scene, a great international airport, and good public transport, both within the city and to nearby locations. It’s ideal for those that want to live in a city, but who don’t want to live in a city that’s quite as large as Lisbon.
Pros & Cons of Living in Porto
Everywhere has its pros and cons, and the following are some of the pluses and minuses of living in Porto.
- 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.
- 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
As Porto is a city, and the second largest in Portugal, the cost of living is higher than in a lot of the rest of the country. Numbeo suggests that the typical cost of a 1-bedroom apartment in the city centre is a little under €900 per month. This is slightly cheaper than Lisbon where the typical cost is €1,250. Naturally, there are other costs to factor in, such as utilities and home internet.
Public transport in Porto is very good, which reduces the need for a car to get around. However, you may want a car if you plan to take a lot of weekend trips to explore the surrounding countryside. You generally don’t need a car to visit nearby cities as the public transport connections are good.
One of the benefits of living in Porto as an expat family is having access to lots of different schools, many of them very well-ranked. There are a number of different schools in Porto, including international schools, private schools, and public schools.
Schools like Colégio Nossa Senhora do Rosário, Grande Colégio Universal, and Colégio de Nossa Senhora da Paz, all private Portuguese schools, have scored extremely high on Observador’s school rankings.
Porto is also home to a number of international schools, including:
- Oporto British School
- CLIP Oporto International School
- Deutsche Schule zu Porto
- CJD International School
- Lycée Francais International Porto