12 Of the Best Places to Live Near Porto

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Last updated on June 14, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 15 minutes

In recent years, Porto has emerged as a prime tourist destination in Portugal, drawing visitors and expats with its rich history, vibrant culture, and picturesque landscapes.

However, this surge in popularity has also led to a significant increase in property prices and the overall cost of living within the city. Consequently, many individuals, including expats and students, are exploring alternative places to live near Porto, where they can enjoy a lower cost of living without sacrificing the conveniences and attractions that the city has to offer.

Many of these areas, well-connected by public transport, have become the preferred choices for many who work or study in Porto, offering a harmonious blend of convenience and affordability.

Coastal Locations

Matosinhos

Beach at Matosinhos

Matosinhos, a picturesque city located just north of Porto, offers a harmonious blend of coastal charm and urban convenience. Situated approximately 9 km from the centre of Porto, this vibrant city is easily accessible by both bus and metro, making it an ideal choice for those seeking proximity to Porto’s bustling heart while enjoying the tranquility of a coastal town. With a population of over 172,669 residents as of the 2021 census, Matosinhos boasts a robust infrastructure, catering to both commercial and leisure needs.

The city’s allure is further accentuated by its stunning beaches, frequented by both surfers and sun-seekers, despite the chilly waters. The Mar Shopping complex offers a plethora of shopping options, while the Marés swimming pool in Leça das Palmeiras provides a unique leisure experience.

Historical landmarks like the Church of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos add to the city’s cultural richness. Additionally, Matosinhos is home to Porto de Leixões, the second-largest artificial port in Portugal, and is renowned for its high quality of life.

While the city offers a myriad of leisure and employment opportunities, especially given its proximity to Porto, it’s also a haven for relaxation. However, potential residents should note that the cost of living, particularly rent, tends to be on the higher side due to its strategic location, comprehensive public transport system, and upscale properties.

Vila do Conde

vila do conde

Situated approximately 30 km from Porto, Vila do Conde is a picturesque coastal town that offers a serene escape from the bustling city life while still being within commuting distance. Home to around 80,000 residents, this town is characterized by its expansive 18 km of sandy beaches and a rich cultural identity rooted in manual craftsmanship and traditional arts. Notably, Vila do Conde boasts the world’s largest Bobbin Lace network, a testament to its deep-seated artisanal heritage.

Reaching Porto from Vila do Conde is feasible via the Metro’s red line (line B), although the journey is a tad lengthy, clocking in at around an hour. For those who prefer driving, Porto is a mere 40-minute car ride away. Having a car in Vila do Conde can be advantageous, given that the metro stations are somewhat distant from many residential areas, and bus options are limited.

While tourism has nudged rental prices upwards, living in Vila do Conde remains more affordable than in cities like Porto, Matosinhos, or Vila Nova de Gaia.

Espinho

Espinho, a picturesque coastal town in the district of Aveiro, is a gem located in the northern region of Portugal. Just over 20 kilometers from the vibrant city of Porto and approximately 300 kilometers from the capital, Lisbon, Espinho offers a serene beachy ambiance that attracts both locals and expats.

With an urban population of around 9,832 as of 2011, and a total of approximately 29,547 inhabitants in 2017, the town is subdivided into four distinct parishes: Espinho, Anta e Guetin, Paramos, and Silvalde. Of these, the parish of Espinho stands out as the heart of the city, bustling with services, local shops, and cultural events, making it an ideal choice for those seeking a lively atmosphere. In contrast, Anta e Guetin is unique as it’s the only parish without direct beach access.

Espinho’s rich history is deeply intertwined with fishing, an activity that has not only shaped its cultural identity but also its culinary landscape. Seafood enthusiasts will find themselves in a haven, with numerous restaurants offering fresh local fish and other marine delicacies. Beyond its gastronomic delights, Espinho boasts a robust infrastructure, complete with schools, kindergartens, hospitals, health centers, and a plethora of shops and restaurants, ensuring a high quality of life for its residents. The town’s public transport system, including trains and buses, facilitates easy access, with the train journey from Porto to Espinho taking a mere 40 minutes, depositing travelers just a short walk from the beach.

Póvoa de Varzim

Póvoa de Varzim, nestled within the sub-region of Greater Porto, is rapidly emerging as one of Portugal’s premier urban centres to call home. This coastal city, situated between the Minho and Douro rivers, offers a blend of traditional charm and modern amenities. Póvoa de Varzim is renowned for its pristine beaches, modern urban areas, famous iodine sea baths, expansive green spaces, a legal casino, and golfing facilities.

The city spans an area of 82.21 km² and is home to over 63,000 residents, spread across 12 parishes. Its growth has extended southward, merging with Vila do Conde, forming an urban agglomeration of over 100,000 inhabitants, making it the seventh-largest in Portugal and the third-largest in the north.

The city’s rich tapestry of attractions, from its bustling fishing port to its intricate knitting and embroidery crafts, has positioned it as a hub of cultural and economic activities. Literary and musical festivals further amplify its allure, making it a hotspot for art and literature enthusiasts. Póvoa de Varzim also holds the distinction of being the birthplace of the celebrated writer Eça de Queiroz, adding a layer of historical and cultural significance.

Nearby Towns

Braga

Braga sign

Situated in the north of Portugal, Braga, the capital of Minho, stands as the third-largest city in the country, offering a vibrant yet tranquil lifestyle. In recent years, more and more people, particularly from Brazil, have begun moving to Braga, drawn by its combination of historical and cultural attractions and proximity to Porto.

Home to nearly 180,000 inhabitants, the city harbours prestigious universities and is nestled close to the cosmopolitan hub of Porto, right in the heart of Portugal. This strategic location, coupled with a more reasonable cost of living compared to other major European cities, has been a magnet for an increasing number of foreigners seeking a better life.

The city is segmented into 37 parishes, akin to neighborhoods in Brazil, with São Vítor boasting the highest population density, followed closely by regions like Maximino, Sé, and Catividade. The choice of residence within Braga largely depends on individual preferences and needs. Students often gravitate towards areas near the University of Minho, located in Gualtar, while those working in Porto favor proximity to the train station to facilitate daily commutes.

Although Braga is a popular place to visit, when plenty of great things to do, rental prices here are still substantially lower than those in Lisbon or Porto. According to data from Numbeo in July 2023, rental prices in Braga are approximately 25.9% lower than in Porto, presenting a more affordable option for both locals and expatriates.

Guimarães

Guimarães fountain

Guimarães, often heralded as the birthplace of Portugal, is a city steeped in history and tradition. Founded in the 10th century AD, it is the birthplace of Afonso Henriques, Portugal’s first king.

Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Guimarães stands as one of Portugal’s most historic cities. Yet, it’s not just its illustrious past that defines the city. In recent years, Guimarães has emerged as a hub of culture and sports, earning accolades such as the European Capital of Culture in 2012 and the European City of Sport in 2013. The city’s commitment to sustainability, as evidenced by the Guimarães Mais Verde Program, positions it as a contender for the title of European Green Capital of 2025.

With a population of 156,830, Guimarães is a medium-sized city by Portuguese standards. The city’s cost of living remains relatively low, especially when compared to larger cities like Lisbon, Porto, and even its neighboring Braga, and it’s because of this that more and more people are considering living in Guimarães. However, like many parts of Portugal, Guimarães too has felt the effects of the rising cost of living in recent years.

Despite its compact size, the city is well-equipped with essential amenities. While the local bus network might have room for improvement, the city’s layout ensures most daily tasks can be accomplished on foot. Families considering a move to Guimarães will find solace in the city’s robust educational infrastructure, boasting 93 institutions ranging from basic to secondary and vocational schools. Furthermore, the city is home to the University of Minho Campus, renowned for its academic excellence and ranked fourth among Portugal’s best universities in 2022.

Commuter Spots in the Greater Porto Area

If you need to commute into Porto, you may want to live in the greater Porto area where renting and property prices are a little cheaper and you have the convenience of being able to get in and out of Central Porto easily.

The metropolitan area of Porto, the largest city in the north of Portugal, encompasses 17 diverse municipalities, which are: Arouca, Espinho, Gondomar, Maia, Matosinhos, Oliveira de Azeméis, Paredes, Porto, Póvoa de Varzim, Santa Maria da Feira, Santo Tirso, São João da Madeira, Trofa, Vale de Cambra, Valongo, Vila do Conde and Vila Nova de Gaia. Of these, there are a few places that stand out.

Vila Nova de Gaia

View of Porto from Vila Nova de Gaia

Located just south of Porto and separated by the iconic Douro River, Gaia is not only the largest city by population in the Porto metropolitan area but also a vibrant hub in its own right. With a population of approximately 300,000 residents, it offers a dynamic lifestyle while maintaining a close-knit community feel.

The city’s strategic location on the opposite bank of the Douro River makes it an ideal choice for those who frequently travel between Porto and Gaia. Depending on where one resides in Gaia, the center of Porto is just a short walk away. For those situated further out, a well-connected transport system, including the metro in the city’s central region, ensures seamless commutes.

Gaia’s charm is further accentuated by its myriad of attractions and activities. From sipping on exquisite wines in local cellars to watching breathtaking sunsets at Jardim do Morro, or spending a day at its pristine beaches and visiting the zoo, there’s no shortage of things to do. The city is also renowned for its six iconic bridges that connect it to Porto, serving as a picturesque backdrop to the region.

While property prices in Gaia are somewhat similar to those in Porto, rentals tend to be more affordable. This is primarily because many properties in Porto cater to tourists, limiting the availability and driving up costs.

Maia

Located just 10 km from Porto, Maia stands as a beacon of tranquility and economic vitality. With a metro line connecting Maia to Porto in mere minutes, and several bus options available, commuting between the two cities is a breeze. Home to an estimated population of around 140,000 inhabitants, one of Maia’s most notable attributes is its safety, a primary reason many choose to reside here.

Maia’s economic landscape is dominated by industry, housing the largest industrial park in the Porto Metropolitan Region, which translates to a significant number of job opportunities for its residents. The city also hosts two private universities: the Instituto Universitário da Maia (ISMAI) and the Instituto Politécnico da Maia (IPMAIA). Adding to its strategic importance, Maia is home to Porto’s official airport, Aeroporto Francisco Sá Carneiro, which offers flights to various national and international destinations.

Beyond its industrial prowess, Maia boasts a plethora of recreational options, from shopping centers and leisure spots to convention centers. Whether you’re in the mood for a shopping spree, a visit to the zoo, a stroll in the park, or a delightful dinner, Maia has something for everyone. And with a cost of living lower than Porto, it’s no wonder many prefer to call Maia home.

Gondomar

Nestled to the east of Porto along the scenic Douro River, Gondomar emerges as a serene yet vibrant city, offering a harmonious blend of affordability and accessibility. Its proximity to Porto, a mere 8 km away, coupled with its well-developed infrastructure, positions Gondomar as an attractive alternative for those seeking the charm of Porto’s outskirts without the city’s bustling tourist crowds. Housing a population of around 168,027 residents, Gondomar boasts a plethora of housing options, from newly constructed apartments to homes that grace the banks of the Douro, which have seen a surge in value due to recent infrastructural developments.

Gondomar’s appeal extends beyond its strategic location and housing options. It’s a haven for sports enthusiasts, having been recognized as a European sports city in 2017. The city is replete with sports facilities, including seven municipal swimming pools, seventeen football fields, and a high-performance water sports center, to name a few. For those who prefer leisurely activities, Gondomar offers a range of river beaches, with Praia da Lomba, Praia de Zebreiros, and Praia de Melres being the most renowned. Additionally, residents and tourists can indulge in water sports on the Douro River, explore the rich history at the São Pedro da Cova Mining Museum, or simply enjoy the city’s tranquility.

With its comprehensive public transport system, including buses, metro, and trains, and an array of amenities such as supermarkets and cycling tracks, Gondomar stands out as an ideal residence for young couples, families, and anyone looking to experience the best of both worlds.

Rio Tinto (part of Gondomar)

Rio Tinto, a vibrant parish nestled within Gondomar, is a prime residential choice for many, especially those employed in Porto. Situated just 6 km from Porto’s center, Rio Tinto offers a blend of affordability and convenience, making it an attractive alternative to the bustling city. With a population of around 50,000, the area boasts a robust infrastructure, ensuring residents aren’t solely reliant on Porto for their daily needs.

The quality of life in Rio Tinto is commendable, complemented by its cost-effective living standards. The neighborhood has strategically positioned itself to lure residents with its reasonably priced rents, further sweetened by the efficient transportation network that seamlessly connects it to Porto’s heart. Whether you opt for the bus, metro, or train, commuting between Rio Tinto and Porto is a breeze. Beyond its logistical advantages, Rio Tinto is a self-sustaining community, equipped with schools, a health center, and a diverse range of commercial and service outlets.

Moreover, Rio Tinto isn’t just a haven for the working class. The area has become increasingly popular among senior citizens, thanks to its plethora of activities tailored for this demographic. The Senior University of Rio Tinto stands as a testament to the community’s commitment to its elderly residents. For those seeking leisure, the hiking trails offer a serene escape, allowing one to immerse in the tranquility of Rio Tinto’s landscapes. In essence, Rio Tinto presents a harmonious blend of urban convenience and suburban charm, making it a top contender for those contemplating a move near Porto.

Valongo

Valongo, a serene and well-structured city, is situated just 18 km away from Porto, making it a favored choice for those seeking proximity to the vibrant city while enjoying a peaceful environment. Although smaller in size, Valongo boasts a commendable quality of life, underpinned by its well-stocked markets and self-sufficiency. While it isn’t heavily reliant on Porto, it’s worth noting that job opportunities within Valongo might be limited.

However, what makes Valongo particularly appealing is its cost-effective living standards. The city’s rental prices are notably lower, offering residents an economical alternative without compromising on the essentials. Efficient connectivity to Porto via train ensures that the city’s hustle and bustle is always within reach, catering to the daily commuters. With a population nearing 95,000 as per the 2021 census, Valongo offers a blend of recreational and cultural activities. Residents can relish the greenery of urban parks, embark on adventurous trails across the Santa Justa mountain range, or immerse themselves in the rich history at the Valongo Municipal Museum. All in all, Valongo presents itself as a harmonious blend of tranquility and convenience, making it a top choice for many looking to reside near Porto.

Ermesinde (part of Valongo)

Ermesinde, nestled just 14 km away from Porto, presents itself as a viable option for those looking to reside on the outskirts of the bustling city. While technically a part of Valongo, Ermesinde’s proximity to Porto makes it feel more connected to the city than the central region of Valongo itself. This city has seen a steady influx of residents in recent years, particularly attracting Brazilians, thanks to its cost-effective properties and well-equipped supermarkets.

With a population of 39,149 as of the 2021 census, Ermesinde offers a blend of urban amenities and recreational spaces. Residents and visitors can immerse themselves in cultural activities at the Ermesinde Cultural Forum or indulge in leisurely pursuits at the Ermesinde Urban Park. The city’s efficient connectivity to Porto via bus and train ensures that the vibrancy of the larger city is never too far away, making Ermesinde an ideal choice for those seeking a balance between tranquility and urban accessibility.

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James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal.

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