Best Place To Stay in Porto – Tips and Advice
- What is Porto like: Porto is like Lisbon’s more laid-back, more artsy sibling. The pace is much slower than other European cities, so it invites those ready to eschew stringent plans and enjoy some relaxation.
- Why visit Porto: Porto is a city with a little something for everyone. An Iberian hub for artists, musicians, and especially writers, no one needs to feel left out here, as they truly take all kinds. It would be wise to plan a visit as soon as you can, as tourists around the world are realizing the city’s charm, and summers here are already nearly unbearably choked with tourists.
- What is the best time of year to go to Porto: The shoulder seasons, spring and fall, are when you’ll be able to enjoy the best balance of incredible weather and fewer crowds. But winter here is relatively balmy – particularly when compared to the likes of New York or London and is the best time to haggle for some incredible off-season deals.
- Can you visit Porto on a budget: For European cities, Porto is surprisingly affordable and hostel beds are plentiful. If you can schedule your trip during the winter, you’ll find everything from your accommodation to a meal at a restaurant can be considerably cheaper. At times, by up to half.
In many ways Portugal’s second city, Porto might soon top your list of favorite holiday destinations. This increasingly connected Iberian metropolis is becoming exceedingly popular with tourists, likely drawn by its idyllic hills, incredible dining, and of course their famous sweet, deep-red wine that bears the city’s name to this day: Port.
Though it is distinctly different from Lisbon in both size and general vibe, the one thing it shares with Portugal’s capital is that it is definitely a city of neighborhoods. This diverse patch of land has been continuously inhabited for thousands of years, and some iteration of the city has lasted through a lot of that time.
Much like you’d expect of an ancient town blossoming into the modern era, it can, at first glance, seem like a mish-mash of disparate ideas. But it is precisely this diversity of culture and spirit that makes Porto great.
Porto Neighborhood Guide
Though it’s certainly not the biggest European city, it can still be a bit confusing to pick a short-term apartment or hotel room in Porto. Because its neighborhoods are so distinct, you may feel a lot of pressure to choose correctly.
Thankfully, there aren’t any “bad” neighborhoods in the city, though it’s very true that some may serve you better than others. To make navigating your trip planning a little easier, here’s an overview of some of the most popular neighborhoods in Porto for tourists, as well as some recommendations on where to stay.
The 8 Best Areas To Stay In Porto
1. Porto City Center
For folks who need to stay connected
In the very center of Porto is where you’ll find the most of everything: restaurants, shops, museums, and connections to many of the city’s numerous transportation lines. Great for those who have a limited amount of time in the city, this neighborhood also suits those who want to be close to some of Porto’s main attractions.
To get a good lay of the land, your first stop should be the Clérigos Tower. As well as creating the perfect backdrop for a photo op, this 76m high tower hides within it a spiral staircase. It’s a bit of a climb, but the terrace at the top offers extraordinary views of Porto’s city center.
Porto contains some of Portugal’s best museums, and many of them you can find right here, in the middle of town. Within walking distance, you’ll find enough incredible collections of art, archeology, and Portuguese history to occupy you for days.
The slight but well-curated Museu da Misericórdia do Porto contains an incredible collection of sacred art and artifacts. The collection ranges from paintings to sculptures – even displays of antique silverware. The nearby Antiga Cadeia da Relação is a former prison, but today it houses The Portuguese Center of Photography.
As well as being a great place to simply walk the grounds, the simple but compelling photography exhibits are free to peruse, so they’re worth a look. But the behemoth of institutions in the city center is definitely the Museu de Arte Sacra e Arqueologia, or Museum of Sacred Art and Archeology.
Housed in a wing of what was once the Jesuit College of São Lourenço, this vast collection of 13-17th century art has a major focus on sculpture. But despite the huge museums and incredible vistas, one city center tourist attraction stands out far beyond the rest.
Possibly the most visited place in all of Porto and the darling of Instagram feeds worldwide is the iconic Livraria Lello. Famous for its art deco architecture and design – including its iconic interior double balustrade – Livraria Lello is considered the most beautiful bookstore in the world.
Right in the center of town is also where you’ll find some of the best nightlife in all of Portugal. Between Rua da Fábrica and Rua das Carmelitas you’ll find a cluster of the city’s most famous late-night bars, nightclubs, and discos. If you’re ready to burn a little midnight oil, you won’t regret choosing a hotel right in the middle of the city.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN PORTO CITY CENTER
2. Santo Ildefonso
Anchored by the epic Igregia de Santo Ildefonso, this Porto neighborhood is right next door to the very core of Porto. Because of its ideal location, staying in Santo Ildefonso provides proximity to a lot of Porto’s most famous attractions, but has a distinctly more “neighborhood” feel.
Many tourists stay in Santo Ildefonso for the shopping. A good place to start your spree is at ViaCatarina, an elegant mall with a rooftop restaurant. Inside you’ll find outlets from international brands you know – like H&M and Levi’s – alongside a mix of local boutiques.
The whole place is designed beneath a massive skylight with storefronts resembling street shops replete with Juliet balconies, giving it a quaint feel.
Beyond the mall along Rua Caterina and beyond, you’ll find the rest of Porto’s premier shopping district. Interspersed between big-name brands – like Bennetton and Zara – are charming cafes, bars, and breweries, as well as flagships of local fashion and interior designers.
Santo Ildefonso is also home to the famed Mercado do Bolhão, where vendors hawk fresh produce, handmade preserves, and all manner of delectably prepared takeaway. Housed in a historic neoclassical building, this bustling, two-story market provides a place to buy your essentials and a tourist attraction in one.
And before you leave, do make a point to visit the neighborhood’s namesake, the Igregia de Santo Ildefonso. This 18th-century church was given a facelift in the 1930s with the addition of its iconic blue and white tiled facade. Even if you don’t have time to venture inside, a selfie or two from its plaza has become a pilgrimage for visitors to Porto.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN SANTO ILDEFONSO
For those who want to get away from it all
Though still situated in central Porto, Campanhã is surprisingly devoid of tourists. This is the place to stay if you want to get away from the crowds and experience a side of Porto that far fewer tourists get to see.
Campanhã was once the playground of the elite, and you can still see the lingering legacy of these residents today. There are a couple of tremendous estates that have been long converted from private residences into public houses that you can tour.
Both the Quinta de Bonjóia and the Quinta Villar d’Allen have meticulously maintained gardens that are lovely to stroll through on a pleasant day, and inside you’ll find the typical – but exquisite – trappings of 19th century Iberian design.
One of the biggest draws in the neighborhood is the Feira da Vandoma, or Vendoma Market, held every Saturday on Avenida 25 de Abril. Here you’ll find vendors selling all kinds of vintage, antique, or otherwise second-hand goods at prices that are incredible even for Porto.
This market used to be held in the nearby riverside neighborhood of Sé, but their new location offers more ample space for vendors to hawk their goodies and tchotchkes.
When you’re done exploring for the day, you can head to the quaint Marina do Freixo. Near this small harbor, you’ll find several simple, elegant spots for a quick bite, a coffee, or a cocktail. Better yet: you can grab a snack to-go and enjoy it while strolling the narrow boardwalk.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN CAMPANHÃ
For creatives and hipsters
Though it’s one of Porto’s oldest neighborhoods, the lovely Bonfim is entering a new life as a haven for artists and creatives of all stripes. Rife with galleries, artisanal shops, and concept stores that sell all manner of handmade, local goods, Bonfim has become the playground of hipsters and counterculturalists.
In the center of the neighborhood is the bucolic – albeit a bit macabre – Cemitério Prado do Repouso. This was Porto’s first public cemetery, and to attract folks to purchase plots here, they designed it as a mixed-use space that is also kind of like a park.
With a wide boulevard transversing its length and the meticulous way it is landscaped, this is a cemetery you’ll want to spend some time within.
If you’re a connoisseur of fine art, there are a plethora of galleries in the neighborhood that represent both Portuguese and international artists. Many of these spaces are exactly how you might imagine them – white-walled shrines to two-dimensional artworks – but there are more eclectic and casual arts spaces homed here, as well.
Of them, Bizarro’s Arte Gallery on Rua de Fernandes Tomás, right on the border of Bonfim and Santo Ildefonso, is possibly the most interesting and unique. With a mind-boggling mix of antique homewares and somewhat kitschy contemporary work, you’re bound to find some interesting souvenirs here.
Behind their unassuming storefront is a veritable treasure trove of goodies to sift through, so leave an ample amount of time for your visit.
If more contemporary concept stores are more your vibe, then don’t miss Hello, Bonfim, and the adjacent Senhora Presidenta. Both could be described more as “concepts” or “projects” rather than typical stores, and carry thoughtfully curated selections of local art and independent publications.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN BONFIM
For a classic Portuguese holiday
Probably the most famous neighborhood in Porto is the naturally terraced Sé and the adjacent Ribiera. Set just on the north bank of the Douro river, it is on a hill that offers gorgeous views from the top and riverside access at the bottom.
Because this neighborhood houses some of the city’s best restaurants, this is the perfect place to stay if you’re a fan of their famous Port wine. The neighborhood’s namesake, the Catedral, or Sé do Porto, is built on the highest point in the city and is the most venerated religious building in Porto.
Somewhat resembling a fortress, it was originally built in the 12th century, though there have been numerous renovations since. The Catedral of today is mostly designed in the Baroque style, though it contains clear nods to Romanism throughout.
It is only closed to tourists on Christmas and Easter, so be sure to stop by while you’re around. After you’ve visited the Catedral, you can begin to make your way down to the Ribiera. On your way, you’ll likely notice how well Porto’s famous azulejos are represented in Sé.
As well as adorning some of the more prominent attractions in the neighborhood, you’ll also see these iconic blue tiles splashed across private residences and the occasional retaining wall. Combined with the winding cobblestone streets, narrow pedestrian pathways, and hidden staircases, this neighborhood feels like a true slice of Porto’s past.
The views from Sé are notoriously gorgeous, and not just from the Catedral. There are a couple of spots in the neighborhood known for their unimpeded view down to the river Duoro, and though they are little more than a spot on a map it’s well worth a little effort to find them.
The Miradouro da Vitória and Miradouro da Rua das Aldas are probably the most famous, although locals and in-the-know tourists alike also flock to the Recolhimento do Ferro for the perfect snapshot of the Ponte Luís I.
Several staircases lead down to the Ribiera, or riverfront, from Sé. Once you’ve descended, take your time exploring, or grab a coffee and stop for a rest along the water. If you haven’t yet tried Port wine, try the Barrio Ribiera, where you’ll find a small but awesome collection of riverside cafes and bars where you can take a load off.
And don’t worry about climbing back up the hill, because for a couple of Euro you can hop on the Funicular dos Guindais if you want to give your walking legs a break.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN SE
Trendy and vibrant, Cedofeita is a favorite neighborhood among young Portuenses for its unique bars, comfy cafes, and unique shopping. Liberally doused in some of the city’s best street art, this neighborhood is for those who love to find interesting locales that are a little off the beaten path.
A good place to begin your Cedofeitan adventures is at the Centro Comercial Bombarda. While this is a shopping mall, it’s a bit unlike most of the ones you may have visited. Inside you’ll find lots of independent shops helmed by local designers who stock goods that are difficult to procure outside of Porto.
Because so many of the items you’ll find here are so unique, it’s a good place to look for souvenirs and keepsakes from your trip.
Despite the sometimes industrial feel of Cedofeita, it’s surprisingly green. Streets are lined with trees and the neighborhood is dotted with small parks and gardens. It’s a perfect place to indulge your inner flaneur, so be sure to leave sometime during your trip to Porto to have no plan at all.
Cedofeita rewards explorers. Down every narrow street or alleyway, you may find your new favorite tea house, vintage shop, or record store. In fact, many of the shops in the neighborhood stock antique and second-hand goods, meaning the items you’ll find maybe one of a kind.
If you love that particular thrill that comes with unearthing hard-won treasures, definitely book a hotel room in Cedofeita.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN CEDOFEITA
For those seeking a local experience
A neighborhood that was first developed in the middle ages, Miragaia combines old and new Porto into one. Mingling with family-owned restaurants and shops that have survived for generations are brand new takes on what Porto may become in the form of cafes, bars, and artist’s studios and galleries.
In the center of the neighborhood is the Igreja Paroquial de São Pedro de Miragaia, or the Church of St. Pedro of Miragaia. While maybe not as impressive as Porto’s main Cathedral, you’ll see an impressive collection of azulejos here, both on the exterior and interior walls.
Even though much of this church wasn’t constructed or adorned until the late 19th century, it stands as a testament to how long the neighborhood has survived.
A stroll along the Rua de São Bento da Vitória will reveal a particularly interesting chapter in Porto’s past, as this winding avenue once bisected the city’s Jewish community. Though much more integrated today, you’ll still find the charms of its former iteration in the late 19th and 20th centuries.
But to be transported into Porto’s future, stop by Armazém, a sort of art space, gallery, and shop all rolled into one. While several creative concepts are popping up throughout Miragaia, this one is likely the most prominent, and you’re sure to find something here you can’t live without, like a piece of unique handmade clothing or a vintage Fado album on vinyl.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN MIRAGAIA
For beach vacationers
Way out west where the city meets the Atlantic is the hyper-local neighborhood of Foz do Ouro, or just Foz, as it is often called. Quite a ways from the city center – made a bit more difficult to navigate due to the lack of a subway stop out here – Foz is an idyllic, waterfront neighborhood is great for those who care less about tourist attractions and simply want to soak in the sun.
While Portuenses and tourists alike tend to congregate on the Ribiera rather than out by the sea, Porto’s coast is nonetheless a great spot for an indulgent respite.
With several beaches perched just off the Avenida do Brasil you’ll be spoiled for choice, though the most popular and best for swimming and sunbathing is probably the well-appointed Praia dos Ingleses.
Around this beach, you’ll find the most variety of beach bars and cafes, as well as a beach club where you can rent a lounge chair and umbrella. The sunsets here are famously beautiful, so be sure to stick around until dark at least one night while you’re staying near the beach.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN FOZ
Now that you’re more informed about each neighborhood in Porto, you should also take some time to consider the reason for your visit.
You’ll be looking for completely different accommodations if you were seeking to enjoy a romantic escape or bringing the whole family, so here are a few suggestions of some of the best properties in the city, depending on what you’re looking for.
- Best Luxury Hotel in Porto: ($$$) • Vila na Praia Foz Apartment • Foz
- Best Boutique Hotel in Porto: ($$$) • Torel 1884 Suites & Apartments • Sé
- Best Cheap Hotels in Porto: ($) • Canvas Atelier Hostel • Santo Ildefonso
- Best Family Hotel in Porto: ($$$) • Charming Flat with Balcony • City Center
- Best Romantic Hotel in Porto: ($$) • Menina Colina Guesthouse • Miragaia