“We travel to change not of place, but ideas.” - Hippolyte Taine
Travelling can involve discovering new places, visiting tourist attractions, or just relaxing. It’s also an opportunity to learn more about a given country or city. Some might even seem like somewhere you’d like to move.
Spain and Portugal share the Iberian Peninsula with the latter being smaller than its neighbour. While Portugal is a popular tourist destination, many opt to visit Lisbon (Lisboa) or the Algarve. However, the largest city in northern Portugal is a fantastic destination for tourists and will be included on most tourist itineraries through the country.
So while the number of new hotels in Portugal has increased by 37% in recent years, you’ll need to think about which area to stay in and the type of accommodation you’ll be staying in.
Whether you want a studio apartment in the city centre or a charming holiday home by the Atlantic Ocean, Porto’s got a lot of tricks up its sleeve.
Types of Accommodation in Porto
Unlike certain large cities in Europe, Porto has plenty of different types of accommodation. Holiday rents, hotels, or hostels, you’re spoilt for choice.
Feeling a bit lost?
Here’s a quick rundown!
For a Modest Budget
Like most places, hotels are the most popular type of accommodation for tourists in Porto. The city is full of typical hotels at good rates (on average £50 per night for a double room).
This is the simplest type of accommodation to book, especially thanks to online platforms like Booking.com and Hotels.com. Hotels account for around a quarter of the accommodation in Porto.
More and more tourists are opting for furnished apartments and flats. We most often think of Airbnb for this type of accommodation but there are other platforms including Homeaway and Housetrip. You can get a studio apartment in the centre of Porto for around £50 a night.
You can rent the entire property or part of it. This means you can either rent a room in a flat with the rest of the family staying there or have the whole place to yourself. This is one of the cheapest options and great for those who travel a lot.
Do you know what a pensão is?
This is a guesthouse where the owners will probably do everything they can to make you feel at home. For around £40 a night, you can enjoy the comfort and the freedom of having a room to yourself!
On a Budget
A youth hostel is another option for travellers and there are plenty of them in Porto. This is probably due to how many students and young people visit the city. These won’t be like a top-floor apartment in the city centre but rather dormitories for 4-20 people. However, they are a good option if comfort isn’t a priority.
For around a tenner a night, you’ll have a bed in a shared room. A lot of youth hostels are in great locations and they're a great way to save and enjoy the city!
If you’re on a tight budget, Porto’s the perfect city. You can enjoy Porto for free through “CouchSurfing”.
So what is CouchSurfing?
Put simply, you can stay at someone’s house for free.
This is a great way to experience the city, especially if you want to practise your Portuguese and hang out with the portuense (the locals). You won’t need to pay anything, but it might be nice to treat your hosts to a gift!
The boldest amongst you might even consider a flat-swap with a local family. The concept is simple: someone stays at yours while you stay at theirs, which is another way to stay in Porto for free.
So of all these types of accommodation, which would you prefer?
You’ll probably notice by visiting Porto that there are tonnes of cultural and historic attractions all over the city.
There are two ways to stay in Porto: in the centre or the surrounding neighbourhoods. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
Find out more about Porto's neighbourhoods.
Staying in Porto City Centre
You might be thinking about staying in a hotel or youth hostel in the centre of Porto. Whether you’re staying in a furnished studio apartment or a charming hotel, a lot of us like to stay near businesses, amenities, and tourist attractions so that we can make the most of our time.
This is a good idea because Porto is accessible, especially for tourists. There are two main areas in the city centre.
Find out more about the cost of visiting Porto.
Staying in the Old Town
The old town is in the heart of the city and most of the tourist attractions can be found there. The neighbourhood known as Ribeira is the central point of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s home to:
- Porto Cathedral
- Lello Bookstore
- Igreja de Santa Clara
- São Bento Station
- And many others!
Of course, this area tends to cost more than other neighbourhoods. The higher the demand for an area, the higher the cost of accommodation. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t find a nice flat for a decent amount.
Of course, sometimes the popular areas can cost you a fortune.
Find out more about visiting Porto.
Staying Near the River Douro
The neighbourhoods by the Douro river each specialise in certain activities.
- The Old Town side of the river is home to restaurants and typical businesses. The views of the Dom Luís I Bridge are also great. In short, it’s a great area for a good time.
- By crossing the bridge, you’ll arrive in Vila Nova de Gaia. This is the area to go to if you want to taste some Port wine. If you’re travelling to enjoy the local cuisine and produce, you have to go here!
Staying in Porto’s Suburbs
“Travelling is returning to the essential” - Tibetan Proverb
As you’ll have understood, Porto’s city centre can sometimes to be difficult to find accommodation in.
That said, there are plenty of places outside of the city centre worth staying in.
While there’s less demand in the suburbs, there’s still a good choice of hotels, hostels, and holiday accommodation. Let’s look at the suburbs!
This area in the northwest of the city is the best place to meet locals. While there are fewer tourist attractions in the area, you can find plenty of trendy restaurants and luxury boutiques. This is where you can find some of Porto’s best nightlife but it can still be quite expensive to stay there.
Despite being a suburb, there’s a good choice of accommodation.
If you’re looking for private holiday rentals, an Airbnb with a parking space, or a nice flat with a kitchen, Miragaia might be where you should stay. This is a lovely area just a stone’s throw from the River Douro.
This is near to the old town and several popular attractions (including the Jardim do Carregal) and you can enjoy the peace and quiet of the area. Since you’ll be outside of the city centre, you’ll find hotels, pensão, hostels, etc.
Discover the best time of year to visit Porto.
Massarelos is to the west of Porto and is the best value-for-money. The student area of the city is home to art galleries, gardens (including the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal), and a lively lifestyle.
Between bohemian and trendy, Massarelos has something for everyone, including access to the old town. Whether you want a private flat, a charming hotel, or short-term rental, you can find them for around €10-20 a night.
The price is one of the advantages of staying in the suburbs, but it’s not the only one. As you’ll have understood, in the surrounding suburbs, accommodation is cheaper.
Whether it's a flat or house by the Douro, a two-star hotel, or a bed in a local’s home, Porto is a city with endless possibilities. While it’s generally cheaper than the UK, you should make sure you do your research before you go.
The city centre is home to a lot of tourist attractions but it's competing against the suburbs away from all the hustle and bustle. It’s up to you to choose where you want to stay.
Before you visit the UNESCO World Heritage sites and Roman ruins, attend wine tastings, or enjoy a river cruise, you might want to learn some of the language. Fortunately for you, there are plenty of talented tutors on Superprof offering Portuguese tutorials.