So, you’re planning a trip and are looking at what your options are for the best areas to stay in Porto? The good news is that the city has many different exciting areas for you to choose from, each with their own identity, highlights and attractions.
Wherever you may decide to stay, the city centre of Porto itself is small enough to explore on foot, but there are also reliable public transport systems and readily available ridesharing services to get you from point A to point B. You can pick between a neighbourhood with a medieval history, an arty district and everything in between. This is our roundup of the best areas to stay in Porto.
Baixa & Vitoria
Forming part of the UNESCO World Heritage historic centre, you will be in the middle of many points of interest with great opportunities for sightseeing. There is also a very strong nightlife scene here to keep you entertained. Some of the attractions for you to explore in the area are the Igreja do Carmo church, with its wonderful facade of azulejos; Clérigos Tower, a vantage point offering a 360-degree view of the city; Livraria Lello, the famous bookstore with its striking red staircase; Cordoaria’s Garden, an urban park with big trees and interesting sculptures; and the Portuguese Centre of Photography, which is interestingly located in a former prison. For a drink at sunset amongst the locals, head to Jardim das Virtudes where you will have an excellent view of the city and river at the elevated street of Passeio das Virtudes.
This area is centred mainly around the shopping district of Santa Catarina street – where you will find many shops, restaurants and malls to keep you entertained. The bustling pedestrian street comes to life with almost constant street artists performing vibrant tunes and street vendors selling their traditional, roasted castanhas (chestnuts), particularly in the winter months. Here you will also find Majestic Café, where some of the pages of Harry Potter were written! Just a few steps outside of the metro stop, you will be greeted by the beautifully intricate blue, azulejo tiles of the Chapel Almas de Santa Catarina and not too far away is the beautiful church of Santo Ildefonso, also adorned in the same style. The rest of the city is easily accessible from Bolhão on foot or with the metro line running right there making Bolhão one of the best areas to stay in Porto!
Cedofeita & Porto’s Art District
Rua de Cedofeita and Rua de Miguel Bombarda are the arteries of these areas, with many surrounding streets ready to welcome you with their delights. The city’s arts district has really been rejuvenated with a breath of fresh air in recent years. You’ll discover concept and design stores, vintage shops, street art murals, small art galleries and many quirky cafés, restaurants and bars. Rota Do Chá, with its 300 different types of teas, shouldn’t be missed. For some fun hours of strolling amongst the beautifully manicured gardens and greeting the resident peacocks, make a visit to Jardins do Palácio de Cristal (Crystal Palace Gardens). You’ll also have a great viewpoint to watch the sunset.
Originally the medieval harbour, Ribeira is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Porto and is also part of the historic city centre. It is well known for its rows of brightly coloured houses along the river and narrow, bustling streets. It is home to the iconic Dom Luís I Bridge, the striking golden church of St Francis and the beautiful building of Palácio da Bolsa Stock Exchange. Along the river, there are many places to grab a coffee, drink or meal, and there is frequently a souvenir market. You’ll also have no shortage of entertainment with many people doing live performances – whether it’s dancing, juggling, singing or even blowing bubbles.
Voted one of the 10 “coolest” neighbourhoods in Europe, Bonfim is an up-and-coming area in Porto attracting a younger, creative crowd. This artistic area is abundant with independent stores, art galleries and an eclectic selection of cafés, eateries and bars. But what makes this one of the best areas to stay in Porto is that it’s vibrant while remaining off the main touristic path – offering a slightly more relaxed area to stay in Porto. Wandering through Parque de Nova Sintra, with its wonderful collection of old fountains, will also give interesting views of the Douro River. Bonfim is situated close to Campanhã Railway Station, allowing for good access to Lisbon and other smaller cities and towns nearby waiting to be discovered.
Vila Nova de Gaia
Although it is on the other side of the Douro River and technically another city, staying in Vila Nova de Gaia offers a promising alternative. The metro line, busses or merely walking will get you straight back into the city centre. Here you will have beautiful, direct views of the city of Porto and a good location for riverside walks. If you’re looking to explore and get to know the famous port wine cellars more intimately, then you are perfectly positioned. Walking further along the river, in the direction of the ocean, will take you to the traditional fishing village of Afurada where you will be drawn in by the sight of small fishing boats and the smell of freshly grilled fish. In Vila Nova de Gaia you’ll also have prime access to Jardim do Morro and the monastery of Serra do Pilar that will both provide unforgettable sunset views.
Foz do Douro & Matosinhos
Venturing out from Porto slightly, but still in the metropolitan area, you will find some places to stay where you can have a connection to nature. If daily walks or cycling with the fresh ocean breeze sounds like the dream to you, then this could be where you set up your base.
Foz do Douro is situated where the end of the historic tram line meets the ocean. Here you will admire the interesting architecture of the charming, traditional houses and be spoilt for choice with many eclectic cafés and restaurants. You’ll also be a stone’s throw away from the impressive Serra Alves Museum and Park, with 18 ha of park and a contemporary art museum. Matosinhos provides the perfect spot to do some surfing or stand up paddleboarding and to indulge in a feast of freshly grilled seafood. The Porto City Park is also right there for picnics, walks or jogging.