Where to stay in Porto? Neighborhood by neighborhood, we tell you everything to help you find the best hotel to stay in Porto!
The second-largest and most populous city in Portugal after Lisbon, Porto has it all: romantic, attractive, popular, authentic, and picturesque. As such, it is regularly cited as the “Best European Destination of the Year”, and attracts 4 to 5 million tourists every year. With a population of 237,591 (2011), the “capital of the north” is world-famous for its port wine, and yet the city houses a wealth of other charms. Its historic center has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996.
If you plan to visit Porto, you will need to find accommodation that best suits your needs. A range of options are available, from local apartments for rent (Airbnb, Wimdu, etc.) to hotels… Yet your primary concern should be to select a neighbourhood that meets your expectations and your budget. You may feel overwhelmed with information upon arriving in a foreign city, so the editors have attempted to make your life easier: here is a brief presentation of the best areas to stay in Porto.
Ribeira, the old town
Photo credit: Flickr – Turismo En Portugal
Ribeira is the historic heart of Porto. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this district is by far the city’s most sought-after touristic area. And it’s not difficult to figure out why. From the neighbourhood’s brightly-coloured narrow cobblestone streets that wind their way through the city centre towards the banks of the Douro, gradually descend to a discover one of Porto’s most stunning landmarks: the famous Dom Luis Bridge, built in 1886 by an engineer close to Gustave Eiffel. Along the Douro river, you’ll find an array of bars with concerts to begin your evening.
Needless to say, this area is ideal if you want to easily roam the streets of the old town, while being immersed in Porto’s rich historical and cultural heritage. Accommodation rates will be rather high, but for a memorable romantic getaway in Portugal, the price shouldn’t be an issue!
Boavista, the new city
Photo credit: Wikimedia – António M.L. Cabral
Packed with lavish hotels, trendy bars, restaurants, and great luxury shops, Boavista is without a doubt Porto’s upscale neighbourhood. Located north-west of the city centre, you will not be in a better position to indulge in a high-end shopping experience or to visit monuments of such refined architecture, like the Casa da Musica.
The apartment renting rates are rather high in this area, and it’s a fairly steep bill to pay to stay in Porto but it is definitely THE neighborhood to stay in if you’re looking to treat yourself with a blend of trendy nightlife and shopping.
Miragaia, a romantic stopover
Photo credit: Wikimedia – HombreDHojalata
Adjoined to the historic heart of the city, between the northern banks of the Douro and the Jardim do Carregal, is the Miragaia district. One will appreciate the much calmer and more tranquil atmosphere of the Ribeira while strolling through its a maze of narrow streets where you can have a visual feast of the picturesque Porto in all its splendour. A colourful district, and once more, a great area to stay in Porto on a romantic getaway.
If you decide to stay in this area of Porto, you’ll have a range of accommodation options to choose from: between rather cheap pensãos to more pricey hotels.
Massarelos, bohemian getaway
Photo credit: Wikimedia – michell zappa
Perched on the western side of the city centre, between the banks of the Douro and the upscale Boavista neighbourhood, the district – freguesia in Portuguese – of Massarelos offers a great compromise to find accommodation – whether an apartment or a hotel – in Porto. This is the student district, home to the University of Porto’s Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Humanities.
While strolling in this district, you will appreciate – besides the area’s art galleries and hipster bars frequented mostly by the city’s bohemian youth – the garden of the Crystal Palace, a green space nestled up above town, where you will enjoy a breathtaking view of the mouth of the Douro opening up towards the Atlantic Ocean. Massarelos is a great area to stay in Porto if you are an aficionado of both quiet and trendy areas.
Aliados and Bolhão
Photo credit: Flickr – Tim Wang
Nestled in the heart of the city center and just a stone’s throw from the historic heart, lies a small and lively neighbourhood, offering a sumptuous blend of heritage buildings and majestic churches – a relic of the royal and Christian past – in a merchant and popular kind of atmosphere. The central market and the central station are nearby. This is a great place to enjoy a drink in an Art Deco cafe or terrace in the narrow streets adjacent to the main boulevards.
This district is in many ways an ideal choice and one of the best areas to stay in Porto as you will be close to everything. Accommodation-wise, you will have the choice between staying in a pensão or in a hotel, whether mid-range or high-end.
Vila Nova of Gaia
Photo credit: Flickr – Roberto Maldeno
Crossing the Douro to visit the southern bank of Porto, home to Vila Nova de Gaia, a district formerly dedicated to the fluvial trade. You can access this area via the Dom Luís Bridge, and visit the famous wine cellars of Porto, where you’ll be sure to delight your taste buds. This district is particularly frequented for its quiet atmosphere, and people come to visit its cellars. If you cross the Dom Luís Bridge, head towards the coast, and enjoy the great beaches of the Atlantic to sublimate your relaxing holiday.
Like other neighborhoods in Porto, the apartment and hotel accommodation rates range from cheap to high budget, depending on whether you want a bed in dormitory, a homestay room, or a double bed in a hotel. On the downside: do not expect to find such charming and lively streets as you would in the neighbourhoods of Ribeira or Miragaia.