Portugal is an amazing country for so many reasons, as it embraces all travelers alike: foodies, nature lovers, families or couples, surfers, city trippers or party people.. you’ll all find something to love about Portugal.
And I think it’s (still) fair to say it’ll be the most budget conscious country in all of Western Europe.
You will spend amazing vacations here at a fraction of the cost you’d be paying in the neighboring France.
I’ll be posting a series of short impressions on different locations in Portugal: Lisbon, Albufeira, Guiamares, Aveiro..
This one is about Porto.
I’ve been to Porto only twice so far but, after having moved to Barcelona last year, I am anticipating future re-visits pretty soon.
There’s just something about the place that draws you back..
Porto: Getting There
With so many flights into Porto from all over Europe, it will be hard not to find good deals, especially from France, Spain, Belgium or Germany etc.
There is plenty of healthy competition (you gotta love Europe.. no flight monopoly, thank you very much!) and between Ryanair, Vueling, Brussels Airlines, EasyJet and all others you’re pretty much guaranteed to find flights under 100 € throughout the year.
There will obviously be some months better than others.
I booked my flights in February and paid 126 € for a multi city flight to Portugal in May; I’ll break down so you can see just how cheap it can get:
Brussels to Porto – 26 €
Porto to Faro – 26 €
Albufeira to Brussels – 74 € (which I only got 10 days in advance, you can get a better deal)
If you’re from outside Europe you’ll probably be having a multi-country approach anyway, so once you get to your main airport you can easily book those cheap flights and
Booking your stay
I’ve visited Porto in different months and on different budgets; I’ll be giving you the budget traveler perspective here.
For the Budget Travelers
Airbnb works wonders everywhere you are, and especially if you’re in a group of 3 and more. The apartment we chose was perfect – in the very center – an easy downhill 5 minutes walk from the Luis I bridge.
You have the usual comfort of a kitchen but, unless you’re on a very strict diet or budget, it’s just easier to just go eat out. Everything is so cheap that you won’t really need the facilities anyway.
We were there for 3 nights with our group of 3 and paid an average of 13 € /person/ night.
You can’t beat that, and with hostels starting at around 10 €/night your group can easily take them off your list.
Of course, if you’re travelling solo – or just like to meet new people – there are plenty of hip hostels for you to choose from.
Here’s two of the best value for money hostels in Porto:
Porto Hostels: Top Picks
O2 Hostelis good priced and very well rated on Booking.com.
Recently opened and with only 14 rooms, it’ll give you the coziness of feeling at home as well as the newness of living with strangers.
It’s set in a typical lovely Porto building, and you’ll pay an average of 15 €/ night in a mixed dorm room.
Booking.com has deals that can make it cost a mere 9€, so keep an eye on those too.
Porto Wine Hostel well, the name gave it away.. It’s a theme hostel located in the most lively nightlife area of the city.
So if you’d rather spend your money on drinks (wink wink) here you’ll be placed strategically.
The hostel has beds starting at 3€/ night, if all you need is a place to crash.
Towels will cost an extra 1€ per guest in the dorm rooms ( free of charge in the private rooms).
Exploring Porto: in a nutshell
Oporto is second largest city in Portugal, located on the Douro river and facing the Atlantic.
There are not many cities like Porto in Europe in terms of dusty grandeur and mix of architectural styles (Baroque, Neoclassical, Belle Epoque..).
You’ll find most of its attractions packed tight in the Ribeira district, where you will love to get lost on cobbled medieval alleys and old colorful shops.
My personal Porto favorites:
Sao Bento, Porto’s main train station
The train station is definitely worth a visit for its famous azulejos.
Azulejos are (mostly blue) of ornamental tiles like in the picture here and they are found on and in most buildings in Portugal, from churches and palaces to houses, schools or restaurants (and even subway stations)
If you’re lucky and visit in the summertime, you’ll also find the cheapest train tickets (!) to other places around Porto, such as Portugal’s little Venice , Aveiro.
And when I say cheap, I mean 1.5€ for a round trip cheap.
Igreja de São Francisco
Porto’s only remaining Gothic church is not much to look at from the outside but you’ll be truly impressed with its interior, dating back to the 14th century.
I’ve been in so many churches that I know it’s sometimes hard to be wowed – you know, you’ve seen one Gothic church and you’ve kind of seen them all.
Well, it’s not the case with this one.
Luis I bridge / Douro cruise:
The azulejos together with the Luis I bridge are perhaps the first things that come to mind when you say Porto.
You can book a cruise on the Douro to see the 7 bridges at a relatively cheap price of 15 € and there are plenty of operators to choose from.
It’s not so much about the bridges, but if you want to have some nice shots of the city’s colorful postcard pretty facades and you maybe don’t have enough walking time (or just lazy), the cruise will be perfect for you.
Port wine cellar visit & Fado concert
Yes, it’s a touristy thing to do, so what?
It’s relatively inexpensive at 18€ and even if you don’t care how wines are made, the tour will give you a decent tasting of the 3 different port wines, while you listen on local Fado music.
Otherwise known as the “Harry Potter” library. If you’re a fan – personally I am not, and it was too crowded, so we decided to skip it.
Just… wandering around
Walk along the Atlantic coastline all the way to Matosinhos and have a quick visit at Castelo de Queijo, a fortification situated along the coast and built in the 17th century to guard against Africa’s pirates.
You’ll get hungry from all the walking, so I’ll recommend the following:
Eat a 2000 calorie Francesinha. For the best Francesinha in town, our Airbnb host recommended the local Bufete Fase.
Bufete Fase is a pretty small place, so expect limited availability.
Try the Portuguese Tapas : Petiscos
Stuff your face with Pastel de nata.
You’ll find iteverywhere, and you’ll have a hard time finding one which is not good (even the ones we bought at Lidl were excellent, and costed 30 cents apiece!) just make sure they’re fresh from the oven for an extra crunch.
Eat Sardines in Matosinhos.
Our favorite is a gem called Q’31, a not too known ttraditional restaurant not too far from the beach, and not at all expensive.
The 3 of us shared the food below and it was more than sufficient; sardines at 10 eur are well priced, and the starters were not expensive at all! Don’t forget the vihno verde.
Combining sardines with some easygoing mineral vinho verde will make lunch perfect.
Go for the entire bottle – Q’31 has options with 6 €!
As for sardines, literally anywhere will do, as long as it looks local and it’s not facing the beach (obviously more expensive, but probably just as good)