You’ve definitely heard all the wonderful things about living in Portugal, from the food to the friendly people. Still, there are some things that you might not know about living in Porto, in particular, until you actually move there. Every city has its secrets that are hidden to the eyes of the tourist. Here are some of Porto’s secrets.
1. It’s actually pretty big (for a small city)
Porto is the second biggest city in Portugal, after its capital, Lisbon. Greater Porto is actually quite spread out and is home to almost 2.5 million people.
Getting from one edge of the city to another by public transport can take over an hour depending on the time of day since the metro only serves a few areas and the buses are generally quite slow. Due to these reasons, most locals own a car. However, the centre of the city is pretty small and generally walkable, so if you plan on living there then this might not be an issue for you.
2. It’s quite international
One of the most interesting things about Porto is how international it is. You can wander around the centre and hear so many different languages spoken. The University of Porto hosts hundreds of Erasmus students each year and Porto seems to be a popular city amongst young professionals as well, giving it a nice international vibe.
Related post: 7 reasons why Porto is better than Lisbon for Erasmus
3. It’s not always sunny
Most people picture Portugal to be a country of perpetual sunshine but the truth is that during the wintertime it can rain…a lot. The summer and fall are generally graced with clear blue skies but the months of February, March and April can see you wearing your rain boots nearly every day. But even when the days are rainy there is still Porto is ready for it, with lots of indoor activities, from escape rooms to cultural events.
4. Most houses do not have central heating
Due to the winters being relatively short, most houses and even universities do not have any sort of central heating. This can make the months of December and January seem unbelievable cold and create a scenario where it’s actually colder inside the house than outside. Make sure to bring loads of layers and thick sweaters and the warmer weather will arrive in no time.
5. Learning some basic Portuguese goes a long way
Although most young people speak pretty good English (and maybe even other languages), the older folk prefer to speak in Portuguese. Therefore learning some of the local language will really help you out. People will also be extremely happy to see that you’ve put in the effort to learn their language.
6. There are amazing beaches in Gaia
Most people are familiar with the beach in Matosinhos, which is great, but the beaches in Gaia are even better and not nearly as crowded. You can get there by taking the train from Sao Bento and stopping either at Francelos, Miramar or in the beach town of Espinho.
7. It has a very relaxed vibe
The pace of life is slower and more relaxed in Porto than in other big cities. People have got time to just stand and chat. Being about a half an hour late to a social gathering is the norm and no one stresses about it. The lunch breaks also consist of an hour or more where employees can have a real meal sitting down.
Related post: The 5 Most Popular Neighbourhoods in Porto
8. The bureaucracy can be tedious
Getting anything bureaucratic done, either at the university or elsewhere, can take quite a while and the process can be quite arduous. Expect long lines and loads of paperwork. It’s always best to try to get everything done right after lunch break since most of the lines should be shorter then. If you’re coming from Northern Europe then you might find that you cannot really do as many things online as you might expect (for example renewing your monthly metro pass).
If you’re a non-EU student, looking to apply to a Portuguese university, here’s a guide that will clear any questions you might have on the process.
9. The nightlife is very different than other parts of Europe
This might not come as a surprise if you’ve lived in Southern Europe before but for myself, coming from Northern Europe, it was quite the shock. Parties in Porto only start at midnight and usually end around 5-6am – much later than in Northern Europe. People are also allowed to drink on the streets, so most of the partying actually take place on the streets.
10. The overall quality of life is amazing
The quality of life in Porto is amazing in comparison to other European cities. Prices are much more affordable (although rents are getting more expensive) making going out and enjoying life more accessible to students. Porto is also blessed by the Atlantic Ocean, River Douro and amazing nature just outside the city centre.
We hope that these 10 points provided you with some insight into how it is to live in Porto. Make sure to also check out some facts and curiosities about the city. Porto is an amazing city to live in but as with any place, there are some cons that you only realise when you’re there.
Alice is a student of Political Science and International Relations, an avid news reader and a brand ambassador for Uniplaces in Porto. She has lived in the USA, Estonia, UK and currently resides in Portugal. Besides being a student and an ambassador for Uniplaces, she’s also an ambassador for SPEAK, a social enterprise aiming to connect migrants and locals. In her free time she loves to travel, watch movies, meet new people and play music.