Although it has increasingly become a more popular destination, Porto is still considered to be one of Europe’s hidden gems and a must see if you are thinking about retiring in Portugal. At first glance, some might find that this old, riverside city, lacks the vibrance of places like Lisbon with it’s crowded, bustling streets.
In Porto, life runs at a quieter, more modest pace which many retirees love. And much like a fine wine, Porto is better appreciated by those willing to take their time to take it in. Walking through the worn cobblestone backstreets downtown, one gets a sense of the city’s somber, moody aura that takes you back and causes you to become suddenly lost in a time long gone, before being swiftly brought back to present day. The historic city center was classified as Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 1996.
There are many signs of the power dynamics that, over centuries, helped shape Porto into what it currently is, including the narrow streets inherited from the Roman Empire, the remains of the medieval wall, and the cathedral that still looms over the oldest part of the city.
All around these old, gray remnants of the past clash with a more modern version of Porto – trendy, artsy and youthful - creating a unique atmosphere, capable of captivating all sorts of crowds and those retiring in Porto.
Pros and Cons of Retiring in Porto, Portugal
What is the Local Culture Like in Porto?
When it comes to the locals, the Portuenses are known to be friendly, welcoming people. Sure, that can also be said of most Portuguese people, but there’s a genuine, spontaneous quality to the northerner’s way of being that sets them apart.
More often than not people will go the extra mile to try to be helpful. They know how to make anyone feel welcome and they take great pride in that. Pride is definitely very present in the local culture.
These are people who value their culture and traditions, despite what many might lead you to believe. They also greatly value their sense of community.
Even as the city limits expanded and many left the center for more peripheral areas, the people of Porto still managed to preserve the importance of the bonds created in their respective neighborhood communities.
Is Porto a Safe City? Do Women Feel Comfortable Going Out on Their Own?
Portugal is said to be one of the safest countries in the world - crime rates are generally pretty low when compared to other countries. So Porto is overall a pretty safe city.
There are certainly still some issues and problem areas, but the large majority of crimes tend to be non-violent and the local authorities usually do a pretty good job in keeping the city a safe place for residents, retirees, and visitors alike. While it’s always advisable to be cautious and always take appropriate precautions, locals will usually walk around late at night with no issue at all.
Getting Around the City - Do You Need a Car, is Public Transportation Enough?
Despite being the second largest in the country, Porto is actually a rather small, compact city. While traffic is definitely a thing, particularly during rush hours, you can easily get around without a car...especially if you choose to live in a central part of town.
Though in that case, one thing you need to bear in mind is that some streets around the city center can be pretty steep and lined with cobblestones, which may be an added challenge. The good news is that there are multiple ways to get around that don’t involve walking.
To get around the more central parts of town, it’s actually preferable to use public transportation which exists in several forms – from buses and metro lines, to taxis and even an historic tram – and is usually cheap, frequent and reliable.
If you love Port wine, this is the place for you. It's produced next to the Duoro River. Leisurely spend your afternoons tasting some of the best Port wines in the world!
What Languages are Spoken. Can You Get by with English Only?
Portugal has two official languages: Portuguese and Mirandese, though the latter is spoken only by a very, very small number of people in the northeastern region of the country. While it’s not very common for older people to speak any language other than Portuguese, the same cannot be said for the younger generations.
Most young people speak English quite well - especially those in larger urban areas, such as Porto. They’re also rather happy to put their skill to use most of the time.
Most shops and restaurants tend to have English-speaking staff, especially in the city center, so getting by as a non-Portuguese speaker is fairly easy. Still, and even though Portuguese can be a challenging language to learn, it is highly recommendable that those considering becoming permanent residents learn at least some basic words and sentences as that clearly shows interest in being a part of the community.
How is the Weather in Porto?
The weather is usually pleasant enough all year round. Although, due to its location right by the Atlantic, Porto can be rainier than other places in Portugal.
Winters can be cold by southern European standards, but not too cold - it is extremely rare for the temperature to drop below 0º Celsius (32ºF), even at night. On the other hand, summers are warm and sunny, although the temperature rarely reaches over 35ºC (95ºF).
Be Aware >> One thing to bear in mind is that houses in Portugal are known to have insulation issues. The materials commonly used in construction causes them to heat up in the summer and get rather chilly in the winter months. This is particularly true for older buildings.
And while there are ways around this - such as having central heating or AC installed - they aren't always as easy or as cheap as one would like, so it’s always best to be aware of this fact.
What Activities do Locals Enjoy?
Like most places in Portugal, Porto is very big on café culture. Coffeehouses and bakeries are prime hangout places. People of all ages will usually meet there to catch up over a cup of coffee – which in most cases is actually just an expresso.
Over the last few years, Porto has succeeded in diversifying its cultural scene which seems to have contributed to a growing interest in certain activities. Plays, concerts, art exhibitions and street markets are just some of the options available for those retirees looking to dive into the local culture.
Some of the city’s main museums, such as Museu de Serralves and Museu Soares dos Reis, even offer free entrance on selected days. Even so, the city may occasionally start to feel a bit too small for expats wanting to retire in Porto. And in that case, the solution will often consist of hopping on a train and going for a day or weekend trip outside the city.
Lisbon is roughly 3 hours away by train or by car, but there are much closer alternatives. Braga and Aveiro, for example – both of which take less than an hour to get to by train – are great options and the trip will usually be under 5 euros.
When in Porto, you may notice that locals do not pronounce the letter, V, in the usual way. They are more like the Spanish and their V's sound more like B's.
Are Outdoor Activities Popular in Porto?
Generally speaking, Portuguese people are very fond of spending some quality time outdoors. There are several public parks spread throughout the city, the biggest of which is Parque da Cidade. This huge urban park in the outer limits of Porto is where locals go to whenever they feel like going for a walk in the closest thing to a natural environment that city life can offer.
Walking through the park’s tree lined paths or sitting by the lakes it’s easy enough to forget it actually sits right by one of Porto’s largest and busiest avenues. It’s also very common for locals to hang out by the ocean, regardless of the time of year.
During the summer months, however, most people will flock to the beaches either in the city of Porto or in the neighboring towns of Matosinhos and Vila Nova the Gaia. Some will even brave dipping more than just their toes in the icy North Atlantic water. Brr!
Dining Out - What are Some Typical Dishes, What Restaurants Do Locals Enjoy?
Food is a big part of Portuguese culture and Porto is no exception. And if there is one thing the city is known for, it is the francesinha. It’s hard to explain what exactly a francesinha is, though.
It’d be even harder to try to explain why it makes sense to put several types of meat between two pieces of bread and then proceed to cover it in cheese and sauce. But the truth is somehow it's amazing. And the result is a truly unique dish, popular amongst locals and visitors alike.
There are several places all throughout the city that have the francesinha as their specialty, and there’s an ongoing debate as to which one does indeed serve the absolute best one in town. Two of the most popular contenders for that title are Restaurante Cufra and Cervejaria Santiago.
Another thing Porto is very well known for is, of course, the wine – especially port wine. Funny enough, none of the port wine cellars are actually located in Porto, but rather across the Douro River in the town of Vila Nova de Gaia. Still, in this case, it’s safe to say a trip across the bridge every now and then is well worth it.
What is the Cost of Retiring in Porto, Portugal?
If you're looking at the cost of retiring in Porto vs Lisbon, Porto is definitely a more affordable option in general but there are some things that will be more in Porto. Here are some comparisons for you:
- Public transportation for the most part is less expensive in Porto with the exception of taxis. Taxi rides will cost you an average of 6%-7% more.
- For retail shopping like clothing and shoes, Lisbon offers more choice and lower costs of about 5% to 12%.
- Utilities run about 7% to 8% higher in Porto than in Lisbon.
- Buying or renting an apartment or home is where the real savings come in. For rentals, expect to save approximately 18% to 25%. If you want to buy, you'll pay 50% to 60% less per square foot in Porto.
Cost of Living Rank
338th out of 588
1 Bdr Apartment in City
$850 per month
1 Bdr Apartment Outside City
$630 per month
Meal for Two, Mid-Range
Does Portugal Have a Retirement Visa?
Portugal does have a visa for retirees coming from non-EU countries. It's called the D7 Visa or the Portugal Passive Income Visa.
The D7 Visa allows you to retire in Portugal without having to make a significant investment in property. You can renew two times (after one year) and then you can convert it to a permanent resident visa if you wish to stay in Portugal.
You'll need to prove you have sufficient monthly income for a 12-month period to support yourself and your dependents. Here's the breakdown (US Dollars are approximate as exchange rates fluctuate):
- $8,800 (€7,200) for the 1st adult per year
- $4,400 (€3,600) for the 2nd adult per year
- $2,640 (€2,160) per child per year (hopefully, if you're retiring, your kids won't be joining you!)
The amounts you see above are approximate as fee structures change. Make sure to check with a lawyer or your local Portuguese embassy for more info.
Retiring in Porto Bottom Line
Portugal is a popular country for retirement for expats from around the world. Its friendly people, mild weather and amazing cuisine make it very attractive.
Check out more cities included in our top picks for the 10 Most Affordable Cities in Europe for 2021!
Quick Facts for Retiring in Porto, Portugal
Comfortable, dry summers and wet, cold and cloudy winters. Average temps are from 43°F and 76°F
Flight time to U.S.
8 hours by plane to New York
No, but seniors do receive discounts for certain activities.
Yes. Metro, buses, and historical trams.