How to Visit Porto on a Budget – Lonely Planet Travel News | Gmx Pharm

Portugal’s fascinating northern city has its fair share of five-star hotels and Michelin-listed restaurants. But Porto also has budget B&Bs and family businesses tabernacle where you can enjoy Portuguese classics without breaking the bank. In fact, traveling here can be surprisingly affordable even during peak season.

Some of the best things to do in Porto don’t cost anything, from lounging on the beaches near Foz do Douro to watching the sunset from atop a hill miradouro (Danger). You can join free walking tours or create your own scavenger hunt adventures around town. You can also plan your trip around major free festivals, and it won’t cost you much to use Porto’s excellent public transport network when you need a break to soak up the city’s rich culture.

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Find out the cheapest arrival point

Budget airlines connect Porto to airports across Europe, but if you’re coming from the US, Australia or other faraway countries, check out flights to Lisbon. From there it is a little over three hours by train or bus to Porto. Even with the added cost of moving between cities, you can save significantly by flying into the Portuguese capital.

Visit from October to April to save on accommodation

In spring and autumn, Porto has pleasant weather and lots of color in the parks (blooming flowers in April, changing leaves in October). You’ll also notice fewer crowds and lower accommodation prices – typically around 25% off peak season prices. You can save even more if you visit November through February, when many hotels slash their rates by 50% or more. Just bring a raincoat, scarf and warm layers as skies can sometimes bring wet, chilly weather (alternated with invigorating sunny days).

Leave the car behind and use public transport to get around

Porto city center is not a great place to get behind the wheel. Expensive parking lots and everyday urban challenges (one-way streets, heavy traffic) make for a stressful driving experience. If you come with a vehicle, it is better to park it on the outskirts and use public transport in the city. The price for a single trip on the subway or bus is only €1.25 (US$1.30) and travels within the central part of the city (Zone 2).

Save money once your plane lands by taking the subway from the airport to the city © martin SC photo / Shutterstock

Take the subway from the airport

When you fly to Aeroporto Francisco Sá Carneiro, you can instantly save money by taking the metro into town instead of opting for an expensive taxi. Just buy an Andante card (€0.60/$0.65), add credit for a ride in zone 4 (€2/$2.10) and hop on line E (purple). After that, you can add more balances to get around with the same card.

Make lunch your big meal

You can save by eating your main meal at lunchtime. Even high-end restaurants offer less-expensive lunches. That menu do dia (fixed menu) or prato do dia (daily special) is always a cheap option.

Plan your visit for Serralves em Festa and other free festivals

One of Porto’s best arts festivals offers 50 hours of non-stop cultural programming over a long weekend in June. There is music, dance, theatre, circus arts and multimedia exhibitions, among others.

The Serralves event is just one of many free entry events that Porto hosts throughout the year. The celebration of São João (around June 24th) brings a lot of happiness to the streets. You can also catch free summer concerts on the Esplanade of Casa da Música or ring in the New Year with street parties and fireworks over the river.

Watch the sunset from a miradouro

Porto is blessed with many scenic viewpoints (Miradouros) to enjoy the panoramic views and cool breezes. A local favorite is Passeio das Virtudes, where you can stretch out on the grass and look out over the rooftops, the Douro River and the Arrábida Bridge beyond. You can have a drink at one of the terrace cafes nearby, or bring your own drink to save a little more.

Book a room in a budget hotel

Even in the busy summer months, you can save a bundle on accommodation if you’re willing to forego a few luxuries. In places like the Poets Inn, you can book a stylish, literary-themed double room for less than €70 a night, but you’ll have to share a bathroom. You can keep the bathroom and go even deeper if you’re willing to sacrifice a bit of aesthetics. At Hospedaria Boavista you’ll find clean but spartan accommodations, which cost €45-55 ($47-58) a night in high season.

Save even more money by staying in a hostel

Porto has dozens of beautifully designed hostels packed with upscale amenities and artful individuality. Some of the best have rooftop lounges, terraces and private gardens and offer a welcome cocktail or host house concerts. Trainspotters should consider a night at the Passenger Hostel, tucked away in the historic São Bento train station.

A bed in a dormitory usually costs around €25 ($26) per night in high season. Many hostels also have double rooms, which cost between €60 and €90 (US$63 to US$95) if you’re looking for a social atmosphere but want a little more privacy.

Spend some downtime at the beach

Among the many ways to enjoy a cheap trip in Porto is a trip to the beach (by bus or metro, of course). The seaside district of Foz do Douro offers an inviting selection of sandy beaches, including Praia dos Ingleses, which can be reached by bus 1M from the city center (less than a 30-minute drive from the Ribeira).

If the sea is too rough you can go to Praia de Matosinhos instead (accessible by bus 1M as well as by metro). This wide sandy beach is a good option when traveling with children. You can build sand castles on the shore and swim safely with lifeguards in the summer.

Pedestrians and people seated at tables on the sidewalk in the Ribeira neighborhood against a backdrop of tall, colorful buildings
Book a free walking tour to learn how the city has evolved over the years and visit places like the Ribeira neighborhood © Lux Blue / Shutterstock

Get an insider’s perspective of Porto on a free walking tour

You could spend days exploring the many layers of Porto’s history, but if you want a crash course in defining moments in the past, book a free tour with Porto Walkers. You’ll learn how the city has evolved over the years as you visit places like the Sé (Cathedral), the top of the Dom Luís I Bridge, the Ribeira neighborhood, and scenic viewpoints over the city. Tours operate most days and are gratuito (free), although tipping is recommended (guides cannot make a living without them).

Eat at a taberna without breaking the bank

Porto has many classic places where you can enjoy traditional Portuguese dishes at excellent prices. One place not to be missed is the Taberna de Santo António, which offers a rotating menu with a range of delicious dishes featuring cod, roast pork, fried sardines as well as the city’s iconic dish trips to Porto (tripe and bean stew).

People looking up at the azulejos mosaics in Porto Central Station
Spend a morning or afternoon tracking down and photographing Porto’s azulejo-covered buildings © trabantos / Shutterstock

Go on an azulejo scavenger hunt

The blue and white tile known as azulejo is a symbol of Porto and you will see it on some of the city’s most important landmarks. Azulejos depict scenes from Portuguese history, apocryphal stories of national saints and works by contemporary artists with social themes. You can spend a morning or afternoon hunting and photographing azulejo-covered buildings and it won’t cost you anything.

Be sure to include the following places in your list: the Igreja do Carmo church, the São Bento train station, the Porto Cathedral, the Capela das Almas, the Igreja de Santo Ildefonso and the “painting” Ribeira Negra near the bridge Dom Luís I. You will no doubt come across other azulejo artworks along the way. Photograph them all and at the end of the day compile your greatest hits list.

Daily cost in Porto

Hostel room (dormitory bed): €22-28 ($23-29)
Basic room for two people: €55-75 ($58-79)
Self-Catering Apartment (including Airbnb): from €100 ($105)
Metro or bus ticket to Matosinhos beach: €1.60 one way ($1.70)
Um Zimbalino (an espresso): €0.80-1.30 ($85-1.40)
Tripas à modo do Porto (Porto’s classic tripe dish): €7-9 ($7.40-9.50)
Dinner for two: €40-70 ($42-74)
Glass of Douro wine: €3-5.50 ($3.15-5.80)

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