Porto is a magical place that I never expected to love as much as I do. I could spend weeks here drinking wine and enjoying the sea breeze. So it makes a pretty attractive living option.
The city is much bigger than I thought. It’s separated by the Douro River, which means there are tons of opportunities on either side for a riverview meal or glass of wine. Unlike most major cities in Europe, this one feels undoubtedly lived in. Though there are throngs of tourists and large buses, the small streets that snake up and down city center are full of locals. The people of Porto love looking out their open windows, their linens hanging out to dry on the ledge beneath them.
Local kids play soccer on the same street that tourists drink coffee in sidewalk cafes. It’s a nice feeling, because it doesn’t feel like visitors have overrun the city and turned it into a circus. There are sidewalk cafes aplenty and the beach is an hour and a half away from city center on foot. Or a 20 minute bus ride. I do love living a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean.
Porto is Europe’s best kept foodie secret. I have been downright shocked at how good all the food is. They have their own local fare, like the Francesinha which is like a steak sandwich covered in cheese and swimming in tomato sauce. Pork sandwiches, or as my Cuban people know them tremendo pan con puerco, are also really popular. And of course, the seafood is extra fresh which is awesome because sushi is really important to me. Fried octopus doesn’t hurt either. But maybe the best part of Porto is the wine that takes its name. With dozens of wineries a short walk away, you can get it straight from the source with a side of cheese or chocolate.
From the moment I arrived and realized the Airbnb host was renting an apartment that’s upstairs from the cafe where she works, I knew that these people have life figured out. The people of Porto are pretty fantastic, and they seem friendly and happy. Women talk to their neighbors through the open windows of their third story apartments. Restaurant owners give homeless people free food at the end of the night. Bartenders who can barely speak English smile in a non-creepy way and talk me into another one when I’m trying to close out. And I get the impression that they really appreciate the fact that they live near the ocean. Even on an overcast, foggy, kind of chilly afternoon, there were a ton of people running on the beach, walking their dogs, and fishing. If I ever wanted children, I would raise them here.
I hate the weather here. It’s somehow both too hot and too cold at the same time. It’s really humid so my hair has looked like shit for days. Since it’s coastal, there are a ton of seagulls and a light cover of fog. And I don’t know that I wanna live in a Stephen King novel. And I can only imagine when summer is in full swing and the sun is beating down how awful it must be to go up those steep inclines.
That being said, I would love to live by the beach. The sand is more pebbly than I would like, but it is nice and fluffy, unlike a lot of the beautiful beaches in Europe.
If the cost of food is any indication, living here wouldn’t be too bad for Western European standards. I can get a good square meal for around 6-8 Euro, including a beer. Transportation is around 2 Euro a ride, which is more than 4 times what I pay in Prague but there are many parts of the city that are accessible on foot. And a cursory search of housing options looks like it would be around $600-700 a month, though probably kind of cramped unless I move far out of city center.
Health and Safety
The city feels very safe day and night. Like many places, the areas around the train stations are sketchiest, but not in an overly threatening way. You can just tell there are a lot of non-homeless dudes standing around for no reason. On one occasion, some lady verbally berated one of them for being a drug dealer. Not sure if she’s right, but I did later see the same guy making a motorcycle revving motion at someone else on the other side of the street. So she probably wasn’t completely wrong.
Getting around in Porto is really tiring overall. There’s steep elevation changes all over the city, which means that over time, my cardio strength would be in tip top shape (and so would my ass). But it can also mean that you might vomit going 20 minutes uphill after a heavy meal. There are some streets that are just long flights of stairs. And some of the ones that aren’t are tiny alleys that are shared by cars. But drivers seem pretty responsible, probably because they have about 2 inches on either side of the car. It’s a very safe place for pedestrians. Traffic is either so light or so heavy that you can always cross the street pretty much anywhere.
Total livability score 7/10
Porto is absolutely fantastic. The food alone is enough reason to go back. But I think I could live there for a couple of months.