Digital nomad’s survival guide to Porto, Portugal — how to live as a local

I think I have been traveling a lot — I have visited countless countries in Asia and lot of other countries in Europe — all this with only my backpack. However, I still have not travelled the whole World (“yet”).

My next stop on my way to World complete exploration was Portugal. To be precise, first stop was Porto for a few weeks. Let’s see what I have found out as a digital nomad in this small city.

What to know about Portugal before you decide to visit.

  1. If you plan to visit Portugal, you better to do it in summer. And if you have to go in winter, don’t pack flip-flops. Although the Portugal is known as a country with a good weather, in the winter it can be very cold. Especially if you realize that locals do not usually have heatings in their flats AND their windows are not made to isolate rooms from outside cold.
  2. Portugal is safe. Yes. For example, locals do not have a problem to left all their stuff including laptops unprotected in coffee shops.
  3. English is not an issue. Only if you go into small local shops owned by older people, in that case you will have an issue. Otherwise, majority can speak at least with the basic english.
  4. The Portuguese are “easy-going” but not really opened at the first glance. From Asia I got used to smiling people everywhere, however don’t expect it here in Portugal. Locals seem to have a lot of own problems, be prepared for neutral and sometimes even angry face expressions. However, if you get closer with someone, you will be surprised by their kindness.

What to expect (and don’t) expect from Porto.

  1. Good internet connection seems to be standard here. I have not found any shitty wifi. UPDATE from Lisbon — don’t expect the same in the capital, one day internet can be very fast, the other it will not work at all.
  2. Coffee Shops to work from are rare. Although “café” is almost everywhere, most of them are just “news stands” with coffee maker or just small local restaurant. (I have included a short list with my favorite coffee shops below.)
  3. Old city center is small, you can reach basically everything by foot. It does not include the beach which is fairly far away.
  4. Good public transport. Although Porto does have only about 200k citizens, the city does have the underground with 3 lines! You can easily reach downtown from the airport by metro.
  5. If you don’t live in downtown and its surroundings, you will see a lot of aboded homes and very low quality of life.

What is worth to see? Visit? And try?

  1. Definitely, my most favorite one is the sunset on the beach. Lighthouses and sailing boots make the sunset very unique!
  1. Historical tram. I would recommend to use Line 1 which goes from downtown to the beach. It goes all around the coast and takes about 30 minutes (cost 3Euro without the prepaid cart). You will see a lot during your way to beach.
  2. Hidden view over the city. Literally, I found this place by chance and definitely a good spot for the sunrise.
View from hidden spot — Mirador

4. “Fish bread” (they explained me it is NOT a fish bread… but I can not help myself, it is made from fish and looks like bread!) with wine and additionally with a cheese, nearby main tourist attraction Clérigos Church. The place is called Pastel de Bacalhau.

“Fish bread” with wine served like this! You can even take the glass and tray.

5. Flea marker on street Rua de Cândido dos Reis. Not sure if this market is regular or not but. I was there on Saturday morning and it was there. It is also just next to Clérigos Church. So, if you are around, it is definitely worth to check. I was surprised by selection of old (vintage) stuff they sell there.

6. Chill at park with view to whole Porto. If you cross the river by Luis bridge, you will get to another city called Vila Nova de Gaia. Right after the bridge is park. From there you do have lovely view to Porto. If you go there on Friday or Saturday evening you can meet a lot of locals hanging out and chilling. Also, local artists can be singing there and showing other performances. It is very peaceful place with good vibes!

This is the view from the park

7. Porto wine. I am pretty sure you have heard about Port wine already. Its taste is very unique and it is well-know all around the World. Your visit of Porto is the best chance to try its uniqueness. I personally liked this Sandeman Fine White Porto. Or if you prefer red one, I liked Tawny wine. Be aware, these wines are very sweet and their consistency is almost “liker-ish”, together with the fact it contains about 19% of alcohol, one glass of the wine can be enough haha.

8. Portugal food — Francesinha and Bacalhau. If you visit a supermarket or any other grocery shop, you will smell a terrible odor. It is because the fishes they sold dried and in salt. They use the fish to make one of the national meal called Bacalhau. Locals says the best Bacalhau is grilled. Another very unique Portugal food which is originally from Porto, is called Francesinha. You can get this meal almost everywhere. It looks like block of cheese in sauce with egg on it. However, It is actually a sandwich full of meat and ham. I could not tried this one because of my strict diet but otherwise I would definitely do that!

List of coffee shops which are “working friendly”

  1. Combi Coffee
  2. The Royal Rawness
  3. Brando: Casa do Café
  4. Mesa 325

I decided to write a dedicated post about the coffee shops in Porto here.

Where to shop the food and other general stuff?

You don’t have actually a lot of options here. Probably the biggest (and only two recommended) supermarkets are Pingo Doce and Lidl (there are a few of them). In Porto is also chain of Minipreco shops which are usually smaller with small range of selection but good for basic shopping.

Where to stay?

You probably don’t want to stay directly in the city center (because a lot of tourists and high prices) but you also don’t definitely want to stay out of center surroundings. I usually prefer something what is walkable to center in 10 minutes max. I can recommend this AirBnb room in Bonfim area (which is full of residents and students, close to downtown and coffee shops I mentioned above — the best district to stay in Porto I think). The place was clean and host is very kind and helpful.

(If you wish to get some free Airbnb credit, here is your invite from me.)

Not the best photo but at least I can show you Bonfim area in Porto

Also, just around the corner is a nice coin laundry. It is always handy to have a laundry nearby, especially if you traveled for some time already.

Other interesting findings

1. In Porto is probably super easy to buy any kind of drugs including marihuana and cocaine. I have been offered this for several times just during a stroll on the main square with my hood on. (I haven’t tried if you are wondering about the price and the quality hah.)

UPDATE from Lisbon: Not only Porto, in Lisbon is situation the same — probably something special about the Portugal?

2. Another interesting fact I have noticed, people in Porto do not seem to “work with time”. Coffee shops are usually opened much later than opening hours says. Not a big deal, just better to count with that if you had scheduled Skype call or something.

Conclusion

Porto is very nice but small city. Locals are friendly bu not very opened. If you don’t mind going into a few coffee shops again and again, I recommend Porto for at least few weeks (I would probably not stay months in Porto tho). If you want to visit Porto just for sign-seeing, 3 days are enough.


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