Hey budget traveler – here’s why your next stop should be Porto!
I think it’s a misconception that Europe isn’t a budget travel destination. With all of the hype and price tags of London and Paris, we’re forgetting about the less photographed places with a lower price tag but just as much charm. For this spotlight, I’m talking about Porto.
I do think places like Paris can be traveled inexpensively, but when do so, you’re quite aware that you’re skirting the more in depth Parisian experience. I still have doubts as to whether London can be a budget travel destination, as the simple conversion from US dollars to the British pound starts you in the red immediately. In Porto, the lower prices make it easy to enjoy your time and feel you’ve truly experienced the city.
My trip to Porto was one with no expectations. I’d heard Portugal was beautiful and a fun place to travel, but on this particular trip I was also traveling to Spain & Ireland. I’ll admit that I was eager to return to Spain as I hadn’t been back since I lived there teaching English a few years ago. For me Portugal was going to be a fun in between before I returned to two places I was already completely in love with.
Porto took me by surprise.
The buildings weren’t all in perfect condition, and the street don’t have the refined elegance of Madrid’s Gran Via, but each building, even those with cracked windows and rusty doors, has its own beauty. Mostly, Porto just seems interesting. I like the non-uniformity of it all. I like that some streets, though a bit rundown or covered in construction, have their own individual beauty.
Our arrival found us exhausted and ravenous, and we walked the stone’s throw from our rented apartment to the main street and the rows of outdoor restaurants.
The hunger urged us to snag a table at the first available restaurant and it was immensely beautiful sitting in the pleasantly warm evening and splitting a pitcher of sangria to celebrate our arrival.
Bonus: a pitcher of sangria is only €7. After a great dinner trying the local specialty of Francesinha – a meat & cheese concoction, and after a Belgian scout approached our table and asked to braid our hair (sure why not) we knew we were already hooked on Porto.
My go-to for walking tours is usually Sandeman’s, but since they didn’t offer one in Porto we found a company called Porto Walkers which offered a similar style of tour. David was our guide, and if you’re able to get a tour with him I highly recommend it! The walking tour took us through the train station which is covered in hand-painted tiles, through the winding narrow streets, and to gorgeous overlooks.
David chatted about the history and tied it in to present day Porto.
Tour highlight: A woman who sells cakes only to caterers and weddings will sell a piece of cake only to someone on David’s tour. We all poked our heads through an old stone window and ordered a piece of her chocolate cake. Potentially the best cake in the world, and for only €1.25.
When it comes to eating in Porto there are endless options. Leave the main street and head up into the winding side streets where restaurants are tiny, and tucked into side alleys. We ducked inside one, and sat on stools on a ledge barely six inches deep. But the staff are friendly, and the prices are low. For a lunch of homemade lemonade, a large sandwich, and a bowl of soup you’ll pay €5.
The nightlife in Porto is quite distinct. There’s not the giant street party that is Lisbon, but instead there are bars tucked into houses, some with only room for a few people, and some clearly just someone’s house where they charge people to have a glass of wine. My friend and our new friend from the walking tour were eager to try the different port wines, so we set off on a self guided port wine tour of the city. I’ll take a quiet hole in the wall with tons of charm over a loud and flashy night club any day, and that’s what Porto has in excess.
Porto is beautiful, and interesting, and if you’re looking for an inexpensive destination, budget travel in Porto, Portugal is easy to do!
What I paid in Porto:
Lodging: AirBnb : $60/ night for an entire apartment. I was sharing with a friend so this came out to $30 / each.
This was my first venture with AirBnb. The apartment was directly in the city center and had a balcony overlooking the street. If you want to cut costs, you can get an apartment further from the main street, or stay in a hostel. Click here for $25 off your next AirBnb.
Food: Lunch – €5, Dinner €5
Drinks: @ €2 / each
Until next time, Porto!
You can check out our Porto photo album here!