The best independent guide to Porto
Porto is a fascinating city, which is rapidly becoming a popular and respected holiday destination.
The historic monuments and main tourist attractions are in a relatively compact area, and this area is where the majority of visitors will want to be based for their holiday. This article will provide a guide to the best neighbourhoods and districts of Porto, and where to be based for your holiday or trip.
Note: The increase of visitor numbers to Porto is growing much quicker than the slow increase in the actual number of beds. This means that the best hotels and rental rooms sell out fast, leaving budget and last-minute visitors forced to look further from the historic centre. We strongly recommend you book your accommodation as early as possible.
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The following map shows the central area of Porto and highlights the popular tourist districts of the city.
Note: The dashed line indicates the area where all of the main tourist attractions are located
The main accommodation districts of Porto; 1) Ribeira 2) Vitória 3) Se 4) Baixa 5) Ildefonso 6) Miragaia 7) Cedofeita 8) Vila Nova de Gaia 9) South Massarelos 10) Bonfim 11) Boavista
If this your first trip to Porto, we would recommend being based within Ribeira (1), Vitória (2), Se (3), Baixa (4) or Ildefonso (5) districts. This relatively small area is very close to all of the main sights and buzz of the city.
The map below shows the location of hotels and rental rooms in Porto and by altering the date to your holiday, the map will display current prices:
Ribeira (1) – The original medieval harbour and today the most atmospheric district of the city. This charming district is filled with ancient houses, narrow alleyways and contains numerous restaurants and bars with views over the Douro River. This is the area of the city where you will spend most of your evenings.
Vitória (2) – The old commercial heart of Porto and centred around the university, with bustling shopping streets and a lively atmosphere. Vitória contains the two main nightlife streets of Porto, the Galerias de Paris and Rua do Almada. Vitória is a good location to be based for a more lively city break.
Se (3) – The oldest district of the city which was originally within the city walls and is named after the cathedral. The district is small but is convenient to all of the tourist attractions.
Baixa (4) – This is the grand centre of Porto, with much of it being rebuilt during the early 20th century. Many of Porto’s classic hotels are found in Baixa, and the southern side is a highly recommended area for hotels.
Vila Nova de Gaia (8) – This is where the vast port cellars are based, and the riverside always has a great atmosphere. South of the highlighted area is very little for tourists and you will be doing a lot of walking to get to the historic centre.
South Massarelos (9) – An interesting and alternative area centred around the Palácio de Cristal park. This is a good back-up location if accommodation options are running low. Do not be based further west than the Arrábida Bridge, as this moves into Bairro Aleixo, a more deprived area of the city.
Boavista (10) and the Avenida da Boavista is the location of many of Porto’s 4- and 5-star international chain hotels. This area is ideal for a business trip and a touch of class, but a little way out for sightseeing. Boavista district hotels will be the only ones with carparking, so a sensible choice if you plan to rent a car.
Bonfim (11) is an up and coming area of Porto which offers cheaper accommodation and is a popular student area. The district has a non-touristy atmosphere and an emerging artisan scene. Bonfim is a little way out for most tourists, but great if you want to go beyond conventional tourism locations.
Foz do Douro, is a calm and pleasant district at the mouth of the Douro River. The district is distinctly Portuguese, with traditional houses and many excellent restaurants, while along the River or sea front are scenic walks. Foz is an ideal location if you want a more relaxed trip to Porto, and we always recommend it to our parents.
Note: There is a regular bus service (route 500) and delightful tram (Linha 1) which connect Foz to central Porto and this pretty route follows the Douro River.
Matosinhos is a busy fishing town and location of the best beach close to Porto. The town is famed for its seafood restaurants and is lively in the summer, but the beach is not the most scenic as it looks over the cruise terminal and docks. The regular 500 bus connects Matosinhos to central Porto, so is very easy to travel to the city.
Vila Nova de Gaia is the twin city of Porto, which lies on the southern side of the Douro River. This city offers much better value accommodation, but the compromise will be the endless walking into central Porto. There is surprisingly poor pubic transport from Vila Nova de Gaia with only four metro stations and slow bus services crossing the river.