Porto is a pretty picture of tile-fronted homes and red-tiled roofs, dropping like a waterfall down to meet the winding Douro River. The second-largest city in Portugal, it’s proudly different to the capital in Lisbon. Here, in the lush green lands of the north, the city flaunts fortified wines and comes hemmed in by surf-washed beaches. The Luís I Bridge and the Episcopal Palace are perhaps the two main landmarks. But it’s not really about landmarks. It’s about getting lost in the UNESCO Ribeira neighbourhood amid the port cellars and buzzy bars, about hitting the markets of Bolhão, and about partying the night away in sleepless Vitória. Ready?
Airbnb has risen to become one of the major sources for short-term holiday accommodations here in recent years. There are now thousands of listings to pick from, ranging from private rooms in cool boutique hostels to penthouse flats with the edgiest of styles. This guide can help you settle on the area of Porto that’s best for you, and even offers a few tips on the hottest individual Airbnbs in the town.
It sure is. As a traveler, you don’t have to worry one bit about breaking any law when you book that historic bolthole by the Douro River. You will be liable to pay a local tourist tax (€2 euros per person, per night) on all stays that are for less than a week. You might also have to present your passport or ID upon check in. It’s a different story for hosts. They’re obligated to register with local authorities to get the appropriate Airbnb license, which you’ll usually see displayed on the property’s Airbnb profile page.
Where should I stay in Porto Airbnb?
Porto dashes along the meanders of the Douro River as it enters the Atlantic Ocean in northern Portugal, which means there are both inner-city areas and beach districts to explore in these parts. The most famous of the first is probably the Ribeira(1). It’s got a UNESCO World Heritage Site accolade for its rich history and wonderful architecture, making it the tourist hotspot extraordinaire. Close to that is the nightlife and café nerve centre of Vitória(2), which abuts the shopping malls and food markets of Bolhão(3). Across the river to the south is the separate municipality of Vila Nova de Gaia(4) – perfect for cheaper stays. Down the river to the west is Miragaia(5), an upcoming area that offers a balance between calm and character. Surfers, meanwhile, will want to be nearer the coast, perhaps in the wave-sprayed beach town of Matosinhos(6).
A photographer’s dream
Loads of bars
Bursting with history
Can be pricy
Delve into the Ribeira to get lost in the labyrinth of alleys and lanes and little plazas that defines the heart of old Porto. This UNESCO-designated neighbourhood is a wonderful place for first-time visitors and weekend breakers, because it packs in most of the city’s joys – the iron-girdled walks of the Luís I Bridge, the café-threaded promenade of Cais da Ribeira, and more wine houses and bars than you can shake a meaty francesinha sandwich at (that’s a local delicacy). Ribeira is stunning and filled with history, but it’s also one of Porto’s busiest and most expensive quarters.
A cut-out of the Porto Downtown that’s positively thrumming with life, Vitória has established itself as one of the city’s main party and gastronomy hubs. Higgledy-piggledy lanes run across each other in a medley of beer bars and cantinas where crowds gather and spill onto the cobbled sidewalks on summer evenings. Sights like the Livraria Lello (said to have inspired the library in Harry Potter) draw the crowds, but it’s really about enjoying the street scenes and the abundance – a serious abundance – of places for strong coffee or a glass of the local Vinho Verde.
Vila Nova de Gaia is technically a whole other city to Porto, but it’s hard to ignore because a simple skip over the Luís I Bridge will bring you there. It’s also worth a mention as it’s the home of the famous port cellars that line the Douro. They’re backed up by seriously beautiful sunset lookout points on the high hills above (ride the cable car up if you’re feeling lazy!). The parts of the district closest to the river are by far the best for Airbnbs, which tend to be cheaper over on this southern half of town.
Buzzing Bolhão is a trading quarter that’s home to a growing number of cool cafés and eateries. However, it’s really mainly about the shopping drag of Via Catarina, where malls rub shoulders with high-street fashion outlets, and the big Mercado do Bolhão, which is the place to go for juicy Portuguese tomatoes, salt cod, and fresh-caught fish. Towards the south-eastern end of the area is the open-air drinking enclave of Poveiros, which is cheap and gritty and draws huge student crowds on warm weekend nights.
Miragaia strikes a fine balance between relaxation and proximity to the centre. It’s perfect for couples and families who want to be within walking distance of Ribeira and the Douro, but don’t want to deal with booming crowds right on their doorstep. That said, Miragaia still manages to retain the handsome pastel-painted homes of its UNESCO-tagged neighbour, along with narrow cobbled alleys that slope up to lookouts across the river and the ocean. It’s taken on something of a boho vibe recently, with antique emporiums and art galleries filling the old depots down by the quays.
Wax down the board and ready the wetsuit, because Matosinhos is the closest place to ride the Atlantic waves in Porto. There are surf schools and rental spots dotting the area behind the beach, which also holds a few attractive ocean-view Airbnbs for those willing to fork out a little extra. Modern apartment blocks and a wide promenade flanked by parks make up the background. It’s all – frankly – a tad stale on the architecture front, but there is some life in the cantinas, seafood restaurants, and cocktail bars that straddle Rua de Tomaz Ribeiro.
A couple or small group of friends on the hunt for somewhere special in Porto can’t go amiss with Janika’s Patio. It’s an Airbnb Plus listing, which means it’s got some stand-out features, such as a beanbag-dotted deck space and a living area that’s filled with Scandi-cool furniture. There’s no compromise on the conveniences, though, because you’ll enjoy a fully fitted kitchen with an island and a gorgeous al fresco eating spot to boot.
Sleek and stylish, The Hidden Courtyard is a duplex property that’s slung together with glazed wooden floors, polished concrete in the kitchen, and a striking minimalist bathroom of rich timber grains and brooding jet black. Seriously special features – like that freestanding Victorian bathtub in the master bedroom – combine with pleasant addons – like that al fresco deck-terrace – to create somewhere that might just check all the boxes!
Tucked into the small streets between Miragaia and Ribeira, this gorgeous three-room pad places you and the crew in the beating heart of old Porto. Having bars on one side and charming tile-fronted architecture on the other mean there’s plenty to explore nearby. Once you’re done, you’ll return to a contemporary property with a cosy little lounge and a compact kitchen-diner.
Big enough for as many as 14 people at any one time but still smack dab in the heart of the vibrant Ribeira, this duplex flat has four bedrooms and communal spaces to keep everyone in your travel group happy. That means a large dining area with elongated table. It means a galley kitchen for cooking together. And it means four bathrooms. Style wise, it’s modern with just a few touches of old Porto, but still loaded with fast WiFi and a flat-screen TV.
Bright, breezy and super close to the ocean, this managed flat is a doozy of an option for travelers bringing the board in tow. The waves and surf schools of Matosinhos are located just over the road from the main entrance, and you get the comforts of a large queen bed and spacious lounge for those post-surf chill sessions.
One of the reasons Airbnb in Porto has proved so popular in recent years is just how cheap some of the apartments can be! Nightly rates for even the most stylish of pads can start at a mere €30 a night, and that’s not evening mentioning the generous discounts that often come with long-term stays (they can be upwards of 50% for those who hit Porto for a month or more!). You’ll also find that there’s plenty to be saved by opting for self-catering places, or by sharing the cost of your trip among more travelers in larger Airbnb properties.
The downside of an Airbnb in Porto is that you won’t be looked after in the same way as you would in a traditional hotel. Yes, you might pay extra for a night in a four-star establishment like the Vincci Porto Hotel, but that gets you frills like daily housekeeping, an on-site reception desk, and access to a hotel bar.
Portugal’s second-largest city is a buzzy and proudly different spot than the capital in Lisbon. It rumbles with nightlife districts, boasts a UNESCO core, and comes washed with some of the north’s best surf beaches. Why not chose an Airbnb to have a pad to call your own while exploring the famous Azulejo churches and wine cellars?