A Complete Guide to Porto

Drone view of the Porto city and Douro River in Portugal

A Complete Guide to Porto

History of Porto

Porto, previously known as Portus Cale in the Roman times, is a little Celtic Hamlet located on the mouth of the Douro River.  Portus Cale not only led to the city to be named Porto, but influenced the name of the country to be Portugal.

After being briefly under Moorish rule, it was reconquered by Christian rule and reorganised as the county of ‘Portucale’, otherwise known as northern Portugal, with Porto as its capital. From the 14th century, the city became an influential port, with Prince Henry the Navigator being born in 1394.

Porto has a high population density, leading to common issues of overcrowding. Conditions improved in the late 20th century with large-scale planning and residential development. In central Porto, the Douro River is crossed by several bridges, including the Dom Luís I Bridge which is 180 meters long, constructed between 1881 and 1885 and based on a design by a follower of the French civil engineer Gustave Eiffel.

Other bridges include the Maria Pia Bridge (1876–77), designed by Eiffel himself. The city has an international airport and is connected to Lisbon by highway and high-speed rail. The municipal subway system started operating in 2002 with its first line, followed by the commencement of the second and third lines in 2005, with three additional lines subsequently added.

The Crestuma hydroelectric project on the Douro River is situated about 30 km from the city.

Today, the coastal city expands from the Douro’s north bank to the district of Ribeira. Porto is well-known for exporting it’s popular fortified wine, which is typically enjoyed after meals. The port wine trade began in 1678 and gained solid footing through the Methuen Treaty in 1703, an agreement between England and Portugal.

Only wines produced in the Douro district, that had gone through the fortification process were allowed to be called ‘Port wines’, according to an act of 1906. This wine was exported from Porto and had an alcohol content that exceeded 16.5 percent. Across the river on the south bank in Vila Nova de Gaia, red-tiled warehouses blend and store large quantities of port wine.

oporto city with douro river and dom luiz bridge under blue sky, portugal.

Living in Porto

Porto’s historical charm is reflected in its preserved architecture, quaint cobblestone streets, and lively local markets. The city’s attraction lies in its consistent pleasant weather, affordability, and convenient access to the rest of Europe, making it increasingly popular among digital nomads and establishing its reputation as a burgeoning start-up hub. Porto offers an ideal environment for those seeking a balanced integration of work and leisure.

Throughout the year, the city hosts a diverse array of cultural and artistic festivals that exemplify its dynamic lifestyle. The late June celebration of Festa de São João turns Porto into a lively spectacle with street parties, traditional dances, and a stunning firework display over the Douro River.

The Fantasporto Film Festival attracts film enthusiasts and filmmakers globally, highlighting Porto’s significant role in the cinematic world. Additionally, the Porto Wine Festival provides an opportunity for both locals and visitors to appreciate the city’s renowned export, celebrating Porto’s rich winemaking heritage. Porto seamlessly blends it’s heritage, arts, and contemporary urban living.

A young couple taking a selfie picture with a modern smartphone. The beautiful river side of Porto, Portugal, appears in the background. Porto is the 2nd city in Portugal and a main touristic destination in the country.

Porto’s Transportation

Porto’s transportation system caters to both residents and visitors, centred around the efficient Metro do Porto—a modern light rail and subway network connecting key districts. The Porto Metro comprises six lines serving a total of 82 operational stations linking the historic centre with the main suburbs of the city.

An extensive bus network complements this, offering comprehensive coverage for convenient travel within the city and its outskirts. The iconic tram system, especially Tram Line 1, provides a charming journey along the Douro River and the historic city centre. Porto Aeroporto is the main airport serving the city connecting the region with many European destinations and further afield destinations such as Rio de Janeiro and Istanbul.

For those seeking an alternative experience, cycling is gaining popularity, thanks to dedicated bike lanes and bike-sharing programs. Additionally, river ferries offer a unique mode of transport across the Douro River, providing stunning panoramic views of Porto’s skyline. Embracing sustainable options, Porto continues to enhance its transport infrastructure, ensuring smooth and enjoyable travel experiences for all.

Metro train passing by Porto city, Portugal

Education in Porto

Porto takes pride in being the nation’s foremost education hub, drawing in an impressive student population of nearly 85,000—the highest in the country for higher education. This academic community constitutes over one-fifth of the city’s residents, contributing to Porto’s dynamic atmosphere and cultivating a highly educated workforce.

The University of Porto, a prominent institution in Portugal, is situated in Porto, along with the Polytechnic Institute of Porto and various private universities. These educational institutions are distributed across the city, spanning a total of six campuses.

The University of Porto is one of Portugal’s top ranked universities and has over 32,000 students, 15% being international students. Despite this, with only 1,250 dedicated university housing units available, most students in the city choose to secure private accommodations.

Aerial view of the university of Porto in Portugal.

Looking for a flat to buy or rent out in Porto?

At Complete, we manage a closed condominium, called Litoral Living. This development spans across 5 blocks, housing 66 apartments, 10 houses, and 1 restaurant. Nestled in an exceptional location, the development harmoniously combines modernism, green spaces, and proximity to both the sea and the city.

Litoral Living is conveniently located, with a 1-minute walk to the nearest bus stop, a 9-minute walk to the Metro line, 5 minutes to grocery stores, and 7 minutes to Matosinhos Beach.

For more information about Litoral Living, or our other Portuguese developments, do not hesitate to get in touch.


Litoral Living CGI external

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