As dusk falls on the northern Portuguese city of Porto, familiar names light up along the Douro riverbank: Sandeman, Cockburn’s, Taylor’s and Cálem.
These are the producers of the fine port wine that made the city famous three centuries ago, many of them British and all of them a major feature of modern-day Porto.
Porto has followed Lisbon as the latest Portuguese city with a thriving property market.
Price rises started in 2013, increasing around 35 per cent to date and by 13 per cent in 2018 alone, yet are still on average 50 per cent below Lisbon, says Gonçala Abilheira, Athena Advisers’ local agent in Porto.
“Five years ago Porto city centre was derelict with some areas not considered safe after dark,” he says. “The change has been extraordinary. There are renovations everywhere you look, the city is safe, tourism is booming and Downtown has everything — shops, good restaurants, five-star hotels and nightlife. Tech companies are coming as the city seriously rivals Lisbon for the number of start-ups.”
Porto is small, a densely-packed, low-level city neatly divided by the Douro River.
Gaia on the southern bank has the best views, looking across to the colourful townhouses and port warehouses of Downtown while residents reliant on their cars often prefer the north bank to avoid inevitable queues on the bridges.
Wealthy locals live west of the centre in Foz where the Douro meets the Atlantic Sea, conveniently close to international schools.
Investors looking for solid rental return focus on tourist-dominated Downtown close to the intimate restaurants and new hotels along Rua das Flores.
Rare houses on the North Bank
In a residential neighbourhood close to the galleries of the Arts District, Palacete Cedofeita is a handsome 19th-century mansion newly transformed into three- and four-bedroom apartments.
Eight new-build two-bedroom townhouses with private gardens are adjacent.
Prices start from £506,000 through Athena Advisers with monthly service charges from £255.
“These homes offer rarely available larger units in a quiet, residential location with private gardens and parking just three streets from the best restaurants in the city,” says Anil Melwani from Palacete Cedofeita.
From £325,000: one-bedroom apartments at Clérigos 82
Every apartment is different but all have high ceilings, marble bathrooms and chestnut or ash flooring.
Artisans are restoring lovely brick barrel ceilings and beautiful plasterwork.
Closer to the river by landmark Clérigos Tower, Clérigos 82 is the renovation of two old buildings into 16 one-bedroom apartments priced from £325,000 also through Athena Advisers.
Tile façades, crafted ceilings and stonework windows are typical Porto architecture, while the contemporary finishes are totally 21st century.
South Bank hotel flats
Directly on the water overlooking Porto, The Rebello is a large and exciting project, the conversion of seven historic, listed warehouses into 106 hotel apartments.
The Rebello will operate as a hotel with underground parking, two restaurants, gym, pool and spa.
Developers Bridgehead Capital (BCL) will manage the hotel, offering a guaranteed return of four per cent for three years with investors able to use their homes for up to six weeks a year.
BCL’s similar five-star project in Lisbon, The Lumiares, sold well, with solid rental returns for owners and receiving excellent hotel reviews.
“To get a waterfront project of this size in such important buildings with views across the river is unique,” says Peter Lowe, managing director of BCL. “Investors at The Rebello can get a good income, qualify for Portugal’s Golden Visa and also have some fun using it themselves.
“It’s exciting times in Porto. The city is where the capital was four or five years ago.”
Prices at The Rebello range from £212,000 to £936,000 for studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom flats of 365sq ft to 2,100sq ft through Cluttons.
Forty-six flats have sold before building has begun. Completion is planned for 2022.
A place to stay: A Bela Aurora guesthouse
Perfect location: A Bela Aurora is in the Arts District, near downtown Porto
A Bela Aurora is a beautiful 19th-century townhouse and garden that captures the history and flair of Porto.
Owners Paula and Massimo with their architect Tiago, lovingly converted their four-storey property into five large bedrooms, whitewashing beams, opening up huge windows and adding handcrafted and antique furniture.
They serve a vegetarian breakfast communally on a large wooden table, loaded with fresh and healthy produce including treats from the local bakery.
The location is perfect, central in the Arts District just a 10-minute walk from the heart of Downtown Porto and close to several of the city’s main sites, yet on a quiet residential street.
Double rooms at A Bela Aurora start from £125