Top 10 Best Places to Live in Portugal for Serene Living and Vibrant Culture

Portugal offers beautiful beaches, safe cities, charming towns, and old fishing villages to choose from. We've compiled a list of the best places to live.
Dot
January 10, 2024
Ana Fankhauser
January 10, 2024
TABLE OF CONTENTS

Searching for the best places to live in Portugal? Whether you’re an expat eyeing a move, a retiree seeking a tranquil haven, or a digital nomad looking for a coastal gem, finding the perfect spot to call home is crucial. With its diverse regions offering everything from cosmopolitan flair in Lisbon to the sun-soaked beaches of the Algarve, Portugal promises a spot for every preference. In this guide, we delve into the top places—cost of living, lifestyle, amenities, and the unique appeal of each area—to help you discover where you’ll blend in best with the serene living and vibrant culture. Let’s find your Portuguese home.

Key Takeaways

  • Portugal offers a diverse range of living environments, from the vibrant capital of Lisbon to the tranquil coastal Algarve, each with unique attractions and a quality of life suited to different preferences and budgets.
  • The cost of living in Portugal varies significantly from city to city, with expats able to find more affordable living options in the suburbs of major cities or in smaller towns and rural areas.
  • Several regions in Portugal, including Porto, the Algarve, Madeira, and the Azores, boast strong expat communities, providing newcomers with social networks and a sense of belonging amidst picturesque landscapes and cultural diversity.

Exploring the Heart of Portugal: Lisbon

Aerial view of Lisbon city center with historic architecture and modern amenities

Lisbon, the heart of Portugal and Portugal’s capital city, is a city where historic charm meets modern amenities. Its rich history, as one of the oldest cities in the world, is beautifully interwoven with its modern city life. As a capital city, it attracts many expats, families, and students alike, offering an excellent quality of life, averaging 290 days of sunshine a year, and a beautiful blend of breathtaking beaches and trendy beach cafés.

The cost of living in Lisbon’s city centre for an expat is around €2,359, which is quite affordable compared to other European cities. Its vibrant lifestyle is best experienced in popular districts such as:

  • Baixa
  • Graça
  • Alfama
  • Chiado

City Center Living

Being a resident of Lisbon’s city center puts you at the heart of the city’s bustling lifestyle. The area is home to cultural attractions such as the 11th-century São Jorge Castle and the iconic Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. By night, areas such as Cais de Sodré and Bairro Alto come alive, with locals and tourists alike seeking a vibrant evening atmosphere.

Lisbon’s public transportation, notable for its affordability and reliability, ensures easy access to the city’s myriad cultural attractions and entertainment venues for residents and tourists alike.

Suburban Retreats

Those who desire a peaceful lifestyle without forgoing city amenities and vibrancy will find the suburbs of Lisbon to be an inviting alternative. Suburbs such as Cascais offer a range of amenities, from shops and restaurants to attractions like Casa da Guia, a historic mansion with scenic views, restaurants, and entertainment options.

Living in Lisbon’s suburbs offers more affordable options, with the average cost of living ranging from 750€ to 1000€ for a one-bedroom apartment. Some benefits of living in the suburbs include:

  • More affordable housing options
  • Quieter and less-crowded neighborhoods
  • Access to green spaces and parks
  • Excellent public transport connectivity to the city center ensures easy access to the capital city’s amenities.

Porto: Portugal's Northern Gem

Porto's riverside residences with stunning views of the Douro River

Porto, Portugal’s northern gem, is a city that beautifully blends history, culture, and modernity. As the second-largest city in Portugal, situated on the banks of the Douro River, Porto is recognized for its vibrant cultural scene and diverse entertainment options. Its rich history, which traces back to pre-Roman times and its significant contributions to Portuguese heritage have led to the recognition of its historic center as a World Heritage Site.

Expats in Porto commonly prefer neighborhoods like Campanha, Ribeira, Ramalde, and Foz do Douro. For those desiring a quieter lifestyle, the outskirts of Porto are also considered. The city is also known for its long, hot summers, perfect for weekend getaways to nearby beaches, and relatively mild winters compared to other parts of Europe. The cost of living can vary, but affordable options are available if one explores areas outside the city center and popular beachside locations.

Riverside Residences

Residing near the river in Porto presents a distinctive lifestyle. Riverside residences, particularly the Douro Riverside Apartments, boast breathtaking river views and a variety of amenities, creating a distinctive living environment in the heart of the city.

The Riverside Residences in Porto offer a high quality of life with a local vibe characterized by age-old eateries, retro homes, and basic-but-popular cafes. The affordable cost of everyday living contributes to its status as a good place to live, known for a relaxed pace.

Thriving Expat Community

A flourishing expat community in Porto provides a supportive network for those new to the city. Expatriates in Porto experience a high quality of life, characterized by:

  • a friendly local community
  • delectable cuisine
  • picturesque city landscapes
  • a reasonable cost of living

A variety of social clubs and associations in Porto cater to expats, including Meetup groups, Expats in Porto groups, and social networking through the Porto Internationals & Locals Friends group on Facebook. This supportive community environment makes it easier for newcomers to adjust and thrive in their new environment.

Algarve Region: Sun-Soaked Shores

Sandy beach in the Algarve region, one of the best places to live in Portugal

The sun-kissed shores, gorgeous beaches, and relaxed atmosphere of the Algarve region make it a prime choice for expats and retirees. The region is highly regarded for its attractive coastal lifestyle, offering various amenities and a pleasant climate, and is home to significant expat communities, especially among retirees.

Towns like Faro appeal to expats looking for affordability and a slower pace, while Albufeira is known for its variety of dining, nightlife, and entertainment options suitable for all ages. The Algarve offers a blend of tranquil and vibrant atmospheres.

Coastal Living

Life in the Algarve’s coastal areas uniquely combines tranquility and adventure. The area is renowned for its beautiful beaches, stunning coastline, picturesque cliffs, and sea caves.

The coastal areas of the Algarve region offer a high quality of life, characterized by:

  • A relaxed pace
  • A focus on outdoor activities such as swimming, sunbathing, water sports, and exploring the countryside
  • A lively social scene with various amenities, including restaurants, shops, and entertainment options.

Inland Algarve

In contrast to the beachfront living offered by the Algarve’s coastal areas, the Inland Algarve delivers a more genuine Portuguese experience. It’s known for its picturesque fishing villages, stunning natural landscapes, and delicious cuisine, providing visitors with a truly authentic Portuguese cultural immersion.

The weather in the Inland Algarve is typically mild, with current conditions indicating partly cloudy skies and a high near 60°F. The cost of living for a couple in the Inland Algarve ranges from €800 to €1,200, making it an attractive destination for those seeking affordable living in Portugal.

Coimbra: The University City

Situated in northern Portugal, Coimbra is a city rich in history and renowned for its academic excellence. Known as the university city, it’s home to Portugal’s oldest university, a prestigious institution that was once the country’s capital.

The big city offers a high quality of life, boasting majestic architecture, excellent train links, and a cost of living that is affordable compared to Lisbon and Porto. The city’s significant student population contributes to its vibrant culture and lifestyle, making it an attractive destination for both students and expats who might be considering a cheaper and smaller city.

Braga: A Blend of Ancient and Modern

As one of Portugal’s oldest cities, Braga offers:

  • A rich heritage
  • Appealing eateries
  • Historical churches
  • A good quality of life
  • A very affordable cost of living
  • Lively nightlife
  • Rich history

The city is known for its rich history, which can be seen in its ancient churches and rich cultural heritage. Its location, just 30 minutes from the beach, 15 minutes from the mountains, and 40 minutes from neighboring Spain, adds to its appeal.

Madeira and Azores: Island Life at Its Finest

Breathtaking natural landscape of Madeira island, a top destination for digital nomads

Those yearning for a unique, tranquil lifestyle will find the islands of Madeira and Azores to be an ideal choice. Known for their breathtaking natural landscapes, these islands have been drawing in tourists and digital nomads who seek serene living.

Madeira is well-known for its incredible biodiversity, which includes dense forests and wild rock formations. The island also boasts contrasting, clean, sandy beaches. The Azores, on the other hand, are an archipelago of nine islands situated in the middle of the northern hemisphere of the Atlantic Ocean, known for their peaceful atmosphere and infrequent public transport.

Funchal, Madeira

Funchal, the largest city on the island of Madeira, is becoming a popular choice for remote workers due to its attractive setting and climate. The city is known for its beautiful scenery and is actively investing in infrastructure to support its growing digital nomad community, including its international airport.

The estimated cost of living for an expat in Funchal is €1,654 per month, making it an attractive proposition for remote workers considering relocation. The city’s warm climate, characterized by year-round sunshine, is another reason why it’s a favorite among remote workers.

Ponta Delgada, Azores

Ponta Delgada, on the Azores, is another appealing destination for remote workers. Known as the main city in the Azores archipelago of São Miguel, it’s known for its beautiful and remote location, which attracts digital nomads who seek serene living.

The city offers high-quality internet connectivity, making it a perfect location for remote work. The estimated cost of living for an expat in Ponta Delgada is around €2,221 per month, making it an attractive option for digital nomads.

The Silver Coast: Portugal's Hidden Treasure

The Silver Coast is a hidden treasure in Portugal, boasting a picturesque stretch of ancient towns nestled along a rugged coastline and featuring stunning beaches that line the Atlantic Ocean. The area is known for hosting a variety of vibrant cultural events, including the Torres Vedras, Peniche, and Nazare carnivals, which are renowned for their spectacular displays and lively street dancing.

Some of the reasons why people choose to live in Portugal, a popular destination for residents and expats, include:

  • Excellent infrastructure and services, including universal healthcare and educational facilities
  • Favorable living conditions
  • Distinctive picturesque landscapes in towns such as Nazare, Aveiro, Figueira da Foz, and Óbidos
  • Vibrant cultural festivities

Setúbal: A Port City with Charm

Scenic view of Setúbal, a charming port city surrounded by nature reserves and stunning beaches

Setúbal, a charming port city located outside of Lisbon, is known for:

  • Its quaint charm, with docked fishing boats
  • Restaurants offering fresh seafood
  • Lively food markets showcasing local produce
  • Being surrounded by nature reserves and stunning beaches

This makes it a popular choice for expats seeking a tranquil lifestyle in a safe city.

Expats with higher budgets tend to prefer living in the pricier apartment complexes near the beaches. The estimated cost of living for an expat in Setúbal is around €1,333 per month, making it an attractive proposition for those seeking affordable living in Portugal.

Chaves: Thermal Springs and Rural Bliss

Chaves, a small rural town near the Spanish border, is known for its spa resorts, thermal springs, and wallet-friendly cost of living, making it a favorite for expat retirees. The cost of living in Chaves is significantly more affordable, especially in terms of property prices, which are a fraction of the price in Lisbon.

The town's proximity to mountainous areas affects its relatively low temperatures, shorter summers, and cooler winters. This creates a tranquil living environment that affects the lifestyle of its residents. The town is equipped with a range of healthcare facilities to cater to the medical needs of its residents.

Lesser-Known Gems: Guimarães & Aveiro

Lastly, attention must be drawn to two less-heralded treasures of Portuguese cities: Guimarães and Aveiro. Guimarães is known for its charming medieval architecture, while Aveiro is famous for its canals and the colorful striped houses known as ‘Palheiros’.

In 2022, property prices in Aveiro saw a significant increase of over 15%, with apartments emerging as the most favored property type in the central area. In 2023, an expat living in Aveiro can expect:

  • to spend around €1,916 per month on living expenses. This estimated cost of living includes various aspects such as accommodation, transportation, and daily necessities.
  • The city has well-developed road connections to Lisbon and Porto.
  • The population of Aveiro is approximately 55,000.

Summary

From the vibrant cities of Lisbon and Porto to the tranquil shores of Madeira and the Azores, Portugal offers a diverse range of living options. Whether you’re drawn by the country’s rich history, vibrant culture, or the promise of a serene, sun-soaked lifestyle, you’re sure to find a city or region that feels like home. So, why not make Portugal your next destination?

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best area to live in Portugal?

The best areas to live in Portugal are Lisbon, Porto, Braga, Funchal (Madeira), Ponta Delgada (The Azores), Aveiro, Coimbra, and Portimo. Consider your preferences and needs when choosing among these options.

Where do most US expats live in Portugal?

Most US expats in Portugal live in Lisbon, the Algarve, and Porto due to the high quality of life and relatively low cost of living in these areas.

Is it cheaper to live in Portugal or the USA?

Yes, it is generally cheaper to live in Portugal compared to the United States, with the cost of living in Portugal being, on average, 36.6% lower than in the United States.

Where is the best place to retire in Portugal for Americans?

The Algarve region, including its historic towns, is considered the best place to retire in Portugal for Americans, offering a captivating environment with rich history and stunning landscapes. Consider exploring Porto, Portugal's second-largest city, known for its UNESCO World Heritage Site status and charming streets.

What are the typical climate conditions in Funchal, Madeira?

Funchal, Madeira, typically has a warm climate with year-round sunshine, which makes it an ideal location for remote workers seeking favorable weather conditions.


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