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10 best places to live in Portugal

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For several compelling reasons, Portugal has emerged as one of Europe’s top destinations for retirees worldwide. With over 300 days of sunshine annually, affordable living costs, excellent healthcare, a thriving expat community, breathtaking landscapes and beaches, a straightforward visa process, and widespread English proficiency, it’s no wonder Portugal is so appealing, making it one of the best places to live in Portugal.

But where exactly in Portugal should you consider living? The answer depends on your personal preferences. Do you crave the excitement of city life, with abundant nightlife and cultural offerings, or does the allure of the ocean beckon you? Are you drawn to the sound of village church bells or the rural tranquility of a neighbor’s farm? Let’s explore some recommended places to live in Portugal and two areas to exercise caution.

1. Lisbon

Portugal’s capital city, Lisbon, offers a diverse array of attractions. Lisbon is a captivating blend of old-world charm and modern amenities, from its historic city center to its iconic yellow cable cars winding through narrow streets. You’ll never lack things to do in one of the best places to live in Portugal, with over 60 museums, an English-speaking theatre, family-friendly beaches, a wide culinary scene, a vibrant expat community, and some of Europe’s best weather.

Nearby attractions include the beautiful beaches of Cascais, the enchanting village of Sintra, and an international airport for convenient global travel. Plus, healthcare in Lisbon is world-class, with many English-speaking doctors available.

2. Porto

Located three hours north of Lisbon along the Douro River, Porto is renowned for its port wine production and rich cultural heritage. This city, considered one of the best places to live in Portugal, boasts English proficiency, making it easy to adapt. You’ll find great shopping on Rua Santa Catarina, delightful local cuisine, excellent healthcare facilities, a sizable expat community, and a cooler climate. Porto also boasts one of the country’s three international airports, facilitating visits to friends and family back home.

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3. Silver Coast

Just an hour north of Lisbon lies Caldas da Rainha, built around one of the world’s oldest thermal hospitals. This lively city offers daily fruit and vegetable markets, a nearby fish market, and a weekly flea market. You’ll find many shopping options, from large grocery stores to modern shopping centers, various dining choices, and museums. 

Dom Carlos Park is a popular spot for locals and expats, featuring walking trails and a man-made lake with a restaurant. The nearby beaches of Foz do Arelho and Nadadouro provide a refreshing escape in the summer. While winters are cold and rainy, summers offer spring-like temperatures. Caldas has a substantial expat community and public and private healthcare options.

4. Lagos

A few hours south of Lisbon in the Algarve region, Lagos boasts some of Portugal’s warmest weather. This charming town retains its character with a tiled plaza in the old city and remnants of a fort along the waterfront. The coastline offers stunning caverns, rock formations, and caves to explore by boat.

English is widely spoken in Lagos, thanks to the influx of British holidaymakers. Summers are hot and dry, while winters are mild with occasional rain. Local shops and restaurants populate the old town, and excellent healthcare is readily available due to the expat’s presence.

5. Alentejo

The Alentejo, one of the most distinct regions in Portugal, stands out for its vast plains and dramatic climate variations. Summers here can be scorching, while winters bring freezing temperatures and rain. The Alentejo remains sparsely populated, covering 30% of Portugal’s landmass. Its landscape has walled cities, historic forts, and quiet villages. 

Cities like Beja and Évora offer some urbanization, but the expat community is scarce. If you consider Alentejo one of the best places to live in Portugal, be prepared for an immersive experience, as integration into the Portuguese lifestyle here necessitates a strong command of the language. While the Alentejo shines as a haven for holidaymakers seeking an escape from tourist crowds and a deep dive into rich culture, daily life for expats may present challenges due to its vast expanse and limited amenities.

6. The Algarve

The Algarve, one of the best places to live in Portugal, is between Faro and Sagres and is renowned for its stunning beaches and golf resorts. This region enjoys glorious weather for most of the year, making it a prime holiday destination and a preferred home for thousands of expats. Over the decades, foreign buyers have flocked to the Algarve, particularly as they approach retirement, often setting their sights on apartment developments near the beaches. Naturally, prices are higher in these sought-after areas.

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7. Chaves

Located just 10km south of the Spanish border, the historic town of Chaves is famous for its healing spas and thermal baths, which have been used since Roman times. Chaves boasts impressive architecture dating back to Roman times, including two 17th-century fortresses and the remnants of Chaves Castle.

Despite the economic challenges in the surrounding villages, Chaves residents are known for their friendliness. Property prices in Chaves are a fraction of those in Lisbon, but you’ll experience shorter summers and cooler winters. With several nearby airports, your next sunny vacation is never too far away.

8. Braga

In northern Portugal, Braga is the country’s third-largest and oldest city. Characterized by narrow lanes adorned with lively cafes and high-end boutiques, Braga boasts famous ancient churches, including the iconic Bom Jesus do Monte hillside church.

While the city’s old quarter has limited property availability, the northern quarter and areas near the Universidade do Minho offer attractive prices. For tranquility and larger properties with land, consider the towns and villages surrounding Braga, although they may require renovation.

9. Setúbal

Setúbal, a port city near Lisbon, draws tourists and expats with its thriving historic town known for its sardine industry and sweet Moscatel wine. Atmospheric alleyways, tree-lined boulevards, and lively food markets make it a year-round attraction.

Various property types are available at reasonable prices, with properties near the port in high demand among local workers. Expats with larger budgets often opt for beachside apartment complexes, especially near Praia da Rocha. Setúbal is an ideal choice for those seeking a tranquil yet accessible lifestyle, and it features an international airport for easy travel.

10. Coimbra

Halfway between Lisbon and Porto, Coimbra served as Portugal’s medieval capital for over a century and is home to the country’s oldest and most prestigious university, the University of Coimbra. Offering a low cost of living and high quality of life, Coimbra attracts expats, particularly retirees. Housing options are diverse, with demand concentrated in the city center and near the university, ideal for students.

For those seeking the best places to live in Portugal, Coimbra offers a range of choices, including older properties needing renovation and larger rural properties on the city’s outskirts.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What criteria determine the best places to live in Portugal?

The selection of the best places to live in Portugal is based on a combination of factors, including quality of life, cost of living, climate, cultural amenities, healthcare access, and expat-friendliness. These factors are considered collectively to identify the most appealing destinations for expatriates in Portugal.

Can I find English-speaking communities in these locations?

Yes, you can find English-speaking communities in most of the mentioned places. Many expatriates and retirees from English-speaking countries have settled in these areas, making integrating and communicating in English easier. In particular, Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve have large expat communities.

How can I find housing in these places?

Housing can be found in these locations through various channels, including real estate agents, online property listings, and local classifieds. Working with a reputable real estate agent specializing in the region is advisable to help you navigate the housing market effectively.

What is the cost of living in Portugal compared to other European countries?

Portugal is known for its relatively affordable cost of living compared to many other European countries. The cost of living in these places can vary, with larger cities like Lisbon and Porto having slightly higher prices than smaller towns. However, overall, Portugal remains cost-effective for expatriates.

Can I easily find rental properties in these locations?

Yes, you can find rental properties in these locations. The availability of rental properties varies depending on the area and your specific requirements. Working with local real estate agents or browsing online property listings is advisable to find suitable rental options.

Written by Wanda Indana

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