The Best Places to Live in Portugal for Expats

The Best Places to Live in Portugal for Expats

What are the best places to live in Portugal for expats? Our guide offers a no-nonsense look at the top locales for expats to settle in, balancing lifestyle, amenities, and community. Avoid the guesswork with our expert insights and start planning your move to a place where expats aren’t just welcome—they’re home.

There are many places to choose from if you’re relocating to Portugal from the UK – something to suit everyone. Lisbon or Porto if you like cultural city living, the popularity of the Algarve, the luxury of the Portuguese Riviera, or perhaps the laid-back island life of Madeira and the Azores? Read on to discover which is the best option for you.

Exploring Portugal’s Capital: Lisbon for Expats

Lisbon, Portugal’s capital city, is a city of marvels. With landmarks like São Jorge Castle and Torre de Belém, the city is a magnet for those who wish to live in Portugal, offering a diverse lifestyle that is hard to resist.

Lisbon is one of the best Portuguese cities for expats, boasting a vibrant community of English speakers, a high safety ranking, and the most populous expat community in the country.

The city’s historic centre is a picturesque blend of old and new, complete with narrow, cobbled streets, pastel-coloured buildings, and vibrant nightlife. Lisbon’s accessibility to scenic beaches and its sunny climate, with an average of 290 sunshine days per year, add to its appeal for expats. Areas like Almada, Areeiro, and Alameda are popular among the expat community, providing a blend of local culture and modern conveniences.

Living in Lisbon’s City Centre

Beyond being a bustling metropolis, Lisbon’s city centre is a diverse blend of neighbourhoods, each bestowed with a distinctive charm and character. Take a stroll through Mouraria, known as the Moorish Quarter, and you’ll find a multicultural melting pot with affordable housing options and a variety of international dining options. Or venture into Alfama, where the atmosphere is reminiscent of a village, with narrow streets and a strong local food culture.

If upscale living is more your style, Chiado offers luxury with boutique shops, fine dining, and historic theatres. Principe Real is another elegant neighbourhood distinguished by its classy estates and tranquil parks. Bairro Alto, on the other hand, is the heart of Lisbon’s nightlife, attracting singles and young professionals with its diverse mix of bars, clubs, and live Fado music venues. For short-term stays, Baixa, with its organized streets and Neoclassical architecture, is a great choice.

The Appeal of Lisbon’s Suburbs

Lisbon’s allure extends beyond its city centre. The suburbs of Lisbon offer a peaceful residential environment with green spaces and modern architecture, providing a different, yet equally charming, alternative to city life for expats. Alvalade, for instance, offers Parisian-style boulevards and family-friendly dining, making it a popular choice for families seeking a quieter lifestyle.

For a more contemporary suburban experience, Parque das Nações is an excellent option. Known for its modern architecture, spacious parks, and waterfront promenade, it offers a more urban feel without the hustle and bustle of the city centre.

Suburbs like Carcavelos, Oeiras, and Paço de Arcos not only provide serene living spaces but also benefit from excellent transport links, making daily commutes to Lisbon convenient for expats.

Porto: A Blend of Tradition and Innovation

Heading north from Lisbon takes us to Porto, Portugal’s second-largest city and a popular choice for expats.

Known for its historic center, classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, Porto is a blend of cultural heritage and commercial opportunities. With a large expat community accounting for more than 8% of the city’s population, Porto is noted for being safe, affordable, and English-friendly.

Porto embraces both its rich history and promising future. The city’s burgeoning start-up scene is bolstered by academic institutions like the University of Porto and prominent companies such as Farfetch. With municipal initiatives and collaborative spaces designed to foster innovation, Porto is attracting global talent and investment, making it an exciting place to live in Portugal.

No matter whether you choose the city centre or one of the many attractive suburbs, you’ll find Porto to have a relaxed atmosphere with an upbeat vibe.

Algarve Region: Sun-Soaked Living

If you fantasize about a sun-drenched lifestyle, the Algarve region is your idyllic haven. Providing more than 300 days of sunshine per year, the Algarve is a top tourist destination known for its beautiful beaches and warm climate.

The region boasts over a hundred beaches, with some, like Praia da Marinha near Carvoeiro, considered among the best in the world.

The Algarve region has a significant expat population, accounting for 23.6% of residents, with certain areas like Albufeira having nearly 40% foreign population. The Algarve’s slow pace of life, English-speaking community, and safety are major draws for expat retirees. However, potential downsides include limited public transport, a lack of big city atmosphere, and limited employment opportunities outside tourism.

Faro: Gateway to the Algarve

Faro, Algarve’s capital, presents a budget-friendly and serene lifestyle characterised by a historic city centre, Old Town, and easy access to the region’s famed beaches. Living in Faro is cost-effective, with reasonable rental and property purchase prices, providing a cheaper alternative to other popular cities in Portugal.

The lifestyle in Faro is characterized by:

  • A peaceful and slow-paced environment
  • Suitable for families and those seeking tranquillity
  • Nearby beaches and areas such as Montenegro and Quinta do Eucalipto offer open spaces close to natural attractions.

Faro is easily accessible thanks to its well-developed transportation system and an international airport that’s just a short drive from the centre, acting as the primary gateway to the Algarve’s renowned beaches.

Central Portugal’s Hidden Gems

Central Portugal, home to lesser-known marvels like:

  • Batalha
  • Aveiro
  • Évora
  • Leiria

While Southern Portugal is known for its stunning beaches and vibrant cities, Central Portugal offers a different kind of charm with its historical sites and picturesque towns.

Central Portugal serves a delightful mix of history, culture, and natural beauty, offering various tourist attractions. The thermal spa town of Luso, renowned for its natural springs and bottled water, is one of the many natural beauty spots adding to the allure of Central Portugal.

Coimbra, home to the University of Coimbra, offers a high quality of life, popular among retirees, and provides a variety of living options, including a vibrant student community and rich cultural heritage. The city’s affordability and innovative spirit have been attracting startups and new businesses.

Viseu: Portugal’s Medieval Capital Reimagined

Viseu, formerly Portugal’s medieval capital, has seamlessly transitioned into a modern city while preserving its historical allure. The city offers an excellent quality of life, with benefits including:

  • Fantastic weather
  • Efficient transportation
  • Exceptional medical care
  • Plenty of nature for outdoor activities

The historical heritage of Viseu includes significant cultural landmarks such as the Grão Vasco Museum, the Tesouro da Misericórdia, and the Tesouro da Sé de Viseu Museum. The city’s cost of living allows for a comfortable lifestyle on a modest budget, contributing to its status as Portugal’s healthiest, safest, and best quality of life city as elected by Portuguese consumers in 2018.

Northern Portugal’s Cultural Hubs

Imbued with cultural diversity, Northern Portugal possesses a rich heritage shaped by pre-Celtic and Celtic tribes’ settlement, Mediterranean influences, and historical ties with Spain’s Kingdom of Galicia. As the location of the Suebic Kingdom’s capital in Braga during the 5th-6th centuries and the establishment of the County of Portugal around Porto in the 10th century, Northern Portugal was integral to the foundation of the Portuguese kingdom.

The region also celebrates a rich cultural tapestry through its:

  • manor-houses
  • castles
  • unique regional cuisine
  • handicrafts such as filigree and local embroideries

The character of Northern Portugal is also reflected in its people, with northerners renowned for their hospitality, often described as some of the best hosts in the world—underscoring the warmth of their welcome to expats.

Guimarães: A Modern Take on an Ancient City

Guimarães, nestled in Northern Portugal, beautifully fuses the ancient and the modern. The city’s preserved medieval architecture and UNESCO World Heritage historical centre blend seamlessly with its modern amenities, offering a high quality of life for residents.

The city is rich in historical landmarks, including the Castelo de Guimarães, constructed in the 10th century, which played a defensive role and is a prominent landmark in the region.

In a joint effort with Galicia in Spain, near the Spanish border, Guimarães is working towards UNESCO recognition for their shared intangible cultural heritage. This ancient city, however, is not stuck in the past. It offers expats a high quality of life, complete with strong infrastructure and favourable working conditions.

Madeira and Azores: Island Life for Expats

The enchanting island life, as exemplified by Madeira and the Azores, offers a distinct perspective on living in Portugal.

With a warm climate, notable safety, and an environment ideal for both work and leisure, these islands are an attractive proposition for expats. English is widely spoken across Madeira and the Azores, easing communication for expats.

The cost of living in the Azores is lower than the mainland, and tax benefits under the Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) regime in Madeira and Azores, along with affordable housing, make these islands economical for expats. The international airports in Madeira and major islands of the Azores ensure good connectivity and ease of travel to and from the islands. Despite some challenges, including limited public transport and a quietness outside the tourist season, the islands’ tranquility and safety make them popular retirement destinations.

The Portuguese Riviera: Cascais and Estoril

The Portuguese Riviera, renowned for its opulent lifestyle, temperate Mediterranean climate, esteemed residential areas, and leisure activities, is an ideal choice for those seeking luxury. The towns of Cascais and Estoril are part of this Riviera and offer a variety of leisure activities such as:

  • Golfing at world-class courses
  • Strolling along a scenic seafront promenade
  • Immersing themselves in the natural beauty of places like the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park.

Cascais and Estoril are well-connected to Lisbon, with a reliable train service offering easy access to the plethora of resources and employment opportunities available in the capital. The region features prestigious residential areas like Quinta da Marinha as well as luxurious accommodations in Estoril and high-quality apartments in nearby regions like Birre, catering to those with a generous housing budget.

Thriving Expat Communities Across Portugal

Portugal is home to flourishing expat communities, each offering a diverse array of lifestyles and experiences. Lisbon, the capital city, leads as Portugal’s city with the highest concentration of expats, indicative of its cosmopolitan appeal. The Algarve region is home to a large and diverse expat community, with many choosing to settle in the area due to its sunny beaches, international schools, and dynamic cultural festivals.

Coastal cities like Lagos and Cascais are known for their charm and attract expats with their picturesque settings and seafront amenities. Besides the major hubs, other cities such as Faro also host a significant number of expats, broadening the options for expat living across Portugal.

The overall appeal of Portugal to expats includes factors such as its 300 days of sunshine, diverse culture, and high standard of living, which collectively enhance the expatriate experience.

Affordable Living in Portugal’s Smaller Cities and Towns

Smaller cities and towns in Portugal, including Setúbal, Viana do Castelo, and Chaves, boast cost-effective living and a robust sense of community. Property prices in lesser-known towns like Góis and Nisa are particularly attractive for cost-conscious expats. Chaves, known for its spa and thermal baths, offers a tranquil rural setting combined with historical architecture, and has a more affordable cost of living compared to big cities like Lisbon, making it a cheaper and smaller city option.

With average living costs around €500 per month, smaller cities such as Viseu offer expats:

  • a quieter lifestyle
  • the convenience of urban amenities at a more accessible price point
  • a more authentic Portuguese experience
  • a close-knit community feel
  • a slower pace of life.

Moving to Portugal: Practical Tips for Expats

Relocating to a new country may appear overwhelming, yet with adequate preparation and support, the transition can be smooth and exhilarating. For UK nationals moving to Portugal post-Brexit, it’s important to be aware of new visa requirements, such as the obligation for a residence visa.

When it comes to the logistics of moving, removal services like Simpsons International Removals offer a range of options, including road freight, sea freight, and air freight services, making the process easier. They also provide storage solutions both in the UK and Portugal during the move, which can be beneficial for managing belongings before establishing permanent residence. With the post-Brexit visa landscape and logistical factors like removals and storage to consider, UK expats must thoroughly plan and utilize services like Simpsons International Removals to facilitate a smooth transition to life in Portugal.

Are you looking to relocate to Portugal from the UK?

As we’ve journeyed through Portugal, one thing is clear: this beautiful country offers a diverse range of experiences and lifestyles for expats. Whether you’re drawn to the cosmopolitan bustle of Lisbon, the sun-soaked beaches of the Algarve, the historic charm of Porto, or the tranquillity of island life in Madeira and the Azores, there’s a place for you in Portugal.

In conclusion, Portugal’s diverse regions, welcoming expat communities, and high quality of life make it a top destination for expats worldwide. From the bustling city life to the tranquil islands, there’s a part of Portugal waiting to be discovered and loved by you. So why not take the leap and find your place under the Portuguese sun?

Simpsons International Removals is equipped to assist you with your European removal to Portugal, leveraging our extensive experience in facilitating relocations to the country. We are committed to delivering exceptional service to make your transition smooth.

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