The Best Places to Live in Portugal

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The Best Places to Live in Portugal
Reading time: 31 minutes
Published: 22nd September 2022, 4:16pm
Updated: 23rd September 2022, 1:16pm

The official Portuguese stats show an increase in the number of expats living in Portugal in the past decade, bringing the world’s attention to Portugal. Many reasons drive this incredible immigrant flux, which is now in the expat spotlight. Safety, good weather, quality of life, and amazing cities are some of the reasons why Portugal became an attractive destination. In this article, we are going to list the best places to live in Portugal, giving you a guide through the finest places around this great country.

Rossio Square in Lisbon, capital of Portugal


Being the most western European country, with a territory covering part of the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal has a lot to offer in terms of cultural and geographic diversity. The Portuguese territory makes a border with Spain (considered one of the oldest in the world) but also includes in its official land the wild and remote archipelago islands: The Autonomous Region of Madeira and the archipelago of the Azores, the first one close to the African coast and the second located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Even though Portugal has a small territory, its 92,212 km² has a lot to offer in terms of choice of where to live. The geography can be very contrasting, from snow-covered mountains to sunny white-sand paradisiac beaches. If you decide to live in Portugal, keep in mind that you will have several options to select which location fits better your necessities. From snow-covered mountains to blue crystalline beaches; from big cosmopolitan cities to small medieval villages, the choices are endless in Portugal.

The continental part of the country is divided into five regions: Northern Portugal, Central Portugal, Lisbon Metropolitan Region, Alentejo, and the Algarve. The islands also give you a diverse option to choose where to live, along with the nine islands that compose the Azores archipelagos you will find a wild territory, but also well-structured cities that attract especially the ones looking to be closer to nature. Across the Islands, in the Autonomous Region of Madeira, you will find as well as a big city, and small fisherman villages with the charm of the old days together with the comfort that technology can provide.

Below we are going to describe each territory and which are the best places to live in Portugal. 

Northern Portugal

The far north of Portugal is a great place to live, not just for the good wine that is produced there, but especially for the reception you will receive while visiting or living. Historically, the region is the birthplace of Portugal, as the unification of the country first started with the northern cities of Porto and Braga.

The northerners are well known for their friendly reception, being also counted as one of the best hosts in the world. The region and the birthplace of “Vinho Verde”, or green wine, a special kind of wine produced just in the region of Minho.

See below a list of the main cities to live in Northern Portugal:

Porto

Located along the Douro River estuary in northern Portugal, Porto is Portugal’s second-biggest city in the country and one of the oldest European centres. Its historical core was proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. The western part of its urban area extends to the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean. 

Its settlement dates back many centuries before Christ when the region became a settlement for the Phoenician trading, and after that for the Celtics, who stood in the region until the Roman occupation. In the following century, and after several battles, Porto became an outpost of the Roman Empire, the most important trading in the region together with the city of Bracara (nowadays Braga). Its combined Celtic-Latin name, “Portus Cale”, has been referred to as the origin of the name Portugal, based on transliteration and oral evolution from Latin.  

 

Porto, however, has evolved hugely from the Roman period and was a decisive region for the origin of Portugal. During the great discovery age, the city got famous for being the main boat constructor of Portugal and also for the creation of the Porto Wine liquor. Nowadays you can have a pleasant walk around the riverside of Gaia, just across the Douro, where you can do a guided visitation on the Porto wine manufacturing. 

Living in Porto may be more pleasant than you think, as the region has long hot summers, perfect for a quick weekend escape to the close beaches of the west coast, such as Matosinhos, Foz do Douro, or Póvoa de Varzim. Yet, winters are slightly colder than in other parts of Portugal, they are still mild when compared with other European countries. All the cold winter times can be easily warmed up with a glass of good wine and the friendly population that you will find in Porto.

Among all characteristics of the city, its size is the most intriguing, as it is considered not too tiny, and not too large. Porto is condensed in a very irregular territory, so the city has developed along the hills. In this way, getting around on foot is easy enough, with the main attractions and services all considerably close to each other. Although if you need to move a further distance, the city offers great public transportation, with modern trams crossing the city from one point to another.

Braga

The city of Braga is the perfect place for those who admire history and culture. The city has passed through so many important historical events, that it is difficult to describe its importance to the formation of what today is known as Portugal. Before being called Braga, the city was a Celtic settlement called Bracara, that became the capital of the Galician region under the Roman occupation, receiving the name of Bracara Augusta. Until today you can see traces of that age, across the streets and the well-preserved ruins. 

Braga is also a very important place for the region, as it is the capital of the district. The city attracts dozens of tourists every year and also expats looking for a nice and comfortable place to settle. The city offers a good quality of life, and very affordable life, and has been attracting several startups with its investment hub. It is without a doubt one of the best places to live in Portugal.

Guimarães

Not so far from Braga, the capital of the district, you will find the little municipality of Guimarães. Not as big as Porto or Braga, the city is a very nice place to live, as it can provide a high quality of life for its residents and it is often considered one of the best places to live in Portugal, due to its charming, good infrastructure and work conditions.

In the centre of the city lies the Castelo de Guimarães, an important medieval castle built to defend the monastery from attacks by Moors and Norsemen, before the foundation of Portugal as a unified country. Since being built in the 10th century, there have been a few slight modifications to the original architecture. Despite this, the castle’s presence still dominates the region and offers an exciting mixture of legend, poetry and heroism. 

Lisbon Metropolitan Region

The metropolitan area of Lisbon currently covers 18 municipalities, being the largest urban area in Portugal. As it spreads around the city of Lisbon, the Metropolitan Region is the perfect spot to experience both the big city rush and relaxing beautiful white sandy beaches by the coast. 

As Lisbon can be slightly more expensive than the other cities in its surroundings, the metropolitan area outside the capital became very attractive for its low cost of living, together with the proximity to Lisbon, which brings a huge amount of business opportunities.

See below a list of the main cities to live in Lisbon Metropolitan Region:

Lisbon

The capital of Portugal, also known as the city of seven hills like Rome, Lisbon steams very live, delivering plenty of opportunities, and entertainment for its residents and visitors. The city has an important cultural and counter-culture scene that easily gets mixed with the huge historical heritage, making it a great spot for those looking to live in a vibrant environment. 

Despite the city life, one of the things that attract its residents is the shining and beautiful blue sky that stands clear all over the year, including the hardest days of winter. That’s right, Lisbon offers on average 290 days of sunshine every year, giving its residents a great quality of life

The city spreads through its historical centre in Baixa, Graça, located at the highest spot of the seven hills, and Alfama, where the city first started. Not so far, you can also find a luxury life in the district of Chiado, close to the best of the Lisbon nightlife in Bairro Alto and Principe Real. No matter what you are looking for in life, there is always something for you in Lisbon.

Cascais

Cascais is a very traditional town located on the coast of the Lisbon district. Portrayed as an elegant fusion of decorative 19th-century architecture, and modern facilities, the region is surrounded by popular beaches. As very close to Lisbon city centre - just 40 min by train, or 30 by car -, along with other factors, Cascais became a very attractive destination

Life in Cascais is very pleasant, as the city can offer both great infrastructure, and a natural beautiful beach landscape. In the city centre, you can easily find several options of 5-star hotels, upscale restaurants, golf courses, tennis courts, water sports, horse riding clubs, health clubs, and international schools. 

Sintra

This amazing Portuguese city looks like it came straight from the pages of a fairy tale book. The magnificent town of Sintra is filled with breathtaking historic palaces and castles, all set around and at the top of the Sintra mountains, the highest spot in the Lisbon metropolitan region. The city also has the title of UNESCO World Heritage and is recognised for its incredible history and cultural importance.

Sintra’s most important constructions date from the early 19th century, when the city became the first centre of European Romantic architecture by Ferdinand II, but also has castles which date all the way back to the Moorish empire.

All this fairytale environment could be enough to make you consider settling in this city, but what makes Sintra one of the best places to live in Portugal is in fact its infrastructure, quality of life, and very affordable conditions. As the city is close to Lisbon, connected by train and highway, living in Sintra has become very attractive in recent years.

Central Portugal

The centre of Portugal holds very distinct environments. The region’s western side starts in the Atlantic Ocean, where stands the Silver coast, one of the most amazing spots in Portugal if you like wild beaches. With several great coastal cities, some of them became popular destinations for surfers worldwide. The most famous city on the Silver Coast is Nazaré, the paradise of suffers and home of the biggest wave ever surfed in the world.

While the other side, all the way up to the Serra da Estrela, you can find “Torre”, the highest point in mainland Portugal (the elevation of this area is 1,993 metres), consider the second highest in Portugal territory - behind only Pico Mountain, in the Azores.

In the middle between the two extremes, you can find historically important towns, such as Tomar, the land of the last Templars warriors, or Santarém, one of the biggest cities in the region and the main destination while going from Lisbon to Porto.

See below a list of the main cities and regions to live in Central Portugal:

The Silver Coast

The Silver Coast is a spectacular stretch of coastal ancient towns, breathtaking beaches, and a rugged coastline, hugging the Atlantic Ocean. It is one of the most desirable places to live in Portugal, together with Lisbon and the Algarve. The region remains largely unknown and therefore untouched by tourism.

What makes the Silver Coast so special are its natural looks, the cultural events, its unique picturesque scenery, and also the excellent infrastructure with universal healthcare and both public and private educational facilities. The quality of life on the Silver Coast is considered one of the best in Portugal. 


Living by the beach or in the mountains can be a dream, and Central Portugal has all the options for you to choose from. The Silver Coast is without a doubt one of the best places to live in Portugal.

Several cities together make this amazing region, Portugal Homes offer you property listing in the main towns of the Silver Coast, such as Nazaré, Peniche, Foz do Arelho, Óbidos, Caldas da Rainha, and Lourinhã

Coimbra

Overlooking the Mondego river, Coimbra is the fourth-largest urban centre in Portugal, after Lisbon, Porto and Braga. Also known as the university city of Portugal, Coimbra is home to the first university in the country and one of the oldest in Europe. Founded in 1290, Coimbra’s University Alta and Sofia, are two architectural centres composed of 31 magnificent buildings. Thanks to its important legacy, the University was classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2013.

Coimbra is filled with impressive constructions from different periods of history. The Roman occupation left an aqueduct, from which the remains were later incorporated into a medieval renovation. The Muslim settlement brought a fortified palace, that was later used by the early Portuguese Monarchs. During the Middle Ages, a lot of emblematic buildings were built. 

Examples of those are the Santa Cruz Monastery - the Patheon where the first kings of Portugal are buried - the old Cathedral and the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha - the most important Gothic work in the city. In the Renaissance period, Coimbra was considered one of the main artistic centres of Portugal, with several Manueline and Renaissance works in the town. 

Coimbra has also been an important musical centre in Portugal for centuries, acclaimed by its own musical genre called “Fado de Coimbra”. It is mostly related to academic traditions and is characterized by the use of a specific guitar, with a specific structure - the “Portuguese guitar”.

Guarda

Shrouded deep inside the country, close to the frontier with Spain, Guarda appears as the highest city in Portugal, with a maximum altitude of 1,056 meters. Guarda has 26,446 inhabitants (2021) in its urban perimeter, and it is the capital of the District of Guarda to which it borrows its name. As the city is located on the side of the Serra da Estrela, the contrasting mountain climate and pure, cold air allow for the curing and manufacture of high-quality smoked meats and cheeses.

Its history dates from the Roman Empire period, followed by periods of occupation by the Visigoths, later by the kingdom of Asturias and also by the Islamic civilizations. Only after the Portuguese reconquest process was it confirmed the importance of the city and the region. 

The city is a great spot to live in, and is one of the only places in Portugal where there is snow in the winter, the reason that attracts tourist activities during the season. Guarda is well connected to major Portuguese cities such as Porto and Aveiro by the A25 highway and to Lisbon by the A23 highway. Recently Guarda had again its train line working and now is connected to Lisbon and Porto through this transport.

The good geographical position and accessibilities make Guarda an excellent place for the storage and transport of goods from Portugal to the rest of Europe. Due to this, the city has great industrial activity.

Guarda, Portugal  | Image Credit: Alexa Pinto / Wikimedia Commons

Alentejo

The Alentejo is a beautiful rural region, located in the southern region of Portugal. Each city in Alentejo has a rich history that dates from the beginning of the formation of Portugal as a country. Having been the stage of several battles between the nations that settled the Alentejo in the rise of the European occupation, the region has numerous historical fortified towns along its land. The Alentejo is also known for its plains, rugged coastline, olive trees, and intense summer heat, its lands extend from the Algarve towards central Portugal and go from the Atlantic Ocean to the Spanish border.


On the western coastline, you can find the wildest open beaches in Portugal, portraying charming fishing towns that offer the best seafood in the country. On the other hand, in the Spanish frontier, there are picturesque towns rich in history, like the city of Elvas, the most fortified city in Europe, having been nicknamed “Queen of the Frontier’‘. Alentejo´s history and beautiful natural landscapes make it a fascinating destination to discover.

See below a list of the main cities and regions to live in Alentejo:

Évora

The capital of Alentejo’s region, Évora is filled with impressive historical and cultural landmarks, being elected a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986. Due to its great history, which passes from the Visigoths and Romans to the Arabs and Knights Templar, the city is the perfect place to be if you are enthusiastic about a calm life in a rich cultural city. Besides Évoras’s rich monumental heritage, the city is the biggest in Alentejo.

Évora still retains ruins from that period, such as the Temple of Diana. During the Moorish period, the city had its walls fortified to improve the defence, and also the construction of a Kasbah. During medieval times, the city received the Cathedral, and in the 15th century, Évora became the Portuguese king’s residence, with several royal buildings starting to pop up. 

Beja

Beja is located in the southern region of continental Portugal and is believed to have been founded around 400 b.c. by an ancient cell of celts that occupied most territories south of the Tejo river, such as the Alentejo and Setúbal regions. The city was part of the Roman Empire for 600 years until it fell under the Arabic Caliphate for 400 years, being conquered back by the Christians in 1162. The city remained small for the next centuries, although it was heavily destroyed by the Napoleonic invasions. 

Recently, already in the 20th century onwards, the city received several investments, increasing its economic development, including the new Beja International Airport in 2011. Take a look at our Guide to Beja by our Real Estate Experts.

Algarve

The Algarve coast is located in the southern region of Portugal, bathed by the Atlantic Sea. With wild countryside, hidden grottos, golden beaches, and old fishing towns that hold 3,000 years of Lusitania history, the Algarve is the right place to rest and enjoy life

Portugal Homes gives you an ultimate guide to the Best Places to Stay & Visit in the Algarve beautiful region, recognized by the World Travel Awards as the World’s Leading Beach Destination in 2021

See below a list of the main cities and regions to live in the Algarve:

Faro

The capital city of the Algarve, Faro is one of the most visited cities in this region due to the location of the Faro International Airport. Connecting up to 40 European cities with direct flights, Faro airport offers its visitors and locals an easy way to travel to the Algarve region. Faro is also connected to the main railway to and from Lisbon, which offers another easy way for visitors to reach the Algarve region.

Despite being a huge tourist destination, the city is perfect for a living experience, as it features beautiful medieval landmarks; a city centre with plenty of local commerce; fabulous beaches, such as Praia de Faro, Ilha Deserta, and Ilha do Farol; along with the famous Ria Formosa; a natural park of 18,000 hectares of pure nature. 

Lagos

This amazing Algarvian town is known for its gorgeous coastline, presenting sea cliffs, caves, and sculpture-like rock formations weathered to perfection sitting on deep blue seas. From all Algarve region, Lagos is considered to be a favourite holiday destination among locals and tourists alike, because it offers a great array of attractions and touristic activities.  

Lagos also offers a great infrastructure that allows a comfortable life for its citizens, making the place one of the best places to live in the Algarve region. 

Lago’s best spots are the cliffside of Ponta da Piedade, and the numerous adjacent beach destination that is a must for sunbathing and swimming: Meia Praia, Praia da Dona Ana, Praia do Camilo, Praia de Porto de Mós, Praia da Luz, Praia da Batata, Praia do Pinhão. It is without a doubt one of the best places to live in Portugal.

Portimão

Considered the second largest city in the region, Portimão is the perfect place to settle. Not only does the city offer numerous historical monuments and a city centre with the needed services and commerce, but is also surrounded by an incredible natural landscape. For those who love a beach day, sunbathing and swimming is a must pit-stop at Praia da Rocha, Praia de Alvor, Praia dos Três Irmãos, and Praia do Vau. The area of Portimão is a great place to stay for living and enjoy the tranquillity that the beach can offer. 

Albufeira

Albufeira is a vibrant city in the Algarve, buzzing with a holiday atmosphere for its visitors. There you can find countless restaurants, bars, shops, and nightclubs, entertainment for all ages! 

The city has the reputation as the party place to be in the Algarve, however, it also offers many activities within the town centre such as the Museu Municipal de Arqueologia de Albufeira, Galeria de Arte Pintor Samora Barros, Zoomarine, Albufeira Marina, Adega do Cantor Winery and the endless beaches along the coastline that make this destination in the Algarve great place to live.

Islands of Portugal

In the archipelago islands of Portugal, Madeira and Azores the natural landscape is utterly breathtaking; in which the Azores island was honoured in 2021 as Europe’s leading adventure tourism destination by the World Travel Awards, and the city of Funchal in Madeira ranked as the 5th best city to property investment in the globe. The islands are known for their agriculture, producing national dairy products, and high-quality fruits such as the Madeiran bananas, and the Azorean pineapple.

Both in the Azores or Madeira, a perfect home or villa with ample yard space for gardening would make a perfect place to retire; as you can still be close by to the city centre of the island, experience the surrounding nature views, and as well enjoy a bit of peace and quiet. Ultimately, Portugal offers many different location options for retirement living!

See below a list of the main cities and regions to live in the Islands of Portugal:

Madeira

The Autonomous Region of Madeira is an archipelago located in the Atlantic Ocean, close to the Moroccan coast, on the African continent. The province includes the islands of Madeira, Porto Santo, the Desertas, and the Ilhas Selvagens, having as its capital the city of Funchal, located on the island of Madeira. 

Since the beginning of the XX century, the Island of Madeira has been attracting a great number of tourists interested in the wildlife on the island, together with the infrastructure comfort that Funchal can offer. With a volcanic formation, Madeira has incredible biodiversity, with dense forests, and wild rock formations, contrasting with clean sandy beaches. The city of Funchal, the capital of the region, also has a lot to offer in terms of entertainment or business. 

With a population of 105,795, the city is the sixth largest city in Portugal, Funchal has several investment hubs and recently started to invest in Working Spaces tagging the digital nomad community that grows exponentially on the island. Currently, the main lead of Madeira’s economy is tourism, but the island also exports manufactured products such as the famous Madeira Wine. Madeira also has an important agriculture industry, as it is one of the biggest banana producers in all of Europe.

Azores

The archipelago of the Azores is located in the middle of the northern hemisphere of the Atlantic Ocean and has nine islands that compose the archipelago. The biggest island, São Miguel, host the capital of the Azores, the city of Ponta Delgada. Being an amazing place for adventures such as hiking and sea sports, the Islands in the Azores have been attracting several tourists and digital nomads looking for a calm place to live in the past decade. 

As the Azores are very affordable if compared to the rest of Portugal, and have a great internet connection, it became an excellent place for digital nomads looking for a place to stay and lead a calm and “connected to nature” life.

As you could see in this article, relocating to Portugal and living as an expat can be easier than you think. The country has a lot to offer in terms of geographic diversity and cultural heritage. If the rich old traditions of the North don’t fit your expectations, maybe the amazing beaches in the South will do. Or what about the calm life around the fantastic medieval castles in Alentejo, or the little cities around the cold snowy mountains in the Western frontier? The paradisical Archipelagos can provide a “back to nature” lifestyle that some are looking for, completing this enormous number of possibilities Portugal offers.

Here at Portugal Homes, no matter where is your Portuguese dreamland, we can help you fulfil it with our extensive property expertise.

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