The Best Cities to Live in Portugal
Portugal is a small country in southwest Europe. For such a small country, it has a lot to offer, with vast stretches of beautiful coastline and beaches, lush green national parks and an array of charming cities enriched with history and culture. For an expat, Portugal also has very safe and welcoming cities to live in.
When it comes to deciding the best place to live in Portugal, every city has its own unique character and there are housing options to suit all tastes, needs, and budgets, whether you’re looking for a bustling, cosmopolitan hub or something more laidback. Here’s a list of some of the best cities to live in Portugal.
Living in Lisbon
As Portugal’s capital city, Lisbon is a bustling commercial and cosmopolitan hub with plenty to offer in the way of culture, shopping, dining, nightlife, and business opportunities, not to mention easy access to numerous beautiful beaches. Built over seven hills, it also boasts stunning views from almost any city corner. There’s an extremely diverse community of expats from all over the world currently living there (including families and young digital nomads) making it a very vibrant, happening place to live in Portugal.
Pros of Living in Lisbon
- Mild climate and lots of sunshine all year round
- Good public transport network
- A wide selection of international schools
- High level of spoken English
Cons of Living in Lisbon
- Attracts a lot of tourists and can get very noisy and overcrowded at certain times of year
- Very hilly
- More expensive than the rest of Portugal
Living in Porto
Porto is fast emerging as a modern metropolis to rival Lisbon but on a slightly smaller scale. Built on the mouth of the Douro River, it’s a very picturesque city steeped in history and culture and one of the best cities to live in Portugal. It’s famous for its colorful tiles, edgy independent art, and design scene, and great food scene, not forgetting its namesake dessert wine Port that you can savor in various tasting cellars in and around the city.
Pros of Living in Porto
- Safe city with low crime rates
- Excellent food and wine scene
- Very easy to get around
Cons of Living in Porto
- Rains a lot and can be quite cold in the winter
- Attracts a lot of tourists in the summer
- Less international events than in Lisbon
Living in Faro
Despite being the largest, most central city in the Algarve, Faro has retained its authentic Portuguese charm and feels less touristy and spoilt than other hotspots in the Algarve. While the lifestyle is pretty laid back in the whole of the country, the pace of life feels even more relaxed down south. Faro has all the cultural and lifestyle offerings of a city as well as golden sandy beaches backed by stunning red cliffs and little secluded bays to explore. It’s also well located in the middle of the Algarve next to its own international airport, making this one of the most attractive cities to live in Portugal.
Pros of Living in Faro
- Offers the perfect mix of city and beach life
- English is widely spoken
Cons of Living in Faro
- Real estate prices are higher than other parts of Portugal
- Can feel like a summer holiday destination
Living in Portimao
Once a sleepy fishing port town, Portimão is now abuzz with activity attracting lots of tourists and expats looking for a sunnier lifestyle. It has a big cafe culture by day conducive to people watching and soaking up the endless sunshine, and a lively bar and restaurant scene by night. There’s also a glitzy marina and innumerable beautiful beaches to entice you with postcard-perfect turquoise waters.
Pros of Living in Portimão
- Large English-speaking expat community
- Beautiful beaches
- Big marina
Cons of Living in Portimão
- There are fewer job and business opportunities than in other major cities.
- Very popular tourist destination
Living in Coimbra
Home to one of the oldest universities in the country (dating back to 1290), Coimbra is a hot spot for students and young people and has a lively nightlife scene. It’s also a great city for young families to live in, as it’s extremely safe and easy to get around, and offers good value for money. Situated slightly inland from the coast in central Portugal, it’s on the Mondego River and is very scenic with a charming medieval old town. It’s also well connected to Lisbon and Porto by train, which makes this a good city to live in, for those who want a more relaxed everyday life in Portugal.
Pros of Living in Coimbra
- Good value for money
- Young crowd and a lively nightlife
- Less touristy
Cons of Living in Coimbra
- Weather can be cold and rainy
- It’s inland from the beach
Living in Braga
Braga is still a bit of an unknown gem on the expat circuit but the world is starting to get out and see it as one of the best places to live in Portugal. It’s a very authentic, charming city in the northwest of Portugal surrounded by beautiful verdant countryside. While it’s quieter than some of the other big cities in the country, it offers a great lifestyle and the housing market is less saturated. Plus, it’s only a 40-minute drive from Porto and also very close to the Spanish border for weekend getaways.
Pros of Living in Braga
- Surrounded by stunning nature and countryside
- Quieter than other Portuguese cities
- Very affordable
Cons of Living in Braga
- Can be very cold and wet during the winter
- English is less widely spoken
Living in Evora
Evora has long been a popular spot to visit as a tourist in Portugal but it's only recently that it has started to attract expats to live there. As the capital of the beautiful Alentejo region and a UNESCO World Heritage site, it has a very quaint historical quarter and is surrounded by quiet leafy neighborhoods. It’s a great place for foodies as the local food scene is highly rated by Portuguese and foreigners alike and it’s also surrounded by numerous wineries.
Pros of Living in Evora
- Authentically Portuguese
- Affordable property
- Amazing food scene
Cons of Living in Evora
- Closest airport is Lisbon
- Quite remote and quiet
- Smaller expat crowd
Verdict on the Best Cities to Live in Portugal
Those are our picks for the best cities to live in Portugal. Wherever you decide to go, you’ll be able to enjoy some beautiful sunsets and the great food and wine that the country has to offer, and you’ll find the people and communities very warm and welcoming. For more information check out our Insider’s Guide to the Portuguese Golden Visa. Or check out our continuing coverage of the space on our blog.