Moving to Braga
While the Algarve has long been a popular retirement destination, increasing numbers of people are choosing to relocate to Portugal’s larger cities further to the north of the country. Located close to the northwest coast, some 50km north of Porto, Braga is a thriving university town. With a population of over 180,000, it is Portugal’s seventh largest city and home to some 20,000 students during the course of the academic year.
Steeped in history, Braga’s roots can be traced back for Millennia. The city is home to some of the country’s most important monuments, including the famous Thermae of Maximinus Roman baths and the imposing Sé Cathedral, which was built between the 11th and 13th centuries. The entire historic centre is bursting with period buildings, making it both a draw for tourists in search of a taste of old-world Portugal and a popular location for expats seeking a new home in a charming European city.
Braga’s mild climate ensures the city remains at a pleasant temperature all year round, with average daily temperatures ranging from 24˚ C in summer to 12˚ C in winter. The city offers plenty of shopping, from high street stores to quirky boutiques, and is also home to the Circuito Vasco Sameiro, a popular venue for enjoying some weekend race-track action. The delights of the Minho district, with its rolling green hills, are ready to be enjoyed just a stone’s throw from the compact city centre while the rolling Atlantic waves of the Costa Verde are just a short drive away to the west.
The job market
There is a range of job opportunities available to expats relocating to Braga. Those with qualifications and experience in the IT industry, particularly in software development and web design, are increasingly well catered for, while the construction industry also continues to thrive. With a number of tourist attractions located in the city and surrounding area, the hospitality trade opens up plenty of possibilities, especially for those with multiple language skills.
While many expats choose to call Braga home, it is nonetheless some way removed from the international setting of the Algarve. If you are planning to work after relocating, a high level of written and spoken Portuguese is essential in the workplace. If your Portuguese is not up to scratch, you may still find work within the English language teaching sector, which is relatively strong in the city thanks to its thriving student population.
Average monthly salaries in Braga, as in Portugal in general, are not particularly high, but nor is the overall cost of living. Once your living costs have been deducted, you can expect to be left with an average of 631 Euros per month of disposable income, depending of course on your occupation, experience and expertise.
Work permits are not required for EU citizens in Portugal, however you may be asked for proof of residency so it is worth applying to the Department of Immigration and Border Control for a residence permit on your arrival. Non-EU citizens will be required to hold a valid residence permit, work permit or both.
Note that if your occupation requires professional accreditation, for instance if you are a doctor, lawyer, dentist or accountant, you will be required to validate your credentials with the appropriate Portuguese professional body before you are permitted to practice.
Overall the cost of living in Portugal is relatively low and Braga is cheaper than certain Portuguese expat destinations. Consumer prices in the city are 8.29% lower than in Lisbon, and property rental prices are an impressive 49.42% lower than the capital. There are many bars and restaurants in the city in which it is possible to eat for as little as 5 Euros per person, while a three-course meal for two in a mid-range restaurant will cost on average just 30 Euros. This makes Braga a compelling option both for those who are intending to work after their arrival and for those who are looking for a cost-effective destination in which to enjoy their retirement years and make their pension stretch a little further.
Grocery shopping in Braga is cheaper than in many European cities. Expect to pay around 1 Euro for a loaf of bread, 65 cents for a litre of milk, 1.39 Euros for a dozen eggs, 3 Euros for a mid-range bottle of wine and just 90 cents for a half-litre bottle of Portuguese beer. The city offers plenty of sporting and leisure facilities, with prices around 6 euros for tennis court rental, 30 – 45 Euros for monthly membership at a fitness club and 6 Euros for a cinema ticket to watch a mainstream movie.
Many expats choose to rent a property while they find their feet in Braga. If you wish to rent in the city centre, you will need to budget between 280 Euros for a one-bedroom apartment and 450 Euros for a three-bedroom apartment. Outside the city centre you can expect to pay between 220 and 350 Euros for apartments of a comparable size and quality.
With rental prices in Braga relatively low compared to many worldwide destinations, it is possible to live cost effectively without buying in the city. As a popular university town there is a wide range of accommodation available in the old town and throughout the city centre, particularly if you are happy to live in an apartment. Accommodation outside the city centre offers more choice, with a range of houses and apartments to meet every taste and budget.
If rural accommodation is your preference, Braga’s compact size and attractive surrounding countryside makes it a compelling proposition, and there are a number of villages close by offering a laid-back, rural lifestyle with easy access to amenities.
If you do wish to buy, expect to pay around 1,250 Euros per square metre for a city-centre apartment or 900 Euros per square metre on the outskirts. There is a wide range of accommodation outside the city centre, with current prices ranging from 70,000 Euros for a three-bedroom house in a quiet village to over 2.5 million Euros for a grand palace fit for a king. Foreign property ownership is not restricted in Portugal and finance is available to expats who meet lenders’ criteria.
- Family friendly: As a compact city Braga is very family friendly, with many amenities accessed on foot or via the efficient bus system. Many families, however, choose to live outside the city limits in the wider Braga district. Opt for village life in one of the settlements towards Briteiros, Vila Verde or Espinho.
- Upmarket: Bom Jesus do Monte is one of Braga’s best-known sights and home to some of the city’s most exclusive accommodation. Set on a towering hill overlooking the city and old town, Bom Jesus do Monte is an ancient pilgrimage church and chapels reached via a zig-zag stairway that gleams in white against the verdant foliage through which it rises to the peak. Luxury, views and exclusivity are the order of the day here.
- Hip & Trendy: The university quarter is the place to head if you are looking for fashionable Braga. Home to thousands of students and young professionals, shops, bars and clubs are all within easy rich of this vibrant, bustling neighbourhood.
- Up & Coming: The parish of Maximinos, Sé e Cividade was created in 2013 through the merger of its two former namesake parishes. Home to some 15,000 in an area of just over 2.5 km2, the traditional buildings of the old town are being rapidly revitalised.
Cost of moving
Buying furniture in Portugal is relatively expensive so it is well worth considering taking your own with you when you move. An average 20 ft container will cost in the region of 4,000 Euros from New York, 5,500 Euros from Cape Town and 6,500 Euros from Melbourne.
If you are moving from the European mainland or the UK, transportation by removal truck is the more cost-effective option. There are a number of providers specialising in international removals between European nations and rates are suitably competitive. Do remember to make sure your possessions are insured and that you have complied with any customs requirements if you are shipping from outside the EU.
Schools and Education
Braga is well known as one of Portugal’s leading university cities. The Universidade do Minho was established in 1973 and has quickly transformed the city into a thriving destination popular with students and young professionals. The university welcomes many foreign students on Erasmus and full degree programmes, and also offers various opportunities for learning Portuguese as a second language.
If you are relocating with children, the Colegio Luso Internacional de Braga may be an interesting option as the city’s leading international school, and there are a number of well-respected state schools if you wish to immerse the little ones in the Portuguese language.
Ranking against the world
Braga’s cost of living is significantly lower than Lisbon’s especially when the cost of accommodation is taken into account. Its accommodation is also on average 25.71% cheaper than in Porto, while consumer prices in general are 11.3% cheaper than the latter.
Compared to other countries, the cost of living in Braga is some 37% lower than Berlin, 56% lower than Chicago, 55% lower than Wellington and 13% lower than Johannesburg. It is known for its high quality of life, both in comparison to other worldwide destinations and against other Portuguese destinations such as Belem.
A day in the life
The beauty of Braga is its diversity, liveliness, compact centre and beautiful natural surroundings. While it is easy to overlook the tourist attractions of a city once one becomes accustomed to them, Braga boasts stunning historical monuments at every turn adding a sense of wonder to even the most mundane tasks of working, shopping and taking the children to school.
A perfect day in Braga can be spent wandering through old town, stopping to listen to the birdsong in the open areas of greenery, climbing to the peaks of the surrounding hills for a majestic view over the ancient city or simply running errands in one of the most attractive cities of the Iberian Peninsula. With the attractions of the northern Portuguese coast just a short drive away, Braga really does have everything you could wish for.