The Best 7 Places to Live in Portugal
Thinking of moving to Portugal but not sure where to call home? Our guide will make that decision easier.
There’s a reason 660,000 expats choose to call Portugal home, with its beautiful beaches, laid-back fishing villages, and affordable way of life.
If you’re keen to make the jump, our guide will give you the lowdown on the best places to live for food and drink, culture, climate, work opportunities, and more.
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Best places to live in Portugal at a glance
Want to skip the reading and just get our picks of the best places to live in Portugal? Here you go:
|Food and drink
Best for food and drink
So often when you pick the best place for food and drink, you focus on one dish or a famous wine. Think deep dish pizzas in Chicago, Jersey Royals from Jersey… you get the idea.
Porto bucks the trend and instead excels in such a diverse selection of eating and drinking options that it leaves your head spinning.
Head to any bakery in the morning for the best pastel de natas — amazing egg custard tarts that typically come topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Coffee is a big deal in Porto too, with locals proud to say the city rivals anywhere in the world.
For lunch, make sure you try the city’s iconic sandwich, the francesinha. It’s an audaciously meaty, cheesy sandwich with a special tomato beef gravy and served with fried potatoes. Is it healthy? Absolutely not, but it’ll be up there with the best sandwiches you’ve ever had.
In the evening, Porto comes to life and the restaurant scene is no different. Many restaurants have taken traditional Portuguese cuisine and elevated it to new heights. Theatrical restaurants making even the humblest ingredients shine are an increasingly common sight in Porto.
No discussion of food and drink in Porto could happen without mentioning the city’s best-known export: port wine.
Originally fortified with brandy to stop it spoiling on long journeys, port is one of the most famous types of wine in the world, and aficionados flock to Porto to drink in one of its many port cellars.
|One of the safest cities in Europe
|Porto is filled with tourists in summer
|Very affordable rent, with a three-bedroom apartment starting from €1,000 (£866) per month
|Not as international as Lisbon
|Bureaucracy can be frustrating — prepare to wait in line often
Best for work opportunities
Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and is the most diverse city in the country by some stretch. Just over 21% of the population are foreign-= born, with a lot of expat communities present.
The city has become something of a tech hub recently too, which has attracted plenty of international workers. Remote work has become a popular option, so expect to meet plenty of expats travelling around with laptop bags.
In fact, Lisbon is up there with some of the best cities in the world for so-called digital nomads.
One caveat is that if you want to get a job with a Portuguese company, you’ll need to learn the language. This can be quite intimidating for expats, hence why many choose to remotely work for businesses speaking their native language.
If you can secure a job in Lisbon, you’ll enjoy the highest salaries in Portugal. The cost of living is correspondingly high, but low relative to other European countries such as London, Madrid, and Berlin.
|Best jobs market in Portugal
|Lisbon is a crowded city
|Efficient public transport
|Highest cost of living in Portugal
|Close to beautiful beaches
Lisbon is Portugal's busiest city and the best place to find work
Best for families
Considered the gateway to the Algarve, Lagos is so much more. It perfectly blends the vibe of a charming coastal town with that of a larger city.
The nightlife reflects this, with bustling bars and clubs mixed with locals and expats alike.
There’s a great selection of local markets to explore too, with the centrally located fish market easily laying claim to being one of the best in the country.
The town's climate wins it extra points — Lagos benefits from 3,000 hours of sunshine every year, which is up there with the highest in Europe.
Thankfully this abundant sunshine doesn’t get Lagos oppressively hot. Its location near the Atlantic Ocean helps keep the mercury down, especially when compared to places further inland.
|Beaches are within walking distance of the town
|Plenty of English-speaking expats live here
|More expensive than many other Algarve towns
|Efficient public transport
|Can be very quiet in the winter
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Best for rural escapes
It’d be impossible to talk about rural escapes without mentioning the Algarve.
This region of Portugal is known around the world for its breathtaking coastline, pristine beaches, and characterful towns. You’d be hard pressed to find beaches quite like those in the Algarve anywhere else in Europe.
A downside is that this beauty comes with a big influx of tourists in the summer, but if you’re willing to trek off the beaten path, you’ll find plenty of secluded spots.
Living in the Algarve probably means renting or purchasing one of the many villas, as finding accommodation in the towns and small fishing villages is challenging.
Most of the villas are located in expat-heavy areas, so if integrating into the local community is important to you, then the Algarve likely won’t suit. Don’t let that put you off completely though, as villa communities are often only a short distance away.
|The weather is excellent, with around 300 days of sunshine every year
|Limited job opportunities outside of tourist and expat-focused work
|Spectacular countryside and coastline to explore
|If you’re not by the coast, temperatures can be too high for some (often over 35°C)
|Large international community, making it easier to integrate
|Winter months feel very empty compared to the busy summer
The Algarve's many beaches are stunning
Best for affordability
Located on the autonomous island of Madeira, Funchal is Portugal’s sixth largest city and easily one of the most affordable places to live.
Funchal is around 25% cheaper to live in than Lisbon, and when you consider that Portugal is already quite cheap, this is good news for expats on a budget.
The best part is that Funchal is still relatively unknown among expats moving to Portugal, so if you want a more authentic experience, it’s worth considering moving here.
One downside is the fact that Madeira is just over 1,000 kilometres away from mainland Portugal. You’re effectively living in a different country, because getting to Portugal means catching a flight.
It’s also very small — around half the size of London — so you’ll be able to see everything worth seeing in a handful of days. Also, if you want a busy city filled with energy then Funchal won’t be for you.
Most young people born on the island look to move to the mainland, where there are far more job opportunities and excitement.
|Subtropical climate means year-round warm weather
|Lack of modern infrastructure
|Quiet atmosphere and slow pace of life
|Elderly population — younger expats may struggle to make friends
|Most beaches are pebble, not sand
Best for families
Sitting in between Porto and Lisbon, Coimbra is a little-known city that was once the capital of Portugal.
It isn’t as big as the two cities that sandwich it, which makes it a lot less busy and a great place to raise a family, but its proximity to them means it’s easy to plan a day trip.
However, to reach the beaches you’ll need to drive around an hour, or catch a train or bus. Public transport in Coimbra is very good though, so if you don’t have a car you won’t need to worry much.
Most expat families living in Coimbra send their children to the international schools in Porto and Lisbon. For older students, the University of Coimbra offers international courses and is widely regarded as one of the best universities in Portugal.
|Vibrant atmosphere thanks to big student population
|The student population does mean the weekends can get rowdy
|Low cost of living
|Limited job opportunities
|Simple travel connections to Porto and Lisbon
The University of Coimbra is one of the top universities in the country
Best for culture
The northern city of Braga is Portugal’s third -largest and also its oldest, with a history stretching back thousands of years.
There was a settlement here before the Romans pitched up in 136 BC, who themselves left behind plenty of interesting sites to see. The ruins of a Roman bathhouse are particularly worth visiting and give a fascinating insight into the city’s ancient past.
Just walking around Braga feels like stepping back in time, with street after street lined with medieval buildings. Not only that, but you can barely move for all the boutique cafés, quirky shops, and restaurants serving delicious local cuisine.
The property market is very competitive, especially close to the city centre, but if you don’t mind a short journey you’ll find plenty of affordable homes in the northern quarter.
There’s a good amount of choice in the surrounding area as well, with many of the nearby towns and villages offering larger properties with lots of land.
|Low traffic with plenty of places within walking distance of each other
|Nearest beaches are around 40km away
|Easily one of Portugal’s most beautiful cities
|Slow pace of life can make getting important tasks done a battle with the locals
|More affordable than Lisbon and Porto
Best places to live in Portugal: the verdict
Portugal is a brilliant country filled with culture, great food, stunning beaches, and more. To recap, here’s our picks of the best places to live in Portugal:
- Porto: best for food and drink
- Lisbon: best for work opportunities
- Lagos: best for climate
- The Algarve: best for rural escapes
- Funchal: best for affordability
- Coimbra: best for families
- Braga: best for culture
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For more on moving to Portugal, take a look at our things to know guide before you pack your bags.