Our Top Picks For The Best Places To Live In Portugal For Expats

Nighttime Aerial View Of Lisbon, Portugal

Portugal’s allure for expatriates is undeniable, with an array of destinations that offer a desirable quality of life. From the sun-kissed beaches of the Algarve to the historical splendor of Lisbon and Porto, the best places to live in Portugal for expats cater to diverse preferences and lifestyles. Whether the temperate climate draws you, the affordable cost of living, or the rich cultural tapestry, Portugal provides a welcoming haven for those seeking a new home abroad.

We’re here to explore the top Portuguese locales that have captured the hearts of expatriates worldwide, each offering unique benefits to suit your individual needs and ensure a seamless transition into your new European life.

Is moving to Portugal a good idea?

Reasons Portugal Attracts Expats

Portugal’s capital city has become a magnet for expatriates from around the globe, and it’s easy to see why. The country offers a blend of historical charm, modern amenities, and a relaxed lifestyle that’s hard to match. Expats are drawn to Portugal for its warm climate, friendly locals, and the ease with which you can integrate into the community, especially in areas with established expat populations.

The Algarve, for instance, is a region that has long been favored by international visitors, including those from the UK. This makes it a place where English speakers can transition smoothly.

Moreover, Portugal’s infrastructure is commendable, with one of the finest highway systems in Europe, making travel and exploration within the country a pleasure. The availability of both public and private transport options, including trains and buses that connect various regions, as well as affordable ride-sharing services, ensures that getting around is convenient and accessible. If you’re considering car ownership, while the costs can be higher due to fuel prices and taxes, purchasing a used vehicle can help cut some of these expenses.

Cost of Living In Portugal

Regarding the cost of living, Portugal stands out in Western Europe as a particularly affordable destination. A couple can live comfortably on a monthly budget of $2,500 to $3,000 outside the major cities in Portugal, with housing being the most significant expense, whether renting or buying. Rental prices can vary greatly depending on location and property type.

For example, you might find a charming, older home in the interior for as low as $450. Around $1,300 could get you a modern two-bedroom apartment in Lisbon. Porto offers its own range of options, with city-center apartments and detached homes at competitive prices.

Portugal caters to a wide range of budgets for those looking to purchase property. Apartments and houses are available from the bustling city centers to the tranquil countryside. The Silver Coast and the Algarve offer attractive options for those seeking a balance between modern amenities and scenic surroundings.

The cost of groceries and dining out in Portugal is another aspect that expats find appealing. The country’s supermarkets, ranging from large chains to small local stores, provide a full range of products at reasonable prices. The Mediterranean diet, with its emphasis on fresh fish, olive oil, and locally grown produce, is healthy and affordable.

Eating out in Portugal can be surprisingly inexpensive. For example, a meal of fresh fish might cost around $12. Plus, the local wine is both delicious and budget-friendly.

Utilities in Portugal are also reasonable, with monthly costs varying by the size of the dwelling and the number of occupants. Internet and cell phone packages are competitively priced. When you compare it to cities like New York or even smaller American towns, the overall cost of living in Portugal is significantly lower.

Healthcare in Portugal is another significant draw for expats, with high-quality services available at affordable prices. Private health insurance plans are accessible and inexpensive. Many medical professionals are fluent in English, making it easier for expats.

The public healthcare system offers free services, and prescription costs are minimal compared to those in the US.

Lisbon, Capital City Of Portugal, Buildings And Bridge


Lisbon: The Vibrant Capital

Benefits of Living in Lisbon

Lisbon, the nation’s bustling capital city, is a beacon for expatriates, particularly those seeking residency through investment via the Golden Visa program. The city’s cost of living remains reasonable when juxtaposed with other European capitals, providing a high standard of living.

The temperate climate, scenic views, and historical significance add to its allure. The Golden Visa program has been successful, drawing over 12,000 applicants since its inception. It offers the prospect of permanent residency or citizenship within five years and the advantage of visa-free travel to 188 countries upon obtaining citizenship.

The requirement to stay for only seven days per year is an attractive feature for those who may wish to wait to relocate permanently.

Popular Neighborhoods for Expats

Lisbon is home to a variety of neighborhoods that appeal to diverse tastes and lifestyles. Chiado and Príncipe Real are known for their blend of historic charm and contemporary conveniences, attracting those who appreciate urban living.

Alfama, steeped in tradition, is characterized by its many narrow streets and lanes and the melancholic tunes of fado music. For those with families, Parque das Nações is recognized for its open spaces and modern living facilities. The city’s neighborhoods ensure that every expatriate can find a suitable place to call home.

Lifestyle and Leisure Activities

The lifestyle in Lisbon emphasizes savoring the simple joys of life. The city center’s cultural landscape is dotted with museums, art galleries, and performance venues. A lively nightlife scene offers a variety of entertainment options.

Outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate the beautiful city’s access to coastal and green spaces for various activities, from surfing to leisurely strolls. The culinary scene is a feast for the senses, offering everything from authentic local fare to a broad spectrum of international flavors.

The city’s diverse recreational offerings provide a rich history and satisfying expatriate experience.

Work Opportunities and Business Environment

The economic climate in Lisbon is vibrant and evolving, with prospects in industries such as technology, tourism, and various services. The city has emerged as a center for startups and innovation, bolstered by the NHR program, which provides tax benefits for a decade after establishing residency in a university city.

The prospect of working and residing in Portugal is enticing for Golden Visa investors. This, combined with the privilege of free movement within the Schengen Area, offers a unique chance to broaden professional networks while enjoying the benefits of living in a European nation.

Porto, Portugal, Harbour And Boats

Porto: A Blend of Tradition and Modernity

The Charm of Porto’s Historical Center

Porto effortlessly combines its rich historical heritage with a lively contemporary lifestyle, becoming increasingly popular among expatriates. The city’s historical center is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, showcasing its storied past.

It’s known for its picturesque landscape, with buildings perched on cliffs overlooking the Douro River, and the iconic Ribeira district offers stunning views and a taste of the local port wine. This fusion of old and new makes Porto an appealing destination if you’re seeking a European living experience with a distinctive character.

Expat Communities and Networking

The expatriate community in Porto is growing as international companies set up shop in the city. This expanding community provides a support network for newcomers, helping you ease into Portuguese life. Social etiquette in Porto is warm and personal, with greetings often involving two kisses on the cheek. Bringing a gift when you’re invited to a meal is also customary. For expats, these practices can lead to quicker integration into local society and the chance to build lasting relationships.

Quality of Life in Porto

Porto offers a high quality of life, with a semi-Mediterranean climate that the Atlantic Ocean moderates. This results in mild winters and temperate summers, though the city isn’t immune to occasional heatwaves. The city’s public infrastructure is well-developed, with a reliable metro service, although some bus lines may need to be more consistent.

Healthcare is a significant benefit, as Portugal boasts a high-ranking healthcare system, with universal coverage provided through the SNS. Once you’ve obtained legal residency, healthcare is mostly free, and private health insurance is available at reasonable rates.

Cost Comparison with Lisbon

Living costs in Porto are notably more affordable than in Lisbon, with rent prices approximately 20% lower. A one-bedroom apartment in Porto can be rented for around $770 per month, while a three-bedroom in the main city center may cost about $1650. Utilities for an individual are estimated at $155, and a family’s utilities start at $165. Groceries are reasonably priced, with a monthly budget for one person around $220. Education in public schools is free, but international schools have varying fees, ranging from $4,400 to $16,500 annually per child.

Property investment in Porto is more accessible, with average prices around $2,565 per square meter, compared to Lisbon’s $5,500 per square meter. Mortgage loans for non-residents can cover up to 65-75% of a property’s value, while fiscal residents might secure up to 90%. Neighborhoods like Ribeira, Cedofeita, and Foz do Douro each offer unique living experiences, from historic riverside charm to trendy arts districts and proximity to nature and the ocean.

For expats interested in the golden visa, Porto offers a cost-effective lifestyle and the potential for a sound investment in real estate. The Golden Visa program provides a route to long-term residency and eventual citizenship, with the added benefit of family reunification. Other visa options, such as the D7 and D2, are tailored to retirees, remote workers, and entrepreneurs, offering various pathways for those wishing to make Porto their new home.

Waterfront Landscape Of The Algarve, Portugal

The Algarve: Sun-Soaked Coastal Living

Attractiveness of Algarve for Retirement

The Algarve region’s reputation for safety and a community that caters well to foreigners, including a high proficiency in English, makes it an ideal location for expats.

The area is dotted with picturesque towns like Faro, the culturally rich capital, and Tavira, known for its traditional charm and less crowded ambiance. Lagos and Portimão offer beautiful beaches alongside contemporary conveniences.

Year-round weather and Beach Lifestyle

The Algarve is celebrated for its exceptional climate, which ranks among the best in Europe, providing residents with ample sunshine throughout the year. This idyllic weather complements the coastal lifestyle that the region is famous for, with award-winning beaches that beckon both locals and expats. The Atlantic coastline is a playground for beachgoers and offers a plethora of activities, from watersports to leisurely strolls along the sand.

The outdoor lifestyle is further enriched by opportunities for hiking and golfing, letting you take full advantage of the Algarve’s natural beauty and pleasant climate.

Real Estate Options for Expats

Expats will find the process of acquiring real estate in the Algarve to be quite expat-friendly, with no restrictions on foreign property ownership. The affordability of property, compared to other Western European destinations, is a significant draw. To purchase a home, you’ll need a Portuguese tax number and should be prepared for associated costs such as legal fees, notary fees, and the Property Transfer Tax.

Renting is also straightforward, requiring a tax number, identification, deposit, and rental contract. Whether buying or renting, the Algarve offers a range of options to suit various preferences and budgets.

Health and Wellness Activities

The Algarve isn’t just a place to live; it’s a region that promotes a healthy and active lifestyle. The availability of quality healthcare services at low costs is a considerable advantage for expats, although if the SNS does not cover you, you’ll need health insurance. The region’s emphasis on wellness is evident in its numerous activities that encourage a healthy lifestyle, including golf courses, hiking trails, and watersports.

The combination of these amenities with the Algarve’s relaxed pace of life and endless sunshine makes it an ideal destination for retirees and expats looking for a place that nurtures both body and mind.

Seaside Housing In Madeira, Portugal

Madeira and the Azores: Natural Beauty and Tranquility

Living Amidst Nature in Madeira

Madeira, a Portuguese archipelago, is a haven for expats seeking a serene lifestyle embraced by nature. If you’re considering a move, you’ll find the island’s topography allows most residents to enjoy stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and the rugged mountains. This natural beauty, combined with a temperate climate, creates an idyllic setting for those looking to escape the hustle of city life.

As an expat in Madeira, you’ll find yourself integrating with the local community, known for its laid-back and friendly demeanor. The cost of living is notably lower than in many parts of the UK or North America. Plus, the real estate market offers affordable and scenic properties.

The island’s infrastructure supports a comfortable lifestyle with quality healthcare, although opinions on it may vary. The presence of a good expat community, with many English speakers, especially in tourist areas like Funchal, adds to the ease of settling in. Madeira’s cultural offerings, including a theater and an orchestra, along with its excellent culinary scene, ensure you’ll have a rich living experience.

The Unique Culture of the Azores

The Azores, a group of nine volcanic islands, is a place of diverse experiences and a unique culture shaped by its maritime subtropical climate. The mild year-round weather contributes to the island’s reputation as a location conducive to longevity and health. Living costs are reasonable, with daily expenses and dining out being quite affordable compared to mainland Portugal.

The Azores attract expats, particularly retirees, due to their affordability and the potential for an NHR status, which offers tax advantages for the first ten years of residence. Each island, from the second largest city, São Miguel, to the tranquil Santa Maria, offers a distinct flavor of Azorean life. The archipelago is also a prime spot for whale and dolphin watching, adding to its allure.

However, the relaxed pace of life may require an adjustment for newcomers. Healthcare is accessible, with both public and private options, though non-EU citizens may need private insurance initially. Despite the islands’ safety and the widespread use of English, the weather can be unpredictable, which is something to consider if you’re contemplating a move.

Pros and Cons of Island Life for Expats

Island life in Madeira and the Azores presents expats with a mix of advantages and challenges. The lower cost of living and affordable property prices are significant draws. The slower pace of life can lead to reduced stress and an enhanced quality of life.

The natural environment offers a tranquil setting for retirees, families, and digital nomads. However, the islands’ remote nature can sometimes lead to feelings of isolation. The slower pace might be frustrating if you’re used to a more hurried lifestyle.

Healthcare generally gets good reviews, but you should be prepared for potential differences from your home country as a newcomer. The mild weather can be inconsistent, particularly in the Azores. Despite these considerations, the islands’ safety, community spirit, and the beauty of living close to nature make them attractive options for many expats.

Accessibility and Connectivity to Mainland Portugal

Accessibility to mainland Portugal from Madeira and the Azores is a key consideration for expats. The Azores are served by three major airports, ensuring connectivity to the mainland and beyond. Traveling to and from Madeira is also convenient, with regular flights available.

For those seeking residency, the Golden Visa program offers a pathway to living on these islands, requiring only an average of seven days per year spent in Portugal. After five years, expats can apply for citizenship or permanent residency, each with its own benefits. The Golden Visa’s flexibility is particularly appealing to those who may not wish to reside full-time on the islands.

Getting around Madeira by car is straightforward, and the island’s small size means short commutes. This ease of travel, combined with the islands’ natural beauty and the cultural richness of Portuguese island life, makes Madeira and the Azores accessible and appealing choices for expats considering a move.

Your Golden Life Awaits

Portugal offers a kaleidoscope of experiences, environments, and opportunities for expats. From the historic streets of Lisbon and Porto to the sun-kissed shores of the Algarve and the majestic beauty of Madeira and the Azores, the choice truly caters to all preferences. These destinations not only promise a soothing escape but also present a smart investment, especially for those seeking the benefits of the Golden Visa program.

Each locale boasts unique perks, whether Lisbon’s vibrant culture, Porto’s traditional flair, the Algarve’s coastal splendor, or the enchanting natural sanctuaries of the islands. Your Portuguese dream can take any shape, complemented by the country’s hospitable community, affordable living, and excellent quality of life. As you embark on your new chapter in this charming European gem, Portugal’s rich tapestry of living options assures that you can find the perfect spot to call home.



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Rihab Saad

Managing Director
Next Generation Equity

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