Portugal Country Guide
Everything you need to know about moving to Portugal
Popular Towns for Expats in Portugal
Portugal offers everything from historic walkable cities to charming small towns to seaside resorts.
Portugal has emerged as a top choice for expats globally, driven significantly by the exceptional value offered by its real estate market. Whether you’re considering a beachside home in the southern Algarve, a property in the bustling metropolitan area of Lisbon, a residence in the picturesque wine country near Porto, or a dwelling amidst charming medieval towns and mountains of the North, Portugal provides a diversity of places to live. To discover your ideal location, we recommend taking a trip to explore the many locations available.
Lisbon & Surrounds
Nestled in history yet embracing modernity, Lisbon is a captivating city offering a diverse array of experiences to its residents. Set against the picturesque backdrop of seven hills around the Rio Tejo, Lisbon seamlessly weaves together tradition and culture.
Each neighborhood has its own unique character, from the enchanting maze of Alfama’s alleys to the well-tended gardens of Belém and the inviting cafés of Santos. A haven for foodies, Lisbon continually introduces upscale dining establishments, and its cobblestone streets come alive with an active nightlife.
Adjacent towns provide a close connection to Lisbon’s amenities, each contributing its own distinctive lifestyle. Whether you’re drawn to the tranquility of sleepy villages or the allure of glamorous coastal resorts, the surroundings of Lisbon offer a range of options to cater to your preferences.
The capital and largest city in Portugal, Lisbon offers a little bit of everything Portugal has to offer. Each neighborhood (bairro) has it’s own ambiance, but you’ll always find history, good food, and culture.
Popular neighborhoods for expats include: Estrela, Avenidas Novas, Campo de Ourique, Belém, Alvalade, and Alcântara.
A cosmopolitan yet laid back village 20 miles west of Lisbon, Cascais is known for its parks, shopping, restaurants, and culture. It has access to several beautiful beaches and some of the best international schools in the area.
Together with Cascais, Estoril is part of the “Portuguese Riviera.” The town is small (2 square miles) and has a feeling of easy Old World elegance. Note Estoril is more expensive than other nearby locations.
A small city that has maintained its traditional fishing town feel, Setúbal is located about 30 minutes from Lisbon on the banks of the Sado River. Setúbal is more affordable than other cities in the region and offers access to all the amenities and healthcare you might need.
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The Algarve, Portugal’s sun-drenched southern coast, boasts some of the country’s nicest beaches and enjoys a remarkable 300 days of sunshine annually, making it an ideal destination for both visitors and those looking to establish a home.
Prominent coastal towns, including the vibrant Portimão, cosmopolitan Albufeira, regional capital Faro, architecturally rich Tavira, and up-and-coming Lagos, grace the Algarve. Along the coastline, numerous quaint fishing villages offer charm, while inland options abound, from renowned golf courses around Vilamoura to the soothing Monchique thermal baths. As a sought-after destination, the Algarve features plenty of amenities and a well-developed infrastructure, attracting expatriates from all over the world.
A working class town of 55,000 in the center of the Algarve, Portimão is known for its beaches and stunning sea cliffs. It is only two miles from the famous Praia da Rocha beach.
Faro is the largest city in the Algarve and the regional capital, with impressive ancient walls and plenty of history. This city is less touristy than others in the region, and more affordable as well. It hosts the regional train station and airport, and is a great jumping off point for exploring the rest of the Algarve and Portugal as a whole.
A very pretty little city in the eastern Algarve with whitewashed buildings, Roman ruins, and proximity to lovely beaches. It’s known for its well-preserved historic architecture in the center of town. Tavira is laid-back and charming, and has become particularly popular with retirees moving to Portugal.
This charming town in the western Algarve boasts a captivating coastline with rugged cliffs, golden sandy beaches, and picturesque coves. The historic heart of Lagos is characterized by narrow cobblestone streets, traditional white-washed buildings, and lively squares. There are plenty of available amenities and a rapidly growing community of expatriates here.
Perhaps the best-known tourism city in the Algarve, Albufeira features fifteen miles of beaches. The city is a great nightlife location, while during the day you can enjoy its charming cobbestone streets and Moorish-influenced architecture. Albufeira provides the quintessential Algarve experience, blending relaxation, entertainment, and culture.
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The Silver Coast
Nestled along the western side of Portugal between Porto and Lisbon, the Silver Coast, or Costa da Prata, is a 93-mile stretch of rugged coastline full of charm and affordable living. It’s still possible to find homes with pools on the coast for under $500,000, or large freestanding homes slightly inland for less. Of course, overall cost of living varies greatly with one’s lifestyle, but the Silver Coast has great options for affordability.
There are many small towns, some larger cities, and plenty of charming old fishing villages along this stunning coastline. With thousands of foreigners already in the area, life on the Silver Coast can be packed with socializing or quiet and laid-back.
Portugal’s former capital and a university town known as “the Oxford of Portugal,” Coimbra is a larger city of 145,000 centered by one of Portugal’s most prestigious universities. The city is rich with history and culture. English is widely spoken and healthcare options are excellent. As in many locations in Portugal, there are plenty of hills here!
Nazaré is a seaside resort town of only 32 square miles that’s renowned for some of the largest waves in the world. A traditional fishin town turned surfing mecca, Nazaré attracts thrill seekers and beach enthusiasts alike. It’s traditional Sitio district is perched atop towering cliffs overlooking views of the Atlantic. Nazaré is only 1.5 miles from Lisbon and 1 hour from Coimbra.
Caldas da Rainha
In English, “The Baths of the Queen,” Caldas da Rainha is a mid-sized city 1 hour north of Lisbon with cobblestone streets and thermal baths. It offers public & private hospitals, plenty of bars and restaurants, and easy access to beautiful beaches.
A canal city of 80,000 near Porto, at the northern end of the Silver Coast. Popular with tourists, Aveiro features beautiful art nouveau homes lining its canals. English is widely spoken, the beach of Costa Nova is nearby, and there are plenty of amenities in this city.
Northern Portugal is an area rich in mountains, parks, ancient history, and wine culture. If you prefer a cooler temperature and to escape the crowds, this may be the region for you.
It was in the north that Portugal was founded in the 12th century, and the region certainly lends itself to historical exploration, with visible signs of the changing eras from Roman occupation to today.
If you want to lace up your hiking boots, northern Portugal is one of the best places to do it – it’s home to Portugal’s only national park, which features sky-piercing peaks and verdant hills. There are many more natural parks throughout the region, including everything from sand dunes to dramatic waterfalls.
Porto, Portugal’s second-largest city, is a thriving international city located on the Douro River, with rich culture and architecture and a cool, mild climate. The city is affordable, while offering all the modern conveniences you could ask for. Famous for its historic Ribeira district, characterized by colorful buildings lining the Douro River, Porto is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is renowned for its port wine cellars, where you can indulge in tastings. With its historic landmarks, vibrant street life, and a thriving culinary scene, Porto offers a rich and immersive experience for those exploring the northern charms of Portugal.
Guimarães is a UNESCO world heritage site and is considered the birthplace of Portugal, located just 35 miles from Porto. It’s a walkable although hilly city, with plenty of amenities. English is commonly spoken.
Braga is the hub of Northern Portugal, located about 20 miles inland from the coast. Considered the oldest city in the north, Braga boasts a rich history from Roman occupation and as the seat of the oldest Portuguese archdiocese. For all of this history, Braga has a young feel as an international university town, and English is widely spoken.
Chaves is a popular spa resort town famous for its thermal springs, located just 10 kilometers from the border with Spain. The city features beautiful old architecture overlooking the Tâmega River, and is particularly affordable.
Madeira is an island archipelago located about 500 miles west of Casablanca, Morocco and a short ferry ride from Spain’s Canary Islands. With a climate similar to Hawaii and dramatic landscapes lining its coasts, Madeira has been named the best island destination in Europe for many years. The Madeira archipelago is made up of Madeira island itself (where most residents live), Porto Santo, and 2 uninhabited island groups.
Madeira has many steep hillsides, ample forests, and several black sand beaches. Its capital, Funchal, is where roughly half of the island’s population of 250,000 lives. Diving is excellent off the coast, and seafood plus the eponymous Madeira wine is not to be missed.
Funchal, the vibrant capital of Madeira, is a picturesque city nestled between the mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. It’s been named the 2nd best city to live in Portugal and provides a mix of calm island life and vibrant cosmopolitan city life. Funchal has become a particularly popular destination for digital nomads.
Ponta do Sol
On the south coast of Madeira island, Ponta do Sol is a traditional whitewashed town set on tall cliffs. One of the most affordable areas for property, you also get access to great walking trails in nature. Known as the “Sun Point,” this charming town offers stunning coastal views, a tranquil atmosphere, and is celebrated for having one of the warmest climates on the island.
São Martinho, located on the southern coast of Madeira, is characterized by its scenic bay and relaxed coastal atmosphere. With a picturesque waterfront, sandy beaches, and a variety of seaside amenities, São Martinho is a popular destination offering both tranquility and the charm of coastal living. São Martinho offers easy access to all kinds of amenities – restaurants, malls, and famous beaches. There is easy access to Funchal from the town as well.
Arco da Calheta
Arco da Calheta is a group of lombos (villages) set along a sand beach that wraps around a harbor, sheltered from waves. The town is famous for occasional festivals with food, parades, and fireworks.
The Azores are an archipelago of nine inhabited islands located roughly halfway between Europe and America in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. They are known for their untouched natural beauty protected by parks and marine reserves and for world-class adventure activities like whale-watching, sailing, diving, and canyoning.
Just now being discovered by tourism, the Azores offer great opportunities to get away in nature, while still experiencing a culture formed from Portuguese traditions and the Azores’ own proud regional identity.
Compared to Portugal’s other famous island, Madeira, the Azores is more off-the-beaten path and less touristy and offers more nature and greenery, while Madeira is known for more sunshine, amenities, restaurants, and nightlife.
Ponta Delgada is the capital city of the Azores, located on the main island of São Miguel. There are great amenities nearby, including a private hospital and the largest airport in the Azores.
Lagoa is another popular city on São Miguel with 14,000 inhabitants. Set near a stunning crater lake that gives the city its name, Lagoa is also near Ponta Delgada on the southern coast of the island.
The second-largest island in the Azores, Terceira is less touristy than São Miguel and roughly 20% more affordable while maintaining access to plenty of amenities, including a large public hospital. The main city is Angra do Heroísmo. The population of this island is approximately 54,000.
Portugal client reviews
StartAbroad made the process easy and manageable. Anna is the BEST, she informed me of the necessary steps to get me to Portugal. StartAbroad helped with housing, needed documents, and the million questions I had. I highly recommend their services if you want an easy and very manageable process to travel and live overseas.
Portugal Concierge Client
Rental Search Client
We greatly appreciated the personable…concierge service that StartAbroad offered. [They] listened to what we said and what we did not say and helped us plan a very fun, but strategic exploratory trip. We were able to see multiple cities during our very brief visit and have a lot of fun along the way.
Exploratory Trip Client
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