Where to Live in Portugal
Retirees and digital nomads looking for a new place to live can’t go wrong with Portugal. It doesn’t draw as much attention as its Iberian sibling, Spain, but Portugal has a lot going for it — medieval castles, vineyards, sparkling beaches, great food and the best weather in continental Europe. The lifestyle options are as varied as the landscape. There are captivating cities, small villages with cobblestone plazas, beach-front high-rises or quiet rural farms. It’s a lot packed into such a small package. Here are some of the more popular options for foreigners looking to settle in Portugal.
Hands-down the favorite among foreign expats, this corner of Old World charm has been luring pensioners from the UK and elsewhere in northern Europe for decades. There are now an estimated 100,000 expatriates who call the Algarve home.
A safe region, with very little crime and a laid-back lifestyle for expatriates, this destination caters equally to families and retirees, due to the wide variety of cultural, nature-based, sporting, gastronomic, and other activities. Long a popular summer destination for sun-seekers and a winter-stay retreat for those getting away from Northern Europe’s colder months, the Algarve receives more than 5 million annual visitors through its airport alone, swelling the local population of approximately 350,000.
If you are looking for a mix between the Algarve’s historical roots and the spectacular beaches for which it is famous, then look no further than Silves and Lagoa. These two municipalities, located slightly west of center in Portugal’s southernmost province, allow residents to experience the best the area has to offer.
Silves, nestled in verdant valleys surrounded by the country’s largest citrus-growing area, and on the banks of the Arade River, which is navigable to where it meets the sea at Portimão, offers a warm microclimate, and visitors here will feel comfortable all year round…but perhaps just a little flustered when temperatures soar in the summer!
For a variety of beaches, hop over to neighboring Lagoa, with the capital town of the same name, which is a much smaller municipality located close to the ocean. Most of its activity is related to tourism around the coastal resorts towns of Carvoeiro and Ferragudo.
Offering tranquil affordable living options and an authentic view into the past, Lisbon is renowned for its warm hospitality, friendly atmosphere, and for having one of the lowest costs of living in Portugal, if not all of Western Europe.
Featuring a vibrant downtown dotted with colorful houses and small, walkable neighborhoods, the “White City” as it is commonly known (thanks to the unique architectural luminosity—characteristic ochre stone used throughout the city seems to illuminate the city when the sun’s rays reflect off it), is also home to some of the most modern buildings and luxury villas of our era.
From elegant apartments to luxury new developments, Lisbon has lifestyle choices for all tastes and budgets and, even though it is more expensive than the areas surrounding it, it has the advantage of having an already well-established and large community of expats.
Lisbon around the surrounding area offer a wide range of properties to choose from. From beachfront properties in Cascais, Estoril, and Quinta da Marinha, to countryside villas in Herdade da Aroeira, to townhouses in classic buildings in Campo de Ourique, Lapa, Avenidas Novas, Alvalade, and Av. De Roma.
Lisbon has one of Europe’s lowest crime rates, so on a level of personal security, the Portuguese capital is renowned for offering high quality of life to its citizens and in a safe environment.
Porto and the North
Porto, on an estuary of the Douro River in northwest Portugal, is the second largest city in Portugal and is considered its cultural capital. The historic center, the Ribeira district, is recognized as a world heritage centre by UNESCO and is a hopelessly romantic mix of Baroque churches, narrow pedestrian lanes, and sprawling plazas.
An influx of low-cost airlines into Porto in recent years has raised the city’s profile among both tourists and expatriates. The city itself is home to only about 200,000 people, but the wider region of 18 municipalities spread over four districts has a total population of some 1.75 million, so there is a wide variety of properties in the area.
In central Porto you will find mainly apartments and townhouses, and the prices will be higher. Larger detached home with more gardens and outdoor space on the outskirts of the city are more reasonably priced.
Nearby towns worthy of consideration by those not enamored of city living include the beach resort of Espinho, the fishing village of Povoa de Varzim, and Amarante. Another beach resort worth a look is the town of Vila do Condo, where several new developments have popped up that have been marketed to foreign buyers.
Portugal so-called Silver Coast, a 150-mile stretch of coast north of Lisbon, is rapidly becoming the alternative Algarve for expatriates looking for a beach lifestyle. While the weather is not quite as idyllic as that of the Algarve (ocean temperatures in the Atlantic are several degrees cooler on average than in the south), prices are still moderate compared to the Algarve and the area is seen as more “authentic” than its flashier rival.
Overseas buyers began to flock to the Silver Coast in the late 1990s when the A8 motorway to Lisbon was completed and what was previously an hours-long journey to Obidos, the best-known town in the area, was shortened to less than an hour.
Apart from Obidos, notable towns in the region include Caldas da Rainha, a market town used as a hub by many of the small farmers in the region, and popular surfing destinations such as Baleal and Peniche. The best-known resort in the area is the Praia D’El Rey Golf & Resort on the southern shores of the Obidos lagoon. The village of Cascais, popular among royalty as far back as the 19th century, is today favored by Lisbon’s jet set and teems with people during the summer months.
Home prices on the Silver Coast are generally about 20% lower than the Algarve but rising rapidly. A wide range of property is available, from country villas in need of restoration to both new and older apartments in the center of Caldas to beachfront properties on the north shore of Obidos lagoon.