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13 Best Cities for Expats to Live in Portugal

Portugal is a safe, expat-friendly country with stunning beaches, cities, popular beach towns and sleepy fishing villages. I've compiled a list of 13 of the best Cities to live based upon where we are frequently asked to provide information from our clients before making the decision in Moving to Portugal. They include the more well known Lisbon, Cascais, Lagos, Tavira, Ericeira, Caldas da Rainha, Tomar, Nazaré, Coimbra, Porto, Guimarães, Braga and just recently Viana do Castelo is starting to show up on the map for many. 

Where are the best places to live in Portugal? 

I often debate this topic, and offer recommendations to people considering a move to Portugal, based upon the lifestyle they are already accustomed to. Deciding where to live in Portugal depends upon each individual - work, schools, weather, proximity to the coast, population and cost of living are all factors. "Your preference of where to live depends on your personal interests. Porto and Faro are both portals with cheap travel to other European cities, Coimbra gives you Atlantic coast activities. Elvas and Évora put you in an amazing history rich area if you are interested in the peninsular wars, archaeology or roman times.

I’ve pulled together a list of the best places to live in Portugal based upon the cities and towns that are repeatedly asked about by anyone considering a move here. I've included information about international and bilingual schools when they are in the vicinity.

1. Lisbon

Population: Approximately 500,000

Climate: Temperature reaches mid to high 70s to low 80s from May through September. Winter temps range from lows in the upper 40s to highs in the high 50s. 

Location: Coastal on Iberian Peninsula on the Atlantic. Largest city in Portugal.

Lisbon is remarkably diverse. The area of intendente itself is home to 87 nationalities! Portuguese are very friendly people and accepting of all people from every background. There is a little India area, little Chinatown, African cafes, Nepalese restaurants and also lots of options for vegan and vegetarian people. Lisbon is a great city for socializing. There are many expats and digital nomads here who are always open to meeting new people. It is great for young people, as well as older expats with is wide range of options and close proximity to the beaches and lots of bars, clubs and restaurants. 

When we asked a client that we assisted with moving here, if her life in Lisbon met the expectations she had before moving, she replied, "Absolutely. My monthly cost of living in Lisbon is half of New York's and the quality of life has tripled. Slower paced, shorter commutes, more friends, better food, better weather, more access to affordable cultural event”, is what she had to say. 

International Schools: 

PaRK International School has three campuses: Praca de Espanha (Years 1 to 4), Alfragide (Years 1 to 12) and Restelo (Years 1 to 4). CAISL (Carlucci American International School Lisbon) is located in the suburb of Linho and welcomes students from early childhood (3 yrs old) through 12th Grade and offers the American High School Diploma and the IB Diploma. International Sharing School is located in the suburb of Oerias and welcomes children as young as 4 months through 18 years. It offers all IB Programmes (PYP, MYP and DP).

2. Cascais

Population: Approximately 200,000

Climate: Temperature reaches mid to high 70s to low 80s from May through September. Winter temps range from lows in the upper 40s to highs in the high 50s. 

Location: Coastal. 30 minutes west of Lisbon by car, 30-40 minutes on minutes on Lisbon Urban Train's Cascais line.

One retired couple from Rancho Palos Verdes who made the move to Portugal fell in love with Cascais and had this to say after the first time visiting: "The Lisbon area was delightful but we were sold when we took a train from Lisbon to Cascais. This is ideal for us and our family, and with generally reliably nice weather, pristine beaches, restaurants all over the narrow streets and squares as well as along the pedestrian esplanade along the ocean… It’s an easy train ride into Lisbon any time we want more culture or diversions, while plenty of museums, shows and parks in the Estoril area… IDEAL!!!"

This is what a retired widow from Arizona told me when deciding to call Cascais home: "Cascais is a very vibrant city. There are many things going on all the time, and there is a lively expat community in Cascais. There are international people from all over the world, and there are many opportunities to make new friends and that is important for me. There is music, sports, you name it. Lisbon is just a 30 minute train ride away and the list of things to do in Cascais is endless and enticing for someone like me!!!"

"Cascais is the most expensive (it includes Monte Estoril and Estoril) yet Oeiras, Parede, Caixas are also on this train line along the sea and more affordable. With a car we can go further east or inland," explained another expat couple who settled in Parede after a lifetime living in San Diego.

International Schools: 

King's College School in Cascais offers the Cambridge International Curriculum, bilingual English Portuguese (for students through Year 5) curriculum and the IB Diploma program (Years 12 and 13). IPS Cascais British International School is located north of Cascais and welcomes students through year 7, but is expanding to include years 8-13 on a rolling basis starting in 2023. Santo Antonio International School is a K-12 British International School located in Estoril. St. George's and St. George's Primary Schools is a Cambridge International School located in Cascais. St. Julian's School is a British International School that welcomes students from ages 3 to 18. It is located in Carcavelos (Cascais) and offers the IGCSE and IB Diploma. Brave Generation Academy offers lower secondary, IGCSEs & A-Levels and is a unique, individualized learning model that may be a great option for expat families in Cascais.

The Algarve

About 2.5 to 3 hours south of Lisbon on the Atlantic coast, you'll find the popular beach region of the Algarve. "Many of us would never recommend the Algarve; it is tourist-central in summers, filled with drunken British teens; it is heavily overbuilt; winters are dead there. No culture, no public transportation, blah," commented clients who visited Portugal on a discovery tour.

"I feel that the Algarve is beautiful but boring in in the winters. A really nice place that is affordable is on the coast going North, Ericeira, Peniche, Foz Do Arelho, these are all small fishing villages that are quiet but close enough to Lisbon if you like a busy and noisy city like Lisbon," said another couple who are considering retirement in Portugal.

"I don't know that I would totally discount the Algarve. We were only there in the summer, so can't speak to how it would be in winter. But we didn't see any of the problematic behavior - i.e. no drunk rowdy teenagers where we were. I thought Tavira was a lovely town, and less touristy than some of the other areas. Even Lagos, while overrun with tourists, has a nice historic center. Silves is another town we really liked, although we didn't spend the night there. All-in-all, I would say Tavira is my favorite town in the Algarve, however, the location is not convenient for exploring the rest of Portugal by car. It is fairly close to the airport in Faro, though, which does give you many options for exploring Europe without the hassle of a big city airport," countered another client visiting the Region on a discovery tour.

International Schools: 

If you're moving to the Algarve with children and looking for an international school, finding a school may come before deciding which town to move to. In addition to the schools noted below that are in or near Lagos and Tavira, other schools in beautiful Algarve include: 

Nobel Algarve is a British International School with campuses in Lagoa and Almancil. Welcomes students ages 3-18

Vilamoura International School(Colégio Internacional de Vilamoura - CIV) welcomes students from pre-school through secondary school. It incorporates three curricula: Portuguese National, British (adapted) National and the Cambridge International. It's located in Vilamoura near the coast between Albufeira and Faro. 

Brave Generation Academy has hubs in several parts of the Algarve. It's a unique learning model that's worth a look.

There’s something of an art to finding long-term rentals in the Algarve. This post suggests some good places to begin your search.

“Long-term rentals in the Algarve can prove tricky to find!!!”

3. Lagos

Population: Approximately 31,000

Climate: Temperature reaches mid 80s in summer months. Winter temps range from lows in the upper 40s to highs in the 60s. 

Location: Coastal. 3 hours south of Lisbon.

Lagos is home to several unbelievably stunning beaches such as Praia do CamiloPraia do Porto de Mos and Praia Dona Ana. If you're checking out Lagos, have a meal at Mar d'Estorias which is a combination restaurant, rooftop bar with amazing views, shop and art gallery.

International Schools: 

Vale Verde International School offers a British Curriculum and welcomes students ages 5 to 18. It offers the Pearson and Cambridge IGCSE qualification. Vale Verde is located in Burgau, a quaint beachside village, that is a 15-20 minute drive west of Lagos. barlavento International School follows the UK Early Years Foundation program for its youngest students and the National Curriculum of England for students in primary years. It is located in Luz just outside of Lagos. Aljezur International School is barlavento's sister secondary school that welcomes students ages 10 through 18 and is located 30 minutes north of Lagos in the coastal town of the same name, Aljezur. It follows the UK national curriculum with Cambridge IGCSE exams. The school offers coach service from Lagos, Alvor and Bensafrim.

4. Tavira

Population: Approximately 26,000

Climate: Temperature reaches mid 80s in summer months. Winter temps range from lows in the upper 40s to highs in the 60s. 

Location: Coastal. 3 hours south of Lisbon, 20 minutes from Spain.

The small town of Tavira is considered by many to be the prettiest town in the Algarve. The Gilao River runs through Tavira and Praia do Barril is the closest beach to the town of Tavira. The beach located on Ilha de Tavira (Tavira Island), a barrier island that lies across a small channel. It's a little bit of a journey to reach this beautiful beach, but most people say it's well worth it. 

If a well-established and friendly community in the area - one where many  expats speak Portuguese and are truly integrated into local life, along with a quieter pace of life and an attractive climate all year round is what you are looking for, then Tavira may be just the place for you. 

On your visit dive a little deeper into possibly living in Tavira, and do what the locals do and definitely avoid the tourist traps, and you’ll discover a well-established and friendly Expat community, one where many speak Portuguese and are truly integrated into local life.

These 7 tips for living in Tavira may be useful when visiting on your discovery tour.

If you're checking out Tavira, have a meal at Pessoa's Cafe or Tasquinha Da Paula Tavira, and remember to tell them you are a friend of Tony from the Minho… No discount of course, but it makes me look good… lol

International Schools: 

Colegio Santiago Internacional (CSi) welcomes students from ages 4 through 18. It follows the British National Curriculum and English is the primary language, but Portuguese is maintained for native speakers at a grade level proficiency and taught to non-native speakers as an additional language. CSi is located in a state of art 15th century building in the center of Tavira.

North of Lisbon

Many expats also choose to live north of Lisbon - there are small fishing villages, coastal cities and inland cities and villages.

5. Ericeira

Population: Approximately 10,000

Climate: Temperature reaches low 80s in summer months. Winter temps range from lows in the upper 40s to highs in the low 60s. 

Location: Coastal. 40 minutes northwest of Lisbon.

In recent years, surfers have found their way to the tiny fishing village of Ericeira. It's less expensive than Cascais, but still close to Lisbon. One expat described Ericeira saying, "Whilst not one of the towns you mentioned, you might consider Ericeira as being worth a thought. It is approximately 30 mins by car from the airport, has good bus links to other towns and cities, it has a health centre with the nearest hospital being in Mafra. It does not suffer from fog as affects towns further to the north, occasionally it is windy but nearly always sunny. It is well served by larger shops (continente, aldi, lidi, mini preco) but has retained its village charm with lots of interesting restaurants, ice cream shops, little boutiques etc. Best of all are the beaches! Water sports are very popular here, but there is ample opportunity to just sit, relax and enjoy the views. You can get a tosta and coffee for 2.20 in some of the cafes, so living here does not break the bank!"

If you're checking out Ericeira, stop by Mar d'Areia, a favorite with the locals, for fresh grilled fish. Have a gelado at Blue Ice Geladaria.

International Schools: 

Prime School - International School has a campus in Sintra, which is 30 minutes from Ericeira.

Portugal's Silver Coast

The Silver Coast is a very popular coastal area of Portugal. You'll hear different opinions about the exact location of the Silver Coast in terms of where it begins and ends. According to this article, Europe's hidden coasts: Costa de Prata, Portugal, the Silver Coast runs from Assenta to Porto.

6. Caldas da Rainha

Population: Approximately 51,000

Climate: Temperature reaches high 70s in summer months. Winter temps range from lows in the low 40s to highs in the low 60s. 

Location: 1 hour north of Lisbon just inland from the coast.

Caldas da Rainha is a spa town whose name means the Queen's Hot Springs. The closest beach, Foz do Arelho, is less than 15 minutes away and a pretty good surf spot. "We liked Caldas da Rainha. It had a nice relaxed feel. It's also pretty close to Lisbon," said one couple who visited for the first time. 

La Piazza Pizzeria is a great spot for pasta and pizza!!!

Ten minutes south of Caldas da Rainha, there is a new book-themed hotel in the town of Obidos. The Literary Man Hotel, which is a must see for bibliophiles, opened in October of 2018 and boasts tens of thousands of titles in English. It offers a restaurant and cocktail lounge to help you enjoy its enormous collection of books.

International Schools: 

International School of Torres Vedras (ISTV) is located approximately 30 minutes south of Caldas da Rainha in Torres Vedras and offers National Curriculum (Portuguese), Dual-Degree American High School Diploma and Cambridge International (through age 14).

7. Tomar

Population: Approximately 20,000

Climate: Temperature reaches high 70s in summer months. Winter temps range from lows in the low 40s to highs in the low 60s. 

Location: 1.5 hours north of Lisbon, an hour inland from the coast.

"We travelled extensively around Portugal, and although we wanted to live in the far north it was too cold in winter so we travelled further south and loved Tomar with its peaceful atmosphere, good connections, good shopping for my wife, good facilities and excellent access," commented an expat couple from Manchester. 

8. Nazaré

Population: Approximately 15,000

Climate: Temperature reaches mid 70s in summer months. Winter temps range from lows in the low 40s to highs in the low 60s. 

Location: Coastal. 1.5 hours north of Lisbon, directly west of Tomar.

"Yes, costs in Nazare will be almost 50% less than Lisbon for housing, reststaurants. Utility pricing will be the same as will groceries, yet Nazaré's small 'farmer's markets' will be priced lower than markets in Lisbon or Cascais”, said a retired couple who moved from Frankfurt.

You can see the variations in cost of living at 

Visit our website, and you'll then see the lower costs of property outside of Lisbon, Cascais and Porto, the most expensive areas. 

“Nazaré is a really small village, though, so think of what you want in your life… Coimbra is great for singles and lively entertainment, but Nazaré is on the ocean," said one American digital marketer we helped relocate, where he had previously been living for a year in Bali, and confessed that he left due to it’s hot and humid weather all year round, and was looking for a change of scenery in between zoom meetings, and Nazaré was perfect for him. 

International Schools: 

CLIC (Colegio Internacional do Centro) is located about 30 minutes north of Nazare. The school offers English National Curriculum and the Cambridge International Examinations Programmes, but is adapted to follow the Portuguese National System for some subjects.

9. Coimbra

Population: Approximately 160,000

Climate: Temperature reaches mid 70s in summer months. Winter temps range from lows in the low 40s to highs in the low 60s. 

Location: 2 hours north of Lisbon. Inland.

Coimbra - University City

One expat who visited described Coimbra saying, "Coimbra is a small city and university town but feels very small to me, especially once you get out of the touristy downtown area." 

Another said, "In the last 2 years, more people than before have chosen Coimbra... Excellent train rides to Lisbon, Porto, etc; university pace of life, cultural appeal and beauty."

"I had visited Coimbra and central Portugal several times already, and I am considering a move here. Don't overlook it in your travels through the country - it's a hidden gem," remarked one expat visiting Coimbra on his property scouting trip we organized for him.

On a recent buyer representation zoom call a retired couple from Yorkshire, who are planning to move before the end of the year, shared with me why they made the decision to move to the Coimbra area: After spending the summer there, they fell in love with the Region. They had rented a home for 3 weeks in Condeixa to discover central Portugal, as it offered a better climate than they were used to although without the heat, and simply had a wonderful time there. They told me how neighbors would offer them fruits and vegetables from their garden on a regular basis and that they were so touched with their generosity and kindness that that felt at home, and said “Tony find us a home in Condeixa, as this is where we want to be!!!” They went on to say that the food and wine is delicious and cheaper than in the UK, and loved the suckling pig Leitão à Bairrada, and that the people are wonderful and the wines from Bairrada were delicious and cheap as well.

"Coimbra is a University city and is approx. 160,00 people, It has trains that connect from Lisbon, Porto and other cities and also has a good bus system. They have 3 malls and a sports stadium. And it is on a lovely river. It is only an hour and a half from Lisbon on the high speed Alpha Pendular Train. So it will be easy to go for the day to sight see or shop or concerts, or catch a cruise ship!!!

Figueira da Foz on the Silver Coast is just 50 minutes by train from Coimbra, and offers a vibrant coastal lifestyle, blending stunning beaches with rich cultural experiences, making it an ideal place to call home, if you prefer living in central Portugal with a view of the Atlantic. 

If you really want tranquility amid lush landscapes, with more rural countryside setting with traditional charm, and a strong sense of community yet close to Coimbra, then on your scouting trip consider visiting Arganil, and do let me know if you want to start your home search there.

International Schools: 

St. Paul's School is located in Coimbra and offers bilingual Portuguese English program for children from Kindergarten through Junior School.

10. Porto

Population: Approximately 215,000

Climate: Temperature reaches mid 70s in summer months. Winter temps range from lows in the low 40s to highs in the low 60s. 

Location: Coastal. 3 hours north of Lisbon on the coast

"Porto is a medium-sized city that feels like a real city," said one expat who recently moved to Porto from Ecuador on the D8 Visa. 

"I live in Porto which is a fantastic city. A beautiful architecture, excellent gastronomy, has good people, is small and has sea and is 50 minutes, in good and cheap transport, (train) Braga, Guimaraes, Aveiro, Viana do Castelo. In summer, you can take a boat ride along the river Douro to see the vineyards, and you will find an unknown paradise! We have excellent medical services," described a retired couple from Brooklyn - NY, and have been living in Porto for 2 years now.

International Schools: 

Oporto International School (CLIP) follows a curriculum based on the National Curriculum for England with modifications to meet the educational needs of local students. CLIP welcomes students from pre-K through grade 12. Lycee Francais International Porto is a school that caters to French-speaking students. Colégio Júlio Dinis (CJD) welcomes students from ages 5 though 18 and has recently started to offer the Cambridge Curriculum. Oporto British School is the only IB World School in northern Portugal and welcomes children from age 3 though grade 12. 

The Minho Region - The Green Coast (Costa Verde)

From Porto north to border of Spain, you'll find the Minho Region - Costa Verde, or The Green Coast. The weather is cooler than Lisbon, with winter temperatures in the 40s and 50s and summer in the 60s and 70s.

11. Guimarães

Population: Approximately 160,000

Climate: Temperature reaches mid 70s in summer months. Winter temps range from lows in the low 40s to highs in the low 60s. 

Location: 3 hours north of Lisbon, inland from Porto

A retired couple on their scouting trip offered a great overview of Guimarães after a visit to this Minhoto City where Portugal was born, and I feel they have their place to call home, and I can’t argue with them:

"1. Getting There: Easy train ride from Lisbon, with the faster route being Lis-Porto-Guimaraes (ticket price includes station transfer for final leg) and the slow but direct and scenic route is Lis-Guimaraes. 

2. Staying There: Online booking sites had great guest recommendations. We chose Hotel Toural, for great location and price, plus delicious breakfasts. 

3. Getting Around: Walked everywhere, easily. The 'tag' bus runs all day and is inexpensive if you want to cut walking. 

4. Must Do’s: Go to each square for the architecture, performance arts, shops and cafes. Take the 'Teleferico' cable car up to Penha. Fill your evenings with performances. Museums, castles, palaces are a short walk from the center and all worth the time. Castle is in ruins but affords superior views, and after all, it is where Portugal was born! 

5. Restaurants: My favs: Martins on Largo do Toural; Art & Gula across from the town hall/former Sta. Clara Convent - but there are oh, so many others."

He is absolutely right and there are so many others, and I highly recommend a place where it has become very familiar to us, as it is where we enjoy lunch during our Trade Mission Portugal events when our global CIPS REALTOR® friends as well as or buyers | investors who want to learn about residential, luxury, and commercial real estate investments in Portugal and Spain, and that place is Histórico by Papaboa on Rua de Val Donas, and do request to sit outside!!!

12. Braga

Population: Approximately 180,000

Climate: Temperature reaches mid 80s in summer months. Winter temps range from lows in the upper 40s to highs in the 60s. 

Location: 3.5 hours north of Lisbon, 40 minutes from Porto.

"The city has everything you need to live a life that you've been accustomed to in the US. Additionally, it's location is spectacular because you have the beach 30 minutes to the west, (awesome) the Gerês National Park at your doorstep 15 minutes to the east and Spain 40 minutes to the North.... You can't go wrong," remarked a widowed American from Florida whom we assisted with her move well over 2 years now.  

International Schools: 

The Braga International School (aka CLIB, Colegio Luso Internacional de Braga) offers instruction in English with enough attention to Portuguese language, history, culture and geography to serve the student body, which is primarily Portuguese.

13. Viana do Castelo

Population: Approximately 91,000

Climate: Temperatures range from the upper 60s to mid-70s during cooler months of Spring and Fall, and can reach into the 80s or even 90s during warmer months of July or August. Low temperatures can range from the upper 40s to the mid-60s.

Location: 4 hours north of Lisbon, 40 minutes from Porto.

And last on the least but not least is truly one of the most beautiful cities in the north of Portugal, and as I like to call it, one of Portugal’s best kept secrets!!!

Viana do Castelo captivates with its enchanting blend of historic charm, scenic landscapes, and cultural richness. Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and lush hills, this picturesque city boasts well-preserved architecture, vibrant traditions, and a welcoming atmosphere, making it one of the most beautiful destinations in northern Portugal.

A retired couple who moved from the UK and have been living in the Viana do Castelo area for over 16 years now, had this to say about our services and why they chose to settle in this area of the North when decided on Moving to Portugal:

Another couple from London who have bought and sold multiple homes in the Viana do Castelo area, and I have many beautiful memories  of them visiting with their family this part of the world, best describe it this way, and why they chose us for all their real estate needs when buying and selling

They are not wrong. While the average home prices in Portugal witnessed a commendable 11.8% increase in 2023 according to Confidencial Imobiliário, this best-kept secret emerged as a standout performer, boasting a remarkable appreciation value of 32.1%. This picturesque city, known for its rich history and scenic landscapes, led the ranking in house price increases.

The Northern Minho Region, with its untapped potential, offers not only affordability but also substantial returns on investment, making it an enticing prospect for those seeking hidden treasures in Portugal's real estate market. Explore the charm of Viana do Castelo and consider the Northern Minho Region as a promising destination for both lifestyle and investment opportunities. 

International Schools: 

To reinforce the connection of the regional education, the Instituto Politécnico de Viana do Castelo (IPVC)

have two activities of direct interaction with the schools, providing a form that schools book the visit of your School to IPVC or the visit of IPVC to your School.

1. Getting There: Easy train ride from Lisbon, with the faster route being Lis-Porto-Viana (ticket price includes station transfer in Porto for final leg) and the slow but direct and scenic route is Porto-Viana.

2. Staying There: I recommend Casa Melo Alvim, for great location and price, plus delicious breakfasts. 

3. Getting Around: You can walk everywhere, easily. Painted with the colors of Viana do Castelo, yellow and black, the 'electric' mini buses 'Caramaru' and 'Himalaia' run Monday to Friday, from 9:30AM to 1PM and from 2PM to 6:30OPM.

4. Must Do’s: Go to each square for the architecture, performance arts, shops and cafes. Take the 'Teleférico' cable car up to Monte de Santa Luzia and soak in the panoramic view. Fill your evenings with performances. Museums, castles, palaces are a short walk from the center and all worth the time. 

5. Restaurants: My favorites: Tasca da Linda, O CameloRestaurante Bota D’Água; but there are oh, so many others, and I highly recommend getting lost in side streets, where you will meet with the locals in the 'Tascas', and enjoy a vinho verde in a bowl. 

I’ll be more than happy to share my experience with you, after almost 23 years living in Portugal.

I’ll also walk you through Portugal using Google Maps, show you the best Cities or communities and neighborhoods that match your ideal lifestyle and budget, and go over the moving and buying process as well as the best Visa process to establish residency and ultimately Citizenship.

If you have not made up your mind that Portugal is the home for you, and want to learn all about Portugal’s rich culture, tantalizing gastronomy, exquisite wine culture, real estate opportunities, and the latest updates in the ever-evolving real estate landscape, then visit the Infinite Solutions BLOG, register and be the first to receive by e-mail any new posts. Join us on this exciting journey to discover your future home sweet home!!!

As a seasoned realtor with 23 years of firsthand experience living in Portugal, I am here to guide you through every step. From virtual tours using Google Maps to identifying the ideal cities, communities, and neighborhoods that match your lifestyle and budget, I’ll make your transition smooth and informed

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