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The Best Cities In Portugal For Expat Arrivals

Home to a diverse mix of inspiring cities, quaint cobblestone villages and endless stretches of golden sands, Portugal is a truly attractive destination for both expats and visitors alike. As well as being awarded 6th place out of 68 countries in Internations Expat Insider 2018, Portugal gained fifth place for ease of settling in and second spot for quality of life – further emphasising the country’s alluring power.

The cities of Porto, Lisbon and Braga in particular, regularly crop up as being fantastic for expats. To find out why, this article looks at what each location has to offer those wishing to settle here.


Porto, or Oporto as it is also known, has a population of 237,559 giving it the feel of a small yet thriving city. With that said, the outside urban area is home to 2.4 million residents making it the second largest metropolitan area in Portugal after Lisbon. As such, the cost of living in Porto is understandably lower. You’ll probably notice the difference in rent prices the most, as the cost of rent in Porto is around 24% lower than in Lisbon.

Not only does this glorious city offer a low cost of living, it is rich in culture and history. Port wine, as you may be able to tell from it’s name, originates from Porto. As you make your way through the winding cobbled streets and across one of the six iconic bridges over the Douro River, you’ll discover wineries and cellars dotted around the old town of Vila Nova de Gaia. A passion for food and wine is very much woven into Porto’s lifestyle, so to truly experience the city’s culture and history, you’ll have a lot of tasting to do!

As the birthplace of port wine, Porto offers plenty of job opportunities in the wine production industry. You’ll also find opportunities in the commerce, fishing, and manufacturing industries, thanks to the city’s thriving harbour. If none of those suit, you’ll still be spoiled for choice with options in the IT, technology, retail and hospitality sectors.

If you’re a TEFL teacher (‘teaching English as a foreign language’), there are many jobs available in the English-speaking schools scattered across Porto, as well as the rest of the country. As a popular tourist destination, there are also plenty of seasonal jobs available – great for those wanting a taste of the Portuguese lifestyle before diving straight in.


As the largest and most populous city in Portugal, Lisbon is a beautiful mixing pot of rich culture, history and adventure. No matter how long you live in this prosperous city, there’s always something new to discover – and this is mostly due to the great number of districts to explore. Inhabited by 545,000 people with an additional 2,800,000 residents in the surrounding area, there’s no disputing that Lisbon is the largest and most thriving city in Portugal.

What also makes Lisbon stand out from the other cities is its age. In fact, Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in Western Europe, and even though it has all the modern amenities and facilities you could hope for, Lisbon still carries the air of a 19th century city. While the cost of living in Lisbon is higher than any other city in Portugal, it has an overall lower cost of living when compared to other capital cities like Madrid, Rome and Paris – so you can still enjoy a high standard of living for less.

Once the sun goes down and darkness descends, that’s when the city of Lisbon truly comes to life. Known for its spectacular nightlife scene, Lisbon is every party-goers dream with its booming clubs and its disorienting maze of bars. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, have no fear. Lisbon caters for all when it comes to lifestyle and nightlife – whether you’re looking for a cosy bar, or somewhere to enjoy some live music.

Home to many major brands like Volkswagen AutoEuropa, Microsoft, Google, and Bosch, Lisbon is ripe with opportunity when it comes to finding work. The city’s main industries include energy, telecommunications, banking, tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing: specifically of wine, clothing and textiles, leather, olive oil, and paper. You’ll also find many jobs in engineering, technology, insurance, mining, education, and IT. Like the city of Porto, TEFL or TESL teachers can also find plenty of opportunity here.

Medical services are readily available in Lisbon as well as all major cities, and the quality of healthcare is high which is made clear in The Legatum Prosperity Index which gave Portugal a strong 36th position out of 149 countries for healthcare. In the more rural areas of Portugal where medical services can be few and far between, it can be wise to look into expat health insurance options to ensure you always have access to the best medical facilities.


Known as the ‘City of Champions’, Braga has a reputation for playing an avid role in sports, and is the city where both amateur and professional athletes are trained and promoted. In fact, Braga was elected the European City of Sport for 2018 – so if you’re a sports enthusiast, this may be the place for you. 

Braga is also an important religious centre, littered with churches, monuments and historic buildings – all a reflection of the locals religious devotion. The city’s architecture is truly something to behold, including the iconic Sé Cathedral, an awe-inspiring blend of Baroque and Gothic design, dating back to the twelfth century.

Amidst all the fascinating history and religious heritage, Braga is in fact a thriving university town with all the modern amenities you could hope for, from cosy cafés and shops to sophisticated restaurants and bars. While Braga is smaller and less populated than the other two cities, it enjoys an overall low cost of living when compared to Porto – meaning it has the lowest cost of living out of all three cities.

When it comes to finding work, there are plenty of career opportunities in the IT industry and the construction industry. For those who can speak multiple languages, you’ll find plenty of jobs in the tourism sector and in hospitality.

Whether you’re attracted to the country’s alluring capital or the city where fortified wines and delicious cuisine flourish, or even the city which combines a perfect blend of old and new, you’re sure to experience your own unique take on Portuguese life wherever you choose to settle in.

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