Let me start by saying that I absolutely love Portugal. The sunny climate, mouthwatering food, fascinating history and laidback lifestyle make it an incredible place to live or visit.
I first came to Portugal on holiday back in 2005 and completely fell in love with the country. I returned again in 2010 for a 2 week vacation and by the end of it, I’d made up my mind to move here. Fast forward to today, and I’ve been living happily in Lisbon for over 7 years now.
Portugal has so much going for it that it’s hard to condense all the reasons to move here into one article! But let me share some of my personal highlights and why I encourage everyone to consider starting a new life chapter in this amazing country.
- Portugal offers a warm climate, stunning beaches, historic cities, and a laidback lifestyle.
- The cost of living in Portugal is lower than most European countries. Housing, healthcare, and everyday expenses are very affordable.
- Portugal has a thriving expat community. It’s easy to meet people and make friends.
- Portugal ranks high for safety and security. Violent crime is rare, especially against foreigners.
- The Portuguese are welcoming to expats and most people speak English in the bigger cities.
- Portugal has residency and retirement visa options that make it easy for expats to stay long-term.
- The food is amazing! Portugal offers fresh seafood, wines, pastries, and local specialities.
- Portugal is a great base to explore Europe. It has good transport links and a central location.
1. The Warm Climate
Coming from chilly England, I was desperate to escape the cold weather. Portugal has a lovely temperate climate with over 300 days of sunshine per year.
The southern region of the Algarve has the hottest weather, with very mild winters and scorching summers. Meanwhile, Lisbon enjoys pleasantly warm summers around 28-30C (82-86F) and cooler winters averaging 15C (59F). The north of Portugal has more variation in temperatures throughout the year.
So regardless of which part you choose, Portugal guarantees far more sunshine and warm weather than the UK, Ireland and much of Northern Europe. The mild winters make it a perfect overwintering destination too.
Say goodbye to dreary grey skies and escape to Portugal’s eternal sunshine! The great weather encourages an outdoor lifestyle with al fresco dining and year-round visits to the beach.
2. Gorgeous Beaches
Speaking of beaches, Portugal is blessed with over 800 miles of stunning coastline. Picturesque sandy beaches dot the entire length of the country.
The Algarve has some truly spectacular beaches, many with golden sand, dramatic rock formations and turquoise water. Check out Marinha Beach, Camilo Beach, Dona Ana Beach and Carvoeiro Beach to name just a few.
Central Portugal also boasts excellent beaches, such as Nazaré with huge crashing waves popular for surfing. Then Lisbon offers lovely beaches just minutes from the city, like Cascais and Carcavelos.
And don’t worry, the beaches are immaculately maintained and have lifeguards during summer. Portugal takes great pride in its beautiful coastline.
So whether you like wild rugged beaches, family-friendly coves or hip surfer hangouts, Portugal has it covered. Living by the beach provides a blissful lifestyle here.
3. Historic Charming Cities
Beyond the beaches, Portugal has captivating historic cities to explore. The country has a rich long history dating back to ancient Roman times. Several cities still retain their medieval old town quarters and imposing castles.
Lisbon, the hilly capital, charms with its pastel colored buildings, old trams, Miradouros (viewpoints), and the imposing São Jorge castle overlooking the city. Stylish Porto mesmerizes with its pretty riverfront district Ribeira, renowned Port wine cellars and charming plazas.
Both cities offer fantastic food, nightlife, culture and history. I find Lisbon more laidback whereas Porto has a buzzing vibe being a university city.
Other historic cities like Coimbra, Guimarães, Évora and Sintra blend youthful energy with ancient architecture. And the Azores and Madeira islands have their own enchanting historic capitals too.
Portugal makes it easy to immerse yourself in centuries of intriguing history and culture. But the historic cities also have modern amenities, great restaurants and youthful populations.
4. Relaxed Laidback Lifestyle
Another reason I love living in Portugal is the relaxed way of life. The Portuguese have mastered the art of not sweating the small stuff and just enjoying life.
Workplace culture here emphasizes a healthy work-life balance. Employees are entitled to 22 vacation days per year and weekends off. Lunch breaks tend to run long too, sometimes 2-3 hours to enjoy a proper lunch with wine!
Retirement age is also lower in Portugal, currently 66 years and 4 months, dropping to age 65 in 2023. So most folks get to enjoy many active years in retirement.
The slower pace of life leaves you with more free time to appreciate the finer things. Long lunches with friends over delicious local food. Sipping coffee and people watching from a sidewalk café. Strolling through pretty neighborhoods soaking up the atmosphere.
Things just feel more chilled out in Portugal. Locals know how to take time out to socialize and enjoy life. It’s one of the biggest appeals of living here.
5. Affordable Cost of Living
A major incentive to move to Portugal is the lower cost of living compared to other Western European nations. Everything from housing, healthcare, groceries, dining and more come at a cheaper price point.
Portugal’s average monthly rent for a 1 bedroom apartment in the city center is about €800 ($900 USD), much lower than most EU capitals. Basic utilities like electricity, heating, water and wifi cost me around €150 a month altogether.
Grocery prices are reasonable too, with milk, bread, eggs and chicken all costing under €2. Eating out remains a bargain with a decent meal with wine available for €15-20 per person.
Other services like haircuts, gyms, taxis and petrol are all very affordable. Overall I estimate my cost of living is 30-40% lower in Lisbon than it was in London.
Do keep in mind that salaries are also lower in Portugal than some Northern European countries. But the lower living costs still make disposable income stretch much further. It’s absolutely possible to enjoy a high quality of life here without breaking the bank!
6. Thriving Expat Community
One aspect that makes life easier abroad is having a supportive expat community. Fortunately Portugal has thriving expat scenes across the country.
Due to the sunny climate, laidback lifestyle and low cost of living, Portugal has been drawing expats from Europe and all over the world for decades. And the expat numbers keep rising year after year.
The expat hotspots are concentrated in Lisbon, Porto, the Algarve and Madeira. Within these areas you’ll find diverse international communities with expat meetups, clubs, blogs and support services.
Portugal Expats and InterNations organize regular meetups and activities in the major cities. Or there are many informal expat groups on Facebook to join.
I’ve personally found it very easy to make new friends and contacts through the expat community here. Most expats are happy to offer tips and advice to help new arrivals get settled in. It provides a ready-made social circle so you never feel lonely.
7. High Levels of Safety
One important consideration when moving abroad is safety. I’m happy to report that Portugal is a very safe country with low crime rates, especially against foreigners.
Violent crime is rare here. The most common offenses are petty theft like pickpocketing in tourist areas. But violent attacks and burglaries are uncommon.
Portugal has ranked #3 in the Global Peace Index as one of the most peaceful countries in the world. Locals and expats agree Portugal feels safe to live and walk around.
As a woman living alone, I’ve never felt unsafe in Portugal. I’m comfortable walking home alone late at night or catching taxis or public transport. Situational awareness is always advised, but violent crime is minimal.
Parents also agree Portugal provides a nurturing, safe environment to raise children. The laidback culture, tight community bonds, family values and access to nature contribute to a high quality of life for kids.
So rest assured Portugal offers a very safe, peaceful lifestyle for residents. You can relax and enjoy life here without constantly worrying about safety.
8. Welcoming Locals
The Portuguese people are hands down one of my favorite things about living in Portugal!
Locals are extremely friendly, welcoming and happy to share their culture with newcomers. Many go out of their way to make expats feel at home.
Most Portuguese value strong communities and families. They’ll often invite you into their homes and treat you like one of the family.
My lovely landlady would bring me homemade stews and cakes. Neighbors offer garden-fresh vegetables from their allotments. Colleagues host BBQs and birthday dinners. There’s a real spirit of generosity and community.
Despite the language barrier, most Portuguese will try their best to communicate with you in English, especially in the cities. The younger generation typically speaks very good English. Older folks may be more limited, but are still amazingly friendly and patient.
The Portuguese really respect when expats make an effort to learn even just basic Portuguese phrases. A little goes a long way and shows your interest in embracing the culture.
Don’t be surprised if you make friends for life here. The strong bonds and welcoming community help explain why so many expats fall in love with Portugal.
9. English Widely Spoken
While learning some Portuguese will certainly enrich your experience, you can get by surprisingly well in just English, especially in the main cities.
Lisbon and Porto are quite cosmopolitan with lots of language schools. Many locals catering to tourists speak conversational English, as well as French or Spanish.
Most doctors and dentists speak English in the cities and coastal areas frequented by expats. Often their admin staff will too.
Retail workers, waiters, tourism operators and more are required to speak basic English, especially in areas popular with tourists and expats.
Younger Portuguese begin learning English in school from a young age and most achieve fluency. Those under 30 typically have the strongest English abilities.
If you need anything written or translated into Portuguese, young locals are generally happy to assist. Online translation apps also work quite well too.
So while learning Portuguese is recommended, you can manage fine in English until you pick up the language. Portugal makes it easy for mono-lingual expats.
10. Amazing Cuisine
Prepare your taste buds, because Portuguese cuisine is amazing! This is a country that takes food very seriously.
Fresh seafood features prominently along the coast, including delicious sardines, shrimp, clams, oysters and more. Bacalhau (salted codfish) is a national obsession, served fried, grilled, in stews and more.
Inland, robust meat dishes reign supreme, like feijoada (pork and bean stew), alcatra (beef roast) and grilled chicken piri piri. Hearty soups, fresh salads, cheeses, wines and olives round out Portuguese flavors.
No article about reasons to move to Portugal is complete without mentioning Pastéis de Nata! These heavenly custard tarts dusted with cinnamon are worth a move to Portugal in themselves.
Mealtimes are leisurely, social affairs accompanied by local wines. Dinner often starts late around 7 or 8pm. Locals and expats alike gather at cozy restaurants to enjoy long meals over great conversation.
If you love food, Portugal will delight your tastebuds and waistline! The quality, variety, and value are hard to beat.
11. Easy Residency Options
Unlike some countries, Portugal makes it relatively straightforward for expats to obtain long-term residency or second citizenship.
The Golden Visa program grants residency to those investing €250,000 – €500,000 in real estate. The D7 passive income visa requires an annual income around €7500.
For retirees, the D7 and D2 “Retirement Visa” options allow you to reside in Portugal with proof of pensions/savings. The NHR tax scheme exempts foreign pension income from tax for 10 years.
After 5 years of legal residency, you can apply for permanent residency and eventually citizenship and a passport.
Portugal seeks to attract expats who can contribute to the economy and community. With reasonable investment, you can secure residency rights here.
12. Great Base to Explore Europe
Portugal lies on Europe’s southwestern corner, making it a fantastic base to explore the continent.
Thanks to low-cost airlines, you can easily jet around to major European destinations. Cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam and London are just 2-3 hour flights away.
Portugal is surrounded by excellent neighbors worth visiting like Spain, France and Morocco (just a short ferry from the Algarve).
High speed and overnight trains also connect to destinations across Spain and France. Or you can road trip to different regions of Spain, France and beyond.
With a central location and great transport links, Portugal serves as the perfect launch pad for exploring Europe, Northern Africa and the Atlantic islands. You may find yourself spending weeks at a time venturing abroad!
Those are just a few of the many excellent reasons to consider starting a new chapter of your life story in Portugal. The sunny climate, stunning scenery, rich culture, friendly locals, affordable costs and laidback lifestyle all make Portugal an amazing place to live.
If you’re looking to improve your quality of life, Portugal checks a lot of boxes. The food, weather, scenery and pace of life here make it easy to enjoy “living your best life”!
Already living part-time in Portugal? With excellent residency and retirement visa options, it’s straightforward to transition into full-time living.
Take the plunge, and embrace the Portuguese art of living life to the fullest! Your next great adventure lies waiting in Portugal.