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10 best cities in Portugal

Portugal is one of the most picturesque places in Europe, with a developed economy, high safety level, and a warm climate. Tourists like Portugal for the people’s friendliness, the leisurely rhythm, respect for traditions and the beauty of cities.

Foreigners can obtain a Portugal residence permit by investment and settle with their families in any region of the country.

What are the top cities in Portugal and the benefits of a Portugal residence permit?

Best cities in Portugal

10 best cities in Portugal

How to get to Portugal 

Citizens of countries outside the Schengen area generally need a visa to travel to Portugal. But residents of the country have the right to come to Portugal, even if its borders are closed to foreigners.

The Portuguese government offers investors to obtain a residence permit under the state program, which provides several investment options:

  • buy a property for €500,000 or an object older than 30 years old for restoration for €350,000;
  • purchase shares in investment funds;
  • transfer capital to Portugal;
  • start a new company or invest in an existing business;
  • sponsor scientific research or cultural projects.

Buying a property is the most popular investment option. Commercial real estate can be purchased everywhere; residential is only in the country’s interior regions.

It is impossible to obtain a Portugal residence permit by buying apartments in Lisbon, Porto or coastal resort towns. The autonomous regions of the country — Madeira and the Azores — are not subject to restrictions.

1. Lisbon, the Portuguese capital and one of the oldest cities in the world

Lisbon is the most popular place among travellers and the state's capital. From this Portuguese city, most foreigners begin their acquaintance with Portugal. 

The city was named after the legacy of Ulysses, the protagonist of the Odyssey. Until the 16th century, Lisbon was considered the edge of the world. Much of its ancient architecture was destroyed by a major earthquake in the mid-18th century, but the city’s beauty remains.

The city has a well-developed public transport and taxi system. You can travel by tram, metro bus, ferry, funicular and even the city elevator.

Cost of living in Lisbon

Expense typeCosts
1-bedroom apartment in the city centre€1,170
3-course meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant€50
Monthly pass for public transport€40
Gasoline, 1 litre€2
Full-day private preschool or kindergarten), a monthly fee for one child€420
Fitness club, a monthly fee for one adult€38

The most famous among tourists are the following areas of Lisbon: Baixa, Avenida da Liberdade, Alfama, Belém, and Park of Nations. You can also explore the area of ​​Moraira and the areas of Cais do Sodré, Princip Rial and Estrela near Chiado and Bairro Alto. Except for the Park of Nations, all these places are the historical districts of Lisbon, built before the 19th century.

The Park of Nations is the most modern area of ​​Lisbon with impressive architecture, a large shopping centre, a beautiful promenade, a huge oceanarium, a casino and much other entertainment.

Lisbon has access to the Tagus River and the bay. The water around Lisbon is cold even in summer, but you can relax on the beach and admire the Atlantic. Ancient castles, small fishing towns, deserted bays, majestic temples, centuries-old forests, and lighthouses at the end of the world — Lisbon's surroundings are full of beautiful and unusual places.

Best cities to visit in Portugal — Park of Nations

The Park of Nations is the most modern part of Lisbon. Foreigners compare this district to Brickell Key in Miami or Battery Park City in New York

Best cities in Portugal — Jerónimos Monastery

There’s a lot to see at Jerónimos Monastery, from the two levels of the cloisters to the side rooms with their exhibitions, and the main church

Portuguese cities — The 25 de Abril Bridge

The 25 de Abril Bridge is a suspension bridge connecting Lisbon to the municipality of Almada on the left bank of the Tagus river

2. Porto is the northern district centre

Porto is the second-largest Portuguese city. Most often, tourists discuss delicious local cuisine and drinks and also note the beautiful architecture of the historic city centre.

Porto is located on the banks of the Douro River, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean. The city has many attractions, masterpieces of architecture, ancient streets with wide, spacious avenues, and old buildings that coexist peacefully next to modern facilities. Many travellers note the cleanliness of the streets, despite the large influx of vacationers.

Cost of living in Porto

Expense typeCosts
1-bedroom apartment in the city centre€750
3-course meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant€40
Monthly pass for public transport€40
Gasoline, 1 litre€1,98
Full-day private preschool or kindergarten), a monthly fee for one child€350
Fitness club, a monthly fee for one adult€38

You can walk around the city for hours:

  • admire the patterns of azulejos on houses;
  • go into baroque churches;
  • wander along the Atlantic Ocean coast or Cais da Ribeira's promenade.

The top sights in the city are Porto Palace, Torre dos Clerigos Catholic Church and the Chapel of Souls, decorated with azulejo tiles. 

Ribeira, Praça da Ribeira — streets with colourful houses, restaurants and bars on the waterfront. You can sip wine or port wine while enjoying the view of the river.

Best cities to visit in Portugal

Local guides advise everyone to try francesinha, a dish of bread and ham, which is topped with a thick layer of cheese and sauce

Best Portugal cities to visit: Historical part of Porto

Porto was founded in the 4th century. UNESCO protects the historical part of the city

Most beautiful cities in Portugal: Chapel of Souls on Santa Catarina Street in Porto

The façade of the Chapel of Souls on Santa Catarina Street in Porto is decorated with white and blue azulejo tiles

3. Cascais is a resort town on the Atlantic coast

Cascais is one of the best places to live in Portugal. It is located 25 km from the capital of Portugal, Lisbon, which can be reached by car, bus or train.

Cascais was once a fishing village. Later a port was built, and a city was founded. The Portuguese royal family often came to Cascais for holidays. The city became associated with luxury holidays and is now known as one of the wealthiest places on the Iberian Peninsula.

Cost of living in Cascais

Expense typeCosts
1-bedroom apartment in the city centre€1,050
3-course meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant€50
Monthly pass for public transport€40
Gasoline, 1 litre€2,03
Full-day private preschool or kindergarten), a monthly fee for one child€460
Fitness club, a monthly fee for one adult€38

Tourists can relax on the picturesque beaches of Cascais or go on a boat trip on a yacht. In the cafes and restaurants of the city, you can try fresh seafood and “ginja”, a local liquor with a taste of sour cherries.

Cabo da Roca is the westernmost point in Europe. All tourists travelling around Portugal strive to get here. Views of the boundless Atlantic from the height of a 140-metre cliff create the feeling that you are on the edge of the earth. It captures the spirit from the infinite space of the raging ocean, coastal rocks, and waves of all possible shades of blue beating against them.

Portuguese cities: beach holidays in Cascais
Beach in Cascais

4. Coimbra is the student region of Portugal

Coimbra is one of the best towns in the central part of Portugal, with a population of 105,000 people. Previously, the city was the capital of Portugal, but now it is known only for one of the oldest universities in Europe, which occupies a significant part of Coimbra.

The university was built in the 13th century. Today, all faculties and institutes are located in different parts of Coimbra and occupy the premises of ancient buildings, some of which are architectural monuments of world importance. And the university itself has been under the protection of UNESCO since 2013. The University of Coimbra is among the top 5 Universities in Portugal.

Cost of living in Coimbra

Expense typeCosts
1-bedroom apartment in the city centre€525
3-course meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant€32
Monthly pass for public transport€30
Gasoline, 1 litre€2,2
Full-day private preschool or kindergarten), a monthly fee for one child€328
Fitness club, a monthly fee for one adult€35

In Coimbra, the ruins of the Roman era have been preserved: various towers and churches, the monastery of Santa Cruz, where the remains of the first king of Portugal rest, and the historic Barbican arch, which once served as the entrance to the city.

Coimbra has many places for recreation and walks. Mondego Park is located on the banks of the river: locals and tourists arrange picnics and themed meetings on the lawns. Gardeners of the park create green sculptures from various plants every year. In the summer, fountains are turned on in the garden, and mobile cafes are open.

Most beautiful cities in Portugal: Coimbra

View of the city of Coimbra and the local park Mondego, which is located on the banks of the river

Best Portugal cities to visit: Bussaco Palace

A hotel was opened in the Bussaco Palace. A hundred years ago, the royal family of Portugal rested in the palace, and today anyone can stay overnight in the apartments of the palace

Most beautiful cities in Portugal: Coimbra University

The University of Coimbra has three campuses, a library, a stadium, hostels, two museums and its theatre

5. Braga is the religious capital of Portugal

The city is recognised as the centre of Catholicism. Since the beginning of the 16th century, the archbishop's residence has been located. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and ordinary tourists yearly flock here to enjoy the unique architectural objects built in different eras.

The city has many temples, cathedrals and churches hidden in the labyrinth of narrow streets of the old part of the city. The architecture of Braga has been shaped over the centuries. The buildings were built in Italian neoclassicism, baroque, and renaissance.

Cost of living in Braga

Expense typeCosts
1-bedroom apartment in the city centre€560
3-course meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant€30
Monthly pass for public transport€26
Gasoline, 1 litre€2,03
Full-day private preschool or kindergarten), a monthly fee for one child€260
Fitness club, a monthly fee for one adult€36

The city's main attractions are the Cathedral, the Church of Christ on Calvary, the Church of the Holy Cross and the Church of Mercy. Tourists note that Braga is a relatively quiet, calm city. Walking along it and sitting with friends in a cafe is pleasant.

In 2021, Braga was named the best travel destination in Europe.

6. Guimarães is a city for history buffs

Guimarães is called the "Birthplace of Portugal". It was in this area that the first king of the country, Alfonso I, was born. Guimarães was the first capital of independent Portugal and is famous for the abundance of preserved ancient buildings and historical monuments scattered in the picturesque narrow streets.

UNESCO protects the historic centre of Guimarães. The city is part of the district of Braga.

Cost of living in Guimaraes

Expense typeCosts
1-bedroom apartment in the city centre€566
3-course meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant€30
Monthly pass for public transport€45
Gasoline, 1 litre€2,01
Full-day private preschool or kindergarten), a monthly fee for one child€132
Fitness club, a monthly fee for one adult€28

In the centre of the town is the monument to Padrao do Salado, the verdant Gardens of Brazil and Guimarães Castle. The castle fortress was built in the 10th century to protect against the Moors, who for several centuries tried to capture Guimarães.

Largo da Oliveira is an ancient square that is the historical centre of old Guimarães and the city's symbol. Traditional colourful houses and atmospheric streets surround it. It is also home to some of the best-preserved Gothic architectural masterpieces.

Tourist attractions in Portugal: Guimarães city view

Cityscape of Guimarães in Portugal: symmetrical green gardens with colourful flowers, cathedrals and historic buildings

Best cities in Portugal — Guimarães city centre

Largo da Oliveira Square is the historical part of the city of Guimarães. Named after the olive tree that grew in this place many centuries ago

Tourist attractions in Portugal: Guimarães Castle

Guimarães Castle is one of the most popular tourist spots in the city. Considered a national monument since 2007 added to the list of the Seven Wonders of Portugal

7. Santarem is one of the oldest Portuguese cities

Santarém is located 65 km from Lisbon. The city was founded in 1095 and is located on the right bank of the Tagus, the largest river in the Iberian Peninsula.

There is an ancient legend according to which the city was named after the martyr Saint Irene. In 1147, D. Afonso Henriques conquered it, and Santarém became one of the favourite cities of the Portuguese monarchs already at the beginning of the first dynasty. During a period of significant artistic and cultural development, the city was the royal residence and capital of the kingdom of Portugal.

Cost of living in Santarem

Expense typeCosts
1-bedroom apartment in the city centre€612
3-course meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant€45
Monthly pass for public transport€40
Gasoline, 1 litre€2,03
Full-day private preschool or kindergarten), a monthly fee for one child€190
Fitness club, a monthly fee for one adult€36

The city's most famous landmark is the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Mary. Previously, it was a church that housed the Patriarchal Seminary. In 1975, a diocese was created in Santarem, and the church was transformed into a cathedral. In 2014 the city museum was opened in the Episcopal Palace, which adjoins the Cathedral.

Tourists say that one day is enough to see the city, go to ancient churches, visit a museum and get acquainted with the history of Santarem. After walking around the city, you can go to the Portas do Sol cliff.

Portuguese cities: view of the countryside near the Santarém
The Portas do Sol cliff in Santarém offers scenic views of the Tagus River and the Portuguese countryside

8. Faro is a city and seaport in the south of Portugal

Faro is a city and seaport in the south of Portugal, the centre of the district and municipality of the same name, the centre of the historical province of the Algarve. It is part of the Greater Algarve urban agglomeration.

The city has the University of the Algarve, an international airport, a seaport, a marina, a railway station and a bus station.

Cost of living in Faro

Expense typeCosts
1-bedroom apartment in the city centre€750
3-course meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant€40
Monthly pass for public transport€40
Gasoline, 1 litre€2,03
Full-day private preschool or kindergarten), a monthly fee for one child€575
Fitness club, a monthly fee for one adult€31

There is a stadium with a capacity of 30,000, which was one of the stadiums of the 2004 European Football Championship. It hosts an annual student festival organised by the students of the University of the Algarve, which is a major event in the life of the city. The Faro City Festival is held on September 7th.

Faro is a very affordable town in Portugal for living. Investors can buy real estate here and obtain a residence permit under the Portugal Golden Visa program terms.

Investment property in the Algarve, Portugal

Best cities in Portugal

For sale is a share in a 5-star resort complex recognised as one of the leading international hotel chains

Portuguese cities

The complex is located just 300 m from the beach on the Algarve coast in the town of Carvoeiro on top of a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean

9. Funchal is the capital of the island of the eternal spring

Funchal is the main city of the Portuguese island of Madeira, located in its southern part. Foreigners note the region as one of the most beautiful cities in Portugal.

On three sides, the administrative centre is protected by mountains and hills, which create a pleasant, relaxing climate in the city. There are warm winters and summers with a refreshing breeze that blows from the ocean.

Cost of living in Funchal

Expense typeCosts
1-bedroom apartment in the city centre€808
3-course meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant€35
Monthly pass for public transport€35
Gasoline, 1 litre€2,03
Full-day private preschool or kindergarten), a monthly fee for one child€215
Fitness club, a monthly fee for one adult€43

Most of the attractions of Funchal are concentrated in the historical part of the city. Here are government buildings, luxurious mansions, temples and churches, and the famous Blandy's wine house. In the botanical gardens, located on the city's outskirts, exotic plants from all over the world are collected.

In Portugal, Funchal in Madeira is rightfully included in the list of the best places to relax at any time of the year.

Portuguese cities — Funchal main street
Funchal is located inside a natural amphitheatre-shaped valley, with gentle slopes beginning at the coast, which rises to 1,200 metres and provides a natural shelter for early settlers

10. Sintra is a favourite place of monarchs

Sintra is a resort town in Portugal with 17 sandy beaches on a protected line. In summer, the average temperature fluctuates between + 20...25°С. By the winter of the flow, the temperature rises to +10...15°C, and the flow of visitors drops.

On the advice of experienced travellers, it's better to go to Sintra to see the sights, preferably in September—October or March—April. During these months, the hotel is booked free of charge. 

Cost of living in Sintra

Expense typeCosts
1-bedroom apartment in the city centre€553
3-course meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant€32
Monthly pass for public transport€35
Gasoline, 1 litre€2,02
Full-day private preschool or kindergarten), a monthly fee for one child€325
Fitness club, a monthly fee for one adult€38

Palácio Nacional da Pena is among the best tourist attractions in Portugal. The palace is located on top of a mountain and symbolises the island. The Neo-Romanesque building was built in the 19th century. Its exterior resembles a mediaeval knight's castle with Moorish and Manueline elements.

Palácio Nacional de Sintra is located in the city centre. The former residence of the royal family is also called Palácio da Vila — the village palace. The appearance of the castle with recognisable two chimney towers, built by the Moors in the Middle Ages, changed with each reconstruction. Therefore, it mixed different architectural styles: Moorish, Gothic, and Manueline.

Portuguese cities — Sintra National Palace

The current Palace of Sintra is a set of buildings that were constructed, added and adapted over the course of many centuries

Best cities to visit in Portugal— Pena Palace

Pena Park is a vast forested area surrounding the Pena Palace, spreading over 200 hectares of uneven terrain. The park was created at the same time as the palace by King Ferdinand II

Best cities in Portugal — Praia das Azenhas do Mar

Azenhas do Mar is one of the most sought-after beaches, with an ocean swimming pool that delights visitors

Benefits for investors with Portugal Golden Visas 

Lisbon, Porto and Cascais are among the best cities to live in Portugal. Foreigners can obtain residence permits by investing in state funds, real estate, business, science and culture. The minimal investment amount is €250,000.

Residence permit for the whole family. The investor's spouse, children under 26 and parents over 65 can participate in the program together with the investor. They can live, study, and do business in Portugal without restrictions, apply for citizenship in five years and receive a country's passport.

Portuguese real estate is a liquid asset. Real estate prices are growing by an average of 7% across the country. Investors who bought the property under the residence permit program in Portugal can sell it after 5 years and return the money.

And during the time of ownership, they can rent out the object and receive additional income from 2—5% per annum and, in the high season — up to 9%.

Visa-free travel. Portugal residents can freely enter any Schengen country where they can stay without a visa for 90 days in six months.

Portuguese citizens have even more options for visa-free travel. The Portuguese passport allows you to travel freely to more than 180 countries, including the Schengen states, the UK, Japan and Singapore. And for a trip to the USA and Canada is enough to obtain an electronic entry permit.

Tax optimisation. If an investor spends 183 days in Portugal in a year and becomes a tax resident of the country, he will be able to apply for a preferential status — Non-Habitual Resident.

The status is issued for 10 years and exempts from paying taxes on world income. It also establishes a flat tax rate on income from work and pension payments.

European education. Portuguese education is affordable and prestigious. For example, four universities in the country were included in the list of the 500 best universities in the world.

Frequently Asked Questions

What cities are worth visiting in Portugal?

We offer the top 10 cities. Each of them is a must-see city in Portugal and has its rich history and tourist attractions.

The best cities to visit in Portugal are the following:

  • Lisbon;
  • Porto;
  • Cascais;
  • Coimbra;
  • Braga;
  • Guimaraes;
  • Santarem;
  • Faro;
  • Funchal;
  • Cintra.
What are the main cities in Portugal?

Lisbon, Porto and Cascais are among the main Portuguese cities.

What are the major tourist attractions in Portugal?

The best tourist attractions are connected to the country’s rich history, culture, gastronomy and wines. Surfaces, golf, and varied landscapes are popular places to visit.

Is Portugal expensive to visit?

It depends on the region and your budget. The most expensive area in Portugal is Lisbon.

What are the top 10 cities in Portugal?

The top 10 cities in Portugal are the following:

  • Lisbon;
  • Porto;
  • Cascais;
  • Coimbra;
  • Braga;
  • Guimaraes;
  • Santarem;
  • Faro;
  • Funchal;
  • Cintra.
What is the best month to visit Portugal?

The best time to visit Portugal is from March to May. The country is in bloom and waking up after the winter. You could also go in autumn between September and October when the sun is still shining and the weather is warm.

If you are ok with hot weather, the summer months are also good for visiting Portugal.

Is Portugal safe to visit?

Yes, the crime rates are low, but pickpocketing, handbag snatching and theft from cars and holiday properties are common in major tourist areas.

Do I need a visa for Portugal?

Depends on your passport. If it’s not allowed to travel to Schengen state visa-free, you need to apply for a visa.

The Portugal Golden Visa is an investment route to obtain a Portugal residence permit for all family members.

Where is the nicest place to live in Portugal?

Lisbon is the most popular place for expats to live in Portugal. The city’s diversity makes it a very dynamic and interesting place. Lisbon is perfectly affordable for families with children.

You can also drive from the city and enjoy some of the nearby Portuguese beaches.

Which is better to live in Porto or Lisbon?

Porto and Lisbon are perfect places to live. Porto has an excellent food and drink scene, welcoming locals, and exceptional natural beauty surrounding the city, from beaches to national parks.

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10 best cities in Portugal