International Living lists the 7 most idyllic places in Portugal where the cost of living is low and the quality of life is high:
Setúbal may be just what you are after as it is a city located in the greater Lisbon metropolitan area, making it a short commute by train. This authentic Portuguese city is home to 124,000 inhabitants. In ancient times, it was inhabited by the Phoenicians, and by the Romans who settles on the south bank of the River Sado. Around Sétubal there are nature conservation areas, the Sado Estuary Nature Reserve is where dolphins can be seen or you can opt to visit the Arrábida Natural Park.
East of the city are the hills of the Serra da Arrábida which is home to the most beautiful beaches such as the Praia de Galapinhos, Praia dos Galapos, Praia Figueirinha and Praia do Creiro.
Weather averages throughout the year in Setúbal range between 45 F and 87 F, rarely dipping below 40 F or above 95 F. Winters are cool and rainy, while summers are dry and mild.
According to International Living, a couple can live nicely in Setúbal, including rent, utilities, basic health insurance, and other expenses for $2,400 or $28,800 a year, highlights International Living.
Known as the Medieval UNESCO treasure of Portugal, Guimarães was the birthplace of Portugal’s first sovereign, Afonso I of Portugal. Today, it is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001 and considered Portugal’s birthplace marking it one of the most prized destinations in Portugal to visit, with the 10th century medieval castle being one of Gumarães top landmarks.
Summers here are short, warm, dry, and mostly sunny, while winters are chilly, wet, and partly cloudy. Over the course of the year, the average daytime temperatures typically vary from 41 F to 82 F, although extremes can make the mercury dip below 32 F or rise above 92 F.
According to International Living, “Including rent, utilities, internet, a basic plan for private health insurance, and enjoying meals out at local eateries, a couple can live well in Guimarães for $2,300 per month or $27,600 a year.”
Like so many cities in Portugal, Braga’s history was influenced by Roman occupation, branding Braga one of the oldest cities in Portugal but it one of the most vibrant due to the young people studying there. It is also the third largest city in the country, after Lisbon anmd Porto, claiming second best European tourist destination in 2020.
Braga is considered as the religious centre of Portugal with fantastic tourist attractions. It is also one of the best day trips from Porto as both cities are connected by inexpensive train service and is also only 40 minutes away from Porto airport.
Braga is home to Bom Jesus do Monte which is a sacred pilgrimage church, situated at the top of a hill and is reached via a stairway. Additionally, the Sé de Braga Cathedral is also fascinating and is in Portugal’s early history.
Braga’s climate is moderate. In summer, temperatures average around 69 F, while in winter that falls to around 47 F. December is the wettest month, with rainfall of about seven inches—similar to nearby Porto’s.
According to International Living, “For all its richness, life in Braga is reasonably affordable. A couple can rent a two-bedroom apartment, enjoy the city’s youthful vibe, and live nicely for $2,200 per month or $26,000 a year.”
The town of Portimão was built on the site of a Phoenician and Cathaginian trading post.
International Living cites that Portimão is a “more affordable option in Portugal’s Algarve is this coastal gem. Originally a fishing village and ship-building center this port city of 45,000 sits where the Arade River meets the Atlantic Ocean.
Portimão like the rest of the Algarve, is loved for its hot dry summers and mild winter temperatures with far less rain than the rest of the country.
Portimão known for its sardines has a great musuem dedicated to the sardine canning industry or why not enjoy a leisurely walk along the Riberinha, where you can admire the Portuguese ‘calçada’. For those wishing to soak up the sunshine, nearby is Praia da Rocha beach.
“Depending on lifestyle choices a couple could live nicely in Portimão including rent, basic health insurance coverage, utilities, food, and more for around $2,500 a month or $30,000 a year.”
Mafra lies just 30 minutes northwest of Lisbon International Airport. A population of about 76,000 spread over 112 square miles translates to the feel of a thriving yet pleasantly-paced small city.
One of Portugal’s most impressive palaces lies in Mafra, the munumental palace, built in 1717 and a royal domicile until 1910 has been classed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can also visit Jardim do Cerco, which is a versaille inspired Garden and showcases Mafra’s natural beauty. Alternatively, for those wanting to hike or bike you can visit the UNESCO World Heritage site Tapada de Mafra which is home to an abudance of wildlife, including deer.
Summers are warm, dry, and mostly sunny in Mafra. Winter is the rainy season, and average annual temperatures range from 46 F to 80 F, with extremes being 39 F and 91 F.
According to International Living, a couple can live well in Mafra on about $2,400 a month including rent, food, utilities and basic health insurance for $28,800 a year.
Two hours north of Lisbon lies Portugal’s former capital, Coimbra, home to one of the oldest continually operating universities in Europe. Coimbra University is one of the five universities in the world listed as a world heritage site. Other options to visit include Santa Cruz Monastery which is an example of Manueline Architecture and their Botanical Garden which is located next to a 16th century Aqueduct.
According to International Living, Coimbra has a population of 144,000 spread over 123 square miles, Coimbra is a busy metropolis, yet it retains the mellow undertone that Portugal is famous for.
August is the hottest month in Coimbra, with an average of 73 F, and January is the coldest, averaging 51 F. January is also the wettest month, delivering about six inches of rain. For beach time in the summer months, just head west to Figueira da Foz, which has an active expat community.
Between tourism and the youthful student population, English is widely spoken in Coimbra, so being able to speak Portuguese is not a requirement for enjoying all Coimbra has to offer.
According to International Living, a couple can live comfortably in Coimbra for $2,400 per month, around $28,000 a year, including rent, utilities, and private health insurance.
One hour north of Lisbon on Portugal’s Silver Coast sits the mid-sized city of Caldas da Rainha.
According to International Living “Caldas da Rainha translates as “the Queen’s baths,” in Portuguese, it was a thermal spring discovered by Queen Leonor in the 15th century that put this city on the map. The Queen was passing through the area when she spotted some peasants bathing in foul-smelling water on the side of the road. As soon as she learned of the water's medicinal benefit she ordered a hospital to be built around it and that hospital is still in operation today.”
Asides from the thermal spring, Caldas da Rainha is known for its ceramics and is home to Bordallo Pinheiro’s Factory and the Museu da Cerâmica which are must visits for art lovers and for those enamoured by nature, Parque Dom Carlos I is the perfect place to stroll through the gardens.
Weather averages throughout the year range between 46 F and 78 F. Summers are warm and dry while winters are cold, wet, windy, and cloudy. It rarely drops below 38 F or goes above 90 F.
International Living notes that a couple could rent an entire villa in the country or a city center apartment rather inexpensively and lively nicely on $2,100, or $25,000 a year including private health insurance, utilities, and everyday necessities and splurges.