If you’re thinking about retiring to Portugal, one of the biggest questions you’ll need to ask yourself is: where?
In theory, you could move anywhere in Portugal. Yes, there are some parts which are more popular with retirees (like the Algarve and Silver Coast, for example) but that doesn’t mean you have to move there. You could move to somewhere more remote like the far north of Northern Portugal or one of the Azores islands.
However, even though you could move anywhere in Portugal, there are a few places that stand out as most suitable destinations for retirees.
The Algarve is a region that covers the southern part of Portugal. It is known for having the best weather in Portugal, beautiful beaches, great golf courses, and a very laid-back vibe. Although lots of Portuguese people live there, it is a huge expat hotspot and a very popular tourist destination.
There are retirees in every corner of this region, and these retirees come from all over the world, but particularly places like the UK, USA, Germany, Netherlands, France, and Canada.
You could live anywhere in this region. While some people live near the coast, property here is becoming more and more expensive, and more and more people are now searching for properties inland. As long as the beach is within 20-30 minutes’ driving distance, that’s all that matters. And you will need a car here anyway.
The best way to think about the Algarve is to split it into three: the Eastern, Central, and Western Algarve. Each region has its own pros and cons.
The Eastern Algarve has the benefit of being close to Spain and Faro Airport, and property is often more affordable than the Central Algarve. It’s also home to some higher-end resorts around the golden triangle like Vale do Lobo and Quinta do Lago.
The Central Algarve is popular because of its great beaches, but also because being in the centre, it’s easy to get to the east or west easily. This is the most populated part of the Algarve and also the most touristy.
The Western Algarve is known for its rugged beaches and natural beauty. It’s popular with walkers, surfers, and often those interested in alternative living.
- Eastern Algarve locations to consider include: Tavira, Vila Real de Santo António, and Olhão
- Central Algarve locations to consider include: Silves, Carvoeiro, Vilamoura, and Loulé
- Western Algarve Locations to consider include: Lagos, Portimão, Alvor, and Monchique
The Silver Coast is the name given to the coastal region between Lisbon and Porto although, as the name is unofficial, there are differing definitions of where exactly this region begins and ends.
The region is popular because it’s more affordable than the Algarve, has easy access to cities like Lisbon and Coimbra, and is a little less touristy and expaty than the Algarve. It’s also close to Lisbon Airport and Porto Airport, depending on which part of the Silver Coast you’re living in.
You’ll find expats dotted around all of the villages and towns here. If you’re looking for somewhere a little larger, you might want to consider the university town of Coimbra or possibly Aveiro.
Despite being further south, and despite having incredibly beautiful, rugged beaches, the Alentejo coast hasn’t taken off as an Algarve alternative quite as much as the Silver Coast has. However, this region would suit those looking for somewhere remote and close to beautiful, natural beaches.
This is quite a rural and quiet part of Portugal. Tourism is increasing in the Alentejo, but it tends to be more focused on walkers, cyclists, wine lovers, and those interested in rural accommodation and activities. The weather can get hot in the summer, but thankfully the Coastal Alentejo has the sea breeze to calm it down and it never gets as hot as locations in the Alentejo Interior like Évora and Beja.
Those with bigger budgets may want to consider heading a little further north to Comporta, an up-and-coming beach region that’s marketed as a luxury destination for living and travelling. Properties in this region typically top €1 million.
- Locations to consider include: Comporta, Odemira, Porto Covo, and Vila Nova de Milfontes
Madeira has long been a popular destination for retirees thanks to its milder climate. Madeira, famously, never gets too hot and the temperature doesn’t dip too much in winter either. That’s not to say that the weather is perfect all year round. The island has had flooding and landslides in the past, but it’s generally a good spot for those that want somewhere that doesn’t get too hot.
In the past Madeira mainly attracted retirees and visitors from docking cruise boats, but it is growing as an expat destination. In recent years, it has also become a digital nomad hotspot too.
Madeira is known for its beautiful fauna and hiking trails, and there is a lot of beautiful scenery to discover outside of the island’s capital, Funchal.
While beautiful, there are some downsides to living on Madeira. The main one is that you are quite cut off from the rest of the world, and even the rest of Portugal. Getting things delivered, even from mainland Portugal, can sometimes be difficult. While some people chalk it up as a price to pay for living remotely, others get island fever and find themselves wanting to move after a few years.
Cascais is a popular retirement destination thanks to its proximity to Lisbon, access to beaches, and expat community. Living here is generally more expensive than many other parts of Portugal, so it usually attracts retirees with a little more spending power.
Think of Sintra and you might think of the picturesque town with buildings that look like something out of a fairytale. That is Sintra, of course, but a lot of people that choose Sintra for retirement choose to live close to Sintra rather than the town itself.
This is because Sintra can get extremely busy during the summer months. It’s also because some of the best bits of Sintra are not in Sintra: there are fantastic forests for walking in and beautiful beaches for relaxing on.
One downside of living here is that Sintra has its own microclimate, which means you won’t always get the same great weather that people in Lisbon in Cascais are getting. For many it’s a small price to pay to live somewhere so magical and within a reasonable drive or train-ride of Lisbon.
Setúbal is a large coastal town that’s situated around an hour’s drive from Lisbon. It is centered around the fishing industry, although in recent years it has also grown as a popular destination to live.
Due to the high cost of rent and property prices, Lisbon tends to attract a younger, working-age crowd. However, there are a few retirees who choose to make Lisbon they’re home as it offers lots of cultural activities like art galleries and museums, historical attractions, and a buzzing international community.
Of course, you don’t have to live right in the middle of the city centre — although many people like to live inside the metro lines for convenience. Many choose to live on the train line between Cais do Sodré and Cascais, for example, in towns like Carcavelos, Estoril, and Paço de Arcos. Here, thanks to the train-line, you have great access to Lisbon City Centre and, of course, Cascais.
Others choose to be closer to Costa da Caparica to take advantage of the beautiful beaches. Almada is another popular destination, due to its slightly lower rental prices but ease of access to Lisbon, particularly via the ferry.
Although the threat of damper winters puts a lot of retirees off, more and more people are considering Northern Portugal as a place to live. Yes, the weather can be wetter in winter, but what the North lacks in mild winters, it makes up for with beautiful scenery, affordability, and fewer tourists and other expats. Northern Spain is also just a short drive away and Porto Airport offers a good selection of international flights, particularly around Europe.
Generally speaking, Porto is now considered too expensive by most retirees, but smaller cities like Braga and Guimarães are still popular. There are also lots of smaller towns and villages like Viana do Castelo, Vila da Conde, and Ponte de Lima.
- Locations to consider include: Porto, Braga, Guimarães, Viana do Castelo, Vila da Conde, and Ponte de Lima.
Although Central Portugal is home to some of Portugal’s most beautiful villages, and is still incredibly typically Portuguese, it is often overlooked by retirees due to the summer heat and remoteness. During the peak summer months, temperatures can top 40 °C (104 °F) due to the lack of a coastal breeze.
One of the big selling points, however, is that it is very affordable when compared to the rest of Portugal. If you’re looking for somewhere remote to live, and don’t mind sweating a little during the summer months, this could be a very budget-friendly destination to consider.
- Locations to consider include: The Castelo Branco region, Guarda, Tomar, and villages within the Serra da Estrela park
The Azores is a group of 9 islands that’s situated in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, almost halfway between Portugal and North America. These islands were originally formed due to volcanic activity, and you’ll see evidence of this in the landscape.
The Azores are often compared to Hawaii, Iceland, or Ireland. They’re incredibly beautiful, and have lots to see and do in terms of hiking, whale watching, and even wine tasting.
The main island is Sāo Miguel, followed by Terceira. Once you get away from these two islands, the Azores can start to feel very remote. If you’re looking to get away from the world, this could be perfect. However, if services like large supermarkets, hospitals, regional airports are important, you may not want to stray too far from the two big islands.
Some of the smaller islands only have flights within the Azores, but larger islands like Sāo Miguel, Terceira, and Pico usually have flights to mainland Portugal. Terceira and Sāo Miguel usually have flights to the US or Canada as well as flights to other European destinations like the UK.