After moving to Portugal, you will find yourself in Europe’s westernmost country, bordered to the west by the Atlantic Ocean, to the north and east by Spain, and to the south — in the Algarve region, a popular place both for tourists and expats — by the Mediterranean Sea. Most of the northern and eastern part of the elongated country, fairly evenly split in the middle by the Tagus River, is rather mountainous terrain.
As most of the population is concentrated in a densely populated stretch in the northwest, chances are that you might also want to move to Portugal’s Atlantic coast. Seeing how the two largest expat magnets and most significant cities of Portugal, namely Porto and Lisbon, are also located in this area, it has been the prime choice of most expats. You can find an overview of both cities below.
Two archipelagos in the Atlantic Ocean are also part of the national territory of Portugal, namely Madeira and the Azores. Both are fascinating destinations in their own right and world-renowned tourist magnets, but not exactly the first thing that pops into an expat’s mind when thinking of moving to Portugal. Thus, our article series on Portugal focuses solely on the mainland on the Iberian Peninsula.
Portugal’s capital Lisbon has long been among the best options for expats. While the actual municipality of Lisbon is rather small in size — less than 600,000 inhabitants as of 2011 — you should not forget that you will be moving to Portugal’s largest metropolitan area with a population that borders on 3 million. With the city’s extensive public transportation system, spanning buses, a metro system, and trams, those of you who opt against moving directly to the capital but would rather settle in its periphery should not have any problems getting to work and back again without much hassle.
Unsurprisingly, chances are that expatriates moving to Portugal will probably take up employment in the tertiary sector — Lisbon’s main economic driving force and also one of the main factors that helped make the region the wealthiest of the entire nation. Apart from economic considerations, there is, of course, also a cultural side to your move to Portugal. Apart from a wealth of museums, parks, and monuments, Lisbon exudes an aura of history. This is apparent in the beautiful architecture of the city, which combines elements of various schools and epochs, from baroque to postmodern.
Porto, frequently and incorrectly also called Oporto, is probably the first city that springs to mind not only for tourists, but also a large number of people who could imagine moving to Portugal. Little wonder, as one of the nation’s most famous exports, port wine, originated in the area. Needless to say, however, that the city has a lot more in store than fortified wine.
Just like Lisbon, the actual city area and population numbers of Porto are relatively small. Again, just like Lisbon, Porto compensates for this fact with a huge metropolitan area, the second largest in the entire country. The city and its surroundings may even be the most interesting places for expats interested in moving to Portugal, as the economy in the northern part of the country, where Porto is located, arguably has the most diverse economic profile in terms of sectors, companies, and products.
In the end, which city you move to will largely depend on the employment opportunities available to you, and less on personal preference. But, as expats who have made the move to Portugal before you will surely attest to, both Porto and Lisbon are global cities of world renown and will both make an equally great home away from home for expats!
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