Are you planning to move to southern Portugal? Check out the top 10 cities in the Algarve for expats and get local tips!

Last Updated on May 5, 2022 by Letícia Melo

If you’ve chosen the Algarve region to relocate to in Portugal, welcome to the club! The southern region of this lovely country is the #1 choice of most foreigners residing in Portugal. Myself included. With beautiful beaches, natural settings, and charming white villages, it gets hard to know of all cities in the Algarve which one is perfect for you.

But among the entire Algarve region, which would be the best place to live? Where is there more privacy, and which are the biggest cities?

We’ll tell you all that and more in this article. Find out which are the best cities in the Algarve for expats to live in.

How to choose the best place to live in the Algarve?

In addition to being a travel paradise, with breathtaking beaches and mountains, living in the Algarve is also wonderful.

So much that it is the Portuguese region with the highest percentage of foreign residents, 23.6% in 2020. All attracted by the undeniable quality of life of the Algarve.

But how to know which city is best for your own case?

In this article, we’ll present you with the top choices expats make when choosing a city to live in the Algarve. Of course, we’ll consider the infrastructure, natural surroundings, privacy, and costs.

First and foremost, you need to get to know the Algarve. Explore the map to understand its location better.

Get to know the Algarve

The Algarve region corresponds to the southern region of Portugal, officially called Faro District, with Faro as its capital city. In total, the Algarve is divided into 16 municipalities and each has its own characteristics. From the municipality of Loulé to the east, is called Sotavento, and to the west is Barlavento.

While the Sotavento coast is marked by Ria Formosa, sandbanks, and calm islands, the Barlavento coast is more touristy with its world-famous caves and beaches with rock formations.

Anyway, throughout the Algarve, the majority of the population lives along the southern coast. To the north, bordering the Alentejo region, the Algarve is protected by a vast range of mountains. It is thanks to these mountains that the Algarve is safe from the cold winds of northern Europe. A very important fact for those expats looking to escape from the cold!

So, now that you know the region better, let’s go to the cities in the Algarve. Follow up!

What are the best cities in the Algarve for expats?

It is not possible to choose just one city in the Algarve as the best of all. However, we will highlight here those that offer so much that attract more foreigners to enjoy life in the Algarve.

These are the municipalities of the Algarve with the greatest expat communities, which also happen to offer a lot to its residents. Check them out!

1. Loulé, Quarteira, and Vilamoura

The largest and most populous municipality in the city of Loulé certainly deserves to be at the top of that list. In addition to offering wonderful beaches in Quarteira and Vilamoura, it is also possible to enjoy the vibe of the mountains in the city of Loulé here.

Here there is everything an expat might need on a daily basis, from cultural events, resorts, and shopping malls, to good hospitals and excellent international schools.

Vilamoura is one of the best cities in the Algarve

Loulé is just 20 km (12 mi) from Faro, the region’s capital. Even so, it still has its own autonomy and personality. Living here, residents enjoy being close to everything, while not feeling the need to leave the city. The streets are safe, clean, and generally calm.

The same can be said of Quarteira, a coastal city in the same municipality, preferred by the Portuguese. Besides these, in Vilamoura is the famous Quinta do Lago, one of the main places where the rich in Portugal live.

Details about Loulé Values
Population72,373 inhabitants
Percentage of population that is foreign27.5%
The average price for a property of 100 m²€316,600
Average rental price for a 50 m² one-bedroom apartment€620 per month

Data in this article was acquired from official portals and trustworthy reports, which you can access on the websites Pordata and Idealista in November 2021.

2. Albufeira

The most famous city in the Algarve, Albufeira has also become home to many foreigners in recent years. Besides being a summer destination with beautiful beaches, Albufeira is a charming city in the Algarve with everything one could need in everyday life.

The municipality of Albufeira is complete with health and entertainment services, as well as being in a great location in the middle of the Algarve. It is 45 km from Faro (27 mi) and 40 km (24 mi) from Portimão.

Albufeira is the most famous destination in the south of Portugal

It must be remembered that the city changes completely in the summer, becoming very full of Brits, mainly. However, outside the historic center and the Oura Strip, it is possible to enjoy the calm of the Algarve’s sunny days at any time of year. With a car in the Algarve, everything is close, and it is perfectly possible to avoid traffic jams and, when you need to, the narrow streets. So you should definitely consider buying a car in Portugal.

Many houses and villas in the Albufeira region stand out among expats. So much so that in some neighborhoods it is common to find attendants who don’t even speak Portuguese, only English. Definitely, a very different and unique Portugal, that some call little England.

Details about Albufeira Values
Population44,159 inhabitants
Percentage of population that is foreign39.9%
The average price for a property of 100 m²€259,300
Average rental price for a 50 m² one-bedroom apartment€445 per month

You will also like to read: Pros and cons of living in the Algarve as an expatriate

3. Lagos

The city of Lagos in the Algarve is one of the best places to live in Portugal. Not only is it one of the top tourist destinations, with its many beaches and jaw-dropping scenery. But it is also a city with complete infrastructure, an active cultural community, proximity to good schools and hospitals, and so on.

Furthermore, Lagos is on the edge of being a small or big city. It’s true that it gets crowded with tourists in the summer, which may bother you, but the central village and nearby villas are just too charming. Definitely, Lagos deserves to be among the best cities in the Algarve.

Lagos is one of the best cities in the Algarve for expats

In addition to retirees, many foreign digital nomads have also been attracted to Lagos in recent years. The city has an interesting multicultural atmosphere and is a popular destination for young backpackers. A great place to live and work remotely in Portugal.

The city is located on the western tip of the Algarve, about 305 km from Lisbon (189 mi), and 90 km from Faro (55 mi).

Details about Lagos Values
Population33,514 inhabitants
Percentage of population that is foreign38.2%
The average price for a property of 100 m²€285,600
Average rental price for a 50 m² one-bedroom apartment€485 per month

4. Portimão and Alvor

Portimão is the largest city in the Western Algarve, Barlavento, and is one of the cities that receive the most tourists in summer. Other than that, the region of Portimão, especially the village of Alvor, is known for attracting many expats.

Those who live in Portimão usually don’t have to worry about being close to good hospitals, drugstores, shopping malls, restaurants, and so on. The city also has a campus of the University of Algarve, as well as several companies not necessarily linked to fishing or tourism.

Portimão is one of the main cities on the Algarve coast

Living in Portimão, you can expect to be close to some of the most beautiful beaches in Portugal, with a relatively low cost of living. The city has developed a lot in recent decades and went from being a small fishing village to what it is today.

Those who like to run or ride a bike will love the slopes in the downtown area, but they won’t be far from the surrounding nature either. To get here, just drive 70 km west from Faro (43 mi), or 285 km from Lisbon (177 mi).

Besides, sailing lovers can’t be bothered to remember, it’s one of the best places in Europe to spend the winter on a boat, with one of the most cost-effective marinas.

Details about Portimão Values
Population59,896 inhabitants
Percentage of population that is foreign20.5%
The average price for a property of 100 m²€221,600
Average rental price for a 50 m² one-bedroom apartment€425 per month

5. Faro

Faro is the capital of the Algarve, and also one of the best cities in the region to live in. It was actually pointed out as the best city in the Algarve to live in and start a business by Portugal City Brand Ranking 2021.

Here, in the Algarve’s most populous city, is where the region’s international airport is located, just like the largest public hospital, the University of the Algarve, as well as shopping malls, cinemas, theaters, and much more that can improve your day-to-day in town. Also, there is lively nightlife here throughout the year, a rare thing for the Algarve, thanks to the university students. It is also a great destination for the Erasmus exchange program in Portugal.

Faro is the capital of all cities in the Algarve

I myself lived here for 2 years while studying in Faro, and I can say that the city is quite pleasant. It’s not big or bustling enough to compare to life in Lisbon, but it’s also not too small. There is an excellent range of restaurants and bars in the center and downtown, especially in summer. But in winter it is much calmer, maybe even too much for those who like city life.

It is possible to do everything on foot here in the city center. But if you want to live on the beach, consider getting yourself a car. Living in the islands in the Ria Formosa, such as Faro, Culatra, and Farol islands, is a fantastic choice for those looking for quieter nights.

Details about Faro Values
Population67,566 inhabitants
Percentage of population that is foreign15.6%
The average price for a property of 100 m²€216,300
Average rental price for a 50 m² one-bedroom apartment€450 per month

6. Tavira

Nationally recognized as one of the most charming cities in Portugal, Tavira is silently stunning. In addition to having a rich history stamped on the streets, buildings, and bridges, Tavira feels friendly.

It is located about 40 km (24 mi) from Faro and also from the Spanish border, in the city of Ayamonte.

Tavira is an expat favorite in the Algarve region

It’s a small town, but still pleasant any part of the year. In summer it gets much busier, thanks to the beautiful beaches with warm waters (by Portuguese standards), but that’s understandable as being here really is very nice.

If you like calm days, simple and kind people, and good food, Tavira is for you. Besides, when living in Tavira, you will have easy access to good hospitals and natural parks. A great combination for your health!

Details about Tavira Values
Population27,536 inhabitants
Percentage of population that is foreign29.2%
The average price for a property of 100 m²€232,000
Average rental price for a 50 m² one-bedroom apartment€445 per month

Read also: Top reasons why expats retire in the Algarve

7. Silves

With a rich history that goes back to the first millennium BC, the city of Silves remains to this day on a hill in the mountains of the Algarve. It was once an important Phoenician city, also Moorish, and, while in the Portuguese medieval era, it used to be the capital of the Algarve.

Although nowadays it is not among the biggest or most visited cities in the Algarve, Silves continues to have great cultural importance for the southern region of Portugal. Residents here are proud of their heritage, symbolized by the beautiful castle that graces the city.

Silves is one of the most typical cities in the Algarve

On a day-to-day basis, Silves is a small but very active city. It has a well-known market in the region, quality schools, and an economy closely linked to agriculture. Also, it is well located in the center of the Algarve, so, with a car, you’re close to everything.

When living here in Silves, you will have easy access to good healthcare, both at the local health center and at the larger hospitals in Portimão. The city turns out to be proof that you don’t need to live near a beach to enjoy the essence of the Algarve. It is located only 15 km from Portimão (9 mi), and 70 km from Faro (43 mi).

Details about Silves Values
Population37,813 inhabitants
Percentage of population that is foreign19.6%
The average price for a property of 100 m²€209,700
Average rental price for a 50 m² one-bedroom apartment€440 per month

8. Lagoa, Carvoeiro, and Ferragudo

Located in the middle of the southern region, the city of Lagoa is often forgotten when thinking about the best cities in the Algarve. As it’s a central city, neither on the coastline nor in the mountains, so Lagoa does not suffer as much from tourist crowds.

However, some of the most popular beaches and attractions are located in the municipality of Lagoa. The villages of Carvoeiro, in the photo below, just like Ferragudo, are privileged with stunning views.

Carvoeiro in Lagoa is a top place to live in the Algarve

Living here, you’ll be at a close distance to Albufeira, 25 km away (15 mi), and Portimão, only 10 km away (6 mi). Furthermore, the city of Lagoa is also one of the main centers of the British community in the Algarve. In the Lagoa area, there are several cultural events organized by the residents, and there are also good hospitals and international schools.

As I am myself a resident of this area for the past 3 years, I can say with certainty that Lagoa is a municipality with an excellent quality of life. Time goes by slowly here, and I’m lucky enough to live near amazing beaches and still have a view of the Monchique mountains from my window.

Details about Lagoa Values
Population23,718 inhabitants
Percentage of population that is foreign23.8%
The average price for a property of 100 m²€276,400
Average rental price for a 50 m² one-bedroom apartment€440 per month

9. Olhão

The city of Olhão is also a good option for those who want to live close to the sea, but not in an urban center that is too big.

At only 10 km from the city of Faro, Olhão is often underestimated. The city still carries its fishing tradition, now tangled with tourism. This city and its islands are truly connected to the ocean and the Ria Formosa Natural Park.

Olhão in the Algarve attracts many expats to live

The islands of Armona and Fuseta are also located in the municipality of Olhão. In other words, it is possible to live in an even more private and paradisiacal Algarve. The Ria Formosa, a kind of freshwater mangrove that joins the sea, has sandbanks and beautiful islands that have been isolated for a long time.

The local population is mainly Portuguese, which gives this region an even stronger sense of the real Algarve. Living in Olhão should definitely be on your list if you want that kind of peace in your life.

Details about Olhão Values
Population44,639 inhabitants
Percentage of population that is foreign11,5%
The average price for a property of 100 m²€217,700
Average rental price for a 50 m² one-bedroom apartment€425 per month

10. Vila Real de Santo António

One of the last stops before reaching the Spanish border, Vila Real de Santo António is a small town that has developed a lot in recent years. In addition to being very charming and having organized and calm streets, Vila Real de Santo António also has some of the beaches with the warmest sea waters in Portugal.

Living here is ideal for those who like stress-free days. As is natural to this tourist region, the city is more crowded in summer. Even so, throughout the year the city has a pleasant routine to live with.

Vila Rea de Santo António near Spain is a great place to live

It’s not a big city at all. So, it is ideal for those who want to escape the mess of large urban centers.

The biggest city closest to Vila Real de Santo António is, interestingly, in Spain. It is Seville, in the Andalusia region, at 147 km away (91 mi), while Lisbon is 327 km away (203 mi). The closest airport to the city, as well as the district public hospital, is in Faro, around 60 km away (37 mi).

Details about Vila Real de Santo António Values
Population18,828 inhabitants
Percentage of population that is foreign17,6%
The average price for a property of 100 m²€205,800
Average rental price for a 50 m² one-bedroom apartment€435 per month

How can I choose the best city to live in the Algarve?

Deciding which city to move to abroad is not easy. Even if you read or hear about, the only way to be sure a place is ideal for you is if you visit it. That’s why we recommend you go on a scouting trip to Portugal before relocating.

Get to know all the beautiful cities and experience what it would be like to live there. Then you can calmly make your life-changing decision, aware of the places’ pros and cons.

Why do expats in Portugal choose to live in the Algarve?

In fierce competition with Lisbon, the capital of Portugal that is home to many expats, the Algarve has its own attractions.

Choosing between Lisbon and the Algarve is not that so easy. But when you better understand what each destination has to offer, it becomes easier to visualize yourself living in Portugal.

Among the main attractions of the Algarve as a place to live in are:

  • The weather: warm, dry, and temperate climate, with temperatures ranging from 10 ºC to 30 ºC (50 ºF to 86 ºF);
  • Location: the south of Europe, surround by Spain, at only a 7-hour flight away from New York city;
  • Large expat community: living near other foreigners in Portugal may be a way to feel closer home;
  • Nature-friendly lifestyle: no traffic jams, space for outdoors hikes, and a rural-chic environment.

Cost of living in the Algarve

The cost of living in the cities in the Algarve can vary greatly, however, it is known to be more expensive than most regions, but usually cheaper than Lisbon. Even so, it is possible to find an average of values thanks to Numbeo.

In Faro, for example, a single person estimated monthly costs are around €570 without rent. In the same analysis, the family of four estimated monthly costs is around €2000, also without rent.

If you’re considering a low-cost relocation, knowing the cheapest cities to live in Portugal can come in handy. It is also possible to save money while living in the cities of the Algarve, as long as you research where to live, where to eat, and how to spend.

Are you planning on moving to one of these cities in the Algarve?

The Algarve can be your ideal home. It offers so much! Fresh air, mild temperatures, enchanting landscapes. All this with the security of Portugal, the 4th safest country in the world according to the Global Peace Index 2021.

It makes perfect sense for you to take it easy when deciding where to move to Portugal. The country is beautiful, the Algarve especially, but living here is different from traveling here. The tip is to take your time and, who knows, try spending time in different cities in the Algarve before choosing a definitive one.

You are sure to find positive points in all of them, and you may even decide on another city or town that is not on the list! Be adventurous, you won’t regret it.

If you want to meet other people going through the same experience of change, join our Facebook group All About Portugal For Expats.

And remember, you can count on Viv Europe at any stage of your relocation. Let’s make your Portugal plan a reality!

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