Is Portugal the California of Europe? We think so and here are the main reasons why! Check out the complete article.

Last Updated on April 24, 2024 by

If you hang out with well-traveled individuals, then the phrase ‘Portugal is the California of Europe‘ doesn’t come as a surprise. 

Well, for us, we cannot agree more! Those who have been to Portugal can attest to the fact that the country gives off California vibes. With recent advancements in technology and the startup scene, the similarities aren’t limited to just the weather.

The warm weather, expansive coastline perfect for surfing, and has its own ‘Golden state bridge!’ Surprised? Tag along to find out why indeed, Portugal is crowned as the California of Europe.

What Makes Portugal the California of Europe?

The similarities between Portugal and California are astounding, right from the climate, beaches, and even nature. 

You will find plants and hills that are almost identical in both places. While California is relatively larger than Portugal as a country, there are so many similarities that they share. Let’s discuss this.

Similar weather and geography

What attracts most expats to Portugal is the fair weather all year round. This is one factor that Portugal and California have in common. 

The Algarve is like southern California

While Portugal is in Europe and California in North America, these two destinations have a cool Mediterranean climate that is appealing to most people. 

The weather is relatively similar, but Portugal experiences more hours of sunshine per year than California, and also winter is less harsh. 

Similar to California, Portugal is home to beautiful mountains and other amazing scenery that is common in the Mediterranean climate. 

Take a look at the average weather statistics below:

Portugal15.4 ºC
(59.72 ºF) 
22.4 ºC
(70.52 ºF) 
18.1 ºC
(64.58 ºF) 
11.8 ºC
(53.24 ºF) 
California15.4 ºC
(59.72 ºF) 
28.9 °C
(84 °F)
18.2 °C
(64.7 °F)
7.9 °C
(46.3 °F)

The data was taken from the Climate Data website.

Similar Vibes

The cities in Portugal, Lisbon and Porto, have a lot that will make them appear as California’s twin from Europe. 

First off, both Lisbon and Porto are home to a diverse population with a thriving urban culture and nightlife similar to California. 

The cosmopolitan cities of Portugal are different from other rural towns; Lisbon is bustling with life and has embraced the western lifestyle. 

The two regions are also known for their innovation and creativity, and that isn’t limited to just tech. Portugal has a rich tradition of being home to many artistic and intellectually gifted people. Meanwhile, California is also part of a trendsetting culture and is a center for the tech industry.

Other than that, Portugal has an expansive beach that attracts surfers from all over the world. The beaches are not only for surfers; you will find families spending a good time down at the beaches. 

Another similarity exists in the architecture of both locations that represent their cultural heritage. While California is famous for its Arts and Crafts-style homes and its Spanish-style churches, Portugal is known for its ornate tile work, Gothic cathedrals, and historic fortifications.

Southern California Turns into the Algarve Coast

One could easily assume that southern California and the Algarve in Portugal are cut from the same cloth. 

Right off the bat, the Algarve is also the southern part of Portugal and shares several similarities with southern California. 

One common thing that immediately sticks out is the beautiful and expansive coastlines that both destinations have. 

To be fair, Algarve has the best coastlines of the two, but this doesn’t take away the fact that southern California has some breathtaking coastline and beaches too.

Again, both of these destinations are massive surfing spots with tides that attract the best wave riders in the world. The warm, lovely beaches, gentle sea breeze, and moderate climate altogether add to the destination’s allure.

To add on, the stunning beaches are a major tourist attraction for people. During the summer, you’ll find hundreds of locals and tourists relaxing on the coasts of California and Portugal. 

Lisbon Has its own Golden Gate Bridge

As if all the similarities were not enough; you should know that Lisbon has its own suspended red-painted bridge across the Tagus river that closely resembles the Golden Gate Bridge. 

The fact is, the two bridges are not the same however, if you lean your head to the right and slightly squint your eyes, they could look alike. By now, you surely understand why Portugal is considered the California of Europe. 

Cost of Living in California vs Portugal

So far, Portugal and California seem to be similar in more ways than not. However, where a huge difference comes in is in the cost of living. 

One of the main motivations for most people to relocate to Portugal is the rather inexpensive lifestyle. 

For anyone who is used to American prices, you will find Portugal quite inexpensive. The surprising fact is that the relatively cheaper living in Portugal doesn’t translate to poor quality of life. 

According to statistics, Lisbon in Portugal is 28% cheaper than California in the USA, with a cost of living index of 51.23 and 79.71, respectively. 

Here are some estimates for a comparison between Lisbon and California: 

ExpenseCost in LisbonCost in California
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre€1,200
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre€783
Monthly Transport Pass€40

Data is from Numbeo (as of February 2023).

You should know that while the cost of living seems to be relatively cheaper in Portugal as compared to California, it all comes down to your individual lifestyle.  For example, cooking meals at home will save you money, but you won’t experience the restaurant culture in Portugal. 

So, in essence, you will need to find a fine balance in your life. One thing to keep in mind while in Portugal, communities where many expats reside tend to have a generally higher cost of living. 

Most expats from the USA or other European countries have better wages than the local Portuguese resident. Therefore, the local markets always adapt to their purchasing power eventually. 

A good example is regions like the Algarve or Lisbon, which attract expats. The cost of living is generally higher than in other rural towns.

So if you wish to live a rather simple and inexpensive life, move to cities or towns that are predominantly locals, for instance, Caldas da Rainha or Castelo Branco; these are some of the cheapest places to live while in Portugal.

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Quality of Life in Portugal vs California

There is more to quality of life than simply good weather and amazing food. Factors like your safety, education, and physical and mental well-being are often overlooked but are important. 

When it comes to a comparison between Portugal and California as far as quality of life is concerned, both places are good to live in. 

Both destinations have proper health care systems, education, leisure parks, and also good weather. To decide which one you wish to pick, we recommend that you go on a scouting trip to help you conclude. 

Lisbon is like San Francisco in Europe

However, Portugal is relatively better as far as safety is concerned. According to the Global Peace Index, Portugal has ranked the 6th safest country in the world.  In fact, in previous years, Portugal has been the 3rd safest country in the world according to the peace index. Which makes the quality of life in Portugal higher than in many other European countries, as well as the USA.

Remember, once people in any country feel safe, at ease, and with no debt, life becomes good, and consequently, the quality of life also improves. The peace is unmatchable. 

Portugal Is Not Better or Worse Than California, It’s Just Different

In all fairness, there is no better country than the other. Every person considers where they come from as the best. 

There are so many perks of living in Portugal, and the same can be said for California as well. The same goes for disadvantages too. 

Looking at the two destinations through the lens of trying to figure out which country is better than the other is where we miss the mark. 

We must acknowledge that each country is different, but this doesn’t mean bad. Culture, lifestyle, or even climatic differences are what bring uniqueness between countries. 

How to Move From California to Portugal

Over the years, Portugal has become an expat magnet from all over the globe. Immigrating to Portugal from the US is possible through tight channels. 

While EU residents might not need a Visa, all non-EU members, including anyone from the US, will be required to get a Visa. 

There are several types of Visas, for instance, study visas, tourist visas, a visa to work, or even one to relocate permanently. 

So if you are looking to permanently relocate to Portugal, you should check out the Golden Visa program that will eventually lead you to get permanent residency in Portugal. 

Remember, regardless of the type of visa you are applying for, there are documents that you must present; a passport, proof of accommodation, proof of subsistence, international medical insurance, criminal background certificate, and a SEF form.  

For anyone trying out the process for the first time, it can be a daunting task. Luckily, Viv Europe is here to do all the difficult work on your behalf.  We are experienced in immigration services, and we’ll walk with you every step of the way until you get to Portugal. 

Trust us; you won’t be the first expat from California in Portugal; there is a whole community of expats from the US and all over the world enjoying life under the warm weather. It’s quite easy to find your community here!

Are You Ready to Move to Portugal?

If you have reached this far, it means you now understand how Portugal compares to California. 

We can all agree that Portugal is more similar to California than you had anticipated, right? 

If you are considering immigrating from California or any state in the US, then you have enough to make you feel at home while creating a new home in Portugal. 

Want to Keep Up With the Expat Community in Portugal?

Choosing to become an expat often means you are leaving behind friends and family. When you move out of your own country, is it a good idea to seek the company of fellow expats from your country of origin? 

The first step you ought to take before leaving your home country is to look for expat communities in the country you intend to immigrate to. 

Blending into the expat community is easy since all of you share the same problems and challenges of living in a foreign country. 

The community will also be your support system because they relate to what you’re going through and will often offer help based on past experiences of living in that particular country. Join our Facebook Group – All About Portugal For Expats, and ask whether they think Portugal is the California of Europe! See you soon!



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