Foreign communities are growing a lot in Portugal. Find out where expats live in Portugal and plan your relocation.

Last Updated on May 4, 2022 by Letícia Melo

Around 6.4% of the population residing in Portugal is foreign. The number of new inhabitants of foreign nationality increases more every year. But where do they go? Where do expats live in Portugal?

There seems to be a similarity in expat tastes in Portugal for some specific regions. They are not always the most touristy, they go beyond Lisbon and Porto.

Find out in the article which regions attract the most foreigners and where your community might be. Good reading!

Get to know the expat communities in Portugal

According to official data from Pordata, in 2020 there were more than 660,000 foreigners living in Portugal. This is without counting the irregular ones.

The largest communities of foreigners in Portugal in 2020 are formed by the following nationalities:

  • Brazil: 183,875 residents
  • United Kingdom: 46,238 residents
  • Cape Verde: 36,466 residents
  • Romania: 30,052 residents
  • Ukraine: 28,621 residents
  • Italy: 28,159 residents
  • China: 26,055 residents
  • France: 24,935 residents
  • India: 24,548 residents
  • Angola: 24,409 residents

These are countries that have had a relationship with Portugal for many years, which explains the interest in relocation. Many of these expats have Portuguese as their mother tongue, so they enter society more easily.

Where do expats live in Portugal

In addition to these nationalities, others are also standing out for their growth in recent years:

2019 data taken from the Portuguese Strategy and Studies Office.

Where do expats live in Portugal?

Where exactly do foreigners live in Portugal? This very common question can help you decide where to live in the country.

After all, it is common for many expatriates to need to be close to people with similar experiences, even if it is a different country.

To live or not close to other expats?

The Portuguese people in Portugal are not going through the same experiences as an expatriate or an immigrant in the country. So you may feel less comfortable being around them. And that’s okay!

But you don’t have to worry about it entirely. The Portuguese are among the most welcoming people in all of Europe. In fact, they are known precisely for being friendlier than other Europeans, especially to English-speaking foreigners.

The Portuguese would probably be your best neighbors, and who knows, best friends. Although it’s easier at first to bond with other expats, give the Portuguese a chance too.

Therefore, living near other expats should not be your only way of judging the best place to live in Portugal. But it is definitely something to consider.

Expats living in each region of Portugal

Lisbon Metropolitan Area

In 2020, there were 330,413 foreigners with the legal status of residents in the metropolitan area of Lisbon. Therefore, this value corresponds to 11.5% of the total population.

In other words, in the city of Lisbon and adjacent areas. This is, therefore, the largest concentration of immigrant communities in Portugal. But it is not, however, the largest percentage of the total population.

Living in Lisbon, as you can read in our article, is definitely appealing. The city, in addition to being the capital of Portugal, is the main business, cultural and tourist center in the country. This is where things happen, and where there’s the most movement. 

As in other major European cities, life is safe to a degree, and tranquility is not a highlight. The cost of living in Lisbon may be higher than average, but the standard of living also is.

City in Lisbon area Number of residents Number of foreign residents Percentage of foreigners in the total population
Lisbon544,851106,97121%
Cascais214,13432,93915.4%
Sintra385,95441,15510.5%
Setúbal123,6848,6747.6%
Oeiras171,80213,4857,6%

The table data was taken from Pordata. Population data are from the 2021 Census, data referring to foreigners are from the 2020 National Institute of Statistics.

Algarve

The Algarve region is also a favorite with foreigners. Mainly known as a summer tourist destination, the southern region of Portugal has beautiful beaches and a pleasant climate most of the year. So much so that living in the Algarve has already been the subject of reports around the world. It’s an amazing place to live well.

Furthermore, the Algarve was already home to more than 103,554 foreigners in 2020. And the number is expected to increase.

Many expats in Portugal live in the Algarve

Furthermore, it is the Portuguese region with the highest percentage of foreigners per population. Officially, a total of 23.6% of the inhabitants in the Algarve are foreigners.

And in some specific zones, this percentage is even higher. See the table below:

City in the Algarve Number of residents Number of foreign residents Percentage of foreigners in the total population
Vila do Bispo (Sagres)5,7222,22343.2%
Albufeira44,15816,40539.3%
Lagos33,51411,57838.2%
Aljezur6,0461,98535.5%
Tavira27,5367,12029.2%
Loulé72,37318,89227.5%
Lagoa23,7185,40723.8%
Portimão59,89611,40120.5%
Silves37,8137,08719.6%
Faro67,5669,49515.6%

The table data was taken from Pordata. Population data are from the 2021 Census, but data referring to foreigners are from the 2020 National Institute of Statistics.

Porto Metropolitan Area and Nothern Portugal

Capital of the northern region, Porto is also a very important city for Portugal. It is known as the city where people produce and work, but it is also very rich in terms of culture and diversity.

Living in Porto, or better said, in the Porto Metropolitan area, is the reality of more than 52,655 foreigners. A percentage of 3% of the total population in 2020.

But Porto is not the only option for expats in northern Portugal. Check the table below:

City in the north of Portugal Number of residents Number of foreign residents Percentage of foreigners in the total population
Porto231,96217,1567.9%
Matosinhos172,6695,8043.3%
Vila Nova de Gaia304,1499,7203.2%
Braga193,33311,7746.4%
Bragança34,5802,2576.7%

The table data was taken from Pordata. Population data are from the 2021 Census, but data referring to foreigners are from the 2020 National Institute of Statistics.

Central Portugal

The central region of Portugal is also known for attracting foreigners. Both the famous Silver Coast and some historic cities in the interior, like Coimbra, are also attractive for those looking for quality of life at low prices.

In 2020, there were 87,835 foreigners living in central Portugal. That is 4% of the total population. Check out the table below for more insights.

City in central Portugal Number of residents Number of foreign residents Percentage of foreigners in the total population
Aveiro80,8805,4456.9%
Coimbra140,7967,8525.8%
Óbidos11,9409447.9%
Nazaré14,8899826.9%
Peniche26,4191,4305.4%

The table data was taken from Pordata. Population data are from the 2021 Census, but data referring to foreigners are from the 2020 National Institute of Statistics.

Alentejo

The Alentejo region has become increasingly popular. Known for its quiet lifestyle, this rural region is a favorite for those looking for a country home. Moreover, here, the long plantations mix with historic medieval villages and traditional populations who rarely left.

Expats live in Portugal in all regions like Alentejo

Meanwhile, on the Alentejo coast, more and more foreigners are traveling and falling in love with the stunning natural beauty. In 2020, 36,024 foreigners legally resided in Alentejo, about 5.1% of the total population.

See in the table how the areas of the Alentejo are populated:

City in the Alentejo Number of residents Number of foreign residents Percentage of foreigners in the total population
Odemira29,5239,61539%
Grândola13,8277585.2%
Santarém58,7702.9405.1%
Beja33,4011,6174.8%
Évora53,5682,3004.4%

The table data was taken from Pordata. Population data are from the 2021 Census, but data referring to foreigners are from the 2020 National Institute of Statistics.

Madeira

A classic favorite of the British, the islands of Madeira are coming back into fashion in 2022. Thanks to the new Golden Visa rules, Madeira will now receive more real estate and corporate investments. And this is already reflected in online searches for life on the islands.

Living in Madeira, as we’ve also covered in another article, guarantees its residents many benefits.

A total of 9,455 foreigners reside on the islands, which is equivalent to about 3.7% of the total number of residents. Check out the table below for more info:

City in Madeira Number of residents Number of foreign residents Percentage of foreigners in the total population
Funchal105,9194,8694.7%
Ponta do Sol8,3674535.3%
Calheta10,9139128.4%
Porto Moniz2,5211044.5%
Porto Santo5,1583436.6%

The table data was taken from Pordata. Population data are from the 2021 Census, but data referring to foreigners are from the 2020 National Institute of Statistics.

Azores

If you are looking for a real authentic place to live in Portugal, then welcome to the islands of the Azores. This cluster of islands in the mid-Atlantic was named Europe’s Leading Adventure Tourism Destination at the World Travel Awards 2021.

Living in the Azores is synonymous with enjoying the outdoors and nature at its best. In 2020, 4,073 foreigners lived in the Azores, about only 1.7% of the local population.

City in the Azores Number of residents Number of foreign residents Percentage of foreigners in the total population
Ponta Delgada67,2871,1631.7%
Angra do Heroísmo33,8293981,2%

The table data was taken from Pordata. Population data are from the 2021 Census, but data referring to foreigners are from the 2020 National Institute of Statistics.

Why are expats moving to Portugal?

Portugal is a very welcoming country with an excellent quality of life. It’s beautiful, culturally and naturally speaking, with friendly people.

Porto is a great city for expats in Portugal

Furthermore, it has one of the lowest costs of living in Europe, much lower than most developed countries.

At the same time, it is the 4th safest country in the world, according to the Global Peace Index 2021.

If you’re interested in finding out why people move to Portugal, read our article 8 reasons why Portugal became so popular.

So where should I move to?

Portugal is a wonderful and diverse country, as you may have figured out by now. But no one can tell you which region of Portugal is the best for you. Whether you choose Lisbon, Porto or the Algarve is entirely up to you. You know yourself better than anyone.

What we can definitely recommend to you is that you visit Portugal before moving for good. Go on a scouting trip to Portugal, explore the cities, see their lifestyles and how you fit into them. Then you are more likely to choose the best place to live in Portugal – for yourself.

When are you coming to Portugal?

If you are interested in experiencing the best of Portugal, then remember to be open to experiencing Portuguese culture as well.

Being among people who came from the same place as you can make you feel at home. But if you leave your country to experience other cultures and close yourself in a social circle, it doesn’t seem like you’re doing it right, right?

The Portuguese way of life is undoubtedly an ally for your well-being. Don’t worry so much about integrating. Families of all nationalities adapt to Portugal sooner or later. You will be welcomed and will have your place here before you know it.

So join our community on the All About Portugal For Expats Facebook group. And don’t forget that Viv Europe’s team of professionals also provides relocation assistance to Portugal. Let’s make your Portugal plan a reality.

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