In the last few years, Portugal became one of the hottest remote working destinations on the planet. Portugal has it all: an affordable cost of living, great weather, various digital nomad visa options, and endless things to do. On this basis, here is a comprehensive digital nomad Portugal guide.
Welcome to Portugal: a Livable, Affordable, and Exciting Remote Working Destination
Portugal is one of the oldest nation-states in Europe. The area of modern-day Portugal was part of the Roman Empire until the Fall of Rome – when the then-Roman province disintegrated. Some regions became part of the Byzantine Empire, while others fell into the hands of the Visigoths.
Starting in the 8th century, the Umayyad Caliphate took over vast portions of the Iberian peninsula, and Portugal became an Islamic region. Many Moorish structures – including the Castelo São Jorge in Lisbon – date from the Muslim period.
In 1143, Portugal officially became an independent country, even though the Moorish still ruled over large parts of the Iberian peninsula.
The Moorish lost the last patches of their influence in Portugal and Spain in the 15th century, and Portugal started its ascent to power. The country became one of the pioneers in global navigation, and Henrique the Navigator launched the Age of Discovery when he sailed to Madeira in 1418.
Portuguese navigators would sail the world in the coming centuries, with greats like Vasco da Gama and Ferdinand Magellan traveling as far as Indonesia, India, and Brazil. Portugal became one of the wealthiest nations in Europe, and its empire now covered all corners of the globe.
Much of this wealth is still visible in Portugal through historic grandeur. Structures like the Praça do Comércio in Lisbon and the Clerigos Church in Porto showcase the country’s past might.
Between 1930 and 1974, Portugal lived under a brutal dictator, António de Oliveira Salazar. The dictatorship ended with the Carnation Revolution in 1974, a military coup that turned into a peaceful civil revolution.
Portugal subsequently became a modern democracy and joined the European Union in 1986.
Today, Portugal is one of the most progressive countries in Europe and a popular destination for holidaymakers and remote workers alike.
Here are some reasons why Portugal is an excellent choice for remote workers:
- The cost of living is relatively low compared to other European countries;
- The infrastructure is top-notch and easily comparable to Western Europe;
- Portugal is safe, easy to get around, and well-connected to Europe and other parts of the world;
- English levels are among the best in Southern Europe; and
- Portuguese cities have thriving ex-pat and nomad communities.
The Best Places to Live in Portugal for Digital Nomads
Many Portuguese regions are suitable for digital nomads, but three – Lisbon, the Douro region, and the Algarve – offer the best mix of things to do and nomad infrastructure. The following are the best places to live in Portugal as a digital nomad.
The Two Obvious Choices: Lisbon and Porto
Lisbon is Portugal’s capital and largest metropolis. The city’s strategic location, top-rate infrastructure, and diverse attractions make it an excellent choice for digital nomads.
As such, it has the best remote working spots, coffee shops, and also museums. If you’re into culture, nightlife, and local food, Lisbon will satisfy all of your wishes.
On the minus side, Lisbon is a tourist hotspot, especially in summer. During the high season of June, July, and August, the city lacks authenticity, and the crowds can become tiring. Consequently, if you choose Lisbon as your nomad base, April to May and September to October are the best months.
Porto is the second-largest city, located in the northern Douro region. The city is more laidback than Lisbon, but its nomad infrastructure is comparable. Porto also has lots of cultural and culinary attractions, even though everything is smaller than in Lisbon.
Historically, Porto was a working-class city with lots of industries and manufacturing centers. In this context, the Portuguese used to say: “Lisbon governs, Porto works, Braga prays, and Coimbra studies.”
Today, Porto is a highly livable city with an excellent price-quality ratio. In simple terms, you get a lot of bang for your bucks in Porto.
Both cities are well-suited for nomads, but Porto is smaller, more relaxing, but also a bit less exciting in the long run.
Personally, I would choose Porto for short stays and Lisbon for longer stints. There is simply more to do in the capital, but Porto’s chilled-out atmosphere is appealing for a month or two.
The Algarve Region
Any digital nomad Portugal guide will rave about the Algarve region, and this one is no different.
Portugal’s southern coast has world-class beaches, lots of charming towns, and a relaxing atmosphere. The Algarve is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Europe but also a point of congregation for remote workers from all over the globe.
So, which are the best towns for digital nomads in the Algarve?
There are many options, but here are some of the best places for remote workers in the Algarve:
- Faro is the largest city with the most infrastructure but not the best beaches. It’s a transport hub and well-connected to other parts of Portugal or Europe;
- Portimão has something for everybody, including stunning beaches and authentic fish markets. It’s not far away from the buzzing nightlife town of Praia da Rocha;
- Lagos is a digital nomad haven with lots of remote working hubs and excellent beaches. It’s also popular among surfers;
- Albufeira is the region’s most visited tourist destination – and well-known for its nightlife;
- Silves is located a few kilometers inland, and it is one of the most authentic towns in the Algarve;
- Tavira and the surrounding area offer lots of quiet, resort-orientated towns and family-friendly activities.
Smaller, Lesser-Known Cities: Braga and Coimbra
If you’re looking for authentic, less-touristy places, the cities of Braga and Coimbra should be on your list.
Both offer impressive historic sites, traditional architecture, and culinary attractions. Braga is known for its religious significance and is home to some of Portugal’s most famous churches.
Coimbra is a student city with one of the oldest universities in Europe. It’s a beautiful town and scores points with its authenticity.
Both cities are well worth a visit, and Portugal digital nomads will enjoy their relative lack of mass tourism.
The Northern Beach Towns: Viana do Castelo and Esposende
Portugal’s northernmost region (everything north of Porto, including Braga) is one of the most relaxing places in the country. You’ll find lots of sleepy seaside towns here and excellent waves for surfing.
In this context, Viana do Castelo and Esposende are two picturesque towns on the Atlantic with perfect waves and historic charm. These towns have tourist infrastructure, but they are a world away from the summer hotspots in the Algarve.
You won’t find a lot of remote working infrastructure here, but if you’re looking for stress-free, authentic places to live in Portugal, these northern regions should be on your radar.
The Islands: Madeira and the Azores
If you’re a nature lover, Madeira and the Azores are among the most spectacular destinations in all of Europe.
Both archipelagos consist of several islands off the African coast in the Atlantic.
Four rocky volcanic islands – the largest one also called Madeira – form the autonomous region of Madeira. The landscapes are breathtaking, with endless uniquely shaped mountains, towering cliffs, and rocky hiking paths.
The Azores are more spread out as traveling between different islands requires flights. The landscapes here vary from Madeira – with lush green forests and black sand beaches dominating the archipelago.
So, which of the two is best for digital nomads?
Madeira – and the capital city of Funchal – has a lot more infrastructure than the Azores, but there are also more tourists. Funchal is also better connected to mainland Portugal and Europe. The Azores offer a uniquely rugged nature experience, but they aren’t as suitable for remote workers.
Cost of Living
Here is a breakdown of one month of digital nomad expenses in Porto (keep in mind that Lisbon or the Algarve are a bit more expensive):
- One-bedroom Airbnb in central Porto: 750€ per month;
- Food and drinks: 350€ per month;
- Transport and weekend excursions: 100€;
- Tourist activities: 50€;
- Miscellaneous like a gym membership, SIM Cards, and hairdressers: 50€.
Total Portugal nomad budget: 1,300€ (~1,530 USD) per month
You could get that budget down considerably by living with a roommate or going through a local rental agency. Most Portugal digital nomads will live comfortably with a budget of around 1k Euros per month for Porto and 1.5k for Lisbon or the Algarve.
Infrastructure, Connectivity, and Transport
Portugal’s infrastructure is one of the reasons why the country is so popular among nomads.
First and foremost, any digital nomad Portugal guide will mention Wifi, and it’s here where the country excels. In terms of speed, Portugal doesn’t make the global top ten, but the coverage is impressive. Better still, local internet and Sim cards (Vodafone are MEO are the largest suppliers) are cheap, and you can find hotspots in almost every public place.
In terms of transport, the country’s small size and excellent road network make it easy to get around. Flixbus is the most budget-friendly option, but there are also high-speed trains connecting the cities and towns.
Lisbon and Porto also have well-connected airports and world-class public transportation networks. All in all, Portugal’s infrastructure is among the best in Europe.
Accommodation in Portugal for Digital Nomads
The easiest choice is Airbnb. Most Portugal digital nomads base themselves in cities, and the offer here is extensive. You’ll pay a premium as regulators have started to impose more rules on Airbnb hosts, but prices are still relatively low. The same applies to apartments on Booking.com.
If you’re staying longer, websites like CustoJusto (only in Portuguese) and Expatriates are solid options to find a rental apartment. A fiscal number known as the NIF is often required to rent an apartment, especially if you want an official contract that can be used in any official paperwork (e.g. registering for the D7 visa).
Hotels and hostels are also available, but they will generally cost more, except for dorms.
Digital Nomad Portugal Guide: Remote Working Locations
Any Portugal digital nomad will be on the hunt for first-rate remote working spaces, and they are not in short supply. Here are some top co-working spaces in different cities:
- Lisbon: some of my favorites include Second Home Lisboa (modern, young, and hipsterish) and Liberdade 229 (bohemian vibes in a charming building right in the heart of the city);
- Porto: Facts Coworking is a centrally-located modern space with lots of amenities and a relaxing atmosphere. Other recommendable options in downtown Porto are Typographia and Armazén;
- Faro: Avenida Business Center is a multi-purpose co-working space where you can work for around 70€ a month;
- Lagos: CENTRO offers modern office spaces in a calm environment.
Culture and People
Portugal is a predominantly Roman Catholic nation, but many different eras influenced its culture, including the Celtic, Roman, and Moorish periods.
Portugal is today a pro-European nation and known for its progressive policies. These include, for example, the decriminalization of drugs in the early 2000s.
The four-decade-long dictatorship naturally left its mark, and many artistic elements reflect this period. Literature, music, and folklore play a primary role in the country.
Portugal is a Southern European country, but the fact that it doesn’t sit on the Mediterranean creates a different cultural setting to countries like Italy or Spain. In that same vein, Portugal’s historic ties to Britain and Northern Europe impacted the culture.
It’s hard to generalize, but you could say that Portuguese culture is less festive and more melancholic than the rest of Southern Europe. Don’t expect people to be overly friendly like in other southern countries. Apart from that, you can find this melancholy in many aspects of Portuguese art and music, especially in the national music genre Fado.
Finally, closely-knit family structures and religious celebrations still dominate vast portions of Portuguese society.
Digital Nomad Portugal Guide: FAQ
Is Portugal Safe?
Yes. Portugal is one of the safest countries in Europe, and crime is generally not a problem. Common sense will suffice to stay safe.
Is There a Portugal Digital Nomad Visa?
Portugal has one of the most straightforward digital nomad visas on the planet. With an income of 7,620€ per year (from self-employment or a remote job), non-EU citizens can apply for temporary residency.
The Portugal digital nomad visa is called “D7,” and – contrary to other remote working visas – it allows you to seek employment or establish a business in Portugal if you wish to do so. Even more impressive is the fact that it gives you access to Portugal’s universal healthcare system. For more info, check this page.
How Are English Levels in Portugal?
English levels are among the best in Southern Europe. You won’t have too much trouble communicating, but learning a bit of Portuguese is nonetheless recommendable.
Are There Many Fellow Nomads in Portugal?
Yes. Portugal is one of the hottest destinations for digital nomads right now and probably the number one nomad hotspot in Europe, along with Croatia.