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Top cities in Portugal

3 de November, 2022

Top cities in Portugal

O ranking das principais cidades de Portugal leva em conta dados gerais, mobilidade e infraestrutura, turismo e negócios.
Reading: 10 min

Portugal has more than 300 cities that stand out for various reasons: beauty, quality of life, tourism infrastructure, among many other qualities. In this article we will show which are the main cities of Portugal, tell a little about them and show other curiosities.

Let’s get to know a little more about Portuguese cities?

What are the main cities in Portugal?

To find out which are the top 10 cities in Portugal, we consulted the Portugal City Brand Ranking 2022a ranking organized every year by Bloom Consulting.

For this top 10 to be elaborated, the ranking analyzes general data, life characteristics, movement, and tourism and business infrastructure of several cities. See which ones they are and also check their location on the map.

map of portugal with the main cities

Lisbon

Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is also the best known city in the country and one of the preferred cities for immigrants who come to live in Portugal and for tourists. It currently has about 545,000 inhabitants (which makes it also the most populous city in the country).

It is still considered a hub of job opportunities, despite the high population density (with an average salary of 1,669€). The largest number of vacancies comes mainly from companies in the areas of technology, communication, and tourism.

It is the most effervescent of Portuguese cities, of that there is no doubt. It is where there are countless leisure and cultural activities, as well as universities.

Nowadays one of the main downsides of Lisbon is the value of real estate, both for buying and selling. It is the highest in Portugal.

Porto

Porto is another well-known city in Portugal and is also chosen by many immigrants who decide to live here, and currently has 231,000 residents.

It is also a city with a great flow of tourists that come to the city every year to discover its charms (which are not few!).

In the city of Porto, the most abundant job opportunities are in tourism and industry, and the average salary is 1,417€, according to Census 2021 data. However, for jobs in tourism and industry, the figures are usually around the average minimum wage (705€ in 2022).

Porto also has a rich cultural life, even though it is quieter than the capital. But the city has several events related to culture throughout the year. So there is no shortage of activities!

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Cascais

Cascais is also one of Portugal’s main cities, and is chosen by those who like to live near the beach and, at the same time, near the capital, since the city is in the capital’s metropolitan region.

With 241,000 inhabitants and a very mild, sunny, and pleasant climate, the city is known for its quality of life.

Job offers are scarcer, it is true. And most of them are in tourism-related areas, especially in the summer when the city is full of tourists. This way, in the winter the offers can decrease even more.

Property prices have risen considerably in recent years and renting or buying an apartment in Cascais is quite expensive. But even so, many people still decide to live in the town, especially retirees who want to enjoy the tranquility and beautiful scenery.

Braga

Braga is another well-known city in the country and for Brazilians, since it concentrates a large community of immigrants from Brazil. Currently about 193 thousand people live in Braga.

Located in the north of Portugal, it became known for having slightly lower rents and better job offers, a combination that encouraged immigrants, since many companies from different areas are located in the region.

Main cities in Portugal Jardim de Santa Bárbara
Braga City, in Portugal

The climate in the city is very rainy, which should be considered by those who do not like having to live with humidity almost all year round. The good news is that in the summer the temperatures are mild and the rainfall decreases a lot.

In terms of tourism, the town is especially known for the Bom Jesus do Monte Sanctuary.

Coimbra

Coimbra is especially known for being a university city where the University of Coimbra is located, the oldest in Portugal, which was founded in 1290. The city’s climate is quite hot and dry in summer, and cool in winter, with average temperatures of 12 degrees.

It currently has approximately 140,000 residents and, besides being chosen by students, it is also the choice of people who go to work in the region, since the access to other cities is very easy.

But for those who are going to look for a job, Coimbra may not be the best choice, since the city is relatively small. Therefore, job opportunities may be a bit scarcer.

The cost of living in Coimbra is average and rents are a little less expensive compared to cities like Porto and Lisbon.

Vila Nova de Gaia

Vila Nova de Gaia (or simply Gaia) is the largest city in the north of the country and has more than 303,000 inhabitants. It is very close to Porto, just a bridge away (the famous Luís I Bridge, one of Porto’s tourist attractions).

With 15 freguesias (neighborhoods) and extensive strips of sand, walkways and bike paths, the city is a good option for living and for leisure in the summer.

Gaia used to be a city with cheaper rents, and that’s why it was chosen by many people who worked in Porto. But today, we must say, prices are high and keep up with those charged in the neighboring city.

A good tip about Vila Nova de Gaia? There you can have one of the most beautiful sunset views in the region, directly from Jardim do Morro. Don’t miss it!

Sintra

The medieval town of Sintra, with 385,000 residents, is very close to Lisbon, about 30 kilometers away. It is known for being one of the most beautiful places in the country, home to the famous Pena Palace, among other historical monuments.

Despite being a good option for those who want to live near Lisbon, finding a villa in Sintra is not very easy, as there are not always many options available.

The climate is mild, with a hot and rather dry summer and a cool winter, but it does not reach such low temperatures. It can be a good option for those who want to escape the harsher cold of the northern part of the country.

Sintra is one of the main cities in Portugal
Sintra, in Portugal

As for the job market, it is worth reinforcing that a large part of the offers are related to the tourism sector, which is one of the areas that moves the region’s economy the most.

Funchal

Funchal is the capital of Madeira Island and has 105 thousand inhabitants, being one of the most attractive cities, especially for tourism. This is because Funchal has beautiful beaches and great infrastructure.

The city, with a pleasant climate in summer (but with a long period of cold in winter), is known for its popular celebrations, such as the New Year’s Eve celebration, the Wine Festival, and the Flower Festival.

As for the search for job offers, job opportunities in tourism, commerce and services are the most common in the city.

Still talking about the job market, the city has currently been sought after by a large number of digital nomads and remote workers in general, since it is home to Ponta do Sol, a village that welcomes digital nomads in Portugal.

Setúbal

Setúbal, which is located about 50 kilometers from Lisbon and has 123,000 residents, is a city with a countryside feel and close to the capital. Precisely for this reason it is chosen by many people who wish to experience all that is good about these two styles of city.

With a milder winter and a hot, dry summer, temperatures are usually very pleasant throughout the year.

There are good job offers in the commerce, services, and construction sectors, not to mention the possibility of living in Setubal and working in Lisbon.

Rental prices are a little lower than in Lisbon, but not as cheap. In any case, living in Setubal can be a great relief on the monthly budget.

Aveiro

Aveiro is another of Portugal’s main cities, known for its moliceiros (the boats on the ria), the great flow of students and tourists. And this greatly characterizes the city, which has just over 80,000 residents.

Located in the central region of the country, the city, which is approximately 70 kilometers from Porto, has an excellent university (the University of Aveiro), restaurants, many confectioneries, and beautiful beaches (such as the famous Costa Nova).

The cost of living and rents in Aveiro has been lower, but is still more affordable compared to Porto, for example. Thus, it can be a good option for permanent housing.

Aveiro attracts tourists every year
Aveiro is known as the Portuguese Venice

The job market has job offers in many areas besides tourism, such as information technology and design.

In the beginning I talked about the characteristics of the city, but one important item was missing: the soft eggs. If you like a good candy, be sure to try the most famous delicacy of the city.

Major Tourist Cities of Portugal

Portugal receives a large flow of tourists every year, and some cities are better known for drawing attention and being the preference of tourists.

Of course, these choices depend on the profile of the tourist and the type of trip they are taking. But the most touristy cities in the country are:

  1. Lisbon;
  2. Sintra;
  3. Óbidos;
  4. Fatima;
  5. Cascais;
  6. Nazareth;
  7. Aveiro;
  8. Braga;
  9. Port;
  10. Guimarães.

Most Populated Cities in Portugal

To find out which are the largest cities in Portugal, we consulted the population numbers published in the Census 2021.

The top 5, in terms of population, are:

CityNumber of inhabitants
Lisbon545.923
Sintra385.654
Vila Nova de Gaia303.854
Porto231.828
Cascais214.158

And what are the less populated ones?

Portugal has cities with very few residents. The top 5 in the ranking are all in the Azores or in the Baixo Alentejo region.

CityNumber of inhabitants
Corvo (Corvo Island)384
Lajes das Flores (Flores Island)1.408
Barrancos (Baixo Alentejo)1.440
Santa Cruz das Flores (Flores Island)2.020
Alvito (Baixo Alentejo)2.282

Most visited cities in Portugal

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, there is no complete data on the flow of tourists in Portugal in this period. According to TravelBI, in the first months of 2020, before the lockdown, the country received about 10.4 million tourists and the Algarve region was the busiest, with about 7.9 million visits.

In 2021, the Portuguese regions received that number of visitors during the year:

  • Lisbon: 1.94 million;
  • Algarve: 1.33 million;
  • North: 1.18 million;
  • Madeira Island: 590,000;
  • Downtown: 510,000;
  • Alentejo: 220 thousand;
  • Azores Islands: 160,000.

But, even though we do not have an official ranking of cities available for consultation, we leave here a list with the main cities in Portugal that are very sought after by tourists who come to visit the country. Check it out!

  • Lisbon;
  • Port;
  • Óbidos;
  • Sintra;
  • Aveiro;
  • Guimarães;
  • Braga;
  • Coimbra;
  • Evora;
  • Nazareth;
  • Faro Albufeira
  • Portimão
  • Cascais
  • Fatima
  • Funchal (Madeira Island).

Most beautiful cities of Portugal

This is perhaps the most difficult list to make about the main cities of Portugal, since it is a beautiful country full of historical cities and incredible landscapes. Each region has its typical beauty, such as the cities full of historical heritage, the unparalleled beauty of the beaches in the Algarve or the idyllic landscapes of the Alentejo, not to mention the Douro Wine Region.

In summary, although it is not such a large country in size, Portugal offers us landscapes of beaches, mountainous regions, rivers, hot springs, and the islands of Madeira and the Azores.

Check out some of the most beautiful cities in Portugal:

  • Sintra;
  • Port;
  • Lisbon;
  • Evora;
  • Keys;
  • Lamego;
  • Braga;
  • Silves;
  • Elvas
  • Funchal.

Besides these, there are many other cities that you can (and should) visit. If your travel time is short, just decide what else you want to see in the country. There are plenty of good options, I guarantee it!

Largest cities in Portugal

After we talk about the main cities in Portugal, let’s see which are the 5 cities with the largest territorial extension in Portugal, based on PORDATA data, they are:

CityTerritorial extension (in km²)
Odemira1.721
Alcácer do Sal1.500
Castelo Branco1.438
Idanha-a-Nova1.416
Evora1.307

Smallest cities in Portugal

The 5 smallest Portuguese cities, by the size of their territory, are:

CityTerritorial extension (in km²)
São João da Madeira8
Junction14
Raven17
Espinho21
Amadora24

Frequently asked questions about Portugal’s main cities

What are the most recent Portuguese cities?

The ten most recent Portuguese cities (with the year of elevation to city status) are: Lagoa (2012), Albergaria-a-Velha (2011), Alfena (2011), Valença do Minho (2009), Senhora da Hora (2009), São Pedro do Sul (2009), Samora Correia (2009), Borba (2009), Caniço (2005) and Valbom (2004).

Distance from Lisbon to the main cities in Portugal

Check the table below (the distances were calculated by car – except for Funchal, on Madeira Island):

CityDistance from Lisbon (in km)
Porto314
Cascais34
Braga363
Coimbra204
Vila Nova de Gaia308
Sintra28
Funchal1.197
Setúbal49
Aveiro255
Article by Tié Lenzi originally published on our partner site EuroDicas.
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