Do you dream of going to college abroad but still don’t speak another language? So Portugal can be a great option. According to Countryaah.com, Portugal has a population of 10.28 million. Our sister country has good universities and a quality of life that is unmatched in the world, especially with regard to their safety levels. But what are the best cities to study in Portugal? This is what you will discover now!
Best cities to study in Portugal: Lisbon
Population (2018): 507,220
There is no way to start a list of the best cities to study in Portugal without mentioning Lisbon, the country’s capital. Located on the coast, it is the city with the greatest number of jobs and the highest concentration of university students and foreign residents in the country. And, like any capital, it has a more urban and multicultural vibe , but with the old charm of Portugal and with a great climate, incredible sights and unmissable beaches. And, of course, it has the richest cultural scene in the country.
You can easily travel from one point of the city to another using the good public transport network and the best thing is that you will not even feel like you are in a city with more than 1 million people (in the metropolitan area). But of course, we are talking about the largest city in the country and, as such, there you will also find some typical disadvantages of large centers: traffic, long lines, crowded places, etc. But it’s worth!
And obviously Lisbon is also the Portuguese city with the largest number of options for higher education institutions. The main ones are the University of Lisbon (the largest in the country) and the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, founded in 1957. It is worth remembering that the University of Lisbon emerged only in 2013, with the merger of the Classic University of Lisbon and the Technical University of Lisbon . Other important universities are the Polytechnic Institute of Lisbon, the University Institute of Lisbon, the Catholic University of Portugal, the Lusophone University, the Autonomous University of Lisbon and the Lusíada University.
Best cities to study in Portugal: Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia
Population (2018): 215,284 (Porto) and 299,938 (Gaia)
Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia are two of the oldest cities in the country, separated only by the Douro River and connected by several bridges. It is really difficult to talk about one city and not talk about the other, so we decided to show you both at once. In total, about 400 thousand people live in both cities and live daily with thousands of tourists who arrive in Porto every day. In fact, Porto has been considered for several years as one of the best tourist destinations in Europe and its popularity continues to grow.
Living in Porto (and in Gaia) is a unique experience. As both are in the north, the climate there may not be as sunny as in the central and southern parts of the country, but by choosing one of these places you will have the opportunity to really experience the intensity of living in northern Portugal, a unique region known for its loudest, most passionate and most helpful residents (more than anywhere else in the country).
Just like in Lisbon, you won’t be bored living in Porto, even for a day. The city is known for always having some cultural activity going on. During the weekends, you can enjoy street artists, the great parties that take place in the different nightclubs, the excellent food and the historical attractions that are scattered all over the place. It is worth mentioning that the metropolitan area of Porto is the second largest in the country, so there you will also find a more urban lifestyle. Vila Nova de Gaia works more or less as a dormitory city, since many residents there work and / or study in Porto, but certainly the city also has its own charms.
The main institution of higher education in the region (and the second in the country) is the University of Porto, one of the most attracting foreign students to Portugal. But the city of Porto is considered a regional educational center and there is a great offer of universities there. Other institutions that are present are Universidade Lusíada do Porto, Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Universidade Portucalense, Universidade Lusófona do Porto, Universidade Fernando Pessoa and the Polytechnic Institute of Porto. In Gaia, some smaller colleges and the Higher School of Health of the Polytechnic Institute of Porto are installed.
Best cities to study in Portugal: Aveiro
Population (2018): 77,916
Aveiro is located on the west coast of Portugal, about 45 to 60 minutes by car south of Porto and is one of the Portuguese cities that have developed the most in the last decade. Known as the “Portuguese Venice”, due to its channels, it is a beautiful and lively city, especially in the summer. In addition to its beautiful landscapes, it also has a good offer of shopping malls and commercial activities and is home to one of the main universities in Portugal, the University of Aveiro.
The climate there is not always perfect, as it usually gets quite gray and windy during the winter months. Even in summer, the city is not usually as sunny as others on this list, but the almost 80,000 people who live there do not seem as uncomfortable and certainly love the particular beauty of Aveiro. Another positive point is that the city has many industrial zones, which explains the great offer of jobs that appear almost daily.
In terms of public transport, Aveiro is developing more and more and already has commuting to almost all parts of the city. The downside is that in some areas public transport does not operate after 8:30 pm.
Best cities to study in Portugal: Braga
Population (2018): 181,919
Braga is in the north of the country, northeast of the city of Porto. It is a city that tells a lot about the history of Portugal, having hosted many historical and religious events that occurred in the last centuries. Its great monuments, such as the Bom Jesus do Monte sanctuary and the Sé de Braga cathedral attract several tourists. However, Braga is also a great place to live and was once considered one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Another fact is that the city has the average younger population in Portugal. This can be explained, in part, by the good offer of higher education institutions, with special emphasis on the University of Minho; and the good supply of jobs and cultural activities.
Best cities to study in Portugal: Coimbra
Population (2018): 133,724
Also known as the “City of Knowledge”, Coimbra is famous mainly for the University of Coimbra, which is one of the oldest in the world and the oldest in Portugal. Bathed by the Mondego River and located between Lisbon and Porto, it is a city strongly marked by student traditions, with parties and rituals known throughout Europe. The city has a population of around 110 thousand inhabitants, which is added by another 20 thousand “floating” residents – university students. However, perhaps due to its extension, there you will always feel like you are living in a quiet place and not too crowded.
Due to the international fame of its main university, it is one of the most multicultural cities in Portugal and also offers a good (increasingly growing) offer of job opportunities. And even if you end up going to live in another Portuguese city, it is very worthwhile to visit Coimbra and especially the facilities of the University of Coimbra, which are a true show of architecture and history. Be sure to visit, for example, the Joanina Library, one of the most beautiful on the planet.
Best cities to study in Portugal: Évora
Population (2018): 52,454
Speaking of historic cities, if you dream of living in one of them (not that this is very difficult in Portugal!) But don’t like the cold, Évora can be a good option. This is the main city in the south-central region of the country, known as Alentejo. Over there, temperatures are almost always slightly above the Portuguese average. Although its population has only about 50 thousand inhabitants, it is a city that has a lot to offer, from its wonderful cuisine to its ancient architecture and public spaces designed to offer tranquility and leisure for residents and visitors.
All Évora is surrounded by the walls of the old city and in its historic center (which is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site), is located the Roman Temple of Évora (known as the Temple of Diana), one of the greatest symbols of the Roman presence in Portuguese territory . Around the temple, the typical white houses of this region surround the Cathedral of Évora (Sé de Évora), a beautiful Gothic structure built in the 12th century. The population of the city enjoys a calm life, without crowds and without rushing. However, there you will find all the necessary services for day to day and also for your leisure.
In terms of education, the city also has its own prominent higher education institution, the University of Évora, which was founded in 1559.
Best cities to study in Portugal: Faro
Population (2018): 60,974
Faro is the largest city in the south of Portugal and definitely deserves its place on this list. With a fantastic climate (especially in the summer) and breathtaking beaches, it is one of the most inviting cities in Portugal, with a population of just over 60 thousand people. Many of them are elderly immigrants (mainly from the United Kingdom and Germany) who chose the region to live in retirement. Located just 2 hours drive from Lisbon, Faro is a city that has a great service structure, even its own airport.
As the main city in the Algarve area, Faro offers a good job offer, mainly in the fishing and tourism industry, and also has the University of Algarve (UAlg), which was founded in 1976 and is the institution of higher education in reference in the south of the country.
From March to September, it receives thousands of tourists in search of its beaches and, because of that, living in Faro can be a little more expensive than the Portuguese average. But considering all its beauty, we can say that this is a small price to pay. And, as we have already said, the foreign population of Faro is also higher than the average of most Portuguese regions.
Best cities to study in Portugal: Guimarães
Population (2018): 152,792
Guimarães is also located in the northern part of the country, relatively close to Braga. It was founded in the 12th century and is considered the “City of Cradles” of Portugal. This is because, historically, it was from there that the first king of Portugal began to conquer and form the country. In Guimarães you will also live in a city that is a living class of history printed on its streets and buildings. Just visit the historic center and you will see what we are talking about. But Guimarães is not limited to that!
Its incredible architecture, history and vibrancy have been beautifully integrated with the dynamism and needs of a modern city to accommodate and pride its population of just over 150 thousand people. To give you an idea, Guimarães was nominated as European Capital of Culture in 2013 and won the European Sports City award in the same year. Although the weather is quite cold in winter, this is an excellent city to live, work and study in Portugal.
And speaking of studying, Guimarães also serves as the home of the University of Minho, which has already been mentioned here. Let’s explain: the institution is divided between Guimarães and Braga. In Guimarães are the Azurém campus and the Combatentes residential complex. There, courses in Architecture, Geography, Applied Statistics and most Engineering courses are taught.
Braga is home to the university’s rectory, as well as the Gualtar campus and the Santa Tecla and Lloyd Braga residential complexes. Courses in the area of Education, Psychology, Literature, Human Sciences are taught in the city Economics, Management, Nursing, Medicine, Law, Computer Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Biological Engineering and most courses at the School of Sciences and the Institute of Social Sciences.
Best cities to study in Portugal: Viseu
Population (2018): 96,991
Viseu is located in central Portugal, about an hour’s drive from Coimbra. It has been considered in several surveys as one of the best cities to live not only in Portugal, but in Europe. And perhaps one of the main reasons for this is the happiness and satisfaction rates of local residents. There are plenty of reasons for that! Viseu has a great structure of public facilities and good public transport services. In addition, rental prices there are lower than in most other major cities in the country and the offer of cultural activities, schools and health services is quite satisfactory. The strategic location and great cuisine are the icing on the cake of this equation. A curiosity is that Viseu is known in Portugal as “the city of roundabouts” because there are many there.
The old center of Viseu is worth a visit even if you are not going to live in the city. Don’t miss the Cathedral of Viseu and the Igreja da Misericórdia. Afterwards, I passed through the streets and alleys calmly and don’t forget to stop in one of the green areas of the city to rest.
The main higher education institutions in the city are the Polytechnic Institute of Viseu, founded in 1979 and the Catholic University of Portugal, which also has a campus in Braga, Porto and Lisbon (headquarters).
Now that you know the best cities to study in Portugal, find out how the universities mentioned in this text are performing in the ranking of QS World Universities 2021. Attention: not all institutions mentioned here appear on the list.
|University||City||Position in the world ranking|
|University of Lisbon||Lisbon||357|
|University of Porto||Port||357 (tie)|
|New University of Lisbon||Lisbon||428|
|Minho’s university||Braga and Guimarães||591-600|
|Portuguese Catholic University||Lisbon, Porto, Braga and Viseu||801-1000|