What are Portugal’s Best Cities to Live In

When the World is one’s oyster, or in my case, Portugal, it would seem sensibly to research the various regions as best one can before even contemplating a move.

Portugal offers a vast array of climate, scenery and property styles. In some areas it will seem densely populated and in others, the very opposite to the point of being deserted for the most.

The infrastructure varies enormously also and will range from modern with great wealth visible to the complete opposite where real poverty is all to evident with tumbled-down houses dotted around unkept villages. From my point of view, this add greatly to the charm of Portugal as a whole.

Considering quality of life, Portugal on the whole appears to have massive appeal from this point of view, but I dare say, more so for the expat that is not dependent on employment prospects in a country with a failing economy. Beauty and quality, to include life, is very much in the eye of the beholder and, as we all know, each to their own as the saying goes.

Where is Best? – It’s a Matter of Opinion

There have been various studies that highlight Albufeira as one of the counties with the best quality of life in Portugal. A study from Beira Interior University confirms that investment policies developed by the municipality of Albufeira over recent years – for infrastructures and, more importantly, for people – have been the most correct.

A University of Beira Interior study ranks Albufeira as the third municipality with best quality of life in Portugal, after Lisbon, which takes the top spot, and silver medallist Oporto. Algarvean municipalities dominate the study’s top-30 places; following Albufeira is Loulé, in ninth position, the only other Algarvean municipality to secure a place in the top-ten.  Portimão ranked 13th, Lagos 14th, Tavira 19th, Faro 20th, Castro Marim 24th and Lagoa 25th, among others. Towns and cities in northern Portugal predominantly make up the bottom 30 of the 308 municipalities assessed by the study, which is based on 48 indexes of economic and social development. The study’s author, Professor Pires Manso, says UBI’s study comprises “the greatest number of indicators” of any study of the genre in Portugal, and believes it can be used as an “instrument of reflection” for those in public power, at both local and central government levels.

Mayor Rolo believes there are “various reasons” for Albufeira ranking third in the study, and highlights investment made in social components, such as homes and centres for both the young and the elderly, education, culture, urban cleanliness and basic sanitation, as key to the city’s acclaim.  He also says its leading performance is due to investment made in sport, public spaces, tourism, mobility, transport and the streamlining of municipal services. Particular emphasis was given by the Mayor to an aspect he believes “is unknown to most”; that every day Albufeira serves “around 2,800 meals to its students.” “Moreover, this municipality is the only one in the country to have hired a nutritional expert as part of the council’s permanent framework, to accompany the process of serving meals, namely hygiene and food safety. Ultimately, I think we have given our school community the best possible conditions”, he says.

Addressing another aspect of his municipality’s appeal, José Rolo adds: “Albufeira today is a more cultural city”, thanks to investment made in public spaces such as the municipal library, museums, art galleries and their respective exhibitions.
He recalls that “significant investment” has also been made in urban cleanliness and basic sanitation, to “maintain the levels of excellence that the residents of this county, as well as the tourists, have become accustomed to over the years.” Sport and the forming of clubs and associations is something else that in recent years Albufeira has seen as being of particular importance, a priority that the new mayor intends to uphold: “I believe that the associative movement plays an extremely important role in the lives of our youths and it is because of that we have shown our support”, he explains.

Some of the more surprising results found in the study, such as the counties of Constância (Santarém), Marvão (Porta legre), Barrancos (Alentejo) and Vimioso (Bragança) also ranking among the top-30, is “a reflection of the importance of some indicators when evaluating certain counties”, like tourism, Professor Pires Manso says. “With tourism comes a whole host of activities and dynamism”, he stresses. Touching on tourism, José Rolo reveals that his county has enjoyed a greater economic development thanks to the “consolidation of the Albufeira ‘brand’.” “We knew how to listen to our entrepreneurs and traders, their concerns, their needs, and I believe we have done things well. The Municipality of Albufeira is an ambassador for Portuguese tourism beyond borders. Proof of that is that we are recognised a little all around the world.”

Pires Manso, who is also a coordinator for UBI’s Observatory for Economic and Social Development (ODES), sees the study’s results as showing that “the country has three speeds; one for the more urban municipalities along the coast, then there is the country’s interior, which can be divided into more rural areas and other more urban areas.”

Wrapping up his praise and belief in his county, Mayor Rolo concludes: “To finalise, I believe it was this effort, in a set of different areas, but which at the same time are complementary, developed by the Municipality of Albufeira over recent years, which explains the third place achieved in the study developed by UBI.”