Portugal beyond the Algarve

Most countries have a fashionable side and a less fashionable one. A high end and a… lower end. And no matter what the estate agents may say about x being the new y, or z being really up and coming, we all more or less know where we want to own a home. But then you come to Portugal. As finely balanced a country as you’re likely to find, with a gorgeous, sun-drenched south, a beautiful, natural, cultured north, and Lisbon sitting in the middle and about the most exciting city in Europe right now.

We’ll leave the south for another article, it being familiar to most of us, but where else should we be looking for a luxury home?

Luxurious Lisbon

Whether or not you think they’re the people to follow, the big investors and property funds have alighted on Lisbon as the place to invest. The PwC report Emerging Trends in Real Estate, Europe 2019, put Lisbon at number one as the city to invest in, rising 10 positions in one year and deposing Berlin from the top spot.

While many large international companies are moving there, they’re not the only ones. Tech start-up companies and their go-getting workforce are moving here too. They can communicate in English, work in the new tech industries or as digital nomads, in apartments where work-life balance is built in, with shared spaces for work and relaxation. In short, it is hipster-heaven, and even with Madonna recently moving away, the city is sure to become creative powerhouse too.

There's nowhere quite like Lisbon.

There’s nowhere quite like Lisbon.

And why not, it’s beautiful! If they ever look up from their screens they’ll find miradouros – golden views – round every corner.

For investment, rental yield is steady and strong, at between 5 and 7%. Prices are rising by a similar amount per year too.

So where should you buy? The city has plenty of grand old buildings too, with tile-clad mansions and pastel palaces set across seven hills.

Príncipe Real

Central and stylish, Príncipe Real still feels like a village, with a farmer’s market on Saturdays and a monthly antique fair. But it’s a very upmarket village, with tile-clad 19th century mansions. Some have been reimagined as cool shops and restaurants, but for those who do buy a home here, they can expect to pay around €10,000 per square metre.


Estrela, Lisbon’s “embassy quarter” has commanding views across the Tagus River and the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge. Even better is the view from the Basílica da Estrela. Estrela’s parks make it a firm favourite with families, while the famous Tram 28 takes you down to central Lisbon. Property is roughly €8,800 per square metre.

Parque das Nações

With a more modern feel than the rest of the city, indeed it was only built in 2012, Parque das Nações has everything required for the modern millennial (as well as families, expats and indeed, investors). There is Lisbon Oceanarium – the largest indoor aquarium in Europe. The Altice arena has many of the biggest international acts, while the parks and promenades are a wonderful place to walk. Transport is easy too, with the huge Estação do Oriente, one of Portugal’s main transport hubs. Parque das Nações also hosts an event that has put Lisbon on the high-tech map, Web Summit. For property you can expect to pay an average of €8,100 per square metre.

Our friends in the north

The Minho

The Minho starts a little north of Porto and extends about 70 kilometres to the Spanish border. It packs a lot into a small space, including some epic beaches with white sand and crashing Atlantic waves – great for the adventure sportsperson in your family!

Inland is Portugal’s only national park, the Peneda-Gerês National Park. Its 2,000m snow-capped peaks drain into the Atlantic in a series of lush river valleys and forests of eucalyptus and oak.

Although you’re in a largely rural area, you’re certainly not in a backwater, more like Portugal’s answer to the Cotswolds. Inland cities like Braga and Guimarães have trendy restaurants and all the best shops. They have culture galore, being the birthplace of Portugal’s earliest kings and, as university towns, excellent nightlife too. On the coast you have attractive cities like Viana do Castelo.

The beautiful and unspoilt city of Guimarães. Glen Berlin / Shutterstock.com

The beautiful and unspoilt city of Guimarães. Glen Berlin / Shutterstock.com

This is the area to find your grand Portuguese estate, with medieval buildings and plenty of land, a little more affordable than the Duoro Valley. A million euros will buy something very old, very large and very beautiful. But where Portugal scores so highly is in the quality of its new builds too, with sensational modern villas from €500,000.

And it’s all easy to reach from around the world into Porto Airport, which is barely more than an hour’s drive from anywhere in the region.

Porto and the Douro Valley

Porto itself has become something of a weekend break favourite, but it’s also a powerhouse of high-tech development that is attracting a wealthy and discerning international community. Indeed it is where new money meets old, since many of Portugal’s wealthy families call it home. There’s been huge redevelopment and investment in infrastructure, universities, etc., yet the square metre price of property is still lower than Lisbon.

There is a lot of new property to choose from, either for investment, a Brexit-busting golden visa or retirement under the favourable tax rules. Previously run-down areas are being redeveloped, with sensational views of the Douro River and Atlantic Ocean.

The gorgeous property extends along the Douro River Valley too, with wine estates a particular interest to international buyers.

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