Spain vs Portugal: Where Is Best To Live?

To the uninitiated, Spain and Portugal have a lot of similarities; the climate, way of life, food, people, landscapes and culture can all seem comparable.

However, there is much to separate the two countries and comparing them like-for-like would be to dismiss some important factors which make them different; the climate, way of life, food, people, landscapes and culture!


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Where Should I Move? Spain or Portugal?

Spain or Portugal: Which country is best for British expats?

Spain or Portugal: Which country is best for British expats?

Judging these countries fairly depends on whereabouts in each country you are looking to relocate as the North of each differs from the South. Porto and Bilbao are extremely different from Seville and Lagos.

Culturally, the two countries share a love of the sea with Portugal on the Atlantic and Spain on the Mediterranean. They are both hard working nations — despite some unfair reputations — working on average, 39.3 hours and 38 hours each week respectively.

Compare that to France at 37.5 hours and the UK at 36.5 hours.

Spanish is more widely spoken globally and, whilst it shares some resemblance to Portuguese, is considered an easier language to learn.

Spain has a lot more regional variation in its culture than you will find in Portugal. It can be compared to the way the United Kingdom is split with Wales, Scotland, England and Ireland having very unique traditions, variations of language and histories.

Portugal does have regional differences like those you would find between the north and the south of England, but they are not as pronounced.

Costa del Sol vs The Algarve

Costa Del Sol: Catnip for retiring Brits for many decades.

Costa Del Sol: Catnip for retiring Brits for many decades.

Spain and Portugal arguably have two of the best coastal locations in Europe.

For many it is a holiday to either the Costa del Sol or the Algarve which sparks a love for either country and, in many ways, they are similar. The climates experienced here are enviable to us Brits, particularly the mild winters where temperatures remain in the high teens/early twenties.

Both can be easily accessed from the rest of Europe with excellent transport links and both offer year-round entertainment including some superb golf courses.

Morning haze sets over a golf course in the Algarve

Morning haze sets over a golf course in the Algarve

The cost of living in either of these destinations is cheaper than the UK but ranks amongst the most expensive places to live in both countries since they are sought after homes amongst the natives too.

The Algarve is moderately cheaper to live in but Costa del Sol has the edge when it comes to purchasing property.

Take a look at these comparisons:

  Malaga, Spain Faro, Portugal St Ives, Cornwall
3-Course Meal for 2 £25.32 £25.32 £52.50
Bottle of Imported Beer £1.69 £1.48 £4.20
1kg Chicken Breasts £5.00 £4.22 £4.72
Packet of Premium Cigarettes £4.05 £3.80 £8.72
Taxi 1km £1.69 £0.59 £3.00
Basic Monthly Utilities (1-Bed) £73.01 £63.59 £115.00
Pair of Jeans (Levi’s) £44.55 £64.44 £62.50
Rent Monthly (1-Bed) £400.98 £337.67 £600.00
Price per sq. m to Buy Property £1,477.08 £759.75


Madrid vs Lisbon

View of Madrid; one of the most cosmopolitan Spanish locations for expats

View of Madrid; one of the most cosmopolitan Spanish locations for expats


The two capital cities are opposites apart with the port city of Lisbon benefitting from milder winters and more moderate summers. Madrid can reach scorching temperatures in July and August of 30-35oC which can make the city an unbearable place to live and work.

Lisbon is also a far cheaper city to live in than Madrid with prices being 15-20% lower. Quality of life in Portugal’s capital is marginally higher with the main differences being lower air pollution, less traffic and better property-to-income ratios.

Both cities have good rates of employment but Madrid tips the scale in job opportunities.

If you are a lover of an urban city life then both can offer a good nightlife and cultural experiences but again Madrid has the edge over Lisbon.

The famous port of Lisbon: another popular location for retiring Brits.

The famous port of Lisbon: another popular location for retiring Brits.

Spain or Portugal for Retirement

The way of life in both nations has changed from the sleepy siestas you would expect to find on the continent thirty years ago.

Both countries are economic powerhouses and their cities are busy with people at work.

However, the coastal and rural regions still nurture the more peaceful way of life that many retired expats are looking for; not to sleep the day away but to escape from the busy rat race you find in any global city.

Many retired people these days are looking for a mixture of tranquillity and calm whilst being able to access modern facilities, lively communities and a good quality social life…all at a price they can maintain on a pension.

There is no doubt that if you are looking for quality of living at the lowest cost combined with a coastal region that has moderate temperatures then the Algarve is certainly a good choice.

However, Spain can offer more in the way of expat communities and has a busier way of life even on the coast. Outside of tourist season, many resorts can grow quiet which doesn’t suit everyone. The Costa del Sol offers a vibrant lifestyle wheatear the time of year.

Both Spain and Portugal offer wonderful locations to relocate to and, if you are prepared to embrace the cultural changes and get involved in your local community then they can both be an equally rewarding new home.


Have you considered living in Spain or Portugal?

Would you like to retire to one of these popular expat spots for Brits?

Let us know your thoughts and experiences below.


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