We just finished our second week of our first visit to Portugal.  We are here for 26 days to figure out if we would like to move here, and if so, create a short list of places to dive into deeper.  

Context: We are a married couple in our 40’s. No children but we have two terrier dogs that are very special to us and need outdoor space.  We live in Silicon Valley, California. Chris works in tech. Emily works in Education.  One of the goals of moving to Portugal would be to slow down, but we would still probably work part time online and possibly look into education related activities. 

Housing/living preference: We want what a lot of Americans want, and probably can’t have very easily: a house with at least a small yard that has access to good public transportation and is walkable to places one would want to go on a daily basis.  We love greenery, nature and charm.  The weather is very important.  Emily tends to wilt above 90F.  We don’t mind theoretical rain, but it does seem a bit tricky to navigate without a car and on the slippy and hilly cobblestones.  In general, we probably prefer large towns or small cities. We don’t want to be too far from the airport and/or international schools (if I decide to go that direction). 

The boundaries of the Silver Coast differ when you ask various people.  We may be including areas that others would not consider part of the region.  I’m including all the places we visited between the larger Porto and larger Lisbon areas.

Disclaimer: These are our opinions.  I would expect other people to have different opinions and priorities.

*I will  make a scouting photolog for each of the main regions we visit.  If you would like to see the others when they are done, I think you could click on my name and find my other posts.

Week 1  – Porto region


I’m actually not sure why I kept this city on our itinerary.  I had already ruled it out as a potential place for us when I was watching the weather forecast during the July heat wave.  It’s too hot for me! 

After visiting, I realized there was a second reason I would not want to live here – the HILLS. It seems like no matter what direction you are headed it is UP incredibly steep grades.  It was raining when we were there.  I felt like I was going to slip on the cobblestones and roll down a hill at any moment.  I do not recommend this area for anyone with any kind of mobility issues. 

Even though it isn’t for me, there are 2 groups of people who I think might really want to consider it.  A young person (under 30), especially one who would like to study in what looks like a Harry Potter book come to life. 

In addition to the historical ambiance, the university students wear black capes, so it looks like wizards are walking around everywhere.  All jokes aside, I think it would make for a great study abroad location. 

The second group would be people who are in good physical shape without any mobility issues who need to keep their costs down.  It was one of the more affordable places we visited overall, and made even more so by all the cheap student venues. 

English note: We found this area to have more limitations in terms of speaking English.  Fewer people spoke any and those who did seemed to have a more limited vocabulary.  


This small city had warm fuzzy feelings. 

We drove through an insane twisty curvy historical center that we really should not have attempted.  Once we parked and used our feet to explore, we found a place full of both historical charm and real Portuguese life.  Lots of local people were out enjoying the beautiful afternoon and milling about.  There were also tons of teenagers.  I’m guessing school must have finished for the day, and they were spending time together before heading home. 

We enjoyed amazing cheese at a shop recommended on Julie Fox’s blog.  Leiria is smack in between Porto and Lisbon with about a 2 hour bus ride in either direction.  I believe there is also a train to Porto.  We live in the Bay Area in California.  Redwood City has a sign that says it has been voted the best weather in the world (and I agree).  If you go to weatherspark, there is a feature where you can see where else in the world has weather similar to a particular location.  There is a small town about 10 minutes outside of Leiria that matches Redwood City.  For people looking for good weather, this might be a great option. 

As much as I enjoyed visiting, I don’t think it is where we will end up, but it could be a great option for many in this forum. 

English note: We found this area to have more limitations in terms of speaking English.  Fewer people spoke any and those who did seemed to have a more limited vocabulary.  

Caldas da Rainha

This small city seems to garner polarized comments in these FB groups.  Some people post about how it is their dream location, and others say they don’t get the appeal.  I was curious to see what caused the varied responses. 

I think that some people miss the benefits of Caldas because it doesn’t have the same level of historical charm as some of the other cities. However, I came to greatly appreciate Caldas and the reason some people are not as drawn to it is what I think is probably one of its benefits. It feels like a place people live and not a place people go on vacation.  It is large enough to have all the amenities people are interested in such as large shopping centers, places to eat, a strong artistic community, walking streets and green parks. Yet, it is small enough that you could easily walk around to much of what you are after. 

Most people agree you would benefit from owning a car if you live in the Silver Coast.  I wondered if you could do without in this compact city until I found out the buses don’t run on Sunday.

Caldas is surrounded by agriculture, so the produce here is amazing, and the 6 day a week farmer’s market in the plaza means you can always have access to fresh food.  When people talk about moving to Portugal because of the fresh delicious food, I think this is what they have in their imagination. 

Caldas’ location is another strong benefit in its favor.  1 hour from Lisbon by bus, 15 minutes to a beautiful beach and with just a few more minutes you have access to the entire coast line, and 10 minutes in the other direction gets you to beautiful farm lands if you prefer a slightly more bucolic lifestyle. 

If we are willing to get a car, Caldas would easily make the short list.  One reason I think we are drawn to this area is because we met some amazing expats while visiting. We visited 2 different family’s homes, went to a meetup, and weren’t able to make 2 others during our brief stay.  Everyone was so kind, welcoming and helpful.  That relational touchstone helped us to feel like it was a place we could call home. 


Smaller towns outside of Caldas da Rainha

We are primarily focused on large towns and smaller cities (or regions within a city that feel like a community).  I was not particularly interested in small town life. 

During our visit to Caldas we got invited to the home of a fellow American who purchased a lovely home in a small parish about 15 minutes from Caldas.  The town didn’t look like much when we drove through, so we were really surprised to discover the area has all kinds of amazing amenities. 

In addition to larger homes with more land space than cities tend to offer, the town has an orchestra, pilates studio, etc. and many other things that enhance the quality of life.  I was not expecting that, so I thought I would include this information here. 

Since it is a small town, I don’t want to put the name in a forum with so many people, but if you are thinking of a smaller area, you may be surprised at the community resources available if you dig deeper into an area.  The other major benefit I learned is that this wonderful and friendly couple seems to be making a lot of headway with connecting with Portuguese people they share the town with.  That isn’t always easy for expats to do when they move, so that might be something to consider if building local connections is a primary goal. 

Also, I know many people have entertained ideas of renovating a ruin.  I got a massage from a young British expat.  She is in the process of renovating a ruin, and she shared that there are a number of younger people who are working on these types of projects in the area. This group tends to get together as friends and a support group for what can be a difficult and fulfilling journey.  

Tourist Hot Spots throughout the Silver Coast

While part of me loves the idea of finding the perfect little home right on the beach with great views, I realize that comes with some cons as well. 

From what I understand, many of the SC beach towns are very popular summer hot spots and get very crowded.  Then, once the season is over many businesses shutter leaving a bit of a ghost town. 

Like any good beach goer from Northern California, I love having a foggy ethereal beach to myself.  I’m just not sure the lived experience would live up to my imagination.  I might rather be somewhere like Caldas that provides easy access without having to be in the throng. 

Since I didn’t spend enough time investigating these towns, I’m just going to give a quick 1 sentence opinion.  If you are interested in any of these areas, you’ll want to look further than my snapshot opinions.

Figueira da Foz – already a ghost town by September, but looks like a lot of fun to visit in the summer. Lots of potential activities including soccer and tennis on the beach 

Foz do Arelho – I would love to walk the cliff boardwalks with my dogs regularly

Obidos (medieval village not on the beach) – very cute place I would love to bring my mother. You can live outside the historical tourist center, but I don’t know what that kind of environment would be like with so many tourists bussing in and out every day

Peniche – Not my favorite. Fish processing at the main beach didn’t smell very good.  Other better beaches were available but took a bit for us to find

Ericeira – Stunning beach town that still had a hopping tourist scene. The vibe was very fun and energetic with all the visitors enjoying their holidays

The one exception I might make to my comments in the previous photo would be to live in Lourinhã.  That’s because at about 8 minutes from the stunning Areia Branca beach, it’s an actual town where people live and not just a tourist destination. 

There were still a number of tourists at the beach when we visited, but they seemed to be mostly Portuguese compared to the international crowd in Ericeira. 

A car would be essential here. There is a bus to Lisbon that takes about an hour, but since it only leaves every 3 hours, that seems like it would start to get impractical pretty quickly.  

Emily & Chris Wilson

Emily & Chris Wilson

These Californians Moving To/Living In Portugal Group Members have just completed a 26 day scouting trip in Portugal.

Air Tag

Packing Cubes

Luggage Scale