Portugal has become a hot expat destination in recent years, championed for having all the charm of its bigger Mediterranean neighbour but at more affordable prices.
But rather than moving to the increasingly expensive Lisbon, or the urban Porto, how about considering a move to one of Portugal’s historic third city – Braga?
Located in Portugal’s northwest Minho Province, Braga is known as the religious centre of Portugal – and the city’s lifestyle is as relaxed as the architecture is beautiful there.
Braga is a city full of surprises. It’s a place steeped in history and with a proud religious heritage, and yet thrives as a modern university city around a beating medieval heart. This makes Braga a great place to live, not just for those wanting to spend their retirement years in a charming and affordable Portuguese city, but also for younger families and students.
Braga’s history reaches back thousands of years, and its classical architecture hints at its Roman past. The city’s name even comes from its Roman name of “Bracara Augusta” – named after Emperor Augustus when it was founded in 20 BC.
Myriad Romanesque and Baroque works of architecture dot Braga’s cityscape, with many of them being considered national monuments as well as tourist attractions. At the same time the city is also home to many Modernist buildings and structures and attracts students of design from across Europe.
And while Braga is considered Portugal’s religious heart, this city of 190,000 people showed it was also forward-looking when it was named the ‘2012 European Capital of Youth’. Pilgrims sometimes head there after they have been to Spain’s Santiago de Compostela, which lies not too far away over the border.
Days in Braga tend to be relaxed, with many people commonly getting around by bicycle, relaxing in cafés and exploring the numerous places of art and culture – both historic and modern – the city has to offer.
Then, as evening sets in, the centre of Braga becomes a bustling scene of nightlife. In certain parts of the city, there’s a huge variety in bars, clubs and shows all within walking distance of one another.
Perhaps the best part is that – while modern Braga may be a university city – none of its delights are limited by age; the city’s residents are just too laid-back to worry about that.
It’s worth mentioning that despite being a city known mostly for its religious piety, the people of Braga are welcoming and accepting to people of all kinds of backgrounds and religions.
Maybe there’s a catch in the weather? Nope – Braga has a pleasantly temperate Atlantic seaboard climate and is known for having mild Mediterranean-like weather and clearly defined seasons. Still, it’s worth noting that due to its distance from the ocean, Braga can have hot summers. Just be careful if you aren’t good with temperatures over 25C!
Despite being one of Portugal’s most populous cities, Braga isn’t all that big. In fact it’s a densely populated city that you can get around quickly, compared to its counterparts. The majority of residents are packed into Braga’s cosy inner urban area.
The city’s tightly packed nature means that no matter where you choose to live the experience will be similar and different districts have relatively similar living costs to one another. However, costs get cheaper outside the main city areas as the population density slides.
It’s so easy to walk around the city’s sights and attractions that some people manage to cover most of it in a single day. Still, some places away from the city centre will require public transport – or at least a longer walk.
As you might expect, the very core of the city centre is where you’re most likely to find most bars, restaurants, and historic monuments. Perhaps the best known of Braga’s attractions is the world-famous Bom Jesus do Monte church in the parish of Nogueiró e Tenões.
So which part of Braga is right for you? That really depends on how much you’re willing to spend on rent – and what kind of lifestyle you are looking to attain.
If you choose to set up in an historic zone right next to national monument you’ll find some beautiful – but expensive – properties. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a cheaper, more village-based life, just head outside the city proper to find one of the settlements on the outskirts.
In terms of transport, there’s a very efficient bus system, and you can always drive or bike if you live away from the centre.
What can you expect to pay if you rent somewhere in Braga? Well, the typical monthly cost to rent an apartment in a city area is about €400, while an apartment on the outskirts costs around €270.
If you’re looking to buy, apartments start below €100,000 and move up from there.
Braga might be beautiful, convenient, and cheap – in fact it almost sounds too good to be true – but that’s no reason to get careless with your money if you end up moving there.
It’s recommended that you use a trusted currency broker when moving any large sum of money abroad for purchasing property or other assets. This way you won’t waste money on uncompetitive exchange rates and being charged outrageous fees.
Another way to save money on a move is to consider shipping over your own furniture. It’s fairly affordable to get a removals truck from the UK or mainland Europe to Portugal, and even with insurance it can work out cheaper than buying new furniture in Portugal.
So, what are you waiting for? Make the move, and you’ll have something to Braga-bout!
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