Updated: May 20, 2024

 

When Portugal comes to mind, you’ll maybe think of the captivating capital, Lisbon, with its sweeping views of the Tagus River and the impressive Ponte 25 de Abril Bridge. Or perhaps the Algarve, with its endless miles of sparkling beaches and blue waters. Porto, the historic second-largest city, may also spring to mind, renowned for its incredible gastronomy, friendly locals, and Port wine houses. One location that may not be on your radar – yet – is Guarda, a stunning city and municipality that can be found in Central Portugal, around 30 minutes to the east of the Spanish border.

In this article, we’ll delve into this relatively hidden treasure of Portugal. Living in Guarda promises a relaxed, high quality of life and natural beauty unlike anywhere else in the county, with its river beaches and the Serra da Estrela mountains close at hand.

Introduction to Guarda

guarda-header-districtGuarda is a Portuguese city located in the heart of Portugal, in the sub-region of Beiras and Serra da Estrela. With a relatively small population of just over 40,000 inhabitants, the city retains a close-knitted, community feel and is also the city in Portugal with the highest altitude, about 1056 meters.

In the Guarda district, you’ll find villages and towns that have a rich history, given the strategic location of Guarda close to the Spanish border. Founded in 1197, Guarda was given a royal charter by Sancho I and was to be protection – or a guard – against Moorish invaders, hence the name of the city. The impressive Guarda Cathedral, built between 1390 and 1540 in the Gothic style, contrasts with the granite houses, providing a unique center point of the city and rightly establishing itself as one of the greatest monuments in Portugal.

With stunning natural landscapes, from several unique river beaches to the Serra da Estrela mountains, the highest mountain range in mainland Portugal, Guarda is a treat for nature enthusiasts. Food lovers will also be thrilled by the restaurants here, where the focus is on local produce and maximizing flavor. Indeed, the local cuisine and dining in Guarda Portugal is one of the key selling points of the city and municipality, and the local cheeses and chorizo are sought after across the country.

Cost of Living in Guarda

Living in Portugal is generally reasonable compared to America and Western European countries. The cost of living in Guarda, from property to dining out, is very affordable. Below, we’ll provide you with some more up-to-date information on what you can expect in terms of living costs.

Property Prices

Property prices in Guarda are relatively low compared to other Portuguese cities. The average asking price for property in Guarda is €689 per square meter. Note that this is the average asking price, and the sales price can be significantly lower than this, as sellers aim to sell by a specific date.

Rental prices

Rental prices in Guarda are also reasonable, and you may find it wise to rent a place before buying property. You will be able to use it as a base to then scout out the perfect property, while also being able to discover the different neighborhoods to find the ones you like the most.

When it comes to rental prices, a one-bedroom apartment in the city center will cost around €350 per month, while as you move away from the center, prices will fall. A three-bedroom apartment in the city center will cost you around €650 euros per month, while outside the city center will set you back around €500 per month. Rental prices in Guarda are almost 270 percent lower than in Lisbon.

Utilities

The cost of utilities, including electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage, for an 85m2 apartment will cost around €117 per month.

Food

The cost of groceries in Guarda is generally lower compared to larger cities in Portugal. Basic items like bread, milk, and vegetables are reasonably priced, with a weekly grocery bill for a single person averaging around €30 to €50. And when it comes to dining out, a meal for one at an inexpensive restaurant will cost around €9, while a three-course meal for two at a nice restaurant will cost around €47.

Quality of Life in Guarda

goldcrest-real-estate-portugal-lifestyleNature lovers moving to Guarda will be in their element. Whether you like hiking, biking, or skiing, you’ll find plenty of options around Guarda to enjoy the stunning natural beauty of the region. The incredible Serra da Estrela mountains are just a short distance away, as are several river beaches, perfect in the summer and much less busy than beaches in hotspot locations.

In Guarda, you’ll be able to embrace a good work life balance, particularly if you are working remotely, and you’ll have the time to enjoy nature to the fullest and the rich history of the area. You’ll find a range of health and wellness centers close by, the Mondego Walkways, suspension bridges with stunning views, and, for history and culture lovers, the Guarda National Republica Museum and the Museu do Côa, which celebrates prehistoric art of the Côa Valley and the Douro wine landscapes.

If you are considering moving to Guarda Portugal from abroad with family, you’ll find that you have more time to spend quality time together as it is possible to enjoy the great outdoors for much of the year.

Education in Guarda

You will find a range of public and private schools in and around Guarda, many of which are excellent. If you are looking for an international school, however, you will not find any options in this part of Portugal, as they tend to be clustered in Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve.

Some of the best schools in Guarda include Escola Secundária Afonso de Albuquerque, Escola Secundária da Sé, and Escola Profissional da Guarda. These institutions offer quality education to students across various levels and disciplines.

Guarda also houses institutions of higher learning like Escola Superior de Saúde and Instituto Politécnico da Guarda.

Healthcare Services in Guarda Portugal

Healthcare-in-PortugalThere are several hospitals in Guarda, such as ULS – Unidade de Saúde Local da Guarda and Casa De Saúde Bento Menni, meaning that you can get professional assistance quickly. If you are a resident of Portugal, you will be able to access the SNS (National Health Service) for a minimal cost.

If you are seeking private healthcare, you will also find several options, although not as extensively as in bigger cities. Particularly if you are moving to Portugal from the USA, you will find private healthcare and healthcare insurance to be far cheaper than in America.

Transportation in Guarda

transport-in-braga

While there are local bus services that can get you around Guarda, it is easier to have a car to make the most of living in Guarda. Guarda has important road access, such as the A25, which connect Porto and Aveiro, as well as the Spanish border, providing direct access to Madrid, the Spanish capital.

The A23 connects Guarda to Lisbon and you can also get to north Portugal quickly, with the IP2 connecting Guarda to Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, namely Bragança.

Guarda is also linked by good train links and is strategically located to get around Europe, with the city a hub for storing and transporting goods. You will also find taxi and Uber services available, although not as extensively as in bigger cities.

Top Things to Do in Guarda Portugal

The major selling point of Guarda and this part of Portugal is the stunning scenery and the authentic Portuguese ambiance that can be felt here. At times it can feel like stepping back in time. In this section, we’ll delve into the key things to do in Guarda.

Serra da Estrela

Guarda is situated a short drive away from the majestic Serra da Estrela mountain range, the highest in mainland Portugal. Residents enjoy access to breathtaking landscapes, skiing in winter, and hiking trails in summer. It’s a haven for outdoor enthusiasts seeking adventure, calm tranquility, and the beauty of unspoiled nature. At the top of Serra da Estrela, you’ll find a small market type building where you can enjoy excellent local produce and buy leather jackets at very affordable prices. Indeed, outdoor activities and hiking in Guarda Portugal allow you to live an active life throughout the year.

River beaches

In this part of Portugal, you’ll find many river beaches, which have become increasingly sought after by locals and tourists looking to enjoy a cool dip in the water, particularly refreshing in the warm summer months.

Guarda offers serene river beaches like Vale do Rossim and Loriga, perfect for relaxation and water activities. With pristine waters and surrounding natural beauty, they provide ideal spots for picnics, sunbathing, fishing, and swimming, attracting locals and tourists alike to enjoy leisurely moments by the water’s edge.

There are also many river beaches to be found in Beira Alta and Valelhas, both favorite spots for bathers. In 2023, Valelhas was ranked in the top three beaches according to the public.

Local produce

Living in Portugal as an expat, you can’t fail to appreciate the Portuguese love of good food. Local produce is celebrated in Guarda, as it is in all interior areas of Portugal. Guarda’s fertile lands yield a bounty of local produce, including local cheeses (such as the incredible queijo da Serra da Estrela), cured meats, olives, and chestnuts. Residents savor the freshness and quality of these goods, often found in markets and traditional eateries. You will find several family-owned restaurants, known as tascas, to enjoy exceptional food typical of the region.

Health and wellness

In the Guarda district, opportunities for health and well-being abound, offering a range of thermal spas for visitors to enjoy. Thermal resorts boast facilities designed with a holistic wellness concept, combining healthcare services with spa and well-being treatments. The interior of Portugal is becoming increasingly sought after for tourists and residents looking for boutique spas and wellness retreats outside bustling cities, and you’ll find several options in and around Guarda.

Mondego walkways

The Mondego Walkways, located in Guarda, have received recognition at the 2024 World Travel Awards as the Leading Tourism Development Project. This route utilizes 5 km of existing pathways and incorporates a 7 km area featuring crossings, walkways, and suspension bridges amidst stunning landscapes. It provides ample breathing space, with an abundance of paths, dams, waterfalls, and mills. Situated within the Serra da Estrela Natural Park and the Estrela UNESCO World Geopark, the Mondego walkways offer an immersive experience in nature.

Iberian studies center

Established to boost understanding of the varied cultures of the Iberian Peninsula and delve into the study of Iberian Civilization, the Iberian Studies Center embodies a cross-border collaboration. This partnership has been forged between the Guarda City Council, the University of Coimbra, the University of Salamanca, and the Polytechnic Institute of Guarda. This interesting center is well worth a visit and you’re guaranteed to boost your knowledge significantly should you pass through its doors.

Museums

Guarda’s museums offer captivating insights into the region’s rich cultural and historical heritage. From the Museum of Guarda, showcasing local art and artifacts, to the Museu do Pão (Bread Museum), celebrating the history of bread-making, these institutions preserve and share the stories and traditions that shape Guarda’s identity, inviting visitors to explore its past and present. The Museu do Côa, which we mentioned earlier, is also a must-visit for history lovers.

Is Guarda safe?

Portugal is one of the safest countries in the world, ranking in seventh position in the 2023 Global Peace Index. In Guarda, you will find low levels of crime and a close community where it is easy to get to know the locals, with them often going out of their way to assist you in transitioning to life in Portugal. You may want to learn some basic Portuguese language as residents of Guarda will be less likely to speak English as they would in Lisbon, Porto, or other more sought-after locations.

Conclusion: Is Guarda the right place for you?

Guarda is a picturesque city nestled in the heart of the Portuguese countryside, with fantastic scenery and points of interest on all side, from the magical river beaches to the towering Serra da Estrela mountains. While more remote that some other cities, the incredible nature of the area is putting Guarda on the map, with wellness and eco-retreats opening up in the interior of Portugal to cater to growing demand.

With an affordable real estate market and the potential for capital appreciation in the future, Guarda could be a good investment option, while families looking to relocate will find the opportunity to enjoy an active lifestyle with many private and public schools available.

The bottom line will depend on what you are after. If you are looking to secure your dream property in a bustling city or enjoy endless summer days by the ocean on a pristine beach, then Guarda is probably not the best spot. However, if you are looking to embrace an authentic Portuguese lifestyle, where you can enjoy some of the best food that Portugal has to offer, then Guarda may well be the perfect location.

Frequently Asked Questions about Living in Guarda

The cost of living in Guarda is relatively affordable compared to other European and American cities. Restaurant prices in Guarda are 58 percent lower than in Washington DC, while groceries are 51 percent lower, and rent is a staggering 83 percent lower.

When it comes to the weather and climate in Guarda Portugal, this part of the country experiences a mild Mediterranean climate with hot summers and mild winters. Summers are dry and sunny, with temperatures averaging around 25 Degrees C (77 Degrees F), while winters are cool and wet, with temperatures around 10 Degrees C (50 Degrees F).

The best neighborhoods to live in Guarda include the historic city center, where you’ll find charming cobblestone streets, picturesque Portuguese architecture, and historic buildings, as well as areas like São Vicente. The charming villages of Castelo Mendo and Almeida nearby are also good options if you want to enjoy living in the heart of nature.

The education system in Guarda Portugal is the same as in the rest of the country and is largely excellent. Guarda has several good schools and universities, including the University of Beira Interior, offering a range of undergraduate and graduate programs in various fields. Note that there are no international schools in Guarda, as these are mainly found in Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve.

Public transportation options in Guarda Portugal rely on local buses to get around, but you will also find taxis and Uber to help you get around. We recommend having a car if you choose to relocate here as it will make getting around much easier.

Expat life in Guarda Portugal is focused on enjoying the bounty of nature. Guarda offers a range of recreational activities, including hiking in the Serra da Estrela Natural Park, visiting historical sites like the Guarda Cathedral, and enjoying cultural events and festivals throughout the year. There are also several riverbanks that come alive in the summer months.

Yes, Guarda is considered a safe city to live in, with low crime rates and a strong sense of community.

Guarda’s healthcare system is efficient and accessible, with public hospitals and clinics providing quality care to residents. Private healthcare options are also available and are very cheap when compared with private healthcare in the USA or other Western European countries.

Guarda offers job opportunities in various sectors, including tourism, education, healthcare, and technology, with a growing economy and a favorable business environment. However, you will likely need to speak Portuguese here as there are not so many international companies. The Digital Nomad Visa makes it possible to live in Portugal and work for a foreign (non-Portuguese) employer and can be a good option for you to relocate to Portugal. Working and living in Guarda Portugal presents the opportunity to live a balanced life where you can focus on spending time with your family.

There are many cultural activities in Guarda Portugal throughout the year. The city and municipality has a rich history and vibrant community, where you’ll find festivals like Festas da Cidade bring the locals together. Its lifestyle embraces nature with stunning landscapes for hiking in Serra da Estrela and countless beautiful river beaches. The gastronomy of Guarda is also excellent, with a focus on local produce, with the local cheeses and cured meats particularly sought after.