Why Portugal?

Thanks to its unique combination of location, climate, history, safety, cost of living and the quality of its universities and infrastructure, Portugal offers an unparalleled location for study abroad for North American students .


Located on the southwestern coast of Europe, Portugal and its capital city, Lisbon, have been at the center of various waves of “globalization” linking Europe to Africa, the Americas and Asia. This propitious location, among other factors, allowed for an age of Portuguese “discoveries” during the 15th and 16th centuries that brought the language to the other continents. Whereas the Portuguese were the “first in and last out” of the European imperialist project, the positive legacies of that era are now visible in the cosmopolitanism of its cities, and the growing cultural and economic links between the various regions of the Lusophone world—which now represents the world’s 6th most spoken language.


Portugal has a mild Mediterranean climate with over 200 days of sun per year. It’s the perfect place to spend lots of time outdoors biking, hiking, sunbathing, or spending the afternoon in an outdoor cafe with friends. Lisbon is the sunniest European capital. It has some of Europe's mildest weather in the winter and pleasant summers.

The summer season is 6 months long, lasting from May to October, with average temperatures of 25°C (77°F) during the day and 16.2°C (61.2°F) at night.

December, January and February are the coldest and rainiest months, with an average daytime temperature during these 3 months of 15°C (60°F) and 9°C (48°F) at night.


Portugal is one of the world’s oldest nation-states, with over 800 years of history and relatively stable territorial borders. Washed over by civilizations such as the Celts, Visigoths, Phoenicians, Romans, and the Arab and Berber cultures of North Africa, the Portuguese developed a cosmopolitan outlook that was simultaneously influenced by many others while it was exported abroad.

During the colonial era, the links between the various parts of the Lusophone world could hardly be said to have been free and open, but today, Portugal is a small, open economy that exhibits a unique blend of Old and New World charms.

It’s a place where award-winning works of contemporary architecture coexist with picture-book castles, and where its various attractions keep making “best-of” lists of all kinds.


Portugal is a foodie’s paradise! Fresh fish - from grilled sardines to shellfish - is a must have in Lisbon. At many places you can pick from a wide selection of whatever was caught that day and the fish is grilled whole, head and all, for you to fillet yourself at your table. Bacalhau is another must. Salted, dried cod was the "faithful friend" that accompanied the Portuguese on their seagoing voyages. It remains the national dish that can be cooked in at least 365 ways. Meat-eaters won’t be disappointed either.

Try Carne de Porco Alentejana, which mixes cubes of pork, clams, and potatoes swimming in loads of garlicky goodness. Vegetarians and vegans no doubt face a tougher challenge outside of the capital city, but lots of options exist for those with more restricted diets too.

There are several typical markets in town to buy good quality products from local producers and dining out is very affordable.

Cafe culture is a big part of Portugal's national culture. Lisbon and Porto, in particular, have some of Europe's oldest and most beautiful cafes.

Coffee and pastries are served at all hours of the day and in as many varieties as you can imagine. Part of developing your Portuguese fluency will be learning the names of all the ways one can order an espresso-based drink in Lisbon and Porto, because the vocabulary changes based on location!

“Everything I love in life. This is it. Right here” says Anthony Bourdain. Take a look at his “No Reservations” show in Lisbon.


Besides its beauty, Portugal is also one of Europe’s safest countries, as evidenced by various crime statistics available on the Eurostat website. In terms of violent crime, Portugal is rated as the 18th safest country in the world (according to the 2014 Global Peace Index).

Lisbon, Portugal’s capital city, is in fact Europe’s safest capital, according to Eurostat (2010 report). Lisbon also ranks among the top 50 cities worldwide with respect to personal security (MERCER – Quality of living worldwide city rankings 2011).

No other Portuguese-speaking country enjoys this level of personal safety.

Cost of Living

Lisbon is one of the cheapest cities in the European Union – ranking 2nd and 6th in the years 2010 and 2011, among the 35 cities polled by Cushman & Wakefield.

Practical examples of the cost of living in Lisbon:

Practical examples of the cost of living in Lisbon:
1 croissant or other pastry + espresso in most Lisbon cafes= €1.75
1 McMenu Big Mac, with fries and drink = €5.40
A grilled ham and cheese + bowl of soup in most cafes = about €4
1 gelato cone at Lisbon's best ice cream shop= €2.30
1 Daily Newspaper = €1.10
1 Metro ride = €1.75
1 ticket Lisbon - Porto = €42.90 (fast train) / 35.90 (regular)
1 Liter of Gas = €1.57 (1 Gallon = 3.785 Liters)
For a nice guide on how to shop around for the best bank rates, see here.


To access cash in Euros, students are usually best served by simply using their ATM cards from the USA. Most US banks charge a fee for each foreign transaction though, so check with your bank about their policy for foreign ATM use and foreign purchase fees. Portuguese ATMs do not charge you a fee at the kiosk, only your home bank charges you.

The maximum withdrawal per ATM transaction is €200. Students will often need cash because many vendors do not take Visa nor MasterCard, only Portuguese Multibanco cards. For a nice guide on how to shop around for the best bank rates in the US, see here.

US students who are staying for an entire academic year may find it useful to open up a Portuguese checking account, which we can help you open.

Quality of University Infrastructure

Portugal offers students an accredited network of both public and private universities and research centers, promoting close collaboration with higher education institutions of international standing (such as MIT Portugal, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Texas-Austin).

To give just one example of the quality of Portuguese higher education programs, The Lisbon MBA was created through a partnership between the Nova University of Lisbon, the Catholic University of Portugal, (both part of the SiPN Study Abroad consortium) and the MIT Sloan School of Management. It was considered the 52nd best Global MBA in the world by the Financial Times (2014). The city also offers several other top quality MBA and executive programs. Universities and research centers in Lisbon intensively encourage exchange between teachers, students and researchers through various international cooperation programs, especially Erasmus. In 2010 / 2011, Lisbon received approximately 3400 Erasmus/European students..

Portugal - A Gateway to the World

Portugal has a unique and strategic location. Portuguese market is far larger than it may initially appear. It has 10.6 million people in the mainland and in Madeira and Azores islands, but it is also a gateway to a market of about 250 million people in the Portuguese speaking countries. And furthermore, there are 4 million more Portuguese and their descendents living abroad settled mainly in France, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, US, Canada, Venezuela and Brazil.

Portuguese is the 5th most widely spoken language in the world shared by the CPLP (Portuguese Speaking Countries Community) countries like Brazil (one of the BRIC countries), Angola (one of the fastest growing economies), Mozambique, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Principe, Guinea-Bissau and East Timor.


Lisbon was awarded the title of European City of the Year in both 2010 and 2012, as well as being listed as a top Value Destination by the London Times. In 2014 it was also awarded “European Entrepreneurial Region of the Year 2015” thanks to the success of its efforts to welcome new startups to the city.

And given its close proximity (30 mins by public transport) to beautiful towns like Sintra, Cascais, and the surf meccas of Guincho (live stream) and Costa da Caparica ( live stream), Lisbon offers a quality of life that is unmatched.

Check out why Lisbon is Europe’s coolest city accordingly to CNN, here

10 Reasons to Study in Lisbon

Some Lisbon key figures: 104 Higher Ed insitutions
140.000 Higher Ed students
30.000 new bachelor degrees per year
158 R&D centers
15.000 Researchers
12 areas for companies incubation and acceleration
3 Science and Technology parks
15 Foundations linked with R&D
72 Student Residencies
2,3% of the city GDP applied to R&D

Lisbon interactive knowledge Map, here (Portuguese)

Take a look at the video produced by a romenian erasmus student who won a free MBA for win this video contest, here

“Lisbon: There may be no better place on the planet to be young and bold – if only in spirit .” - The New York Times

Art Scene

Pound for pound, it’s hard to imagine any other city of its size with a more flourishing arts and music scene.

Lisbon has long been one of the prettiest cities in Europe. Its pitched hills and valleys are like a Mediterranean-flavored San Francisco, and the streets seem to wear art on every surface. Beaux-Arts buildings are sheathed in Moorish tiles of bright blues and sunset reds; the sidewalks, too, are covered in mosaics.

Before it spread, the city’s street-art scene was concentrated in Bairro Alto, a hilltop bohemian neighborhood that was home to punks, metalheads, goths, gays, writers and artists in the 1980s and ’90s. The winding quarter still has the best bars, cafes, galleries, restaurants, boutiques, gay clubs and discos.

“Young Lisbon is indeed building like crazy: there is street art on decaying walls, experimental theater at the harbor, raves in old canneries. Everywhere, the anything-might-happen energy has spurred a desperation to create. Even the city has gotten into the act, setting up public walls as canvases and opening the Galeria De Arte Urbana to archive the graffiti .” (Crash and Boom, NY Times about Lisbon)

“LISBON has no idea how cool it is. The city lives in the shadow of Europe's superstar capitals” ( In Two Lively Districts in Lisbon, Every Night is a Block Party, NY Times)

More on the Art Scene:

Lisbon: Art Galore (Huffingtonpost)

Lisbon: Investing in Art & Design (ozy.com)

Lisbon Comes Alive (NY Times)

Portuguese artist, Joana Vasconcelos: Versailles (The Guardian on Joana Vasconcellos, the first woman featured in an exhibit at Versailles, Paris)