The medieval city of Viseu, with a population of 100,000, sits in the center of Portugal. Surrounded by mountains and rivers, the city’s most notable resident was Vasco Fernandes, a 16th-century painter who left his brush stroke on the city. The presence of man was evident here as far back as the Iron Age, over 2,500 years ago, so it’s no wonder that the city is rich in history and medieval charm.
The main plaza, Praça da República, offers a lively cafe culture, perfect for sampling one of the gastronomic favorites like roasted veal, or sipping Portuguese wine while people watching. Large statues decorate the cobbled, tree-lined streets, granite buildings with balconies overlook the busy plaza, and nearby parks offer a relaxing spot to breathe it all in.
Retire in Viseu
For those who desire cooler weather, affordable living, plenty of history, natural beauty, and top-notch medical care, Viseu might be for you. As a resident of Portugal, you will have access to the low-cost public healthcare system or you can choose to pay a bit more and be seen at one of the private institutions. CUF is a well-known, private medical facility with branches throughout the country, including Viseu. Here you can choose an English-speaking doctor of your choice and will often be seen the same day, if necessary. Dental care in Portugal is also first-rate with English-speaking dentists found almost everywhere, at a fraction of the U.S. prices.
Shoppers will delight in the two shopping malls in Viseu. Palácio do Gelo boasts over 60 stores, a cinema (with movies in English), the largest hyper-mart (department store) in the area, and even an ice skating rink, the largest on the Iberian Peninsula. And if you cannot find what you need there, head over to Forum Viseu for more shopping bliss.
Because the city has such a large expat and tourist presence, English speakers can be found. But just like anywhere in the country, learning a bit of the local language will enhance your experience and make your daily life easier. Besides that, language learning helps our aging brains to stay young. Portuguese lessons can be found online before your move or with local teachers once you settle in. The government even offers free Portuguese lessons to foreigners at local high schools that run alongside the school year.
The cost of living in Viseu is enticing. A couple could live nicely in the city center for $2,000 a month, depending on lifestyle.
Things to Do in Viseu
Just like the rest of Portugal, there is no shortage of things to do and see near Viseu. Go hiking in the Serra da Estrela mountains, the tallest in the country, or enjoy some winter fun on the slopes, at Portugal’s only ski resort.
Take to the water on the Vouga and Dão rivers for some kayaking, swimming, or relaxing outdoor fun. If a day on the coast is more to your liking, drive a little over an hour to the Matosinhos beaches near Porto. Just be prepared since the Atlantic Ocean water temperatures stay cool year-round here.
Since Portugal is such a compact country it’s easy to get around. From Viseu the famous Douro wine region of Porto is just a little over an hour's drive. With its international airport, lively and colorful riverfront, and gastronomic pleasures, it makes for an easy day trip. The university city of Coimbra with its medieval old town and sizeable medical complex offers some of the best physicians in the country, and is just an hour away.
Cost of Living in Viseu
Portugal offers a cost of living far lower than what most North Americans are used to back home, and Viseu is no exception. A couple could live here nicely on about $2,000 a month. Expect to pay about $600 to $700 for a two-bedroom, furnished, city-center apartment. Plan on another $120 for utilities which includes water, gas, and electricity. This will increase in the winter with use of electric heating or in summer if air conditioners are used often. High-speed internet and phone plans cost around $60. For those who choose to live without a car, a public transportation pass runs around $35.
Portugal offers excellent, affordable private health insurance options for all ages. Plans start around $100 for a couple but will increase with age, pre-existing conditions, and how comprehensive the plan is. To have your pre-existing conditions covered, be sure that you can prove continuous coverage with the insurance policy that covered your pre-existing condition in the first place, otherwise, it may be denied.
Groceries are delicious throughout Portugal and affordable. Add about $400 to your monthly budget for food if you cook a lot and dine in, or adjust accordingly if you eat out more.
Optional expenses might include: a gym membership for two, $60; owning a car and related expenses, $150; and dining out several times a week, $200. Portugal offers all types of cuisine, from the simple meal of the day for $6 to $12, to fine dining establishments. Types of gastronomy include Portuguese, Indian, Thai, Italian, Mexican, fast food, and vegan/vegetarian options too. Even shopping mall food courts offer excellent, cooked-to-order food, served on real plates for low prices.
Making friends with like-minded people is easy these days with social media platforms. Connect on Facebook with groups like: Coimbra, Mortagua & Viseu Social & Chat Group to find expats in the area. Other informative Facebook groups include Americans & Friends PT which features a “files” section with PDFs on various subjects for you to download. These have been written and updated continually by expats who have already made the move to Portugal and who wish to share their insights with newcomers. Inter Nations Social Group can be found in larger cities and hold meet-ups for expats on a regular basis. There are groups for most everyone and whether you want to join a yoga group, find fellow hikers for outings, take cooking classes, learn Portuguese, or just meet new friends for dinner, you will find other expats here to do it with.
Featured image: ©iStock/JLGutierrez