Where to study in Portugal?

Portugal is a great country to do your exchange in. It offers a range of good schools in different cities across the country. This post answers the questions: Where can I study in Portugal? Which cities in Portugal are best to study in? Which cities have a fun student-life?

The list of the cities with the main universities in Portugal, and their inhabitants, is shown below:

  1. Lisbon, 500,000
  2. Porto, 240,000
  3. Coimbra, 100,000
  4. Aveiro, 60,000
  5. Évora, 40,000
  6. Covilhã, 34,000

As you can see from the list, the cities in Portugal are way smaller than the cities in other countries like the US. However, what these cities lack in size they make up for it in their rich history, culture, and vibrant student life. I have been to all these cities and I can say they all had something to offer. However, they vary a lot both in size and in lifestyle.


Image of NOVA business school, arguably the school with the best location, having its own beach and in front of the surf spot of Carcavelos

Lisbon is the first city that comes to mind as a student city. The capital of Portugal offers the most schools as well as arguably the most prestigious ones.

Universidade de Lisboa, ULisboa

This is the largest university in terms of faculties and students. The University has a faculty of Architecture, Law, Litterature, Economics and Management, Social Science and many more. Depending on your faculty, your classes can be given in different parts of Lisbon.

ISCTE, Lisbon School of business and Economics

Located in the center of Lisbon, the school offers masters’ as well as erasmus exchanges to many European schools.

Nova School of Business and Economics

Located in Carcavelos, this school is outside of Lisbon and closer to the town of Oeiras. The public is supposed to be an example of the combination of public education and excellence. The school is one of the most prestigious in Portugal and its modern architecture and location on the beach makes it well sought-after as an Erasmus exchange.

Universidade Católica Portuguesa

It is a concordat university which is not run by the state. It is an organization with faculties all over Portugal. In Lisbon, Católica, or UCP as it is also called, has a faculty of Law, Economics, Health, Humanities, Theology and Political Studies.

IST, Institúto Superior Técnico

The engineering school is the most prestigious in Portugal. The school is actually part of ULisboa but is autonomous. The school is located near the metro of Alameda. It has three campuses: the Alameda campus in Lisbon, the Taguspark campus in Oeiras, and the Nuclear Technology campus in Loures.


View of the Ribeira of Porto. Image by J.deSousa CC-BY2.0

Porto, Portugal’s second-largest city, offers a wide choice of schools depending on your area of study. Historically, Porto has always rivaled Lisbon when it comes to the prestige of housing the best schools or faculties in Portugal.

Universidade de Porto

The main university of Porto with the most faculties. The university is the second largest one in terms of students after ULisboa. However, it is ranked as the best Portuguese university according to Webometrics (arriving at nr.56 in Europe’s best universities). It is all of the faculties you can think and some more.

Universidade Lusófona do Porto

The Lusófona university has a wide range of faculties ranging from arquitecture, arts and aeronautic to sports, psychology, veterenary and 

Universidade Portucalense

A private university, also called UPT has five departments offering study programmes in Law, Psychology, Economics and Management, Science and Technology and Tourism, Heritage and Culture

Politécnico do Porto (P.Porto)

This organization comprises several schools. Among these are ISEP engeneering school, ISCAP – Porto Accounting and Business, ESTG – School of Management and Technology and a few more in the areas of music, arts, tourism and education.

ISEP, Instituto Superior de Engenheria do Porto

As mentionned above, ISEP is part of P.Porto and is an engineering school with all kind of fields with an emphasis on applied science and technology. Their motto is “Saber-Fazer” which means “Know-How”. Their campus is in the north of Porto at the Pólo Universitario.


View over the Mondego river. Image by L. Ciuffo CC-BY 2.0
Image of the Portuguese Azulejo by A. Trepte CC-BY2.5

Universidade de Coimbra

Being one of the oldest universities still teaching in the world, the university of Coimbra has been educating the Portuguese elite throughout history. The University buildings themselves are also an UNESCO world heritage and houses arguably the most beautiful campus in world with a view overlooking the river Madugo.


Coimbra is also known for its student festivities called Queima das Fitas. The university is divided between 8-faculties:

  • Law
  • Medicine
  • Humanities
  • Sciences and Technology
  • Pharmacy
  • Economics
  • Psychology and Education
  • Sports Science


Logo of the University of Coimbra
Image of the University building on top of the hill in Coimbra. The school is a UNESCO world heritage site


Aveiro has several canals going thru it. Image by Joaomartinho63 CC-BY3.0

Universidade de Aveiro

Aveiro, also called the Venice of Portugal (see image above) has its own university and many Portuguese choose this city to spend their university years. Aveiro is located on the coast and has beautiful beaches.

The University has the following faculties:

  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Telecommunications
  • Robotics
  • Bioinformatics
  • Sea Sciences
  • Materials
  • Design
  • Business and Administration
  • Industrial Engineering
Image of the campus in Aveiro. Taken by V.Oliveira CC-BY2.0


University buildings in Évora were built in the 1500s. Image by J.Erskine-Kellie CC-BY2.0

Universidade de Évora

Located in the Alentejo region, Évora is a city surrounded by plains and oak trees. The city itself has been around since the Roman times and still has a Roman temple from the first century! The city with its historical center is also a UNESCO world heritage site. The university has the following faculties:

  • Architecture
  • Arts and design
  • Music
  • Engineering
  • Social Sciences
  • Health
  • and a lot more!
Image of the main town square in Évora. Image by P.Querci CC-BY3.0


View from the mountain over the town of Covilhã. Image by Lynx91 CC-BY3.0
Covilhã is situated next to Serra da Estrela. The mountain range offers great scenery

Universidade da Beira Interior

The university is located in Covilhã and is the only one in the town. However, it has several faculties like Sciences, Engineering, Social Sciences, Arts and Letters, and Health Sciences. Covilhã is located next to the Serra da Estrela mountain range which makes it a somewhat remote place compared to the rest of Portugal. But it is surrounded by nature and amazing views from the hilltops as is shown in the picture. If you enjoy skiing then Covilhã is also a great place to study in.

Worth to mention

The universities mentioned above are mostly the more known ones as well as the cities with the most schools. Other cities that have universities are also the ones located in Braga, Faro, and Ponta Delgada in the Azores for example.

To Sum-up

Portugal is one of the countries with the oldest universities in the world. This can be seen in the number of universities despite the small cities. All of the cities above are great places to live in because it is Portugal but each of them has something unique to offer. If you like hiking then Covilhã is a good choice, however, if you enjoy surfing and the coast then Lisbon or Aveiro are great choices. Whichever you choose to do your exchange I am sure that you would have a great time. Also, Portugal is small so you can still visit all the other cities during your stay!

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