Thinking about living in Lisbon?
This city has become the talk of the town for expats and digital nomads. Lisbon has become a popular tourist destination, but as people visit and fall in love with the city, everyone at some point asks, “Should I move here?”
What is it about Lisbon that captivates its visitors? There are a lot of upsides to living in Lisbon. Is it the endless sunshine (321/365 days of sunshine to be exact)? Or maybe it’s the historic cobblestone streets and unique architecture that mesmerizes you every time you step out your door. Well the truth is…it’s so much more than that!
We visited Lisbon for a month, living as digital nomads and exploring this city. Only then did we finally understand the hype! It’s no wonder many people are thinking about living in Lisbon.
But aside from all the amazing reasons why you would move to Lisbon, there’s some downsides lurking around the corner. A lot has changed for Portugal and Lisbon specifically in recent years…it’s important to know what you’re getting into before moving all the way there.
In this blog post, we will explore both the pros and cons of calling Lisbon home, whether that’s for a month as a digital nomad or for years as an expat. Matthew and I will share the realities of Lisbon life to help you understand the honest truth of what it’s like to live in this Portuguese capital.
Key Takeaways Of Living In Lisbon
Living in Lisbon is a dream many people have. The city has this perfect blend of culture, history, architecture and great weather year-round that make it a great place to live. There’s a reason this city has grown to become one of the top travel destinations. But that in and of itself comes with downsides.
Here’s the key takeaways of living in Lisbon:
- City + Nature Combo: Lisbon’s location means that you can live the bustling city life and still travel only 15 to 20 minutes to get to the beach or go hiking in the mountains.
- Beautiful Weather Year-Round: Lisbon boasts 300+ days of sunshine per year which makes it one of the sunniest capital cities in Europe. You can go to the beach for most of the year and the winters are more mild compared to other countries in Europe.
- Great Work-Life Balance: This Portuguese capital city offers its residents a good balance between work and life. It’s easy to network and connect with others in the professional space but there’s also a lot of groups doing different hobbies like hiking. You can easily connect or disconnect depending on your needs.
However, every city has its flaws and Lisbon is no exception. There’s a lot of drawbacks to living in Lisbon like:
- Rising Cost of Living: The good ole “cheap” days are gone. Lisbon’s cost of living is slowly rising and the unfortunate thing is – the rental prices are getting out of hand. For an old T1 apartment, they are starting to charge anywhere from €1300 to €5000 ($1395 to $5370 USD). So it’s pretty pricey now and difficult to find a decent place to live.
- Crowds Are Part Of Your Life: The tourist boom has changed the city in many ways. There’s just so many more people around, especially during the peak months. As with most major tourist destinations, this has become the norm. Hopefully, you get used to it, otherwise it can annoy you every time you step out of your house.
Now that you’ve got a quick glimpse into the pros and cons of living in Lisbon…We are going to move into a more in-depth look at what it’s REALLY like.
The Pros vs. Cons Of Living In Lisbon, Portugal
A lot of people are wondering… “Why visit Lisbon?”
Now that the secret is out and everyone knows how great this city is…everyone is visiting! More than that, the city naturally captivates people on their trips and makes them think, “What if I move here?”
We all do it, even as digital nomads. Whenever we fall in love with a destination, we’re like, let’s move here already! But after a few weeks, you can start to see the cracks in this picture-perfect city. We spent a month living in Lisbon to see if we’d like it, and the results? They were not what we were expecting (and we came with an open mind).
There’s pros and cons to living in Lisbon and we hope to give you a balanced (yet honest) view of what life looks like in this capital city. Weigh up each pro and con for yourself…every person’s wants and needs are different!
Let’s get into it!
The Pros Of Living In Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon has risen on the charts as one of the best places to live in the world. There’s a lot to love and as soon as you visit for yourself – it will just click! Here are 11x reasons why living in Lisbon is a great choice:
1. High Quality Of Life / Great Lifestyle
The quality of life you can have in Lisbon is very high. The city is relatively safe, transportation is affordable and efficient, there’s opportunities all around and you will never get bored with all the activities/events running every few weeks.
The other reason you can have such a great lifestyle in Lisbon is because of the weather – there’s 300+ days of sunshine! There’s this great combination of city life plus nature and beaches just around the corner. If the hustle and bustle of the city gets too overwhelming (trust me, it does eventually)…you can easily escape to nature within 15 to 30 minutes!
What about the social life? The most unique thing about Lisbon is that you get the big city life with all the conveniences, but there’s still this small-town feel with the expat or digital nomad community. Lisbon is a great size to know enough people but not to run into them around every corner, you know?
If you’re looking for a high standard of living with this balance between work and leisure, living in Lisbon is ideal for you.
2. Affordable Cost Of Living (Except Rent)
This will always be a hard thing to talk about. The cost of living is both a pro and con but let me explain why:
Whether you’re simply booking a hotel/Airbnb or you’re looking to rent or buy a house, the prices for accommodation have risen. That’s just a given now!
Other than that though, is Lisbon still expensive?
We don’t think so! In our experience of living in Lisbon for a month, we felt like it was very easy to stay on or below budget (aside from rent). And we’re pretty stingy, so that’s saying something lol! Our cost of living in Lisbon was $1,393 USD for 1 month for 2 people (excluding rent). We spent a lot more on dining out than we usually would because we enjoyed it so much, but for activities we only spent $150 USD and our gym membership only cost $35 USD for a month! See…other than rent, the general expenses in Lisbon are still relatively low.
I visited Lisbon on a solo trip way back in 2015 before it got as popular as it is now. Prices were very cheap and affordable at that time, it was one of the best places for exchange students (like me) to go because of the low costs. But…
Is Lisbon expensive now?
Yes and no… The main price difference you will feel is the accommodation costs. Other than that, it’s all still relatively affordable when compared to other capital cities in Europe like Paris or Amsterdam.
That’s why I’ve made the low cost of living a pro for living in Lisbon because in more ways than one, it’s still affordable! The only downside is that with the tourist boom, prices for hotels and Airbnbs have risen. Not only that, as more expats move to this city, the rental and sale prices for apartments have also risen.
3. Wifi Is Ultra Fast
Do you work online?
Or maybe you work from home?
A fast wifi connection is essential for most people these days. And you are going to love this about living in Lisbon.
The wifi is extremely fast! Wherever we travel, we always check the wifi speeds because it’s a factor we have to consider every time. A slow internet speed is never fun and often can make us change location – after all, we need to keep this blog going to help more people like you!
But you don’t have to worry about wifi issues in Lisbon, Portugal! We checked the wifi speeds everywhere we went in this city — at our coliving space, at some coworking spaces and even at some cafes…and they were always above 300+ Mbps! In some places, we even got 650 Mbps, which is a crazy number to see on the speed test because it is so rare. The only other place we’ve seen such fast wifi speeds like that is in Thailand!
Living in Lisbon is an excellent choice if your work heavily relies on a fast, steady internet connection! This is part of what makes it great for digital nomads and why a lot of online entrepreneurs also find their way to this coastal city.
4. Coworking Spaces Everywhere
Want to get work done and connect with like-minded people?
One of the best places to do that is a coworking space and I’m just going to say this once: You don’t have to be a digital nomad to work from a coworking space. A lot of residents and expats will also work from a coworking space because they know the value that it can bring to their professional life.
When you live in Lisbon, you won’t have any issues finding a coworking space. There’s so many good coworking spaces in Lisbon to choose from. They all have events on the side that give you the opportunity to make new friends which is essential when you move to a foreign, new place.
If you want to network, collaborate or simply stay productive while living in Lisbon, there are plenty of coworking spaces to support you in that.
5. Thriving International Community For All Groups
As a mixed kid myself, I can appreciate a place that embraces diversity. Lisbon is quite the multicultural city where diverse groups of people from all walks of life can come together. This creates an open, welcoming atmosphere, especially if you are trying to integrate into the culture or make some friends!
You won’t have a shortage of international clubs, groups or events, making it easy to find your own little community and build good connections. If you struggle to make friends or you’re just a little shy (like me), it will be much easier to find your people while living in Lisbon. A great place to start is Facebook Groups, simply search “Lisbon” or “Portugal” and join the groups that interest you!
What about local connections? It might take a little more time to get some local friends. The Portuguese people are friendly, although they might seem a little reserved at first. It will just take a little longer to make connections but I believe that it’ll be worth it!
6. Very Safe
Safety is a big concern for me. If I don’t feel safe, I can never feel comfortable living in a certain place. Thankfully…
…Lisbon ranks as one of the safest capital cities in Europe. The crime rates are relatively low and there’s a strong sense of community, having each other’s backs. You can safely and peacefully explore the city without worrying that someone will snatch something from you. In saying this, no place is 100% safe! Common sense is required, no matter where you live or travel.
In our personal experience, when we lived in Lisbon for a month, we felt very safe the entire time. In fact, I feel way safer in Lisbon than I do in Paris, for example (iykyk). When I was on exchange, I wanted to do female solo travel and my dad made me create a shortlist of the safest cities in Europe…Lisbon was one of the top destinations! He felt better when I mentioned I could travel to Lisbon or Copenhagen, obviously I chose Lisbon in the end.
You still have to be aware of your surroundings and be vigilant if you venture into further neighborhoods. Choosing the best areas to stay in Lisbon is another way to feel a little more safe as you walk around. There are bad neighborhoods wherever you go and Lisbon is no exception.
7. Beautiful Beaches Just A Train Ride Away
Lisbon’s picturesque location along the coast means you have easy access to some of the most stunning beaches.
Living in Lisbon means you’re only a train ride away! I love living close to the beach…the feeling of being landlocked is not something I enjoy. Just knowing the beach is within reach, it already relaxes me! If you also like having the beach within a few train stops, you’ll love living in Lisbon!
But I’ll be honest: You will hear or have heard that the ocean waters are freezing. I didn’t really believe people but we went in September when Lisbon still had 30-degree days and phew…those waters are cold! Everyone says it’s because it is the Atlantic Ocean and whatever may be the case, it is hard to get in and enjoy the swim.
You can easily access the wide beaches of Portugal with some of the best sand in Europe. After our travels to Croatia’s coastline, we’ve realized how great the sand is, especially if the alternative is a rocky one. The best thing about living in Lisbon is that you can easily text your friends to hang out, take the train to the beach together and tan, surf or relax on the beach.
8. Great Weather Year-Round
Have I mentioned that there’s 300+ days of sunshine in Lisbon per year? Oh..I have mentioned it at least 3 times already?! Well, let me remind you again :P!
A lot of people are drawn to Lisbon simply because of the weather. It’s similar to the Mediterranean vibes like Spain’s Alicante coast or the island of Crete in Greece. You will get more sunshine than cloudy skies and less rain than usual!
Average Temperature In Lisbon (Source)
What about the mild winters? While they aren’t as harsh as northern European countries like Finland or Sweden…they can still get pretty cold. That’s the only downside of this major pro of moving to Lisbon: most apartments don’t have central heating. That’s right, it could get colder inside your apartment than outside!
The apartments in Lisbon are pretty old and they just haven’t kept up with modern technology to heat the spaces. You can remedy this with the use of electric blankets or portable heaters. Again, it’s Portugal, so that means the winters don’t get too harsh!
The beautiful sun shining year-round combined with the warm summers make living in Lisbon an excellent choice. The weather can dictate where we travel, seriously! We try to avoid cold destinations (if we can) and that’s why Lisbon is a great European city to visit no matter the time of year.
If pleasant weather year-round is important to you, you’ll love this about Lisbon!
9. Vibrant Restaurant And Bar Scene
Do you love going out and meeting friends over a lovely meal?
Or maybe you love searching Google Maps for the best restaurant?
If so, you will love the thriving restaurant and bar scene in Lisbon. You can choose from so many different cuisines – from traditional Portuguese dishes to international cuisine like Japanese! We had our favorite ramen spot, Panda Cantina, that we went to regularly because they just did ramen so well! More than the food itself, the restaurants in Lisbon put a lot of effort into the design and atmosphere of their stores. You will have endless options of great restaurants to choose from if you live in Lisbon.
That’s the restaurant scene, but what about the bar scene? You have a range of choices, from your regular bars to cocktail bars and even to the trending wine bars. They each have their own cool vibe and unique charm to them, it feels more like an experience than just drinking a beer – you know?
As Lisbon continues to grow, there are always new places popping up and old places getting better.
10. Countless Things To Do
You know how sometimes there are those cities where people stick to themselves, live their routines on repeat and it’s hard to plan a date to catch up with friends because everyone is ‘busy’?
After living in Lisbon for a month, we can say it’s not like that there. The city offers its residents and visitors so many activities, events, workshops and experiences throughout the week and across seasons. Summer is like peak Europe season, and that’s when you will see Lisbon has the most activities on – live music at the park, flea markets popping up everywhere and so much more! They truly know how to make the most of the sunshine. You just have to be dialed into the community, join the Facebook groups and make connections to find the right events for you.
Whether you’re an indoor person who loves visiting museums or an outdoorsy person who loves to discover natural beauty, you won’t get bored living in Lisbon because there’s just so much to see and do!
BONUS: Easy Travel Within Europe
If you want to travel within Europe, living in Lisbon is a good idea. You can easily access countries like France, Spain, Italy and so many more in only a few hours by plane.
One of the reasons people move abroad to Lisbon is because you can easily hop on a plane on a Friday, visit a whole new country on the weekend and make it back in time for Monday. Something very unique about living in Europe!
Lisbon has both a domestic and international airport with good connections to the US and Europe. You can also easily take the train or bus from Lisbon to Spain and onwards. It’s easy to explore the countries nearby and jet off for weekend getaways.
The Cons Of Living In Lisbon, Portugal
Now, we’ve talked about all that’s good about living in Lisbon, but the honest truth is that it isn’t perfect. There are drawbacks and downsides to living in Lisbon that may scare you away or you might decide that the pros outweigh the cons.
Here’s the cons you should consider before living in Lisbon:
1. Rising Cost of Living
If you think you are going to be living in a ‘cheap’ city, you’ll have to think again.
Lisbon used to be one of the cheaper, more affordable destinations in Europe. With the rise of popularity and boost in tourism, that is becoming less and less true. Don’t get me wrong – there are certain things that are way more affordable than other European capitals. However, the reality is that everything is starting to increase (slowly, but still increasing).
The biggest area you will see a huge increase in costs is your accommodation. Whether you’re a tourist staying in a hotel/Airbnb or you’re moving to Lisbon as an expat, you will experience this.
Some one-bedroom apartments can go for €2000 ($2150 USD) in a good area – that’s a one-bedroom! Others can go for less but you might be in a not-so-desirable neighborhood. Choosing where to stay in Lisbon is key to getting a good deal on your place. The photo below is a map of the rental prices in a good neighborhood like Principe Real – this gives you a better idea of the range of costs for a rental.
Once you’ve paid rent, you can relax a little more. While the cost of living in Lisbon is rising – things like groceries, dining out, activities and public transport are still very very affordable!
2. Long Lines For Restaurants & Bars
We had to wait at least 30 minutes to get into any (good) restaurants in Lisbon.
For some reason, you can’t make reservations at many places. This means you are left to 1) stand out on the streets, 2) possibly put your name down, then 3) queue for a questionable amount of time. The vibrant restaurant and bar scene comes with a price and that’s a LONG wait time.
We realized this kept happening again and again after a week of living in Lisbon. Lining up for restaurants for at least 30+ minutes was the norm. Once we got this, we started to get to restaurants VERY early. For example…we wanted to go to our favorite ramen spot, Panda Cantina, so we thought we would arrive at 12pm when they opened. We turned the corner and BAM – a huge queue already! We couldn’t believe it, so we registered our names and the waiting began again.
This was also our experience when going to brunch on the weekends. We love brunch a lot and the brunch scene in Lisbon is definitely worth the wait. At this point, we just accepted that we would wait no matter what (which we did, at least 30 minutes to 1 hour).
Our TTA tip? Don’t turn up hungry, because you WILL have to wait and eventually get HANGRY. This was also frustrating when we were with friends just trying to look for a place to eat and all the good spots had a 1-hour to 2-hour wait, so we had to settle for an ‘okay’ spot instead.
Make sure you bring your patience when living in Lisbon and/or prepare for disappointment if you can’t get into the restaurants you were craving. It’s just the reality!
3. Not Easily Walkable (Too Many Hills)
Lisbon is a city built on seven hills. SEVEN!
I don’t know about you but whenever I see a hill I have to walk up, I whine just a little! Thankfully, I didn’t find Lisbon’s hills as steep (or as long) as the ones in San Francisco. Walking up and down steep inclines isn’t for everyone!
It can be tiring, hard on the knees and difficult if you want to simply walk around. The solution for me was to walk a little more and see if the next corner had or didn’t have a hill. I was surprised but it totally worked at certain times!
If walking uphill or at a steep incline is not great for your physical health, this could be a con to living in Lisbon. You can always take public transport – the trams are experts at maneuvering those nasty hills! But if you love to walk everywhere (that’s flat), this can be a drawback.
4. Bureaucracy Is Long And Complicated
Moving to Lisbon? Let the bureaucracy pains begin!
Figuring out bureaucratic systems and paperwork is hard enough, then you have to do it in a foreign language?! More than that, Portugal’s processes take a LONG time and they require a lot of persistence from you.
You can always hire a lawyer to help with paperwork in Lisbon but again, it’s a complex system. This can be a big downside for people who think that they can just get everything like obtaining visas done in a day. It requires a lot more patience than that!
5. No Central Heating Or Aircon
Apartments are getting old and expensive in Lisbon. A combo that isn’t great for most people! And you already know about the rising cost of living, particularly that accommodation costs are on the rise.
Well..the apartments in Lisbon aren’t always in the best condition. In fact, this just seems to be the norm in Portugal, but there is no central heating or aircon in most apartments. The summers in Lisbon can be brutal, reaching 100℉ (38℃) and you have to sleep without an aircon?! We had to experience it ourselves because our coliving space never fixed the aircon for us and it was PAINFUL!
The winters are mild in Portugal but I mean…it’s still winter. It’s going to get cold and if you’re living in a regular Lisbon apartment you won’t have central heating. The worst part? It can be even colder in your apartment than it is outside!
This is a big con of living in Lisbon if you are sensitive to temperatures. You will have to rely on portable heaters and air-conditioners or fans.
Conclusion: What’s Living In Lisbon REALLY Like?
There’s a lot to love about living in this coastal city. We felt like it had this perfect balance between city and nature. You honestly get the best of both worlds if you live in Lisbon! The city has this buzzing atmosphere but you can escape to the mountains or beaches with only a short train ride.
However, there are some serious drawbacks to living in Lisbon like the rising costs and old apartments without central heating or air-conditioning. For those who hate walking up hills, living in Lisbon might be a nightmare for you (although public transport is an easy solution).
We had HIGH expectations when we first arrived in Lisbon. Lots of people rave about Lisbon as one of the most livable capital cities in Europe and after a month – we totally agree. If we get the privilege to visit Lisbon again, it’s always an immediate YES from us. And we believe the pros of living in Lisbon far outweigh the cons!
FAQs – Living In Lisbon For Expats & Nomads
What Salary Do You Need To Live In Lisbon?
As a single person, the monthly minimum salary of €1500 to €2000 ($1,610 USD to $2,150 USD) will comfortably cover rent, food, activities and transportation expenses. As a couple, we recommend a minimum salary of €2,000 to €2,500 ($2,150 USD to $2,685 USD) per month if you want to live comfortably. This salary will cover your necessary expenses and give you a little disposable income to spend on travel or social events. You can always spend less than this and/or earn less than this. With that, you may have to sacrifice a few activities or live further out.
What Is The Cost Of Living In Lisbon?
The average cost of living in Lisbon ranges from €700 to €1,500 ($750 USD to $1610 USD) per month for a single person. Rent can range from €1,200 to €2,500 ($1290 USD to $2685 USD) for a 1-3 bedroom apartment in the city center. If you’re a couple like us, we spent a month living in Lisbon and our costs were $2,613 USD including rent, gym membership, groceries, sim cards and dining out.
How Is Public Transportation In Lisbon?
The public transportation system is reliable, efficient and affordable. You can take a bus, tram or train to most neighborhoods within the city and beyond. A single one-way ticket only costs €1.65 ($1.80 USD) and a 24-hour pass costs only €6.60 ($7 USD).
What Are The Best Areas For Expats In Lisbon?
The best areas in Lisbon to live for expats are Principe Real, Graça, and Avenida da Liberdade. These are more quiet and a little further from the city center (but not too far). There are lots of restaurants, cafes and boutiques that make these areas so livable! If you want to venture further out, suburbs like Estrela or Alcântara are great options for families!
What Is The Safety Level In Lisbon?
Lisbon is a generally safe city with low crime rates. It’s always important to use common sense and be aware of your surroundings to avoid ‘Attenzione pickpockets’. We never encountered any problems while living in Lisbon for a month and we felt very safe the whole time!