Lisbon is very far from being the most original city for a digital nomad to visit. That said, there’s a reason why it’s one of the first places people recommend to new nomads. Actually, as I discovered, there are quite a few reasons. Everything from history to surfing is on offer in and around the Portuguese capital.

In fact, Lisbon is becoming such an important hub for digital nomads, that locals are beginning to feel the pressure from increased housing prices, and cost of living in general. I, like many nomads, have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, the city is just so damn beautiful, so picturesque, that it makes it very hard for tourists and nomads alike to leave. That said, I like to explore a bit more off the beaten path, so I regretfully didn’t spend as much time here as I would have liked to.

If you’re even considering going to Lisbon, I highly recommend that you just go for it, whether it’s for a week, a month, or even a year (on a digital nomad visa). This article will give you the full rundown of what you need to know before you go. Keep reading to learn all the hard-earned tips 

Is Lisbon Good for Digital Nomads?

From my first-hand experience, I can affirmatively say that Lisbon is not just good, but indeed one of the top choices for digital nomads. The city effortlessly bridges the gap between its historical charm and the necessities of modern remote work. The locals are incredibly friendly, and the prevalence of English speakers eases communication significantly, making it simpler to settle in and network. 

The digital nomad community here is thriving, offering ample opportunities for professional growth and social engagement. Whether it’s co-working spaces like Outsite and Selina or the regular meetups that draw nomads from across the globe, Lisbon serves as a dynamic hub for digital wanderers.

First Impressions of Lisbon

Upon my arrival, Lisbon’s impressions were immediate and lasting:

The Good:

  • Vibrant Atmosphere and Cultural Richness: The energy of Lisbon is palpable. From the historic charm of its buildings to the lively street music and rich culinary scene, the city exudes a vibrant atmosphere that’s both inspiring and invigorating.
  • Warm Welcome from Locals and Ease of Communication: The locals here are not only friendly but also largely fluent in English, which significantly eases daily interactions and helps in quickly feeling at home.
  • Bustling Digital Nomad Scene: The city is a hotspot for digital nomads. With numerous networking opportunities, meetups like those organized by Lisbon Digital Nomads, and a variety of workspaces, the community is both active and supportive.

The Bad:

  • High Cost of Living: Despite its many attractions, Lisbon’s living costs, particularly for accommodation and dining, can be steep, especially in popular areas and during peak seasons.
  • Crowded Public Transportation and Tourist Spots: Iconic trams like the Tram 28 and popular tourist destinations can get incredibly crowded, which can be overwhelming at times.
  • Hilly Terrain Challenging for Daily Commuting: The city’s topography, characterized by hills and steep streets, presents a daily challenge, especially when it comes to walking or biking around the city.

What An Average Day in Lisbon Looked Like

  • 7:00 AM: Wake up and start the day with some light stretching or meditation.
  • 7:30 AM: Quick breakfast at the apartment, typically something light like fruit or yogurt.
  • 8:00 AM: Head out for a brisk morning walk, enjoying the fresh air and the quiet streets of Lisbon.
  • 8:30 AM: Arrive at Copenhagen Coffee Lab, find a cozy spot, and set up for work.
  • 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM: Dive into work – answering emails, attending virtual meetings, and focusing on priority tasks.
  • 12:30 PM: Lunch break – on some days that meant exploring local eateries to try different Portuguese dishes.
  • 1:30 PM – 3:30 PM: Afternoon exploration – wander through Alfama’s narrow streets, visit local markets, or explore Lisbon’s historical landmarks.
  • 4:00 PM: Stop at a local café for a coffee and a small snack, maybe do a bit of people-watching or journaling.
  • 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM: Attend a digital nomad meetup or a casual networking event, connecting with fellow nomads and locals, and sharing stories and experiences.
  • 7:30 PM: Dinner at a recommended restaurant or a new find, enjoying Lisbon’s masterful culinary scene.
  • 9:00 PM: Leisurely walk back to the apartment, taking in the city’s evening ambiance.
  • 9:30 PM: Relaxation time – read a book, watch a movie, or simply unwind from the day’s activities. On some evenings, I might head out to a bar until late.
  • 11:00 PM: Bedtime, to recharge for another exciting day in Lisbon!
Digital Nomad Lisbon
Digital Nomad Lisbon

My Budget For Lisbon: Cost Of Living

For nearly one month:

Total Budget: 2900EUR

Apartment: 1800 EUR

Groceries: 350 EUR

Dining Out: 250 EUR

SIM Card: 20 EUR

Coworking: 100 EUR

Transportation: 250 EUR

Living in Lisbon as a digital nomad, I found the cost of living to be significantly higher than expected. My monthly expenses hovered around 2900 EUR. Accommodation was the most substantial expense, particularly due to choosing a central location for convenience and the experience. For a decent apartment in a good area, I budgeted roughly 1800 EUR per month. For people expecting cheaper prices than back home, accommodation prices might not be so enticing.

Food, while more affordable compared to accommodation, still accounted for a fair chunk of the budget – about 600 EUR monthly. This included both grocery shopping from local mini-marts and dining out to savor the local cuisine. Transportation costs were another factor, around 250 EUR, given my preference for using various modes like electric bikes and occasionally Uber for longer distances.

Prepare For Your Stay: Everything You Need To Know Before You Get To Lisbon

Most digital nomad spots get their initial reputation because they offer good value. That was once the case for Lisbon, but those days are long gone.

Before arriving in Lisbon, it’s crucial to have a solid plan, especially regarding accommodation and transportation. From my experience, subletting is a viable option for a more authentic stay. It’s advisable to book in advance, as prices can soar, especially in popular neighborhoods like Baixa Chiado and Bairro Alto.

Understanding local transportation is essential for seamless navigation. While the city is walkable, its hilly terrain can be challenging. Familiarize yourself with the various options, including trams, buses, electric bikes, and ride-sharing services. Embrace the city’s laid-back lifestyle for a more enriching experience. This means being adaptable with time, especially if you’re used to a more punctual environment. Lastly, immerse yourself in the local culture – try the food, engage with the locals, and participate in city events to truly experience what Lisbon has to offer.

Finding Accommodations in Lisbon

My experience subletting in Baixa Chiado was incredibly rewarding. This neighborhood strikes the perfect balance between accessibility to tourist spots and maintaining a genuine local vibe. The streets are lined with quaint cafes and shops, and the nightlife is vibrant yet not overwhelming.

Booking in advance is crucial, as the best spots get snapped up quickly, especially in popular neighborhoods. Prices can vary significantly based on location and the time of year. Also, consider exploring different neighborhoods for varied experiences – each area in Lisbon has its own unique character and charm.

Best Neighborhoods

Here is a selection of the best neighborhoods in Lisbon. You can read more in the article we linked.

Bairro Alto: Known for its bustling nightlife and eclectic vibe. It’s a great choice if you enjoy a lively atmosphere and want to experience Lisbon’s famous Fado music.

Alfama: Perfect for those who love history and culture. This area is known for its traditional houses and stunning views. To me, this is what the classic Lisbon looks like.

Príncipe Real: Offers a trendy, more upscale experience with its boutique shops, art galleries, and charming restaurants.

Baixa Chiado: Ideal for those who want to be in the heart of the action. It’s close to major tourist attractions, has excellent transport links, and offers a true Lisbon experience. On the flip side, it’s a little too touristy for some.

Alfama, Lisbon
Alfama, Lisbon

Neighborhoods to Avoid

While Lisbon is a city rich in culture and history, certain areas might be less appealing for those seeking an authentic experience or easy accessibility. It’s advisable to be cautious about overly touristy areas like some parts of Baixa and the streets around major landmarks. These areas can sometimes offer a more commercialized and less genuine experience of Lisbon’s true character. Additionally, consider the city’s hilly geography when choosing a neighborhood. Areas with steep inclines, like some parts of Alfama and Graça, although charming, might be challenging for daily commutes, especially if you rely on walking or are not accustomed to the terrain.

How To Pay For Stuff In Lisbon

In Lisbon, you’ll find that most places accept cash and card. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted in restaurants, shops, and even by many street vendors. Digital payments, including mobile payment apps, are also becoming increasingly common. However, it’s always a good idea to carry some cash, especially for smaller purchases in local markets, traditional Fado houses, or in more remote areas. ATMs are readily available throughout the city. It’s also worth noting that contactless payments are quite popular in Lisbon, so you won’t have many issues with credit cards.

Getting here there and everywhere

Navigating Lisbon’s unique topography can be an adventure in itself. The city offers a range of transportation options to suit different needs. Ubers and Bolt are widely available and offer a convenient way to travel longer distances or when you’re short on time. For those who enjoy a bit more adventure, electric bikes, and scooters are excellent choices, providing a fun way to explore the city while navigating its hills with ease. Public transit, including trams, buses, and the metro, is reliable and covers most areas of the city.

When using public transport, consider investing in a Viva Viagem card for convenience and cost-effectiveness. Lastly, don’t underestimate the joy of walking through Lisbon’s charming streets – it’s one of the best ways to discover the city’s hidden gems.

Once You’re In Lisbon…

Upon arrival in Lisbon, immerse yourself in the city’s vibrant atmosphere right away. Start by exploring local cafes – each has its own unique character and is a great place to soak in the local vibe. Take a leisurely walk through historical areas like Baixa or explore the colorful streets of Bairro Alto.

For digital nomads, it’s a good idea to scout out co-working spaces early on. Places like Outsite and Selina offer not just workspaces but also opportunities to connect with other nomads. If it’s your first time in Lisbon, consider a guided walking tour. It’s an excellent way to get acquainted with the city’s history and landmarks. Lastly, don’t forget to sample some local cuisine – whether it’s a pastel de nata from a bakery or a meal at a traditional Portuguese restaurant.

What To Do The Day You Arrive In Lisbon

On your first day in Lisbon, it’s best to take it easy. Start by settling into your accommodation and getting a feel for the neighborhood. Once you’ve unpacked, step out for a leisurely walk to get your bearings. Lisbon’s streets are full of life and character, and there’s no better way to start your journey than by soaking it all in at a relaxed pace. For your first meal, indulge in a local dish at a nearby restaurant. Whether it’s a quaint eatery in Alfama or a trendy café in Bairro Alto, let your taste buds guide you. In the evening, a gentle stroll along the Tagus River provides a perfect end to your day, offering stunning views and a tranquil setting to reflect on the adventures ahead.

Places to Work As A Digital Nomad in Lisbon

Lisbon offers a variety of workspaces catering to the needs of digital nomads. Co-working and co-living spaces like Outsite and Selina are popular choices, providing not just a place to work but also opportunities for networking and community building. These spaces often come equipped with high-speed internet, comfortable work areas, and a conducive environment for productivity. For a more casual setting, Lisbon’s cafes are great options. Spots like Copenhagen Coffee Lab are favorites among nomads, though they can get crowded. It’s advisable to arrive early to secure a spot or explore less-known cafes which can be hidden gems for working remotely. Remember, the ambiance of a Lisbon café can add a delightful touch to your workday.

Food (The Most Important Part)

The culinary experience in Lisbon is a highlight, especially for seafood lovers. The city’s proximity to the ocean means fresh seafood is a staple in many dishes. Sardines are particularly famous here – grilled to perfection and often served with a simple garnish. Another must-try is the iconic Pasteis de Nata, particularly those from Belem. These custard tarts, with their flaky crust and creamy filling, are not just a treat; they’re a part of Lisbon’s culinary heritage.

Exploring Lisbon’s food scene is an adventure in itself, with each neighborhood offering its own unique flavors and specialties. No matter if it’s a high-end seafood restaurant or a local pastelaria, the city’s gastronomy is sure to be a highlight of your stay.

Vibes

I’ll be honest, the vibes are a bit mixed. On the one side, there is a gaggle of digital nomads and tourists soaking in the sun and enjoying tourist sites. On the other, there are a lot more locals who go about their day looking a bit stressed and hassled, knowing that cost of living will only keep skyrocketing. Meanwhile, Portuguese professionals from all over the country descend on this capital city, giving it a cosmopolitan vibe.

The historical charm of the city is ever-present in its majestic buildings, ancient ruins, and winding cobblestone streets. Yet, there’s a contemporary pulse that throbs through the city, brought to life by the dynamic digital nomad community and the modern urban lifestyle. Cafés buzz with the clatter of keyboards alongside the clink of coffee cups, and historic plazas now serve as impromptu workspaces for remote workers. This blend of old and new creates a unique vibe in Lisbon, one that is both inspiring and inviting, making it an ideal locale for both work and leisure.

Social Life

The social scene in Lisbon is as vibrant and varied as the city itself, especially for digital nomads and expats. The ease of making friends here is remarkable, thanks in part to the numerous digital nomad meetups, community events, and social gatherings that take place regularly. These events are not just networking opportunities but are gateways to forming lasting friendships and connections. The expat community in Lisbon is notably welcoming, with people from all corners of the world converging in this city, bringing a diverse array of cultures and experiences. Whether you’re at a casual get-together in a local bar, a professional networking event, or a cultural exchange meet-up, you’ll find Lisbon’s social fabric warm and inclusive.

Street Life

The street life in Lisbon is a vibrant tapestry that captures the essence of the city. As you wander through the streets, the air is filled with the melodies of live music, echoing from open-air cafes and street performers. The iconic trams, with their distinctive rumbles and bells, add a rhythmic backdrop to the city’s soundtrack. Balconies are stages for everyday life, with locals often seen enjoying meals or engaging in lively conversations against a backdrop of stunning city views. The streets themselves are alive with activity – bustling markets, impromptu art displays, and the chatter of locals and tourists alike. It’s in these streets that the true heart of Lisbon beats, a colorful and dynamic scene that embodies the city’s spirit.

Weather

Lisbon is blessed with a climate that is as pleasant as the city itself, especially during the summer months. The sunny summers provide the perfect setting for outdoor activities – from exploring the historic neighborhoods to lounging in parks by the river. The warmth of the sun adds to the city’s allure, making outdoor dining, sunset watching, and beach trips a regular part of life. However, it’s important to be mindful of the winters, which can be challenging. Many of the city’s charming but older apartments can be poorly insulated, leading to a colder indoor environment. This can be a major shock for those accustomed to more consistent indoor heating and requires preparation, such as securing additional heating options to ensure comfort during the colder months.

Activities in Lisbon

Lisbon offers a plethora of activities that cater to diverse interests, combining its rich history with contemporary pleasures. One of the must-do activities is sailing along the Tagus River. It’s a serene experience that offers a unique perspective of the city’s beautiful skyline and historic landmarks.

For history enthusiasts, exploring Belem is non-negotiable. This district is steeped in maritime history and is home to iconic sites like the Tower of Belém and the Jerónimos Monastery. Attending local events and meetups is another way to immerse yourself in Lisbon’s culture. Whether it’s a cultural festival, a music concert, or a digital nomad meetup, these events are opportunities to connect with the city and its people. Don’t forget to check out local markets and street fairs, which are often bustling with activity and local crafts.

Top Hacks For Living In Lisbon That Only Locals Know

Living in Lisbon like a local requires some insider knowledge. People here are used to tourists, so you’re going to stick out like a sore thumb. You aren’t likely to get scammed, but you’ll hardly find good deals here either. Here are some top hacks:

  • Best Local Eats: For authentic Portuguese cuisine, venture beyond the tourist traps. Neighborhoods like Mouraria are filled with hidden gems where you can enjoy traditional dishes at a fraction of the price you’d pay in more tourist-centric areas.
  • Gem Neighbourhoods: The touristy parts are nice, but Lisbon has so much more to offer. In the coming years, I think neighborhoods like Areeiro and Beato will become a lot more popular.
  • Navigating the City: Mastering public transport is key. Utilize apps like Citymapper to find the best routes. Also, the Viva Viagem card is a budget-friendly option for using various modes of transport. For a truly local experience, try walking as much as possible – it’s the best way to uncover the city’s hidden nooks.
  • Shopping and Groceries: Skip the mini-marts and head to local markets like Mercado de Campo de Ourique or Feira da Ladra for fresh produce and unique finds. You’ll get better deals and fresher goods. Not to mention, eating out every day and night will burn your budget.
  • Cultural Etiquette: Engage with locals respectfully. A simple ‘Bom dia’ (good morning) or ‘Obrigado’ (thank you) goes a long way. Also, embrace the laid-back approach to life; things often move slower here, which is part of the charm.
  • Discover Offbeat Attractions: Don’t just stick to the well-trodden path; explore lesser-known areas like LxFactory for a taste of Lisbon’s contemporary culture, or venture to nearby towns like Cascais or Sintra for a quick escape from the city.

Living in Lisbon: My Lasting Impressions

Living in Lisbon has been an enriching experience that has left a profound impact on me. The city strikes a remarkable balance between work and leisure, offering the ideal environment for a digital nomad. The historical charm of Lisbon, coupled with its modern amenities, creates a workspace like no other. The city’s vibrant atmosphere encourages creativity and productivity, while its leisurely pace and cultural richness provide ample opportunities to unwind and enjoy life. The sense of community among digital nomads here is particularly strong; it’s a place where you can easily find like-minded individuals, share experiences, and build lasting connections. This blend of a supportive community, coupled with the unique charm of the city, makes living in Lisbon a truly unforgettable experience.

3 Reasons to Go to Lisbon

  • Rich Cultural and Historical Experiences: Lisbon is a treasure trove of history and culture. From its historic neighborhoods like Alfama to the iconic Belem Tower, the city offers a deep dive into Portugal’s rich heritage. The cultural experiences here are as diverse as they are enlightening.
  • Awesome Digital Nomad Community and Networking Opportunities: Lisbon’s digital nomad community is thriving. With numerous co-working spaces, meetups, and events, the city is a hotspot for networking and collaboration, making it an ideal place for remote professionals looking to connect and grow. Plus, most of the locals speak English too.
  • So Many Day Trips: Sintra is the most obvious one, but you’d be surprised to know that an increasing number of digital nomads are staying outside of Lisbon and commuting from nearby cities, simply because there are so many cool places that are a lot more affordable than the centre of Lisbon.

3 Reasons Not to Go to Lisbon

  • I’m a contrarian: I’ll go ahead and admit it, I like going to places that are off the beaten path simply because I like to feel like the only foreigner that locals have met that month. I prefer being one of a kind, a big fish in a small pond if you will.
  • Higher Cost of Living Compared to Other Nomad Destinations: The cost of living in Lisbon, particularly for accommodation and dining, can be higher compared to other popular digital nomad destinations. This may pose a challenge for those on a tighter budget.
  • Challenges with Crowded Public Areas and Transportation: Lisbon’s popularity makes for overcrowded public spaces and transportation, especially during peak tourist seasons, which can detract from the overall experience.

Where To Next

Portugal is so much more than just Lisbon. Keep reading the blog to explore the rest of the country, including specifics about what neighborhoods to stay in Lisbon. 

If you’re looking to stay a year in Portugal, then you should definitely check out what the government of Portugal has to say about the process on their website.

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