Living as Digital Nomads in Lisbon:
All Your Questions Answered
Lisbon has without a doubt become one of the hottest travel destinations in the world. The city is celebrated for its beautiful nearby beaches, great all year round weather, and growing tech startup scene. After searching around for where to spend the summer, we decided to check out the Portuguese capital and ended up living as digital nomads in Lisbon for two months. We arrived there in early July and left in early September and got to experience the city during its peak season.
If you're considering living in Lisbon, we have some tips to help get you started. Our in-depth guide offers practical advice about accommodation and what areas are best to live in as well as information about expenses, transportation, coworking spaces, and more.
Lisbon Accommodation and Housing
Given the influx of tourists flocking to the Portuguese capital during the last two years, the housing scene has literally exploded. For better or worse.
Houses that were left empty after the 2008 economic crash are now being bought by investors who are renovating them and turning them into what our landlord called “AirBnb houses.” This has resulted in an extreme rise in housing prices. And considering that apartments are renting out for twice as much as they did three years ago, Lisbon can’t really be considered the cheap destination it used to be.
With that said the prices still differ a lot and we have seen single rooms being rented out for everything between 350 euro to 500 euro. A 1 bedroom apartment rents for 600 euro up to a 1,000 + depending on the area and season.
We were lucky to find a fairly priced apartment in a nice neighborhood paying 850 euro a month for a two bedroom apartment with all bills included. Our landlord made it clear that electricity and gas in Portugal are some of the most expensive in Europe and that bills were not included during winter due to high electricity costs.
Thanks to the ever-growing number of digital nomads in Lisbon, it’s getting easier to find apartments. Three main ways to find Lisbon rentals are:
Facebook groups are perhaps the most popular method to use for Lisbon apartments even among locals. There are several groups you can join and inquire about rentals, see below. This is how we found our apartment and we really couldn’t have asked for a smoother experience. Here are a few of the groups we used to contact potential landlords.
- Lisbon Apartments for Rent - This is an international group with a lot of shorter (up to 6 months) rentals. Most of the posts are written in English.
- Alugar Casa em Lisboa - Lisbon Easmus / Vacation Rentals - This is a local group for vacation rentals with listings from both locals and other expats.
- Casas e apartamentos parra arrendar em Lisboa - This is a group used by a lot of students for short to long term rentals, and your best bet to find rooms in shared apartments.
- Lisbon Digital Nomads- This is one of the many Lisbon digital nomad groups on Facebook. It's not really used for rentals but you can still inquire. The group is mostly for events and meet ups in the city.
The use of AirBnb is as wide-spread in Lisbon as it is in the rest of Europe, and you will definitely pay tourist prices. You can expect to pay up to 200% more than the actual market price. Get 40 USD off your first AirBnb rental.
Cost of Living and Expenses
Except for the rising housing prices, Lisbon is still a relatively affordable city to live in. Food can be a bit on the expensive side in touristy restaurants, but other than that you can live quite cheaply in the Portuguese capital.
Phone Plans and Sim Cards
In June of this year, the leading phone carriers in the European Union agreed to drop the extra roaming prices. This means that you can buy one SIM card in any EU country and then bring it with you wherever you go. No need to worry about extra charges for calls, SMS, or Internet.
Since Adam already had a Swedish number we’ve been using that across Europe and it's been working fine.
A sim card in Portugal costs between 3-15 euro a month depending on how much you call and surf. We recommend that you visit one of the official phone stores in the city center to get a phone plan that fits your needs.
Note that the price to use phones varies a lot depending on what European country you buy the SIM card in. So if you’re planning to travel around you should look into what country is cheaper.
Transportation in Lisbon
Transportation in Lisbon is easy and accessible with a handful of tram lines and four metro lines that cover most of the city. A ride cost between 1.25 euro and 2 euro depending on the means of transport and distance.
If you’re staying for more than a few days, we recommend that you buy a zapping card that can be refilled at shops and metro stations. With the card, you get between a 5% and 20% discount on every trip depending on how much money you put on it.
If you're planning to stay for a few months or long-term, then you should look into getting a monthly card. It cost 35 euros per month but it takes a few days to prepare and you have to apply for it at the main train station. Bring your passport!
Both of the transportation cards work outside of Lisbon and can be used on the train towards Cascais.
Also, both taxis and Uber are really cheap in Lisbon which is very practical at times, especially late at night or to and from the airport.
Coworking Spaces in Lisbon
Personally, we prefer to work from the comfort of our own home, but there are several co-working spaces in Lisbon to choose from. Here are three of the many:
- Cowork Central - This coworking space is located in Cais do Sodré right by the Time Out Market and is in close proximity to the Tagus River. Prices are €15 for a daily pass, €60/120 for a flexi-pass, €210 for a monthly pass, or €555 for a quarterly pass.
- CoWork Lisboa - Lisbon’s oldest coworking space located at the LX Factory. Flex desk costs €12 per day, €40 per week, or €100 per month. It's a favorite among many digital nomads in Lisbon.
- Second Home - A light-filled coworking space covered with plants located at the Time Out Market. Prices are €130+IVA for one week for a summer workation, €350+IVA per month for a studio membership, €300+IVA per month for a resident membership, or €200+IVA for per month for a roaming membership.
Best Area to Stay in Lisbon for Digital Nomads
We lived a short walk from Graça on top of a hill. Unfortunately, this made it hard to get to and from the metro, as well as the grocery store. In hindsight, we really wish we would have lived further down.
To help you find a good area to stay in, here is a roundup of the seven most popular areas for digital nomads in Lisbon.
Graça is a part of the former old town and is located on top of the hill after the castle. The area boasts some of the best views in Lisbon but it can be a bit limited when it comes to food options. It is accessible via Tram 28 and the metro.
Alfama is Lisbon's oldest quarter and the area between Graça and the river. This where the São Jorge Castle is located and also where the famous Tram 28 goes through. It's a charming area where you'll find an impressive array of houses covered in beautiful Portuguese tiles. You can also find Lisbon's biggest flea market here as well as live fado performances every night. Alfama is very popular with tourists though and might not be ideal for long-term rentals.
Baixa/Chiado including Cais do Sodré is the official city center by the water. This area is almost completely flat which can be a huge benefit. Most of the hotels are located here so it can feel a bit crowded during the summer months and you will certainly overpay for things around this area. Still, Baixa/Chiado is filled with many restaurants, stores, and tourist attractions but is perhaps not ideal for more than a short stay.
Bairro Alto is the hip area located just next to Baxia/Chiado. It's an upcoming area where a lot of young people live. This is also where most of the Lisbon nightlife is located so if you want to be in walking distance to the party, you should look into staying here.
Santos is a favorite area to live in for digital nomads in Lisbon. It's a flat neighborhood and is within walking distance to many of Lisbon's main attractions. Santos is most loved for its lively atmosphere, vibrant nightlife, and affordable prices.
Avenida da Liberdade
Avenida da Liberdade is a long avenue that runs from the center towards the city's northwestern parts and is the most exclusive area in Lisbon. This is where the embassies are located and the wealthy live. It is considerably more expensive to live in Avenida da Liberdade than the rest of the city.
Alcantara is great for digital nomads in Lisbon because of its close proximity to the LX factory. It is also located in the shadow of Lisbon's famous Golden Gate bridge. However, it is somewhat far from the city and the tram is usually packed full to the brim so you may have to wait a while before getting on.
Compared to the weather in many other South European cities, Lisbon weather is quite pleasant all year around. Due to the city’s proximity to the Atlantic ocean, there is often a breeze during the summer months that keeps the temperature at a comfortable level. During winter, the temperature rarely falls below 10 degrees combined with plenty of sunshine and less rain than most of Europe.
With that said, you need to be aware that most houses in Lisbon are not isolated or at least not isolated very well. Naturally, this is perfect for the hotter months since it helps keep the buildings cool, but in the winter it can get really cold. As we mentioned above, our landlord told us the electricity in Portugal is some of the most expensive in Europe and winter rentals have to pay for it themselves since the heating bills have a tendency to be expensive. We’ve also heard that it’s often colder indoors than outdoors during the winter in Lisbon.
The best time to visit Lisbon is during spring, summer, and fall, although March and April are known as two of the rainiest months. Because of this, many visitors prefer to travel to Lisbon in the summer and fall. We spent most of the summer in Lisbon and enjoyed the great weather and the fact that our apartment never got hot even without AC.
Lisbon Restaurants and Vegan Food
Many restaurants in Lisbon, including the vegan ones, mostly serve food in a canteen styled matter. The Portuguese cuisine is very fish and meat-heavy, so it is not very vegan-friendly. In addition, Adam's parents, who both eat meat, found the restaurants in Lisbon to be subpar at best so we suggest steering clear of the highly touristic restaurants in the city center.
The vegan food scene in Lisbon is still quite young. In our opinion, it’s lacking a bit compared to other European capitals we’ve visited. There are, however, a few all vegan restaurants that are worth trying. One of them being AO 26 an all-vegan restaurant serving seitan steak, cheese boards, burgers, and vegan desserts.
Coffee and Alcohol
The coffee scene in Lisbon is alive and plentiful. You will find many Pastelarias - Portuguese pastry shops - scattered all around Lisbon. Here you can sit and drink a bica, the Portuguese version of espresso, while people watching. Bicas are extremely cheap and often sold for less than a euro.
If you prefer your coffee with milk, there are several restaurants that make vegan cappuccinos in Lisbon. The Copenhagen Coffee Lab, Brick Cafe, and Fabrica Coffee Roasters are a few among several offering coffee with plant-based milk for roughly 2-4 euro.
Alcohol in Lisbon is quite cheap. You can get a Portuguese bottle of wine for a few euros and beer for even less. The alcohol selection in Lisbon can be very limited. Most regular grocery stores only sell locally produced wine and the two Portuguese beers - Sagres and Super Bock. According to Barnivore.com, Sagres is also a big sponsor of bullfighting in Portugal, which is something we would never support.
In the city center, there is a liquor store called Garrafeira Nacional that sells a few international wines and liquors. There is also a growing craft beer scene in Lisbon, but so far craft beers are only sold in bars.
Then, of course, there is the famous Portuguese port wine. It's a sweet type of dessert wine produced in the Douro Valley. In fact, many people travel to Porto just to partake in wine tours.
There is somewhat of a lack of selection of different products in Portugal. We cooked a lot at home while in Lisbon and were quite frustrated over what the regular grocery stores offered. Also, on several occasions, we found rotten produce so double check everything before you buy it.
If you prefer to buy organic products you’ll have to visit one of the bio stores in Lisbon. They are a bit on the pricey side but sell more specific products suitable for a vegan diet such as tofu, vegan cheese, plant-based milk, etc. Two great bios stores in Lisbon are Go Natural and Celeiro. Celeiro is also a health food store and you will find all kinds of vitamins and supplements here, they also have a big range of Solgar products.
Pingo Doce is one of the biggest grocery store chains in Lisbon and is where we did a lot of our shopping. However, we recommend that you try to find a Lidl store as well since they offer good deals on staple foods such as pasta, rice, bread, and oil. There are also small local stores on every street corner where you'll have the best chance of finding fresh fruits and vegetables for a fair price.
Things To Do in Lisbon
Lisbon is a small city that can be experienced in a few days. You could also spend time just walking along all the winding streets in Alfama and Graça admiring the unique architecture and history. There are plenty of sights and beaches to visit outside of the city as well.
Take in the Scenery at the Viewpoints
One of our favorite things to do in Lisbon was exploring the miradouros (viewpoints). They offer stunning views of the city and a comforting breeze amidst the scorching hot summer days. We spent many afternoons at Miradouro da Graça overlooking the city with a drink from the open air bar.
Ride the Tram 28 through Lisbon
The single most popular thing to do in Lisbon is taking the vintage Tram 28 through the oldest part of the city. It’s definitely a charming experience. But due to the small size of the tram, it can get crammed quickly, which means you won't be able to see anything. In fact, on several occasions, we saw several hundred people standing in line to get on the tram. So be prepared.
The Tram 28 is also notoriously popular among pickpocketers so keep a close eye on all your valuables.
Visit the Lisbon Cathedral
The Lisbon Cathedral (Latin Patriarchate of Lisbon) is another popular tourist destination in Alfama. The cathedral was built in the first century and has survived many wars and earthquakes, unlike the Carmo Convent that was ruined in the 1755 earthquake. The ruins of that church still stand today and can be visited in the Lisbon city center.
Visit the São Jorge Castle
The São Jorge Castle is another famous site that everyone visiting Lisbon should visit. It was built during the medieval times, but the first evidence of fortifications built on the site dates back to the Romans 48 years B.C.
Our Final Thoughts
We personally didn’t enjoy Lisbon as much as we thought we would. Unfortunately, we felt like the place didn't really live up to our expectations. We do understand the appeal of visiting Lisbon for a few days and spending time traveling along the coast, but as a long-term destination, it really didn't suit us.
That being said, we know that many people love Portugal and there is a growing startup scene that offers many opportunities for digital nomads in Lisbon. The weather is another plus considering that Lisbon stays warm almost all year round. Have you ever been to Lisbon? Let us know how long you were there for and what you thought about it in the comments.