Living in Lisbon as a digital nomad (& why everyone is moving to Portugal!)

For the months leading up to moving to Lisbon I was asking people their experiences or what they know about the city. Almost every time someone would tell me something along the lines of:

Wow, everyone is moving to Portugal!

– Seemingly everyone I talked to

Honestly, not a bad idea at all, either. Here’s why:

Why you should live in Lisbon

Beach-in-Lisbon
Typical night out by the beach
  • Good food
  • Great weather
  • Reasonable cost of living
  • All the things a big city has
  • Good transit system
  • Fresh and rapidly growing international scene
  • Safe with fairly low crime

No surprise, Portugal has excellent climate and the winters are very moderate to say the least. Compared to Berlin, London, Paris, New York, or any other metropolitan city that is.

However, it’s hot in the summer. The city is fairly dense, greenspaces are lacking, and Lisbon doesn’t really have much for beaches. In winter months, Lisbon gets ~3 times more sun hours than say London or Berlin. I love the sun!

Living in Portugal digital nomad
Can’t tell me it’s (Coimbra) not absolutely gorgeous!

Public transport is quite effective and the metro has good coverage. Direct train lines to Sintra and Cascais open up the doors to the beauty outside the city and costs are very reasonable.

There’s not so much crime in most areas aside from the usual pickpockets and petty theft things that any large city will attract, but in general I’d say Lisbon is a pretty safe city compared to others! In fact, Portugal has one of the lowest crime rates in all of Europe.

villa for rent Lagos portugal
Can rent a fancy luxury villa for a decent price in off-season

The food is very good! Local produce, fresh fruits, and terrific bakeries are all over. Prices are reasonable (for foreigners) and there’s no lack of things to do. Plenty of internationals are moving to Lisbon for a variety of reasons and bringing their cultures and vibrancy with them.

Food in Portugal

Food-in-Portugal
A big meal for the group – awesome dining experience!

Is terrific! Particularly if you like wine and fish, the Portuguese really love their hearty meals. A mostly Mediterranean-type diet consisting of meats, local fruits and veg (tomatoes, olives, figs, grapes, oranges, etc), wine, and a lot of baked goods!

Salemas-Dreamfish-for-sale
Fish in Portugal is cheap!

The Pastelarias (bakeries) are everywhere and you can usually get a coffee & Pastel de nata for around €1 or so. All sorts of things are fairly affordable in supermarkets (around 30% less than in Germany from my experience) and the quality is usually very good with most things being Product of Portugal.

Food in portugal charcuterie
Cured meats, cheeses, fruits, olives. Classic Iberian cuisine.

If you’re vegan/vegetarian you might have a little bit of a hard time – while there are definitely a decent amount of places which cater to those diets, the general gastronomy scene is dominated by fish, meats, cheeses, and wholesome heavy food.

My favorite is going to an 8x Michelin Star restaurant in Lisbon. Multiple appetizers, a main course so big 2 hungry guys had a hard time finishing, desserts, bottle of wine. Total? A bit over €30 each! Incredible 🙂

Solar Dos Nunes michelin star Lisbon
Lots of Michelin Star things!
Solar Dos Nunes Fish soup Lisbon
Mmm, a cauldron of fish soup!

Why you should not live in Lisbon

  • Not so green
  • Still a busy, semi-chaotic city
  • Very difficult to bike around
  • Mediocre infrastructure
  • Inflated prices in some areas
  • Low salaries, high rent

The architecture and streets in general are attractive, but there’s not exactly as much green space as I expected by way of large, public parks. The seaside is definitely there, but not exactly usable for anything beyond running on pavement. Still, quite attractive!

In my opinion, the strengths of Portugal exist outside the cities – the nature! Going to Sintra or any of the sandy beaches along the coast will immediately introduce you to the fresh sea air, gorgeous vegetation, and wide variety of micro-climates. Not so much in Lisbon.

Beach in Portugal
Lisbon doesn’t actually have any beaches like this – you must venture outwards

Too, it’s a very hilly city with sprawling tight streets. Not bike friendly unless you’re a weirdo (like me) who doesn’t mind the chaos and strongly inclined hills. E-bikes fare much better here and forget riding a fixie.

When I say mediocre infrastructure, I mean that the apartments and buildings are not so energy efficient. Walls are thin, the apartments lose thermal energy quickly, and overall not quite to the quality which places like Germany employ.

Luz Portugal
Luz in Portugal is where I ended up staying for some time

Salaries are fairly low and rent prices are comparatively high. While food and going out is fairly affordable, rent chews up a major chunk of change for most inhabitants.

Salaries and rent in Lisbon

Salaries are not so great so unless you have a well-paying job lined up or work remotely as a digital nomad, you might be caught squeezing by your living expenses with not too much breathing room. Rent in the city ranges from 250-450e for a room, and 400-1000e for an apartment – of course depending on location and other factors.

So… why is everyone moving to Lisbon?

It’s warm! Also a lot more affordable than other groovy cities listed above. There is absolutely a lot of vibrancy, things to do, and people to meet in this city and I totally see why.

Starting a business isn’t prohibitively difficult or expensive and it’s an international-friendly place. You’ll find authentic Indian, Chinese, Arabic, etc, stores with a good selection of things.

Coimbra portugal beautiful
Not actually Lisbon (Coimbra), but it’s very beautiful!

There are plenty of things to do, people to meet, sights to see, and life to live in this city. Still, I found it not to be the ideal place for me since I wanted somewhere quiet to settle down.

Why I moved out of Lisbon

It’s a cool city and all, but honestly, the real strengths in what Portugal offers is outside the major cities – by the sea and in the hills. Gorgeous landscapes with sunlight, sea air, and plenty of fresh vegetation. Cacti next to oak trees right beside palm trees and fig trees.

bikepacking portugal
Personally, I prefer bikepacking around the coast!

If you like surfing, diving, cycling, mountain biking, running, climbing, or outdoor activities in general, you’ll find your home outside of the city for sure. I’m not so into bars and clubs so I’m not really missing much.

Villa rental lagos
Living the bougie life is kind of nice sometimes!

There is an abundance of conscious events & communities all over Portugal. If you’re into ecstatic dance, meditation, and cozy music festivals, you’ll definitely find an abundance of these sort of things.

Alternatives to Lisbon to live in

I’ve listed below some simple towns and cities to consider as an alternative to living in Lison.

  • Coimbra – Gorgeous student city with original culture & prices
  • Sintra – Mystical landscape near Lisbon but very expensive
  • Lagos – Southern coastal town with high digital nomad population
  • Porto – Gorgeous Northern city with beauty at every corner.
  • Ericeira – Surfer haven with plenty of good people.

Overall

Lisbon is a really neat city and it’s no wonder why internationals are moving there en masse. Cheaper than most other major cities like Berlin, London, Paris, etc – while still having a ton of the things which you’d find in a large art city.

Still, Berlin is the ultimate ‘crazy’ city in my eyes and if I want to live in a hectic, chaotic place, I’d still rather be there (at least for Berlin summer). For me, Portugal is for when I want to escape the cities and enjoy a quiet, sunny lifestyle.

10 Day Portugal Road Trip Vlog
Here’s a video my friend made of a 10-day cross-Portugal roadtrip we did!

Hence why I’ve moved south to Lagos – to enjoy a quieter life with plenty of things to do, people to meet, and a lovely climate/ocean lifestyle.

Thanks for reading & if you have any questions please do and I’ll be very glad to help out! 🙂

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