Hey! You decided to move to Lisbon recently? And you want to know more about moving to Lisbon as an expatriate? You come to the right place.
In this guide you’ll find everything you have to know for a smooth settlement in Lisbon and for a good start into your new life.
Moving to Lisbon: Where to live in Lisbon?
Lisbon is a town built on seven hills, where each hill represents a district with its own identity and characteristics. We’ve chosen the 4 best areas in which to live even though these areas are totally different.
Alfama is without a doubt the neighbourhood the most atypical of the capital. It’s a big hill with countless small winding streets in which it is easy to get lost. At each street corner you may change from a touristic and shopping street to a street where stand many blocks of flats inhabited by local people. Between the two you’ll probably discover a lovely little place where meet locals and tourists. Living and wandering in Alfama is a real delight, our true heart-felt!
Bairro Alto & Chiado
Bairro Alto is THE lively neighbourhood of Lisbon. If you’re looking for a quiet place, don’t move in there! But if you’re a party boy or girl and you like being in a festive mood, this is obviously the place to live in. You’ll see there a mixture of party tourists and locals, in a deep atmosphere. This district is made of shops, restaurants and leisure spots.
Baixa is an historical district of Lisbon. It has undergone big changes after a devastating earthquake. It represents the geographical, economical and touristic center of the capital. It links all other districts and has the most beautiful places of Lisbon. It’s the only squared district (because new) with symmetrical streets. What is totally different from all the other places.
Belem is not exactly part of Lisbon but it’s stuck to it. One of the most preferred places of locals, expatriates and tourists. It owns a beautiful place with a quiet atmosphere. It borders the Tagus river with many splendid viewpoints. Sportsmen will know how to enjoy a running session on the river’s edge, from the city center to Belem.
Belem is situated at the west of the town, close to the 25th April bridge which was inspired by the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate of San Francisco. Belem is the start of the west cost of Lisbon that leads to the most beautiful beaches nearby (Estoril and Cascais). One of the best residential area of Lisbon agglomeration.
Moving to Lisbon : How to find a place in the city ?
Now that you know where to look for a place to live in, let’s look at the ways to find an accommodation.
As Lisbon is in transition, it is not surprising to see two housing markets: the local one managed by the locals aimed for the locals but accessible for expatriates. And the other market, twice the price of the local one, aimed for the mid-term stays and for expatriates in transition (to be avoided).
To avoid that you should do your research on local sites. This way you’ll benefit from fair prices of local real-estate market.
Best ways to find a place in Lisbon:
- Casa Sapo: The number one to find out an accomodation in Portugal.
- Custo Justo: Small ads site for individuals. Like Craiglist.
- Uniplaces: For students, but difficult to find something available.
- Facebook groups: find Facebook groups of expatriates from your country living in Lisbon and request their help. Communities are growing and can prove to be very helpful.
- The old fashion way: get in touch with estate agents or specialised letting agencies.
Cost of living in Lisbon
Here is a quick review about the cost of living in Lisbon. Good surprises coming!
The rent per month for an apartment sized for one person in the middle of the city is around 500€. Around 350€ outside. In shared accommodation or in private homes, you can find a room for 300€.
Around 60€ per month.
A metro ticket is 1,50€. A monthly pass is 36€.
Doing your groceries here you can expect a price between -30% and -50% versus your grocery costs in Paris, Amsterdam or London.
Around 40€ per month. At jazzy.pt it’s from 45€ (5 entries) to 65€ (unlimited), the Gym is near the sea in a very nice area. Anyway, it’s one of the most expensive activities of the town. We don’t get it yet! (in Amsterdam or Paris you can found good sports gym for only 20€ per month).
Clothing & Shoes
The brands like Zara & H&M cost a little less than elsewhere (10% to 20%). A sneakers model Nike or Adidas is exactly at the same price as in France or in the Netherlands.
Having dinner at a restaurant
A full-course meal for two will cost you 30€. And you will have well eaten and enjoyed several drinks. A simple meal costs between 5,50€ and 11€.
You can have the night of your life for 50€. Bring between 20€ and 30€ for a great evening. It depends on what you want to do. But no need to spend a lot to have a great time.
In Bairro Alto, a pint of beer is around 1,30€. Rarely at more than 2€ (if not it’s a theft). One Mojito XXL is 5€.
To see yourself and have more details, have a look on this website about the cost of living.
They make a complete analysis of the cost of living in Lisbon.
Commodities in Lisbon
Transports in Lisbon
You will find the usual transports: subway, bus, tramway, taxi, uber. As the city is highly concentrated you will walk a lot. The bicycle is not a good option here because of the hills everywhere in the town.
Here are the major banks for you to open a bank account in Portugal :
- Banco Espirito Santo
- Banco Finantia
- Banco Santander Totta
- Caixa Geral de Depositos
- Banco BPI
Ok, let’s say this: by living in Portugal you better have to like the « Peixe », the fish and more particularly grilled sardines.
For the others it will be grilled meat. All kinds of meats! Always cooked on the grill (it’s the local cuisine). Special mention for the Bitoque: a plate 100% Portuguese composed of a piece of meat cooked with an egg, rice, fries, salad and tomatoes. Cheap, complete, (almost) healthy: a real delight!
There is no direct access to the beaches in Lisbon (on the contrary to Barcelona for example). Lisbon is at the border of the Tagus river, it is not directly on the Atlantic ocean. You will have to move if you want to benefit from good spots on the ocean’s edge. You can take a train or a bus of minimum 30 minutes to be on the first good beaches near the city.
Best places to go in Lisbon
Lx Factory is an alternative place of a new style in Lisbon. It is a big incubator of bars, restaurants and bookshops, some of them pretty hipsters. With a library on several floors. It’s a peaceful place filled with culture.
Eat a pasteis
You can’t miss it: the pasteis is THE sweet specialty of Lisbon. It comes from Belem.
Any little restaurant in Alfama
The neighbourhood of Alfama is full of little Portuguese restaurants which offer grilled fish and grilled meat. It’s a pleasure to move around the small streets and choose where to eat. Along with a fresh red or white sangria it’s perfect to have a great time with friends for a low price.
Sintra is a village at the north-west of Lisbon. This village is classified at UNESCO World Heritage Site. We choose to put no pictures here in order not to spoil you but you certainly will go have a look at its colourful cattle.
Cascais is a small village situated at 45 minutes by train from Lisbon. With several beaches the best is to visit this small town and take a walk along the coast until reaching the “Hells Mouth”, which are cliffs on the Atlantic coast made of anthracites grey rocks.
Costa da Caparica
In Costa da Caparica here we talk about beaches like we imagine it. Long, they are large beaches with almost white sand, with waves and sun.
Costa de Caparica is a seaside town with beautiful beaches and a coast filled of surfing clubs. It’s like being in the south of Portugal but near Lisbon.
Bairro Alto (from 1 am in the morning)
As said earlier Bairro Alto is an entire district. It naturally shows up in the 20 people classification. There are a multitude of bars from midnight until 5am in the morning. You can buy your drinks in a bar, take it away, and walk to the next bar. Enjoy!
The Pink Street is like Bairro Alto but in only one street, at the south of the town (near Cais do Sobre).
After some drinks in Bairro Alto the thing to do is to go to the pink street where you ‘ll find all kinds of clubs to dance all the night. A unique atmosphere in this street.
Finally if you like to party you will certainly end up at the Lux club. Before going there you will hear about it like a select place, expensive and where it is hard to enter. That’s not true! With 3 floors including a rooftop at the border of the Tagus river and one floor totally dedicated to minimal electro, the Lux is an unavoidable place for anyone who likes to party and dance.
Tips to know when you are moving to Lisbon
- When you arrive in a restaurant the waiter will bring bread, olives cheese and meat. Be careful because the first time we usually think that it’s a welcome present offered. It is not! If you eat it them you are going to pay them. If you didn’t touch it check later on the bill that it was not put on. Anyway don’t worry, it’s not that expensive and it’s usually very good bread and olives!
- If you plan to spend the evening outside, think about bringing a jacket because Lisbon is very hot during the day but it’s windy and cold once the sun is down (average temperature between 18 and 20 degrees at night).
- Feel free to wander in the town without a precise goal. Because if not you will miss a lot of things. The city is full of viewpoints everywhere. These viewpoints are called “Miradouro”. For a great view you have of course the Castelo de Sao Jorge but you can also benefit from great views without spending 8,50€.
- Avoid Airbnb! Prices are the ones of Paris, London or New York whereas a room in Lisbon costs 300€ a month. You can find good plans in Facebook groups and on local websites.
- Always have cash on you: only a few merchants take the VISA card and it can be tough to find an ATM in some areas of the town, especially in the evening.
- Let yourself be transported by the Alfama district. Don’t take your smartphone, shut down Google map and your lonely Planet guide in order to open yourself to this beautiful old town.
- Avoid some beaches like Carcavelos. It’s very crowded and obviously not the most beautiful beach here.
- Be careful with the pickpockets.
- You can enter at the Lux in a pair of shorts and converse without problems. There is no need to dress up too much, except for very special occasions
Moving to Lisbon : Pros & Cons
Finally what we really think about Lisbon? Below a quick review of the pros and cons of living in Lisbon as an expatriate.
- The weather is great: rarely too hot, and rarely too cold. A pleasure.
- The cost of living: undoubtedly the cheapest capital in the West Europe.
- The freshness of the town: its development is new so it keeps an authentic atmosphere.
- The history of Lisbon: this city has a strong history and a surprising wealth.
- Many tourists
- A lack of public transport in some areas. Other options are bus, tramways or Ubers (really cheap). Ubers are a bit cheaper than taxis.
- The feeling to be a tourist even after several months in the town without speaking Portuguese.
To sum-up, compared to the other capitals of Europe Lisbon offers an exceptional quality of life for a low cost of living. In the middle of an economic and touristic boom Lisbon is in transition with a big dynamism.
If you’re actually reading these lines it means you have already planned to move in here. Go. Come. We can only encourage you in this project: you’ll love it!
We’ve already met several expatriates who have decided to stay longer here after a few months. Many are here for more than 3 years and don’t have any plans to come back in their home country.