Lisbon for Digital Nomads

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A few years ago, you could count the number of digital nomads in Lisbon on one hand. These days, Lisbon is seen as one of the main (if not the main) digital nomad hubs in Europe. It’s often referred to as the Chiang Mai of Europe or the new Berlin. It’s actually neither of those two things, and that’s what’s great about it.

Why Lisbon is great for digital nomads

  • Great digital nomad scene: Lisbon has one of the friendliest digital nomad scenes in the world. There’s a digital nomad meetup every week, and it’s extremely easy to get talking to other people there. There’s also an active Facebook group that lists even more meetups and things happening, and another Meetup group with regular events run by accommodation startup NomadX. A few of the co-working spaces, like Outsite, also have regular events for nomads as well. 
  • Growing tech scene: Google has a base here, there are a few homegrown startups like Uniplaces, and there’s also Web Summit, the big tech conference that takes place here every November. If you want to meet up with other developers, or even learn to code and become a developer, there are always plenty of meetups happening. 
  • Eating out is affordable: Although restaurant prices have risen in the past few years, eating out is still very affordable in Portugal. This is especially true if you eat traditional Portuguese food in traditional Portuguese tascas, where you can get a 3-course lunch for between €7 and €12 on average.
  • Great weather: Lisbon has around 300 days of sunshine per year and, often, the winters are incredibly mild (outside anyway, inside can be cold in the winter).
  • Good Wi-Fi: Broadband speeds are generally good, as are mobile internet connections. Many cafés have wi-Fi as well, and you’ll see plenty of people working in the different cafés around the city.
  • Easy to stay fit: Many digital nomads join low-cost gyms like Fitness Hut, which is cheap, has very flexible contracts, several locations across the city, and allows you to pay in cash. There are plenty of other gyms as well, and it’s also possible to go running, particularly around Alcântara and Monsanto.
  • Good Coffee: Portugal has great espressos (bicas), and they often cost as little as €0.50 each. There are also plenty of more modern cafés serving flat whites, lattes, cinnamon buns, avo on toast, and every other hipster thing you can think of. 
  • Good timezone: For digital nomads, and remote workers especially, who have clients in Europe and North America, Portugal’s timezone is very easy to work with.
  • Safe: Although pick-pockets are something to be wary of, particularly on Tram 28, Portugal is one of the safest countries in the world.
  • English spoken: English is widely spoken in Portugal, and most people have a near-fluent level. It’s obviously important to make the effort to learn Portuguese, but you can definitely get by speaking English.
  • Friendly people: Portuguese people are extremely friendly and extremely welcoming of people from other cultures. As with everywhere, it can be hard to make friends with locals, but it’s not completely impossible
  • Nightlife: Lisbon has a great nightlife, particularly in terms of bars as opposed to clubs and particularly around the Bairro Alto and Cais do Sodré neighbourhoods.
  • Access to beaches: You will have to take the train, but it’s possible to get to the nearby beaches of Praia de Carcavelos and Praia da Conceição in 30-45 minutes.
  • Hipster-ific: If you like fancy coffees, cocktail bars on top of car parks, and craft beer, you can find a lot of that and other hipster gems in Lisbon.
  • Great surfing: If you’re into surfing, as many digital nomads are, Lisbon is just over an hour from Peniche, an hour-and-a-half from Nazarè, and around 2-3 hours from the Algarve. 
  • Affordable public transport: Public transport is fairly affordable, as is Uber and all of the other ride-sharing apps. The biggest bargain, however, are the trains in Portugal: it’s possible to get a return to the Algarve for less than €20.

Digital Nomad-Friendly Accommodation

Affordable accommodation? Not so much. It’s still possible to find an affordable room, but apartments tend to be quite expensive. 

Lisbon’s recent surge in popularity has made it difficult for digital nomads to find affordable accommodation in Lisbon. Many digital nomads rent through Airbnb but, because short-term stays are so lucrative for Airbnb hosts in Lisbon, few want to rent it out long term at a discounted monthly rate.

Short term accommodation

Longer-term accommodation

Airbnb isn’t the only place to find long-term accommodation in Lisbon, of course, but it’s the easiest way if you’re staying for less than six months. There are some alternatives that you could consider, but most of the people I’ve spoken to end up booking through Airbnb. 

For longer stays, you can rent normally and, although those rents have also increased in price, they tend to be a lot less than the standard Airbnb monthly rate.

Spotahome is like Airbnb, but for medium or even long-term rentals. It’s easy to search and filter through the different properties, and they have a customer support team in case anything goes wrong. (Tip: get 10% off your booking fee by using the discount code PTUGALIST437 at the checkout.)

Nomadx is another acommodation platform, but one that’s specifically aimed at digital nomads. The rooms and houses listed are much more affordable than those on Airbnb, and typically have digital nomad essentials like a desk and high speed internet. Flatshares are often with fellow digital nomads, so it’s a great way to meet other people while you’re in Lisbon. 

There are also a few Facebook groups that are either geared towards digital nomads staying in Lisbon (e.g. accommodation for digital nomads in Lisbon) or are geared towards expats (e.g. Lisbon Expat Rooms, Flats & Roommates). The guides to renting a room or apartment in Lisbon both have information about the relevant Facebook groups. 

Tip: If you are renting through Airbnb, try to book far in advance. This is especially true if you’re planning on visiting during the summer. Lisbon is extremely popular right now, and most places book up fast.

Flatshares in Lisbon

If you want to rent a room here, as opposed to an entire apartment, be sure to read through the list of websites that list rooms for rent in Lisbon

Renting a room in Lisbon can be reasonably affordable, and much easier than renting an entire apartment. That’s not to say that it doesn’t take time to find a good place, but it’s usually that bit easier than renting a house or apartment. 

Co-Living Houses in Lisbon

Co-living means sharing a house with other digital nomads. It can be hard to get to know people when you’re a digital nomad, even if you make the effort to go to a co-working space, and co-living aims to make that easier.

There are a handful of co-living houses in Portugal and, naturally, there are also some in Lisbon. Most of these are much more expensive than renting normally, but you do get a lot of other benefits like co-working and being able to meet like-minded people. 

Outsite is the main co-living space in Lisbon. Situated in Cais do Sodré, it comprises of 30 en-suite rooms, 6 shared kitchens, a co-working space and a café.

Entrepreneur Houses is based roughly 20 minutes from Lisbon, across the river past Almada. It offers both co-living and co-working as well as morning workouts, yoga, hackathons, workshops, and networking. 

Co-Working Spaces in Lisbon

Lisbon is home to numerous co-working spaces, and we’ve written about them in a more in-depth article. Most offer a free trial day, and it’s worth going around a few to see which is best for you. Ideally, look for somewhere that has activities and events or a bit of a friendly vibe as these co-working spaces tend to be the best for meeting people and making friends. 

The Lisbon Digital Nomads Group on Meetup also organises a weekly co-working session, which takes place in a café once every week. This includes a break for lunch, which is a great opportunity to chat to other digital nomads. 

Co-Working Cafés in Lisbon

There are two types of cafés in Lisbon: traditional Portuguese cafés (pastelarias) and the more international style of café that serves things like flat whites and Aeropress coffee.

Although sitting in a café for hours at a time is a part of Portuguese culture, I mainly tend to work from the more modern cafés. This is probably just me but, for whatever reason, I feel more comfortable working from one of the newer, third wave-style of coffee shops.

If I’m just there for cake and coffee, however, I usually go to a traditional pastelaria. I think it’s important to support these businesses, and that’s why I’m in Portugal anyway. I could get a flat white and a muffin almost anywhere in the world, but where else am I going to get to try all of the different Portuguese cakes.

For co-working, though, here are some of the most popular places to work from:

Wish Slow Coffee House

This is one of the easiest places to work from in the LX Factory in Lisbon, one of the trendiest areas in Lisbon. The seating is reasonable comfortable, and the staff don’t seem to mind if you sit there for a few hours.

  • Address: Rua Rodrigues de Faria 103, Espaço G.02A, 1300-501 Lisboa, Portugal

Copenhagen Coffee Lab

Almost everyone in Copenhagen Coffee Lab has a laptop in front of them, and it feels like a very comfortable place to work from. There are several of these cafés around Lisbon, including in Alfama and Alcântara. Plug sockets can sometimes be hard to come by, particularly in the Alcântara branch, so try and get there early if that’s going to be an issue for you. 

  • Address(es): 
    • Rua Nova da Piedade 10 | 1200-192 Lisbon | Portugal (Praça das Flores)
    • Campo Santa Clara 136 | 1100-474 Lisbon | Portugal (Campo Santa Clara)
    • Escolas Gerais 34 | 1100-213 Lisbon | Portugal (Alfama)
    • Rua Prior do Crato 1a | 1350-253 Lisbon | Portugal (Alcântara)

Tease

Tease is another coffee shop that always has plenty of people working on their laptops. The bakery is know for its cupcakes, but it has plenty of other food like juices and smoothies, milkshakes, salads, and toasts. 

  • Address: R. Quintinha 70B, 1200-420 Lisboa & Rua de S. Paulo 160, 1200-429 Lisboa

A Padaria Portuguesa

A Portuguese chain of bakeries with coffee shops, there’s a Padaria Portuguesa in just about every neighbourhood in Lisbon. They’re very easy to work from, particularly the larger stores which have plenty of seating e.g. Cais do Sodré branch. 

  • Address: More than 50 locations throughout Lisbon (see list)

Now, the negatives

Nowhere is perfect, of course, and there are a few downsides to living in Lisbon.

  • Mass tourism: Tourism has boomed in Lisbon, but the city is really too small to cope with the number of tourists visiting. I usually stay away from places like Alfama and Baixa, but I do get a surprise if I go to visit them. It’s also now very difficult to visit places like Jerónimos Monastery, São Jorge Castle, and Pastéis de Belém – they’re all much more touristy than I can handle.
  • Lisbon is small: As mentioned, Lisbon is quite a small city in terms of the area the city centre covers. Some people like this, while others prefer big cities like London, Berlin, or New York.
  • Rental Costs: This I’ve mentioned earlier, but it’s worth repeating again. It’s becoming more and more expensive to rent an apartment in Lisbon, either short-term or long-term. 
  • Average Airport: For long-term digital nomads, having a good airport nearby is essential. Although the flights aren’t always as cheap as you’d like them to be, Lisbon Airport has a reasonably good number of flights within Europe. For destinations that are a little further, however, you’ll probably need to connect with another airport like Madrid (less than an hour away) or one of the major European hubs like Amsterdam, London, or Frankfurt. 
  • Housing quality: Houses in Southern Europe tend to be quite cheaply built, with little noise insulation and no central heating. Winters in Portuguese houses can be extremely cold, and you may need to invest in a good duvet or a heater in the winter. In the summer, particularly July and August, it’s the opposite. If you don’t have air con, you’re going to sweat (a lot). 

It’s also worth mentioning that being a digital nomad in Portugal isn’t for everybody. Portugal is one of the poorest countries in Western Europe, many buildings in Lisbon and Porto’s city centres are falling down (although there is now a lot of renovation happening), there’s a lot of bureaucracy if you want anything done, and it takes a long time to get your Amazon deliveries. There’s actually no Amazon in Portugal: you have to order from the UK, US, Spanish, or German Amazon.

Some people, most people, see Lisbon as quaint. Others see it as backward. It really depends how you look at it but, if you’re into luxurious living, things working, and things getting done, Portugal may not be the best digital nomad location for you.

If, however, you’re flexible and can take these things in your stride, it’s one of the best places in the world to come and live.

Other digital nomad spots in Portugal

Porto and the Algarve are both close by and, although they don’t have the same digital nomad scene that Lisbon has, they’re both up-and-coming destinations for location independents.

Have you visited Lisbon as a digital nomad? Did you work from any of the co-working spaces or cafés? Let us know what you thought of it by leaving a comment below. 

Spot a mistake? If you notice a mistake, or would like to suggest improvements to the article, please get in touch. This article was last updated in January 2019.

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