Although I’d been to Lisbon before, my first experience of living in Lisbon as a digital nomad was in 2013. Fast forward to today and I’m writing a blog about Portugal. How things change!
Back then, barely anyone was visiting Lisbon, including digital nomads, and you could probably count the number of coworking spaces on one hand. It’s been exciting to put together this guide to Lisbon for digital nomads and to share all the things I’ve picked up over those years.
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: it’s Lisbon and that’s what’s great about it.
Found your accommodation yet?
Airbnb is probably still the most popular accommodation choice for nomads, but it’s definitely not the only one.
There are more accommodation suggestions further down the page.
Why Lisbon is great for digital nomads
The following are just a few of the reasons that Lisbon is great for digital nomads, freelancers, remote workers, and general workaholic geeks.
Great digital nomad scene
Lisbon has one of the friendliest digital nomad scenes in the world. There’s a digital nomad meetup every Thursday, 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. A few of the co-working spaces, like Outsite and Heden, also have regular events for nomads as well.
- Coworking Spaces in Lisbon (Portugalist)
- Lisbon Digital Nomads Events on Meetup.com
- Lisbon Digital Nomads Facebook Group
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. It’s not quite the Silicon Valley of Europe that it’s marketing itself as but 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.
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).
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. Even if you don’t join a gym, Lisbon’s 7 hills will force you to stay in shape.
- A list of good gyms in Lisbon (Portugalist)
- An overview of Fitness Hut (Portugalist)
- Lisbon for runners (Portugalist)
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.
In a 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.
Although pick-pockets are something to be wary of, particularly on Tram 28, Portugal is one of the safest countries in the world.
Locals speak English
English is widely spoken in Portugal, and most people have a near-fluent level. It’s obviously important to make the effort to learn to speak some Portuguese, but you can definitely get by speaking English.
Locals are friendly
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.
Good (and varied) 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.
Good 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. Across the river, Costa de Caparica is another favourite for surfing and sunbathing.
If you like fancy coffees, cocktail bars on top of carparks, and craft beer, you can find a lot of that and other hipster gems in Lisbon.
- The hipster guide to Lisbon (Portugalist)
- Portuguese craft beer guide (Portugalist)
Good surfing nearby
If you’re into surfing, as many digital nomads are, Lisbon is just under half an hour from Costa de Caparica, 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, is probably the trains in Portugal: it’s possible to get a return to the Algarve for less than €20.
Access to medical care
Portugal has a good healthcare system, and a good private system that you can either pay to use or get health insurance to cover. Residents of EU countries (and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland) also get access to emergency medical treatment under the same terms of Portuguese residents through the EHIC scheme.
Note: this is only supposed to be temporary, and only covers certain medical treatments, so it’s recommended that you take out health insurance or travel health insurance as well.
Digital Nomad-Friendly Accommodation
Affordable accommodation? Not so much.
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.
That’s not to say it’s impossible to find affordable accommodation, it’s just not as cheap as it once was (or should be).
Short term accommodation for nomads
- Airbnb – Probably the most popular option for digital nomads visiting Lisbon short term.
- Selina Secret Garden – Co-living and co-working space with a bar and rooftop swimming pool (coworking space priced separately, but the wifi is accessible throughout).
- Home Lisbon Hostel – Boutique hostel that gives their guests free use of their onsite co-working space (normally €8 per day).
- Outsite Lisbon – Co-living space with on-site co-working space and cafe. Access to the co-working space is included.
- Entrepreneur Houses – A co-living house situated across the river, about 30 minutes from Lisbon. The location isn’t ideal for those that plan to spend a lot of time in Lisbon’s city centre, but works well for those that mainly want to get some work done and come into Lisbon occasionally (e.g. for the weekly digital nomad meetup).
- Accommodation for digital nomads in Lisbon (Facebook Group) – A Facebook group dedicated to digital nomad-friendly rooms and apartment rentals in Lisbon. As well as longer term rentals, some people list properties that are available for a few weeks at a time.
Of course, there are also Airbnb, hostels, hotels, and everything else.
Medium-term accommodation for nomads
For medium-term stays (i.e. more than 1 month but less than 6), most people usually rent through Airbnb or find a sublet in one of the many Facebook groups.
Can’t find anything on Airbnb? Airbnb is the best platform. It’s usually the cheapest when compared to other sites like Wimdu and Housetrip, and it has good customer service as well. It’s not the only option, though.
- Accommodation for digital nomads in Lisbon (Facebook Group)
- Lisbon Expat Rooms, Flats & Roommates (Facebook Group)
- 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.)
- Uniplaces, despite the name, isn’t only for students – anyone can book a room or apartment through Uniplaces. The customer service doesn’t seem to be anywhere near as good as Airbnb’s judging by the reviews, but it’s another Airbnb alternative if you come stuck. (Tip: use the code PORTUGALIST when booking, and you’ll get a 10% discount off your order)
- Nomadx is a Lisbon-based startup that focuses on medium-term accommodation.
Tip: If you are planning to use a site like 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.
Longer-term accommodation for nomads
If you’re staying for six months or more, it’s best to look at Facebook groups and classifieds sites like Olx.pt and Idealista. The guides to renting a room or apartment in Lisbon both have information about the relevant Facebook groups and websites.
Nomadx is another accommodation platform that’s specifically aimed at digital nomads. It doesn’t have many listings, but is worth having a look at. The rooms and houses listed are much more affordable than those on Airbnb but less affordable than a standard rental or houseshare. Flatshares are often with fellow digital nomads, so it’s a great way to meet other people while you’re in Lisbon.
- Finding long term accommodation in Lisbon (Portugalist)
- Renting a room in Lisbon (Portugalist)
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.
Co-Working Spaces in Lisbon
Lisbon is home to numerous co-working spaces, and I’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.
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 this atmosphere makes it 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.
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.
Tease has several locations in Lisbon, including one café in Cais do Sodré and another in Principe Real.
- Tease Bakery Facebook page (Facebook.com)
- Tease locations:
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 and the branch at Praça Martim Moniz.
Working from Lisbon Airport
Unfortunately, aside from the airport lounges at Lisbon Airport (e.g. the ANA Lounge), there aren’t many great places to work from at Lisbon Airport.
Pre-security, La Pausa Self Service has plenty of tables but few power sockets. It gets busy at lunchtime, but is usually reasonably quiet the rest of the time.
If you’re flying from Terminal 2, don’t get your hopes up – especially during the peak summer months. The best place to work is probably the Tasty2Go seating area in between McDonald’s and the passport control for non-Schengen area flights.
If you have quiet a lot of time to kill working, it might be better to head to IDEA SPACES at Parque das Nações. It’s just a few minutes by taxi/Uber or metro.
- Lisbon Airport guide (Portugalist)
- ANA lounge review (Portugalist)
- A guide to Lisbon Airport’s Terminal 2 (Portugalist)
- Idea Spaces Website (IdeaSpaces.pt)
Now, the negatives
Nowhere is perfect, of course, and there are a few downsides to living in Lisbon (and many of the general downsides to living in Portugal also apply).
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.
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. It’s easier to rent a room, but the quality of accommodation in Lisbon is quite poor. Houses are big here, and it’s not uncommon to find houseshares with 7 or more rooms.
Just an okay 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.
Low quality housing
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 just not for everyone
Some people love Chiang Mai, some people hate it. Some people love Berlin, some people hate it. In the same way, being a digital nomad in Lisbon isn’t for everyone.
Some people, most people, see Lisbon as quaint. Others get annoyed at things and 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 independent people.
Las Palmas in Gran Canaria, another digital nomad hotspot, is also close by and a short flight (or 2) from Lisbon, as is Bansko.