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.
Although the cost of living in Lisbon has risen over the past few years, Lisbon is still a very affordable city to live in – by Western European standards anyway.
It also has a rapidly growing tech scene. Google has a base here, there are a few homegrown startups like Uniplaces, and there’s also Web Summit, the big conference that takes place here every November.
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.
- 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 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).
- 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. It can also be a good city for running, particularly around Alcântara and Monsanto (which is accessible from Belém).
- Good Coffee: Portugal has great espressos (bicas), and they often cost as little as €0.55 each.
- 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, 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 this is very helpful when you’re just starting out.
- Friendly people: Portuguese people are extremely friendly and extremely welcoming of people from other cultures.
- Nightlife: Lisbon has a great nightlife, particularly in terms of bars as opposed to clubs and particularly around the Bairro Alto and Cais do 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 and an hour-and-a-half from Nazarè.
- Affordable public transport: Public transport is fairly affordable, as is Uber and all of the other ride-sharing apps. The biggest bargain, however, is the trains in Portugal: it’s possible to get a return to the Algarve for less than €20.
Affordable accommodation? Not so much.
It’s probably related, particularly due to the number of travel bloggers visiting Lisbon and writing about it but, at the same time Lisbon became a popular place for digital nomads to visit, it also became an extremely popular place for ‘normal tourists’ to visit as well.
Lisbon’s surge in popularity has made it difficult for digital nomads to find affordable accommodation in Lisbon. Most 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.
Digital Nomad-Friendly 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 plenty of plug sockets, and the Wi-Fi is always good.
- Address: 10, R. Nova da Piedade, 1200-298 Lisboa, Portugal
(Know of anywhere else that’s great to work from? Let us know by leaving a comment below).
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 very expensive to rent in Lisbon, either short-term or long-term.
- 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.
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.