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 and Heden, 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. 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.
- 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. Even if you don’t join a gym, Lisbon’s 7 hills will force you to stay in shape.
- 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 to speak some 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. Across the river, Costa de Caparica is another favourite for surfing and sunbathing.
- Hipster-ific: 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.
- Great surfing: 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
- 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.
- 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.
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 like accommodation for digital nomads in Lisbon) or Lisbon Expat Rooms, Flats & Roommates).
Can’t find anything on Airbnb? Airbnb is the best platform. It’s usually the cheapest, and it has good customer service as well. It’s not the only option, though.
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 as good as Airbnb’s, but it’s another Airbnb alternative if you need one. (Tip: use the code PORTUGALIST when booking, and you’ll get a 10% discount off your order.)
Nomadx (discuss below) usually has a few properties that are available for medium-term as well as long-term rent.
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.
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, 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.
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.
- 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 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 (Príncipe Real branch) & also Rua de S. Paulo 160, 1200-429 Lisboa (Cais do Sodré branch).
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.
- 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. 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.
- 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. 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.
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.