For a long time, Lisbon was never seen as the place to move to. That was London, Paris, Rome – and all of the other major European capitals. All of that has changed in the past few years, however. Lisbon is now the place that everybody wants to move to.
And, it’s no surprise either. With over 300 days of sunshine per year and a cost of living that’s lower than most other Western European capital cities, Lisbon has a lot to offer.
Of course there are downsides too such as its rising cost of living, particularly in terms of rentals, low salaries, and problems with overtourism.
Nowhere is perfect, though, and for an ever-increasing number of people the pros of living in Lisbon more than outweigh the cons. In this article we’ll look at both the good and the bad.
The following are a few of the main pros to living in Lisbon.
Lisbon is one of the most southerly capital cities and, as such, benefits from great weather throughout the year – 300 days of sunshine. Sometimes it can be too hot in the summer, but the mild winters more than make up for that.
The cost of living
Although Lisbon’s cost of living has rapidly increased in recent years, it’s still possible to eat and drink cheaply. And, Lisbon isn’t a city where you feel like you have to spend a lot of money to enjoy yourself. A cheap beer or a coffee on a miradouro overlooking the city makes for a great evening out.
Portugal is one of the safest countries in the world and Lisbon is generally quite a safe place to live as well. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t crime – there is: particularly pickpocketing – but, as capital cities go, Lisbon is very safe.
The international scene
Lisbon is now a very international city and home to expats from all over the world, particularly from other European countries like Spain, Italy, Germany, and the UK, but also from Brazil, the United States, Canada, and parts of Africa.
The following are some of the cons to living in Lisbon.
The accommodation issues
Lisbon’s popularity spurt has led to both a shortage of rental accommodation and an increase in prices. It isn’t unheard of for landlords to suddenly double or even treble the rent year-on-year and, because many landlords don’t give out contracts anyway, tenants are then left to join the masses searching for reasonably-priced accommodation.
Property prices have similarly soared as demand has increased, and this has made it more difficult for low earners to buy close to the city centre.
Then, there are the issues with the accommodation itself — issues to do with insulation, mould, and heating — that Portuguese buildings tend to have.
The cost of living
Yes, the cost of living can be more affordable than many other European cities but it is rising and more and more of the affordable bars, restaurants, and other venues are being replaced by the more expensive ones.
Lisbon’s tourism boom has definitely had its benefits as it has created new jobs and pumped money into a struggling economy. However, the city really wasn’t designed for the sheer number of tourists that now visit every year.
Stressed out locals
Lisbon may not be London, but that doesn’t mean that people there aren’t stressed like in other capital cities. If anything they have more reason to be stressed: working hours and conditions can be just as long or bad, but pay is much lower.
Because of this people who live and work in Lisbon seem to be much more stressed than those who live in other parts of Portugal.
As with the rest of Portugal, anyone resident in Portugal has access to public healthcare through Portugal’s National Health Service (SNS – Serviço Nacional de Saúde).
There are also several private hospitals and medical facilities in Lisbon, which you can access through your health insurance or by paying directly.
Property prices, both for rent and for buying, have risen over the past few years due to both demand and an increase in Airbnbs.
But even though Lisbon is no longer the bargain basement it once was, for many people coming from abroad, prices are still attractive. You just have to look harder for those really good deals or do what the Portuguese have been doing and more further outside of the city.
Classifieds sites like OLX or Idealista are a good place to begin your search for property and to get an idea of prices.
Although it can vary depending on the sector, Lisbon, as the capital city, generally has the most job opportunities. If you want to work in Portugal, Lisbon is probably going to be the easiest place to find work.
But, even though Lisbon has the most job opportunities, there are still relatively fewer job opportunities than many other European countries. And, salaries are lower as well.
Like everything else, it’s a tradeoff. You’ll probably earn much more if you move to somewhere like Dublin or Frankfurt, but you won’t get all of the benefits that living in Lisbon has to offer – especially the good weather.
The majority of jobs on the expat job sites are customer service roles. If you’re looking for something else, for example a job in tech, Linkedin is a good place to begin your search. Glassdoor is another site that covers other job areas. Finally, there’s Indeed which scrapes multiple sites.
Being in the capital gives you access to a wide range of schools, both public and private as well as higher-level education facilities like the University of Lisbon and other universities.
Lisbon’s public transport network consists of buses, a metro, trains, trams, finunculars, and ferries, so it’s quite an extensive and varied system.
The metro system is easily the best part, and if you live near the metro line it’s easy to get to many parts of the city. Buses are good for what the metro doesn’t cover, but can be crowded and sometimes late.
Lisbon has good, and affordable, connections to the rest of Portugal thanks to its extensive bus and rail networks.
Owning a car is an option, but generally isn’t recommended if you live in the city centre. It is useful for getting out at the weekend, though.
Lisbon also has Lisbon Airport, a reasonably large international airport. It doesn’t compare to airports like Heathrow, Frankfurt, or Amsterdam, but Lisbon does offer a good number of flights to international destinations, particularly within Europe.
For longer journeys, you’ll often need to fly to Madrid (around 75 minutes) if you want to take advantage of cheap deals or go to more obscure locations.
Similar cities & other options
If you’re looking for the big city vibe, Lisbon is Portugal’s largest city — and even then it only feels like a medium-sized city. You can easily walk across the city in a few hours, and across most neighbourhoods in less than 30 minutes. It’s not comparable to London, Berlin, or New York, but, then again, big cities aren’t for everyone.
The next biggest city in Lisbon is Porto, and this is becoming a popular place to live in. It lacks the mild winters and the large international crowd that Lisbon has to offer, but it’s smaller, less touristy, and has a lower cost of living than Lisbon.
Read more about living in Porto.
Another option is simply to live outside of Lisbon. Beachside locations like Cascais, Estoril, and Costa da Caparica are all a short drive from Lisbon and can offer the best of both worlds for those that don’t need to live in the city centre.