Making friends is hard anywhere, but making friends in Lisbon is probably easier than in most other parts of Portugal. It has a huge number of expats, with more and more moving here every year.
It also attracts people from all over Portugal, many of whom have to try and make friends in Lisbon as well, which gives you an opportunity to make some actual Portuguese friends – something which doesn’t happen everywhere in Portugal.
Tip #1: Find your people
There are quite a few meetup groups for newcomers in Lisbon, but these can be very hit or miss. They tend to attract people from all walks of life, and it can be hard to find people that you connect with.
That’s not to say it’s not worth going to them: it is. Just don’t expect to hit it off with everyone. You’ll have to do a lot of sifting to get to people that you feel you could be friends with.
It’s worth trying to find people that you have something in common with. If you work in the tech scene, go to the tech meetups. If you play a sport, join a team. If you have a particular hobby, try and find others with the same hobby. Not only does it give you something to talk about in the beginning and break the ice, but it probably gives you a better chance of connecting long-term as well.
Tip #2: Mix expats & locals
It’s good to try and make friends with both expats and locals. Some people take that very literally and only spend time with people who are from their country, and that’s fine, but do remember why you moved to Lisbon in the first place.
Others try to only make friends with local Portuguese people, and that can often be difficult. Portuguese people often tend to stick to themselves, partly because they already have a circle of friends and family in Lisbon, and it can be difficult to find ways to break into that circle. You need to have a few non-Portuguese friends as well.
Places to meet people & make friends
Meetup is probably the single best website for finding local events in Lisbon and for finding people that are open to making friends. Many of the groups are geared towards foreigners in Lisbon, many of whom will be new here and open to making friends.
Some of the groups are specifically about making friends while others are about tech, food and drink, outdoor activities like hiking, or just about anything. You can see a full list of groups and a list of upcoming events here.
Often “finding your people” literally means finding the people that come from the same country you come from. It’s a good starting point as you all have something in common, and are likely to have a lot of similar questions and experiences about living to Lisbon.
- The British Council in Lisbon
- The Royal British Club
- The British Historical Society of Portugal
- Lisbon St. Andrew’s Society
- The American Club of Lisbon
As well as expat groups that are specific to a nationality, there are also plenty of Facebook groups for expats of all backgrounds. Some organise regular meetups, but you can also post in any of these groups saying that you’re new in town and looking to meet new people.
Popular groups and meetups include
Internations is a website for expats that also hosts meetups in Lisbon every few months. The group is normally a mixture of expats from all walks of life, but it seems mainly geared at the young professional expat crowd.
Couchsurfing’s Weekly Meeting
Couchsurfing hosts a 1-2 weekly meetups, as well as several smaller meetups and meals out. The Wednesday meetup, which is the main weekly meetup, is fairly low-key and tends to attract a lot of people (expats and locals) who are actually living in Lisbon rather than just passing through.
You can also use the Couchsurfing app to find people nearby who want to meetup, although this tends to be mainly used by people who are just visiting.
HighFive Friending is a weekly meetup where you chat with people for 8-10 minutes at a time. You don’t get to pick who you chat to, which has its pros and cons, as the HighFive app does all of this for you: every 8 minutes or so it vibrates and tells you who to speak to next. You don’t get to speak to everyone either, although you can try and speak to other people at the end if you like.
It’s a little like speed-dating but for networking and making new friendships. Like speed-dating, it’s very hit-and-miss as to whether you connect with anyone but at least you’re only talking to people for a few minutes at a time. This is normally a paid event (€5), which isn’t unusual in the speed-dating world but, for some reason, it does seem a bit strange paying for friendships.
The events normally take place weekly, and are usually advertised on meetup.com.
Sports, and especially team sports, can be a great way to get to know other people living in Lisbon – both expats and locals.
- Lisbon Hash House Harriers – They call themselves a running group with a drinking problem, so this is definitely a good group for those that like socialising.
- Nike+ Run Club Lisboa – A weekly running meetup for runners of all levels.
- Boys Just Want to Have Fun Sports Club – An LGBT sports club where people play multiple sports including football, volleyball, rugby, and swimming.
- Lisbon International Sailing Club – A not-for-profit sailing club where you can learn the ropes (or practice if you already know what you’re doing). The club allows you to sign up as a guest and go on a few sails before you have to commit to becoming a member.
- The Lisbon Players – An English-language theatre group that put on plays and regularly hold auditions for new players.
- Toastmasters International – An English-language toastmasters (public speaking) group with regular meetups.
- Grupo de Boardgamers de Lisboa – A regular meetup (in Portuguese) for people who love board games.
Courses & evening classes
Taking an evening class or a course can be another good way to meet people and learn something new in the process. Finding out about courses isn’t always easy, but a few places that you can look are:
- LeWagon & IronHack both offer coding bootcamps in Lisbon.
- Dance classes: Particularly due to its Brazilian and international community, Lisbon has a huge dance scene and you can find classes for just about every type of dance including salsa, forró, bachata, and kizomba. Jazzy Dance Studios, one of the largest dance studios in Lisbon, is a good place to begin your search.
Language tandems (where you partner with someone who’s learning your language and vice versa) can be a bit hit or miss – both for learning languages and making friends. Sometimes, though, you end up partnering up with someone that you instantly hit it off with (and also end up learning Portuguese from).
If you’re already learning Portuguese in Lisbon, it could be worth trying to kill two birds with one stone. There are at least two Facebook groups for language tandems (Tandem@Lisbon and Lisbon Sprachen Café) and you’ll find events on meetup as well. There are also a few apps and websites that help people find tandem partners like Tandem.net, Open Language Exchange, and My Language Exchange.
Groups for women
Group language classes
Group language classes can be a good way to meet other people, especially people who have moved to Lisbon and are trying to learn Portuguese. Many language schools also have weekly dinners, which will give you a chance to really get to know all of the other people in your class.
Startup & tech groups
If you’re involved in the tech scene, or want to work in that field, there are plenty of tech meetups happening throughout Lisbon.
Most of these can be found on Meetup, but others pop up on Facebook as well. And, if you’re not already a programmer or have a job in tech, there are also several coding bootcamps where you can learn how to become one.
Join the buddy program (erasmus students)
If you’re an Erasmus student in Lisbon, there’s actually a program that matches new Erasmus students with locals who live in Lisbon: the buddy program.
A surprising number of people using Tinder (or other dating websites) to make friends rather than to find dates. Some sites like Okcupid actually have a checkbox where you can select that you’re just looking for friends, but on Tinder you will have to put it in your profile.
You’ll still come across people who’ll just ignore that, and assume you’re looking to date, but that’s just a part of it.
Besides dating apps, there are actually some apps like Patook which are all about making platonic friendships. Quite a few of the people that you’ll find on these apps will be from Portugal, so it’s quite a good app to use if you want to make friends with Portuguese people.
Don’t have a job, don’t need a job, or have some time you’re willing to spare? Consider volunteering. It’s also a great way to meet people, and to do something nice aswell. There are several places in Lisbon where you can volunteer at including Re-Food and Lisbon Project.