Travel

15 Pros and Cons of Living in Lisbon

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In this post, I’ll share with you my thoughts on the main pros and cons of living in Lisbon, Portugal’s beautiful capital.

With its year-round sunshine, atmospheric cobblestone streets, colorful tiled buildings, and rich cultural and culinary scene, Lisbon is a pretty amazing place to live, all things considered. It’s one of my favorite cities in Europe and I’ve spent quite a lot of time there over the past few years.

But, it’s not perfect. Nowhere is. Like any major capital city, Lisbon comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Overall, I’d say the benefits of living in Lisbon vastly outweigh the drawbacks. But it’s important to consider a range of different factors, which is what I’ll be doing here.

15 Pros and Cons of Living in Lisbon

lisbon sunrise

When coming up with this set of pros and cons of living in Lisbon, I relied largely on my own personal experience of the city, and Portugal more widely. Having spent many weeks living there myself, I know Lisbon pretty well.

I also have a couple of friends who are from Lisbon and have lived there most of their lives, so I’ve been able to get a local’s perspectives on the city too. To help you decide whether Lisbon would be a good place for you, here’s a balanced view of life in Portugal’s capital.

Pros of Living in Lisbon

There are many advantages of living in Lisbon. Here are 10 of the best things about the city.

1. Affordable Cost of Living

euros

Lisbon is a relatively affordable city to live in, at least compared with other Western European capital cities. Your money goes much further here than it would in, say, Paris, London, or Copenhagen.

It’s definitely not as cheap as it used to be. And it’s still the most expensive city in Portugal to live in. The city has seen quite a bit of price inflation over the last few years, partly due to its popularity with digital nomads which has caused a surge in rental prices.

Yet, despite this recent price inflation (see below for more info on this), you can still enjoy a high quality of life in Lisbon without breaking the bank. Rent, food, transport, and entertainment are all relatively affordable.

2. Great Weather

climate mediterranean

One of the things I love most about Lisbon is its weather. The city enjoys a Mediterranean climate with mild winters and long, hot summers. This means you can spend plenty of time outside enjoying the city’s many parks, gardens, and outdoor spaces throughout the year.

Lisbon has more than 300 sunny days per year, making it one of the sunniest capital cities in Europe. The winters are mild, with temperatures rarely dropping below 10°C (50°F).

In the summer, you can expect long days with plenty of sunshine and temperatures averaging around 28°C (82°F). If you love warm, sunny weather, Lisbon could be the place for you!

3. Vibrant Culture and Rich History

Alfama district lisbon

As one of the oldest capital cities in Europe, Lisbon has a rich history and a vibrant culture. From its stunning architecture and charming neighborhoods to its museums and galleries, there’s always something new to discover in this city.

One of my favorite things to do in Lisbon is just wander around and get lost in its atmospheric back streets. It feels like exploring a historical movie set or a living museum; there’s something beautiful and fascinating around every corner.

Lisbon is also an architectural gem, with its pastel-colored buildings, tiled facades, and grand monuments dotted throughout the city. The picturesque Alfama district is especially famous for its traditional Moorish-style buildings and narrow alleys that seem to transport you back in time.

4. Stunning Beaches Nearby

Praia do Magoito portugal

Not many capital cities can boast of having stunning beaches just a short distance away. But Lisbon is lucky enough to have some of the most beautiful coastlines in Europe within easy reach.

From the famous surfing hotspot of Cascais to the picturesque town of Estoril, there’s no shortage of gorgeous beaches to choose from. Praia do Magoito is one of my personal favorites.

If you’re a surfer, you’re in for a treat with countless fantastic surfing spots dotted along the coast both north and south of the city. And if you’d prefer something a little more relaxing, there are plenty of beaches ideal for swimming, sunbathing, and enjoying a sundowner as the sun sets over the sea.

5. Delicious Food and Wine

pastel de nata

Portuguese cuisine is often overlooked in favor of its Mediterranean neighbors, but it definitely shouldn’t be! Lisbon’s food scene is vibrant, diverse, and delicious.

As you’d expect for a coastal city, fresh seafood is often the star of the show. But there are many other delicious local dishes to enjoy too, such as cozido à portuguesa (a hearty stew), bacalhau (salted cod), and the famous pastel de nata (custard tart).

Portugal also produces some excellent wines, many of which are available for extremely reasonable prices – especially if you buy them from a supermarket. Try a glass or two of local vinho verde or Alentejo red wine, my favorite.

6. Excellent Public Transport

lisbon transport

Getting around in Lisbon is easy thanks to its efficient public transport system. The city has an extensive and interconnected network of buses, trams, metros, trains, and ferries that cover all the major areas.

The metro is especially convenient for getting around quickly and cheaply. It’s clean, cheap, and modern, and even connects to Lisbon Airport, which makes traveling to and from the city a breeze. This means you don’t need to worry about having a car, which is one of the major pros of living in Lisbon.

Lisbon’s location is also an ideal base for traveling further afield. Not only is it well-connected with the rest of Portugal, but you can get cheap flights from here to destinations all across Europe and beyond.

7. Friendly Locals

friendly

I know it sounds like a bit of a cliche, but in my experience, Portuguese people really are as friendly as their reputation suggests. This even extends to residents of the big city.

I’ve found Lisbon locals to be extremely welcoming and helpful. It’s common for strangers to strike up conversations with you, and for people to go out of their way to help you find what you’re looking for. It’s just part of the city’s warm and welcoming culture.

8. Vibrant Art and Music Scene

lisbon street performers

Lisbon hums with creative energy, from its world-renowned street art to eclectic music festivals. Portugal has a long tradition of arts, literature, and music, which is reflected in the lively cultural scene in the city.

You can attend concerts, exhibitions, festivals, and other events all year round. Fado tunes spill out of open windows, and the streets often turn into impromptu stages for local musicians and performers.

And, if you’re a fan of street art, Lisbon is definitely a city for you. Its streets are full of colorful and thought-provoking pieces that add to the city’s already vibrant atmosphere. There are even a few organized tours dedicated to showcasing the best street art in the city.

9. Safety and Security

solo traveler lisbon safety

Lisbon is one of Europe’s safest capital cities, with a relatively low crime rate. Of course, it’s always essential to stay vigilant and practice common-sense precautions, but generally speaking, Lisbon is a very safe city to live in.

I’ve always felt comfortable walking around the city alone at night. Theft and petty crime are not as common here as in many other European cities; one of the many reasons why it’s a great place to live.

friends expats digital nomads

Lisbon is a popular city with digital nomads and other remote workers. There are people living here from all over the world, which adds to the city’s diverse and cosmopolitan vibe.

This also means that there are plenty of opportunities to meet other expats and make new friends. Many cafes, coworking spaces, and community events cater specifically to this community, making it easier for newcomers to integrate into life in Lisbon.

Plus, having a network of like-minded individuals is always helpful when you’re moving to a new city.

Cons of Living in Lisbon

Of course, nowhere is perfect. While it’s a great city overall, there are certainly a few disadvantages of living in Lisbon. Here are 5 of the main ones.

1. Limited Job Opportunities

remote worker

In some sectors, the local job market can pose a challenge, particularly for those seeking high-paying roles. Salaries in Lisbon are generally lower than in other Western European cities, and the unemployment rate is higher.

However, this is slowly changing as more and more international companies set up offices in Lisbon. And with Portugal’s growing economy and favorable business climate, there are opportunities for those willing to put in the effort to find them.

Still, you may find it harder to find a good job here compared with many other major cities in Europe. Of course, if you’re a remote worker, digital nomad, and/or have your own online business, this isn’t likely to be a huge downside to living in Lisbon.

2. Crowded Tourist Season

crowd people

Lisbon is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination, which can mean that the city center gets pretty crowded during peak season – generally speaking, from early June until late September.

This is less of a problem if you live a little further out from the main touristy areas (Alfama or Bairro Alto), but it’s definitely something to keep in mind if you’re planning on living centrally.

Prices for accommodation and other essentials can also rise during this time, so budget accordingly. Luckily, Lisbon is a relatively affordable city overall, so even during peak season, it’s still possible to live here comfortably without breaking the bank.

3. Winter Dampness

packing warmer clothing

Winters in Lisbon are generally quite mild. However, due to its location on the Atlantic coast, the city experiences fairly high levels of humidity during the winter months.

This, combined with the cooler weather, can leave a damp chill in your bones. Dampness can also be a problem for older buildings and homes which might not be as well-ventilated.

Winter dampness is something I used to seriously hate about living in the UK. I’d still rather be in Lisbon than London in January, don’t get me wrong. But it’s worth bringing some good quality warm clothing (and possibly investing in a dehumidifier for your home) to combat the issue.

4. Complex Bureaucracy

paperwork

Every Portuguese person I know has told me how much they dislike the bureaucracy in Portugal. Sometimes it feels like getting anything official done (be it applying for a residence permit, opening a bank account, or registering for healthcare) requires an endless amount of paperwork and waiting.

The language barrier can also make this process more complicated. Many government officials and customer service representatives don’t speak much English, so it can be helpful to have at least some basic knowledge of Portuguese when dealing with these matters.

However, once you’ve navigated the bureaucracy and have all your paperwork in order, things generally run pretty smoothly. It’s just a matter of patiently jumping through a few hoops to get there.

5. Rising Cost of Living in Popular Areas

lisbon apartments

As Lisbon’s popularity soars, so does its cost of living, particularly in trendy neighborhoods. Rent prices in popular areas have increased significantly in recent years, making it more challenging to find affordable housing than it used to be.

If you’re willing to live a little further out from the city center or share an apartment with others, it’s still possible to find reasonably priced accommodation. But you should be realistic about the type of place you can afford if you want to live super central.

Another unfortunate effect of rising rent costs is that it’s started to price some locals out. Understandably, this can lead to resentment towards the influx of foreign (comparably wealthy) residents and tourists. It’s a complex issue, but one to be mindful of if you want to live in Lisbon.

Is Living in Lisbon Worth It?

If you’re looking for a friendly, warm, affordable European capital city with bucketfuls of culture, tasty food, loads of great things to see and do, and beautiful beaches on the doorstep, Lisbon is pretty hard to beat.

Naturally, there are a few downsides to living in Lisbon. However, overall I believe that the pros vastly outweigh the cons. The lifestyle here is relaxed and laid-back, but still vibrant and exciting – it’s a great place to live with a high quality of life. I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I do!

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