Digital nomads are known for their implacable thirst for more experiences: they want to meet new people and seek new adventures. For them, the world is truly an oyster: from skinny dipping in the infinity pools of Bali, to Full Moon parties on remote beaches of Thailand, or ziplining in the jungle of Costa Rica.. the options to enjoy life seem to be endless. Nevertheless, this dizzying abundance of opportunities comes often at a price:
Digital Nomads never seem to be quite satisfied with one single place. Somewhere else there is always something cooler to do, or someone more interesting to meet. Therefore, they move around all the time, rarely staying in one place longer than a few months.
However, there seem to be a place that, little by little, has seduced the heart of many nomads. A place that has the right mix of ingredients necessary to make some of them stay longer term. The magical place I’m talking about is Lisbon, the sunny capital of Portugal, located on the western shores of Europe.
If you’re asking yourself what can Lisbon possibly have to offer to tame the restless hearts of so many nomads, you might find some bits of the answer in this article, along with some tips about the nomad life around here. So… what’s up with Lisbon?
Lisbon is a gorgeous city, no doubts about that. With its breathtaking views, yellow trams and cozy cafes it has enough charm to seduce even the stiffest Russian tourist. However, beautiful cities are not necessarily good places to live in. Lisbon happens to be one, because its provides a good quality of life.
First of all, unlike many of other European capitals, the pace of life is less stressful. You realize this pretty soon: people in Lisbon are not in a rush to go somewhere else. As a matter of fact, they are probably late. Portuguese people are not afraid to make you wait a few more minutes for your lunch, or to start an event. It’s not disrespect, it’s a cultural paradigm which results in a slower rhythm and a less stressful life.
Lisbon is also one of the sunniest cities in Europe, which makes it easy to spend time outside in one of the countless of parks, squares, terraces, viewpoints, walks, shores, beaches and what-not that the city has to offer. This is in my opinion one of the best qualities of this city: it’s the perfect place to just be and have a good time listening to some music, reading a book, or hugging a loved one.
Just to mention a few places, some of my favourites are Miradouro da Graça, the Miradouro de Santa Luzia, the walk to Belém, the Jardim Botto Machado, Jardim da Estrela, Jardim do Torel and Av. Ribeira das Naus, Campo Mártires da Pátria.
Lisbon is also incredibly colorful. Most of buildings are covered with azulejos, colorful geometric tiles, which give the city a strong artistic character. Many other facades are painted with bright color tones as well, and there is also plenty of street art which makes the whole environment a great source of creative inspiration.
On top of that, Lisbon is an explosion of art and cultural events. You can’t get bored easily: from rooftop yoga, to underground techno parties, ecstatic dance, outdoor cinema, there is a lot to choose from. If that wasn’t enough, Lisbon has artist performing live music in every corner of the street. This is particularly true during the month of June for the Santo Antonio festivities, with music ranging from the traditional fado, to jazz sessions and and other genres.
The nomad community in Lisbon is one of the most well-organized in the world. The nomads who initiated it few years ago, have invested a lot of time and energy into it and today you can see the results of their hard work. Every week there are tons of meetups, workshops, skill-sharing events, open mic or stand-up comedy nights, video makers roundtables, hiking trips, social activities (e.g. planting trees, donating food, etc.) and more.
There are also several wellbeing retreats for nomads if you want to recharge your batteries, connect deeper with other people, or experience new things.
Personally, the value of the community has been one of the main reasons why I decided to come back here after a couple of months of “beta-testing” the city. Never like in Lisbon I found so many people of my same “tribe”, with the openness, vulnerability and maturity to have deep conversations and share each other’s experiences to grow together.
Anyway, it’s not just the nomad community, Lisbon is also blooming with startups, innovative hubs, and coworking spaces, which give a strong traction in the creation of a positive environment.
This big soup of talent, creativity and opportunities makes Lisbon one of the best environment for social life and networking.
You can have the best community in the world but if you don’t have the spaces to gather, it’s not going to grow very well. Lisbon has plenty of them. There are dozens of great coworking spaces, and many others are opening as you read this.
Personally I worked from Impact Hub in Alcantara, Selina in Santos and Heden in Graça. All of them were good, but Heden is by far my favourite. I honestly feel home there and the neighborhood is lovely. You can have super healthy and cheap lunches at A Padaria Portuguesa and relax a bit in Jardim da Graça in-between work sessions.
Besides coworking spaces, there are also lots of nice cafes such as Nomad Goods, O Botanista, Copenhagen Coffee Lab, Eight The Health Lounge, Cafe Boavida, WISH Slow Coffee, and more.
Living in Lisbon is relatively cheap, compared to other European capitals. I lived 6 month here so far and I spent on average around 1100€ per month.
The biggest cost is rent: since lots of foreign people have come to Lisbon in the last few years, the rent situation has been a little bit out of control, with prices going dramatically up between April and September. I stayed in 3 different places with different conditions and I paid on average 470€ a month for a room in a shared apartment. Coworking spaces cost on average 150€ per month. Food and beer are usually quite cheap and social events are mostly free or definitely affordable. Again, it’s a city you can experience a lot outside without the need to buy something. So that helps.
Pro tip: a great tool to figure out the best neighborhood to live in Lisbon based on your preferences is hoodpicker.
Portugal is a country that can easily satisfy the travel bug so many nomads have. The country is relatively small and Lisbon sits in the middle of it, making it easy to reach destination both up North and down South in usually maximum a couple of hours. The best way to travel within Portugal is by car or, even better, by minivan.
My favourite travel destinations have been Porto, Berlengas, Baleal, Óbidos, Ericeira, Praia do Ribeira do Cavalo in Sesimbra and Lagos in the Algarve region. From Lisbon you can also fly to the Azores for less than 100€ during the low season. The Azores are something else. A wild, natural paradise only few hours away. Same goes for Maideira, another semi-tropical Portugues island warm year-around, which offers breathtaking hikes, views and nature.
So.. is everything in Lisbon just perfect?! Not necessarily. During the winter for example, houses, coworkings, and cafes are pretty cold and humid, as there is no heating system in most places. Do yourself a favor and buy some warm clothes somewhere.
Also, considering that the city is built upon seven hills, depending on where you live you might find yourself walking so-fucking-much up and down all the time. When the weather is a mix of warm sun and icy wind, you might get hot, then cold, then hot, then sick.
Finally, the city has been quite hyped in the past years, meaning that an increasing number of people are coming in and prices are increasing. As usual, when strong and sudden economic growth hits one place, there are all kinds of consequences. For example it creates some friction with the locals, since many live on lower budgets and are forced to move outside of the city center. Other people instead might start prioritizing easy and fast money over people and long-term sustainability (f.e. in the housing/renting field).
I’m curious to see if Lisbon will manage to surf this wave of change with grace. I really hope it does, as I grew to love this city and I wish the best for its future. If you are thinking to pay a visit or maybe plan to stay here in the future, I hope this article gives you a better feel of it.