Where to Stay, When to Go, Why Pick Lisbon - Tips from a Digital Nomad

This beautiful city, known as Lisboa by locals, successfully manages to blend the traditional way of life with a lively cosmopolitan vibe. The city has become a top European holiday destination in recent years and is now a hub for digital nomads with an exciting tech startup scene.

With friendly locals, delicious food, superb weather, beautiful architecture, charming backstreets and breathtaking views, what else could you want?! The beach is a short ride away on public transport but for those who must live near water, there’s the River Tagus where long leisurely riverside walks can be enjoyed throughout the year.

The digital nomad and expat scene is thriving with more and more young people choosing to base themselves in Lisbon as they soak up the near year-round sun and enjoy a better quality of life. It’s easy to get work done with the number of co-working spaces and cafes dotted around the city and the fast broadband is a dream come true for many.

But don’t think you’ll be staring at your computer screen all day, Lisbon leads people to a healthier outdoor lifestyle due to its great weather and relaxed atmosphere – Think long leisurely lunches dining on fresh produce, walks in the park, jogging by the river, swimming in the warm Atlantic ocean, hiking, cycling, surfing… There’s no excuse not to get fit and explore the great outdoors at the same time.

Those who appreciate history will be intrigued to learn that Lisbon was ruled by the Romans, Germans, and Arabs before being conquered by the Portuguese in 1147. Whilst those who appreciate the arts will be thrilled to learn that the city hosts multiple events and festivals throughout the year, many of them free.

At night the city comes alive with bars and clubs nestled into every space imaginable from the parks and the riverfront to car park rooftops! Foodies will be able to indulge in the growing food scene as they sample traditional Portuguese dishes, modern Portuguese cooking and flavours from around the world cooked to perfection. On the subject of food, we mustn’t forget the excellent local wine that you can enjoy whilst watching the sunset over this picturesque city.

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Where to Stay in Lisbon

With its beautiful weather, affordable cost of living, and laid-back lifestyle, it’s no wonder that Lisbon is a favourite long-term stay. Along with its stunning historical centre, the capital city of Portugal is also home to a number of wonderfully diverse neighborhoods, each coming with its own special vibe. Whether it’s a community-minded village atmosphere you’re after, a sophisticated suburbia, or trendy art spaces, Lisbon can deliver. A good public transportation system means that traversing the city is relatively easy, although some of the districts can suffer from heavy traffic at certain times. Accommodation options around Lisbon range from the budget to the boutique, with plenty of hotels, guesthouses, spacious apartments, and even holiday rentals to choose from.

[Top Pick] Campo de Ourique: Often described as a “lively residential area” (and rightly so), this attractive district to the west of Lisbon offers a true neighborhood atmosphere with a diverse population but a community feel. It offers a great quality of life with plenty to do, so it’s especially popular with middle-class families. There’s a market area and lots of supermarkets, making for a convenient lifestyle, but there’s a good amount of local trade, too. It is reasonably expensive, but apartments can often be larger here, so it’s a good place to bet on getting more for your money.

[Second Pick] Príncipe Real: The residents of this charming neighborhood are a mixed bag, but it makes for a very welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. Príncipe Real – or “Real Prince” – district is widely heralded for its gay-friendly and family-friendly vibes, and it’s worth noting the array of boutique stores and upscale antique shops. It’s within walking distance from the centre of the city, but also boasts some very attractive architecture of its own. The convenience, comfort, and charm of this district make it a very appealing choice among the expat community.

[Third Pick] Alfama & Graça: The oldest neighborhood in Lisbon, Alfama & Graça is a maze of tiny streets which give the area a uniquely historical feel, but at the same time can make driving nearly impossible. This “village” district is built around Graça Castle and the Alfama river. It’s populated mostly by pensioners, immigrants, and working-class communities who have resided there for generations. While the houses are generally affordable, and some have been renovated, lots have not and are in need of repair.

[4th Pick] Chiado: A wealthy, sophisticated suburb, Chiado is renowned for its excellent shopping, theatre, and thriving cafe culture. Sometimes referred to as the “least Portuguese” of all of Lisbon’s districts, residents of Chiado tend to be wealthy locals and expats. There is plenty to do and see here, with good restaurants and easy access to nightlife, although it is an expensive place to visit, let alone live.

Alcântara: If a town with an edge is what you’re after, head to the Alcâântara area and revel in its trendiness. This neighborhood has a hip, “start-up” feel that’s refreshing to be in the midst of, and you’ll find plenty of pockets of creativity here, like artists’ lofts and co-working spaces. Apartments tend to be located on the hill, so they offer inspiring views of the river.

Avenidas Novas & Alvalade: This area of north Lisbon is often defamed as having little in terms of atmosphere or community spirit, although it does offer good shopping with decent transport links to the rest of the city. It also boasts a large, immaculate, and quite attractive park, but this is apparently not enough to make up for the rather bland architecture and lack of a social scene.

Bairro Alto: Located in the city centre, this fun neighborhood offers a bohemian party scene like no other, making it popular with trendy young people, some expats, and people who don’t need to sleep. Even the “quieter” streets can get very noisy (and messy) until the small hours, so consider staying in one of the adjacent districts like Santa Catarina or Brica. They’re within walking distance of the action, but a little more relaxed. If full-on nightlife is what you’re after, however, you’re in the right place, as Bairro Alto offers a huge choice of restaurants, shops, bars, and clubs for the discerning partygoer.

Lower Town (Baixa): Found right in the heart of Lisbon, this district is mostly non-residential, although it is slowly becoming more popular with investors. There’s still plenty to see and do here, however, and the area can even feel a little touristy at times, as visitors flock to see the many impressive plazas, avenues, and boutique-shopping boulevards. There’s also a great selection of restaurants and high-end hotels for the shorter stay.

Belém & Restelo: While these two neighborhoods are close in location, there are a few distinctions between them. Belém offers a lot of green spaces and a riverfront, and it is home to some of the city’s most famous museums and monuments. For these reasons, it can attract a lot of tourists, but it does get quieter towards the end of the day when they leave. The affluent Restelo is much more tranquil by comparison, with some very nice, very large houses and gardens, certainly unlike what you find in the city proper.

Santos & Lapa: In the west of Lisbon lie the districts known as Santos and Lapa. Santos is an attractive riverfront neighborhood popular with the middle classes, while Lapa is home to “old money,” retirees with mansions, and the Embassy Quarter. Both areas offer a quiet, community-oriented feel and neither play host to many tourists, adding to the genteel residential atmosphere. The lack of a Metro service, however, can make getting in and out tricky.

Best time to travel to Lisbon

Lisbon is one of the sunniest cities in Europe enjoying a Mediterranean climate with mild but wet winters and warm dry summers. A refreshing sea breeze keeps the city comfortable through the long Summer whilst snow in Winter isn’t just a rarity, it’s a phenonium! If you’re someone who feels the cold, Lisbon is the perfect European destination for you to warm your bones! There’s no wrong time to visit Lisbon but late September until early October or late April until Early May ensures the nicest weather without the swarms of tourists.

January-February: Winters are mild compared with the rest of Europe, snow being a very rare event but January is still the coldest month with locals wrapping up warm in Winter coats. There’s not much happening in terms of events and festivals after New Year celebrations but this keeps the city relatively peaceful. Expect some wet and windy days and some bright days too. In February, though the wind and rain continues, Spring starts to appear with blossom appearing on trees and temperatures gradually rising at the end of the month.

March-May: Rain is possible until mid-April but rainy days aside, Spring is a beautiful time to be in Lisbon with warm daytime temperatures and not too many people. Sunscreen is needed from April onward as the temperatures rise daily and the tourist season begins with the occasional thunderstorm happening in May. From March onward the city comes alive with festivals and events such as Lisbon’s Half Marathon and Lisboa Dance Festival.

June-August: Summer is now in full-swing with the city experiencing its highest temperatures and tourist numbers in July and August. Thankfully the sea breeze stops the city from becoming unbearably hot unlike other parts of Europe. Festivals and events take place almost every day starting with the Feast of St. Anthony and an array of musical festivals taking place throughout July including the Festival ao Largo which brings classical music, opera, and ballet to the city in a number of free events.

September-October: In September, it still feels like Summer to most people though a sweater is likely needed to keep the chilly nights comfortable. People are still able to enjoy beach days and swimming in the sea, the weather becoming less settled from mid-October. MotelX; Lisbon’s Horror Film Festival takes place in September as does Happy Holi – A spectacle of fun and colour not to be missed! In October Lisbon’s Fashion Week and the French Film Festival take place.

November-December: November is generally the wettest month in Lisbon but if you can dodge the rain many people are still able to enjoy some beach days, especially early in the month. In December you can notice a crispness to the air but it’s cool rather than cold. In November the popular Web Summit takes place which draws in many entrepreneurs, tech leaders and digital nomads. There are also more film and music festivals before December arrives and Christmas festivities take over with Christmas markets and Christmas carols.

Lisbon’s Best Festivals and Events

As the largest city and capital of Portugal, it’s no wonder that there’s a festival to suit all. Visitors will experience the city’s unique blend of modern culture with its historical traditions and heritage. Having a local guide with you to attend these festivals would be ideal, but even if you jump into the deep end, you’re sure to enjoy yourself.

String Quartet Festival (January) – The String Quartet Festival offers visitors the opportunity to see 6 of the most creative string quarters over a 3-day period. With the huge range of music on offer, it’s an excellent introductory event into the genre.

Lisbon Chocolate Festival (February) – Just in time for visitors to say goodbye to their New Year’s resolution, the Lisbon Chocolate Festival showcases the best chocolatiers from across Portugal and the world.

Rescaldo Festival (February) – This is known to be the most alternative of Portuguese music festivals. It is designed to celebrate music genres of jazz, electronica, rock, and free improvisation. Visitors can enjoy 11 concerts that demonstrate the creative continuity in Portugal.

Festival PLAY (February) – This is a cinema festival dedicated to young people. Festival PLAY showcases the world’s best film in short and long format, so that young people can have access to the latest movies. There are 9 days of films in total, all suitable for children up to the age of 13 years.

Rio Carnival (February) – A festival that is now known all over the world, Rio Carnival actually started in Lisbon. Visitors can enjoy a parade of floats, jugglers, masked performers, and much more. Everyone is invited to join in on the music, dancing and general cheer as part of the street performances.

FESTin (February–March) – This is the Portuguese Language Film Festival, so all films will be screened in Portuguese. The program will be full of productions from Portuguese-speaking countries and seeks to promote diffusion, interculturality, social inclusion, and cultural exchange.

CUMPLICIDADED (March) – Also known as Lisbon International Contemporary Dance Festival. The word “cumplicadades” comes from the will to build bridges, and this festival aims to bridge the gap between dance and the audiences.

Monstra (March) – Also known as Lisboa Animated Film Festival, Monstra shows attendees the best animated productions from around the world. The purpose of this festival is to celebrate artistic versatility, and visitors can take part in workshops and master classes.

Lisboa Dance Festival (March) – Visitors to this festival will experience 2 days of the best electronic music. Music, Talks, and Market are the 3 focus areas, so there will be shows, conferences, and a market. Expect a large presence of brands and labels from the electronic music world.

Caparica Primavera Surf Fest (March) – This is a 10-day event that brings together amateur surfers. There will be around 500 Portuguese and foreign surfers, 20 DJs, 9 bands, and parties day and night.

IndieLisboa (April) – This film festival gives attendees the chance to see works of independent cinema from all over the world. During this festival, there will be 3 competitions: International Competition, World Pulse, and IndieJunior.

Iberanime LX (May) – Iberanime LX is the biggest Japanese pop culture event in Portugal. This 2-day festival is best suited for visitors who appreciate Japanese cosplay, dance, manga, anime, origami, etc. Visitors should take advantage of the workshops, presentations, and art demonstrations.

Festival da Máscara Ibérica (May) – The purpose of this festival is to promote Portuguese and Spanish popular culture. Cultural masks are the main theme of this festival, and visitors will be able to take part in processions, workshops, concerts, dances, displays, and photography.

Rock in Rio (June) – Rock in Rio is the largest music festival in the world, and the first stop on its international tour is Lisbon. Visitors will enjoy street performances, art shows, exhibitions, dance shows, cosplay, a Ferris wheel and more. It’s a true music theme park.

Santo Antonio Festival (June) – Santo Antonio was Portugal’s patron saint. Lisbon is decorated with different colours, and food and drink stalls will take over the streets. Each district of the city hosts different activities, from music events to street parties.

NOS Alive (July) – Not only is this festival known to be one of the most respected indie, rock, and alternative music festivals, it is also located on a beautiful coastal area near Lisbon. Visitors are welcome from all over the world.

Cool Jazz Fest (July) – Visitors are given the chance to listen to a wide range of music genres, including, fado, jazz, indie, folk, funk, and soul. Portuguese and international music performers make up the program of this festival.

Sumol Summer Fest (July) – This 2-day festival comes just in time to celebrate the beginning of summer. Visitors can enjoy a huge party with the best hip hop music and the beach only metres away.

BAIXAnimaStreet Festival (July–September) – Festivities take place every weekend from July to September. All visitors are welcome to this free event to enjoy music, sports, dances, theater productions, and much more.

Jazz em Agosto (August) – The Jazz in August Festival invites visitors to attend open-air jazz concerts throughout August. National and international artists are invited to perform, making it a highlight on the Lisbon cultural agenda.

Queer Lisboa (September) – Queer Lisboa is an International Queer Film Festival. The purpose is to screen new gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and transsexual themed films. The main aim behind the festival is to allow the world to see the queer film genre.

Festival Cantabile (September) – Festival Cantabile is the only Portuguese festival devoted to chamber music. A total of 3 concerts are held in Lisbon and Sintra. Visitors who enjoy baroque and contemporary chamber music are welcome.

Festival Todos (September) – This 4-day festival celebrates theatre, dance, music, circus acts, and unusual food. The aim of Festival Todos is to build relationships with neighbouring cities.

Lisbon Open Studios (October) – At the Lisbon Open Studios Festival, all of the art studios in Lisbon come together. All art lovers, critics, collectors, and connoisseurs are welcome to take part.

Festival Big Bang (October) – The Big Bang Festival is designed to be an exciting journey for both children and the adults accompanying them. Here, Portuguese artists develop new approaches to music for children with the aim of introducing children to non-commercial music.

VERA World Fine Art Festival (October) – The VERA World Fine Art Festival is organized by the World Without Borders Foundation and the Public Foundation for Support of Culture and Development of Contemporary Art in Moscow. Visitors can expect to see works of painting, sculpture applied arts, installation and design, photography, museology, and architecture.

French Film Festival (October) – The French Embassy in Lisbon created this festival to promote French Cinema. Visitors can enjoy 20 premieres of the best film productions as well as time to rediscover the classics.

DocLisboa International Film Festival (October) – This is the only Portuguese competitive festival that is dedicated to documentaries. The documentaries are shown in English and Portuguese and are accompanied by master classes and activities.

Misty Fest (November) – The Misty Fest promises to be a festival full of character. Artists are invited to introduce something unique to their concerts, creating their own jazz and world music sound landscape.

Web Summit (November) – One of the biggest technology conferences in the world. The topic of the conference is centered on web tech and attendees range from Fortune 500 companies to smaller tech firms. The event brings more than 50,000 attendees from over 160 countries.

Note: Some of the dates and locations may change. Be sure to double check the exact dates before planning your trip.

* * *

FREE Guide to the BEST of Lisbon

Wouldn’t you want to save time and discover the absolute BEST places in Lisbon? – Cafes, accommodation, coworking, gyms, yoga & more

There are many travel guides for tourists who want to visit Lisbon.

Lisbon Secrets is different. Get it here…

* * *


Tal Gur is a world traveler and personal development enthusiast. An adventurer at heart, after trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, Tal spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey continues as a location-independent blogger, lifestyle entrepreneur, and coach. Tal’s published two books: One Year to Freedom, a 1-Year Roadmap to Living Life on Your Own Terms; and, his most recent book and bestseller, The Art of Fully Living – 1 Man, 10 Years, 100 Life Goals Around the World.

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