Lisbon might be the most easygoing city in Europe. Perhaps it has to do with the wine, scenery, or sun, but people here are famously warm and friendly. No one’s afraid to approach a stranger. In fact, they often chat with them like old friends.
Thanks to the city’s genial atmosphere and effective police force, which has kept the city nearly crime-free for 15 years, Lisbon is a place where people are safe to be themselves. Though not as diverse as London or Paris, the city weaves together strands from Africa, Asia, South America, and the Mediterranean. So no matter where you’re from, it feels like home.
But the safe, welcoming environment isn’t the only reason people love Lisbon. The city offers enormous opportunities for fun and adventure, at a low cost. So, for anyone interested in living abroad, here are the seven biggest reasons to move to Lisbon.
Low Cost of Living
Lisbon is one of Europe’s most affordable cities. An average, one-bedroom apartment near the town center rents for around €1150 ($1131), while an apartment in the suburbs costs only €768 ($756). If you’re moving with a family, you can expect to pay around €1,992 ($1960) for a three bedroom apartment in the city or €1,230 ($1210) for one farther out.
Anyone interested in buying a home can get one for about €491 ($483) per square foot in the city or €270 ($266) out in the country. What’s more, there are no restrictions on foreigners buying property in Portugal. In fact, Americans who invest in real estate qualify for the country’s Golden Visa Program, which allows you to live, work, and study in Portugal, and travel freely through the European Union as well.
But it’s not just property. Almost everything is cheaper in Portugal, including food. A full, three-course meal at a mid-priced restaurant costs less than $25. Grabbing a snack from a street vendor will only set you back around $11 on average. Basic utilities cost around $119 altogether, plus $30 for your internet. Most people in Lisbon rely on public transport rather than a car. A monthly pass will take you everywhere in the city for less than $40. According to estimates, living in Lisbon is 53 percent less expensive than New York and almost 70 percent less expensive than Los Angeles.
Great Weather & Beaches
Lisbon has some of the best weather in Europe. The sun shines close to 300 days a year and residents enjoy 2,800 - 3,000 hours of sunlight, putting it ahead of every other European city except Malta and Marseilles. Warm temperatures last nine months, while winters are relatively short. Average highs rarely dip below 60°F and while Lisbon gets a fair amount of rain, most of it falls between November and April, leaving the rest of the year sunny and dry.
With such an abundance of good weather, it’s not surprising that alfacinhas (people from Lisbon) spend so much time at the beach. City beaches aren’t only stunning, they offer something for everyone, whether it’s a relaxing afternoon or a day packed with adventure. Some of the most popular are:
Praia do Guincho. High winds and strong waves make this one of the best surfing spots in Europe. Windsurfing and kitesurfing competitions are held here regularly as well.
Praia de Carcavelos. A long, unbroken stretch of sand outside the city, great for volleyball, football, swimming, and sunbathing.
Praia da Figueirinha. Backed by tall, green hills, this is one of the most beautiful and tranquil beaches in the area, perfect for family picnics.
Praia do Baleal. An exciting destination full of hidden coves and rocky cliffs. A popular spot for surfing and bouldering, with waves and routes for both experts and novices.
Praia da Ursa. A secluded bay with incredible rock formations and breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean.
English is Widely Spoken
Most alfacinhas have a solid grasp of English. While not everyone is fluent, they know enough to communicate. As a result, Americans have an easy time making themselves understood, even to non-native speakers. That said, Portuguese is still the preferred language, so new residents should brush up as quickly as possible, in order to fully participate in city life.
Beautiful & Historic Architecture
Lisbon is a modern city, but it doesn’t look like one. Its buildings date back hundreds of years, some as far back as the Middle Ages. Walking around town is like seeing a postcard brought to life: cobblestone streets, tiled roofs, bronze fountains, ornate churches, tiled plazas, brightly colored facades, and great arches presiding over public squares. The city has beautifully preserved the wonder and charm of its past, making it one of the most dazzling and magnificent sights in Europe.
Unlike American cities, which stretch for miles, Lisbon is compact. The average alfacinha doesn’t spend hours stuck in traffic. In most cases, everything they need is no more than twenty minutes from home. Either they go on foot or hop on the public transit system, which lets them travel almost anywhere in the city for less than two dollars a day.
Lisbon may be peaceful, but it’s not quiet. Alfacinhas take advantage of every opportunity to party, and with clear skies most of the year, there are events every month centered around art, music, theater, food, and film. Three you won’t want to miss:
Carnival. Lisbon is never more alive than it is before Easter. Streets and squares are packed with floats, bands, and costumed revelers. Each district of the city tries to outdo the rest with banners, streamers, and dancers, all punctuated by a spectacular parade through the center of town.
Festas de Santos Populares. Portugal is a deeply religious country. Every city has a patron saint watching over it and, once a year, residents show their thanks with a grand festival in their honor. Women dress in colorful costumes and jewelry, and dance through the streets with their husbands, boyfriends, and partners while bands play traditional fado music. Saint Anthony watches Lisbon, and for two weeks in June, streamers, paper lanterns, and colored lights are hung all over the city in his honor. All-night street fairs are held every day. Vendors set up barbeque stands and sell grilled sardines (St. Anthony’s signature food. According to legend, he fed a starving village with sardines conjured from the sea). Mass weddings are also held throughout the city (Saint Anthony is the patron saint of newlyweds) and couples exchange thyme bushes with colorful love poems.
Festival dos Oceanos. Lisbon is an ancient seaport, so it’s no surprise that its culture is tied closely to the ocean. Held in early August, the Ocean Festival commemorates the city’s seafaring history with boat races, theater shows, live music, and street performers, all packed along the city’s magnificent waterfront.
Lisbon can trace its roots back to the second century B.C., when the Celts fortified the hills overlooking the harbor. The city’s cuisine has evolved considerably since then, with ingredients reflecting its extensive history, including Africa, South America, and the Mediterranean. Because Portuguese chefs prefer local and seasonal ingredients, the food scene shifts regularly throughout the year, without ever losing its incredible flavor. While new arrivals have a lot of great tastes to explore, there are a few quintessentials they won’t want to miss, including:
Bacalhau (Codfish). The Portuguese have over 365 ways of serving cod: salted, grilled, fried, or baked into cakes and fritters. And they eat it with almost everything, including scrambled eggs, potatoes, chickpeas, garbanzo beans, and rice.
Sardinhas Assadas (Grilled Sardines). Lisbon’s most popular summer dish, salted and grilled over charcoal. For people who haven’t grown up with it, the sardines’ smoky, meaty flavor is quite surprising. Alfacinhas typically serve them on a thick slice of bread, to soak up the oil, or with potatoes and peppers.
Bifana. Portugal’s signature sandwich: finely cut pork marinated in white wine, garlic, and spices, served in a crunchy roll and topped with chili oil.
Caldo Verde. Traditional Portuguese soup made from kale, cabbage, or mustard greens, simmered in a rich broth with salt, pepper, garlic, onions, potatoes, and chouriçov (Portuguese sausage). It’s topped with a drizzle of olive oil before serving and eaten with a slice of broa (corn or rye bread).
Frango Assado a Piri Piri. Roast chicken served with piri-piri, a crushed chili pepper sauce brought to Lisbon from Africa by Portuguese traders. Most alfacinhas eat frango assado with French fries or rice. Every restaurant and street vendor in the city has their own version for you to try and enjoy.
Help Moving to Lisbon
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