Updated: August 17, 2023
Lisbon is a top choice for relocation amongst digital nomads, expats, and retirees looking to set up a new life. The warm weather, high quality of life, and old beauty of the city have attracted many foreigners from different walks of life to up sticks and move to Lisbon in the past years. So, if you are considering moving to Lisbon, then here’s what you should know!
As with any big decision like relocation, information is power, and we would always advise enlisting the help of trusted professionals to help you with moving to Lisbon. There are a few key things you should know before embarking on your journey of moving to Lisbon 2022.
In this article we’ll provide you with a solid foundation for moving to Lisbon. We know that the moving process to any country can be pretty stressful, so here we provide you with some key information to make the process as easy as possible so that you know what to expect.
We will cover the following:
- Why move to Lisbon?
- House prices in Lisbon
- What you should consider when moving to Lisbon
- Which part of Lisbon should I move to?
- Pros and cons of living in Lisbon
- Moving to Lisbon from the USA, the UK, and the EU
- How we can help
Why move to Lisbon?
So, first things first. Why Lisbon? Well, the city of the seven hills, the largest city in Portugal, ticks all the boxes. With a great climate, friendly locals, affordable quality of life, and excellent gastronomy, it is with good reason that the capital of Portugal has become one of the places to be in recent years. Factor in world-class education facilities, tax benefits through the non-habitual residence (NHR) scheme, good healthcare, pristine beaches very close to the city center, and the buzz of the city itself, there’s not much that Lisbon doesn’t deliver on.
However, there are some cons of the city, which we’ll delve into a little further on in our article, notably the low salaries. If you are coming to work in the Portuguese capital, it can be a good idea to either work remotely for an international company or work freelance.
For families, there are excellent schools in both the city of Lisbon and in the wider Lisbon area. Sintra and Cascais provide top locations for families to live, where you have excellent properties in stunning parts of Portugal, while still being within striking distance of Lisbon.
With the beautiful Tagus River and the 25 de Abril Bridge (reminiscent of the Golden Gate Bridge and Oakland Bay Bridge, both of which can be found in San Fransisco, with the paint from the former and the design of the latter) stretched out before you, plus several miradouros (viewpoints) to admire the city from, you’ll quickly come to realize that there is nowhere quite like Lisbon. From the winding streets of Alfama to the wide park of Eduardo VII, it is truly a special place to live. And, don’t worry, you’ll soon get used to the hilly streets if you move to Lisbon.
House Prices in Lisbon
In Lisbon city, the average asking house price stood at €5139/m2 in 2020. If you look at Greater Lisbon, this is reduced to €3225/m2. Note that the purchase piece can be higher or lower than the asking price, so keep this in mind when negotiating with the seller.
As you can see, in the capital itself, housing prices are much steeper than in the surrounding area. However, compared to other countries in western Europe, you will still find them quite affordable.
Our Expert Guide to Buying Lisbon Real Estate should be able to provide you with all you need to know about buying property in the Portuguese capital.
Alongside this, our new e-book, Your Expert Guide to Buying Property in Portugal, will arm you with an easy six-step guide to the buying process, the options to open a Portuguese bank account, where the best places to buy in the country are – from other cities such as Porto to the top beach spots, such as the Algrave and the Silver Coast, plus key information on taxes, fees, and financing your property.
Moving to Lisbon? Here’s What You Should Consider
As with moving to any country, there are certain things that you’ll need to bear in mind. In this part of our Moving to Lisbon article, we’ll provide you with some essential things that you should watch out for.
It can be hard to find a place
Lisbon is a hot real estate market and therefore finding a place that fits your requirements is no small feat. It’s also not easy to know whether the place you have chosen is priced correctly for the area, has a good value per square meter, and is in a safe and prosperous neighborhood.
There are hundreds and hundreds of properties out there in the Lisbon market, and looking online can seem like a minefield.
Realtor vs buyer’s agent
A realtor is a familiar way to go for most of us. Realtors in Portugal have licensed professionals who have a number of listings that could match your criteria. Using a realtor may help you narrow down the search, and they might show you some unique properties you have not yet found in your own search.
The cons of using a realtor are based on the fact that a realtor is working for the seller of a property as their client. This means that they are trying to sell you a particular property from their portfolio and may not give you a fully balanced and objective overview of the property.
Using a buyer’s agent adds a layer of impartiality to the process. Buyers agencies are licensed professionals too but work solely for the buyer of the property as their client. This means they are going to scan all opportunities, on and off-market, and prepare a curated selection of properties that is likely to match your criteria very well.
They are also able to be objective in the negotiation process, helping you to source surveyors and to do a full value comparison with what is available in the area and what has been sold for similar prices in the vicinity
The local job market might not have the same salary standards as you’re used to
The Portuguese salaries are considerably lower than the USA or the UK, and many other European countries. The minimum wage is currently 740.83 euros per month (as of June 2020), and the average salary in Lisbon is 24,557 euros per year.
Many expats and nomads come to the amazing country with remote work from their home country, which means their salary goes a lot further in a relatively cheap city to live in like Lisbon – although prices are increasing. The shift in remote work, as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, has furthered interest in expats moving to Portugal, as many have more flexibility in where they can work from or have decided to quit their jobs and work on a freelance basis.
With this said, Lisbon has become a tech capital in its own right, with many international startups and tech companies now calling Portugal home. This is exemplified by Websummit, the largest tech festival in the world relocating to Lisbon in 2016. This new entrepreneurial buzz in the city brings with it many new opportunities for foreign residents looking for work in the city.
The cost of living in Lisbon is low
In Lisbon, you can eat and drink wonderfully for jaw-droppingly low prices. A beer costs less than a euro in a lot of places, and the same goes for coffee. Of course, there is an up-market dining scene too, but the prices in these establishments are still low for the quality of the offering you can have.
Rents are high in Lisbon. If you are in a position to buy, you should. As with any hot property market and popular holiday destination, there are always benefits to buying rather than competing for rental property in the market with short-term holiday lets for tourists. The tourism boom in Lisbon shows no sign of slowing down and looks set to stay for many years to come.
Quality of life in Lisbon is fantastic
Portugal is a country rich in culture and tradition that has year-round warm weather, stunning beaches, and an abundance of fresh fish. These qualities make for a fantastic quality of life and it’s not surprising then that Portugal is consistently voted as a top choice for people looking to retire or move abroad.
The Portuguese have a great appreciation for enjoying life. This could be stopping to enjoy a coffee and a pastry or a sun-drenched lunch to break up the working day or having lots of children running around a dining table in a taverna late at night, or sampling the excellent Port wine or deep reds from the Douro or Alentejo regions. Be warned that their appreciation of life might be infectious. Head to Bairro Alto and downtown Lisbon to see the city come alive in the evenings.
Strong expat network
The expat community in Lisbon is warm and welcoming to newcomers. The growing group of foreigners in Lisbon is thriving and very social, and you’ll be sure to find a helping hand or a friend in online support groups and Facebook groups for foreigners in Lisbon. There are regular meet-ups for expats and digital nomads that take place in various places across the city, making living abroad here very easy.
Bureaucracy and dealing with language barriers
There is naturally a bit of bureaucracy to deal with when moving to Portugal, such as registering at the local town hall, getting a NIF (Portuguese tax number), and setting up a bank account. In most of these processes, there are good guides and resources online about how to navigate the process and a lot of Portuguese people will be happy to speak English with you if they can.
In general, the level of English spoken in Lisbon is very good and most people will speak not only two but maybe three or four languages fluently.
Which part of Lisbon should I move to?
Yes, this can be the most difficult aspect of moving to any city and Lisbon is no different. We recommend visiting Lisbon a few times to discover the different neighborhoods before settling on a particular part of the city.
You’ll quickly find that each neighborhood of the city has its own character, its own pros and cons, and one may be better suited to what you are after than another. You’ll find that most things are within walking distance and there is a good metro and bus service in the city, plus train links to Cascais and the rest of the country.
If you are moving with a family, then a quieter neighborhood such as Campo do Ourique and Estrela, close to schools, and with spacious properties, could be the best option. You can choose from public schools, private schools, and international schools and there are excellent options from an early age up through to further education levels.
If you are moving with a family, you will also not want to live in a part of the city with almost no parks, although you will be pleased to know that most parts of the city have many green spaces – Lisbon was the winner of the 2020 European Green Capital Award.
Our article on Lisbon Neighborhoods Close to International Schools can provide you with details of the top places in and around the capital to live if you have your child’s education in mind.
For digital nomads and young people, maybe somewhere a little livelier is up your street, and, for older expats, if you are moving to retire, you’ll be looking for somewhere to unwind and relax in style.
If you are looking for key parts of the city to live in, you can see our article here: The Ultimate Guide to the Best Neighborhoods in Lisbon.
Lisbon Metropolitan Area
As with almost every other metropolis in the world, moving to Lisbon does not necessarily mean moving to the city centre. The Lisbon Metropolitan Area (Área Metropolitana de Lisboa) is quite large and varied, and there are many excellent neighborhoods in the surrounding area to consider if you want to move to the Portuguese capital.
The steady influx of people heading to the city means that almost 27 percent of Portugal’s population lives in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area. This area is more than five times as populous as its hub, with roughly three million inhabitants. The largest of these municipalities include Amadora, Cascais, Loures, Sintra, Seixal, and Almada. Almada real estate can provide investors with an up-and-coming part of Portugal, with rental yields standing at 5.79 in 2o22. If you are looking for top locations outside of the hustle and bustle of central Lisbon, consider the surrounding areas.
Sintra Portugal real estate is a hot topic at the moment and is considered one of the most romantic places in the country, where you are in the depths of nature, while still being conveniently placed to get around. Sintra has an ageless charm, with a rich history, being the homeplace of the Portuguese nobility in its day.
Situated in the National Park of Sintra and Cascais, if you are into the great outdoors, then you should definitely consider living here. Plus, with many stunning, quiet beaches hugging the coastline, you can enjoy the views of the Atlantic coast whenever takes your fancy.
For families moving to Portugal, you should find some excellent international schools close by and, given the natural beauty and climate in Portugal, you’ll be able to spend your weekends discovering the area and spending much-needed time with your family. An excellent international school very close to Sintra is the Carlucci American International School of Lisbon, which follows the American curriculum.
One of the best places to bring up a family, period, and, as you are just 30-40 minutes away from Lisbon, you have the best of both worlds – the buzzing city and the sublime countryside, with some beautiful beaches thrown in for good measure.
You can learn more about Portugal’s National Parks here.
Cascais Portugal real estate has long been on the radar of expats. This beach resort is less than an hour by train from Lisbon, and around 30-minutes by car. With fabulous beaches, a relaxed ambiance, and activities galore, you should definitely consider Cascais if you enjoy the finer things in life.
Similar to Sintra, Cascais is also a very good area for families as there are excellent international schools close by. Examples include Park International School, St António International School, St John’s International School, and the International Christian School of Cascais.
If you are moving to Lisbon, you will also find that a little bit out of the city, you will benefit from more spacious properties. Many homes here will have a private swimming pool, security, or a private gym. The variety of property types on offer is another plus, with some incredible villas up for grabs and many apartments that would prove to be excellent investments.
Living in Lisbon: Pros and Cons
On the whole, living in Lisbon has many pros than cons. While the pros are quite obvious, the bad things about living in Portugal may be more difficult to uncover.
- A beautiful old city with plenty of things to see and do
- Good weather through most of the year
- Great fresh fish and seafood
- Thriving nightlife and social scene
- Low cost of living
- Warm and welcoming expat network
- Portuguese nationals are friendly and accommodating
- Beaches are very close by, plenty of opportunities to surf
- Good business opportunities
- Rents can be high
- Bureaucracy can be slow and difficult to navigate alone
- Portuguese can be a difficult language to get to grips with
- Some properties do not have central heating so it can get cold in the winter months
- Hills and cobbled streets
- Overtourism in summer months
- No central heating
- Challenge to find a property to rent
Moving to Lisbon from the USA
If you are moving to Lisbon from the US, you’ll find that the cost of living, from daily essentials and transportation, to healthcare and eating out in restaurants, is much more affordable than in the USA. If you are considering moving to Lisbon from America, you will need a residence visa. The two best Portuguese visas for Americans are the Golden Visa and the D7 Visa.
Portugal Golden Visas are an excellent option, whereby you can secure residency for a qualifying investment in the country, through real estate, capital transfer, and many other options.
You can see more in our article about the Golden Visa Lisbon.
If you do not want to make a significant investment in the country, then the best option is the Portugal D7 Visa, whereby you will be able to stay in Portugal, so long as you can prove that you can sustain yourself throughout your stay in the country. As a European city, Lisbon offers a rich history, buzzing city life, and a myriad of stunning landscapes.
Moving to Lisbon from the UK
In the same way, if you are moving from London to Lisbon, you will find that the city is very affordable. While rental prices and property prices are creeping up, they are still much more reasonable than in the capital of the UK. Moving to Lisbon from the UK, you should be pleasantly surprised by the cost of living in the Portuguese capital. You will need to get a residency permit if you are looking to enter Portugal for more than 180 days. The most affordable option is the D7 Visa, although the Golden Visa is also an excellent option whereby you will need to make a qualifying investment in the country to secure residency.
Moving to Lisbon from the EU
If you are moving to Lisbon as an EU citizen, you will find the process very easy. If you are staying more than 180 days, you will simply need to apply for a registration certificate. You can apply for this at your local Council within the 30 days following your first three months in Portuguese territory.
Note that for other non EU citizens, you should check about the visa process in your country for entering Portugal.
Get in Touch with Our Lisbon Relocation Experts
Goldcrest are property experts and can assist you in making the best investment decision for Lisbon real estate. As a property buyers agent based in Lisbon we work solely on behalf of our client. We have deep expertise in the Portuguese real estate market and will always act diligently on your behalf to negotiate the best possible deal for you.
The following articles may be of interest to you:
For stunning properties with views of the Atlantic Ocean or a stunning river, you can see our article on Waterfront Homes in Portugal: The Best Locations.
Frequently Asked Questions about Moving to Lisbon:
What to know before moving to Lisbon?
It can be difficult to find a place, local salaries are not high and the cost of living is relatively low, these are the most important parts of what to know before moving to Lisbon.
Is moving to Lisbon a good idea?
You might want to consider your income options and the option of purchasing a property if you are wondering whether moving to Lisbon is a good idea.
Living in Portugal provides many advantages: A warm climate, the Atlantic Ocean and the Sintra mountains close by, and a relatively low cost of living. Healthcare and education are very good and residents can receive very favorable tax benefits.
What tips should I know about moving to Lisbon?
When moving to Lisbon, equip yourself with up-to-date knowledge from online forums and seek the help of trusted professionals.
What are the pros and cons of living in Lisbon?
Pros of living in Lisbon are the great weather, low costs of living, and the delicious affordable food you can eat. Cons are the lack of good local salaries and rental costs can be high.
Is moving to Lisbon a good idea?
Moving to Lisbon, you will find that the city provides a high quality of life, good quality healthcare, and welcoming locals, amongst other benefits. Portuguese people, particularly the younger generations, speak very good English, so you should have no trouble settling into the country.
Is Lisbon a good place to live?
Lisbon is a sun-drenched capital, with a lively social scene. Plus, the city has a relaxed atmosphere, high quality of life, affordable prices, and is one of the safest cities in the world. Yes, Lisbon is a great location to live a great expat life in a vibrant, dynamic city with a historic core.
Can American citizens move to Portugal?
Yes, American expats can move to Portugal and you should, for the most part, have no problems with Portuguese immigration or the visa process if you fulfill the requirements.
You will, however, need to acquire a residency permit to move to Portugal (staying more than 90 days in a 180 day period. The Portugal Golden Visa is an excellent option, whereby you can secure residency for a qualifying investment in the country. If you do not want to make a significant investment in the country, then the best option is the D7 Portuguese Visa, whereby you will be able to stay in Portugal, so long as you can prove that you can sustain yourself throughout your stay in the country.
With both visa types, as a resident of Portugal, you will have easy access to the European Union (EU) and can apply for Portuguese EU citizenship after five years through naturalization. For Portuguese citizens, there are an array of benefits including increased visa-free travel, the ability to live, work, and study in any EU country, and the ability to vote in local elections. One of the requirements set out by the Portuguese government to become a Portuguese citizen is that you will need to learn Portuguese, to a level of A2.