I wanted to put together my impression of the Top 10 neighborhoods in one of the best cities of the world; Lisbon, Portugal! I have had the pleasure of staying in most of these neighborhoods. For the ones I have not lived in for more than a month, I have asked local friends to give me their experiences and opinions. If you have any suggestions feel free to put them in the comments.
Alfama & Graça
WHAT IT’S LIKE: This neighborhood is characterized by tiny streets, the sound of fado, and amazing views. This is one Lisbon's oldest neighborhoods and it shows. As you walk around, you will be lost in a maze of streets, but this is exactly what makes it special. Unfortunately, with this charm has come a large tourist onslaught. The neighborhood is divided according to how high up you are on the hill. The top of the hill near the castle (Castelo Sao Jorge) is Graça. Down by river you will find the Alfama. There are a bunch of bars and little eateries. While the area has a reputation of being cheap, prices have been soaring since the cruise boats dock by that part of the river.
WHO LIVES HERE: This was originally (and still is) a working class neighborhood. Outsiders tend to be looked down upon until you "get in" with the community. A colleague of mine lived in the neighborhood for a few years and told me when she first moved in her car was broken into constantly. She (luckily) was talking to an older pensioner one day who told her just to put an orange sash in her window. This dictates to the would-be thieves that she was from the area. She never had a problem again.
PROS: Small with a view of the river. Has a very "neighborhoody" feel that can make you fall in love with it quickly. It is the home of Fado, so you will hear music being sung constantly. Cost wise, prices are more affordable than most neighborhoods mentioned in the post. Most of the newly renovated apartments look terrible from outside, but once you walk in you will be quite impressed by these hidden gems.
CONS: Don't drive! If you do not know how to navigate in streets 3 meters wide you will not like this area. Also, parking can be a nightmare. During the day, the area during get overrun by tourists since the cruise boats dock near Alfama. The Tuk Tuk drivers bring new visitors into the Alfama to show them Fado and the history of the city. This gets annoying really quickly. Rents have been fluctuating recently, so you will see many apartments have been turned to Airbnbs or Holiday Rentals. This is a plus and minus since you get more international minded landlords, but prices have jumped because of it. Oh...good luck finding a lift (elevator) in a building. Lots of apartments that have beautiful views will be 4-5 store walk up. It's rough but you get use to it after a few months...errr...years.
COST OF AN IMPERIAL (Beer) IN THE ALFAMA & GRACA: .80-2€
COST OF A 2-BEDROOM APARTMENT RENTAL IN THE ALFAMA & GRACA: 1000€ per month
Avenidas Novas & Alvalade
WHAT IT’S LIKE: I would describe it like the Upper East + Upper West Side to my NYC friends. There are more upper-middle and upper class people, and this area has that great feel of park (the very large and beautiful Parque Eduardo the VII marks this neighborhood) and city life. Some of the most stunning architecture can be found here along with massive avenues. If you spent time in Paris the area would probably feel familiar, but along side some of the grand places there is too much traffic during day.
WHO LIVES HERE: It's mix of some wealthy families and middle class. You will not see pensioners/retirees here. You will not see many families here because of cost, and if you do you will know they are wealthy.
PROS: Most of the apartments are quite spacious. Good shopping and transportation links.
CONS: Pollution because of the cars. Each grand boulevard has so much traffic it's ridiculous. During the day you will be playing Frogger in the street because of the amount of cars. Apartments are large but quite expensive.
COST OF AN IMPERIAL (Beer) IN AVENIDAS NOVAS & ALVALADE: 2€
COST FOR RENT FOR A 2-BEDROOM APARTMENT IN AVENIDAS NOVAS & ALVALADE: 1500€ per month
WHAT IT’S LIKE: I would describe this as the East Village of Lisbon. Everyone who lives here is either some artist, poet, DJ or a pensioner who can't leave. At night the neighborhood comes alive, but not like normal alive I am talking night of living dead alive. Drunken people will fill up the streets. When there is a festival or a holiday it will be packed with British, Spanish and American tourists trying to get their drink on. You will see many foreign men trying to mac it to the local ladies - this is a futile effort. Women from Portugal tend to be conservative and won't fall for your tricks guys. You do not want to live on any street where there is a pub (this means most of the neighborhood). If you do, you will not sleep. If you like this type of vibe, but don't want to be in the heart of it, get a flat in the Santa Catarina or Brica neighborhoods. They are adjacent and still very accessible to Bairro Alto.
WHO LIVES HERE: Artist, pensioners, expats and new immigrants.
PROS: Wanna party? Need to be right in the middle of Lisboa/Lisbon's downtown district. Want to have 50 different bars and restaurants to chose from. Are you young and single and looking to hook up? If that you this is your area.
CONS: Old buildings and really too much partying. I took an apartment on a "quiet" street for 3-weeks. It was old, needed lots of renovations and had terrible windows, so it got cold really quick. The worst part is I couldn't sleep for 3-weeks because the noise was unbearable. Every day I woke up for a run the streets were full of plastic cups everywhere, drunken Brits half sleeping on door fronts and the occasional vomit. It was a special 3-weeks.
COST OF AN IMPERIAL (Beer): 0.80-1€
COST OF A 2-BEDROOM RENTAL: 1600€ per month
WHAT IT’S LIKE: This is more like Midtown Manhattan. No one really lives here, but you have lots of shopping, restaurants and people watching. It's also the most touristy of the neighborhoods since it literally is downtown.
WHO LIVES HERE: No one I know anymore because it has lots of foot traffic. I almost stayed in an apartment in the area but after doing a Google Maps walk thru I saw it was packed with people. My recent frequenting of area confirmed my suspicions. If you do stay here, you can find large apartments (up to 3 bedrooms) and very modern.
PROS: I am a walker. If you are a walker you will love this place. It's so easy to get to most anything in downtown by foot from here. Yes you may have to walk up a few hills but this is Lisboa/Lisbon, so that's the case all over the city.
CONS: No real local Portuguese live here, just banks and tourist stuff. When high season ends the area becomes a ghost town.
COST OF AN IMPERIAL (Beer) IN BAIXA: 3€
COST OF A 2-BEDROOM RENTAL IN BAIXA: 1800€ per month
Belém & Restelo
WHAT IT’S LIKE: Belém is a charming area at the outskirts of Lisboa/Lisbon. It is filled with old homes that aren't on the beach-y areas of Estoril or Caiscas. There are loads of museums, monuments and stuff to see. The MAAT museum is in the neighborhood which is worth a visit just for it's amazing architecture (as of right now it is quite sparse in art). Three much better museums there are the Museu Coleção Berardo which has an incredible collection of modern art and no crowds, the National Archaeology Museum, and the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos which is absolutely spectacular (but so crowded). Also flanking the area is a new hipster area surrounding the LX Factory. The area is semi-walkable to Restelo and Ajuda, but not the most pleasant walk. From Belem you need to either take an Uber or taxi or take the train (very cheap) and you can be in Santos in 10 minutes.
WHO LIVES HERE: The area has sprinkles of low-middle class residents in both Belém and Ajuda. My more wealthy friends are scooping up beautiful homes in Belém and the Restelo neighborhoods. When I visited their homes I was pretty shocked how nice they were. Massive gardens, quiet area, larger than you get in Lisbon proper.
PROS: Belem is really quiet area during evenings when tourist leave. You can get a good value if you are buying right now.
CONS: A little bit away from most stuff downtown. The train can take about 20 minutes (10 to Santos, 20 to Baixa) and doesn't run 24-hours. If you Uber it, it's about 10 minutes and maybe 7-8 euros.
COST OF AN IMPERIAL IN BELEM (Beer): 1-2.5€
COST OF A 2-BEDROOM RENTAL IN BELEM: 1400€ per month
Campo de Ourique
WHAT IT’S LIKE: It's a community places at the northwest of the city. Campo de Ourique feels like Park Slope in Brooklyn; tree-lined streets, locals going about their day, families with kids and dogs. Campo de Ourique is a lively residential district.
WHO LIVES HERE: Lots of my wealthier friends live in this area because you can get a larger apartment. It's not a massive pensioner/retiree community, but you will meet some. I experienced lots of young families in area trying to get away from the noise of downtown.
PROS: Very town-y feel. You will get to know your neighbor and the area. Lots of cute small locally shops. A good market in the area and lots of supermarkets. It is also near the highway so easy to get in and out of the city.
CONS: You have to walk downhill and back uphill (a while) or take a tram down to main part of the city. It's better to have a car in this area but watch for street parking. My friend who has a classic Mercedes from the 1970's won't ever move his car because of fear of having to "hunt" for a space.
COST OF AN IMPERIAL (Beer) IN CAMPO DE OURIQUE: .80€
COST OF A 2-BEDROOM RENTAL: 1200€ per month
WHAT IT’S LIKE: This is the SoHo of Lisbon. Chiado has the best shopping (after Principe Real), the best cafes, and things to do. I would say this is the least "Typical Portuguese" neighborhood and most wealthy. When you walk around you will find lots of big shops such as Zara (on the low end), Helmut Lang (on the high end), FNAC, and even an Apple Store (it's a re-seller - but works when your machine is not feeling well). It will be tourist 365 days of year but you can find streets that won't be.
WHO LIVES HERE: Wealthy and upper-middle class locals and foreigners. There is a lot of construction down by Mercado Riberia (Time Out Market - sort of debatable if this is Chiado or Cais do Sodre) which will bring a lot of new units into play over next few years. It is wholly though focused on a higher end market.
PROS: Chiado is super walkable, has an easy access to nightlife, and tons of restaurants. I love the area, but it does get a bit much during the day when the tourist are at their peak. Even with the tourists it never feels overwhelming like in the Alfama or down in Baixa.
CONS: You might need a loan to get an rental. Prices are high. Restaurant meals will be 15-30 Euro and an Imperial will be 3 Euros minimum. So be prepared.
COST OF AN IMPERIAL IN CHIADO (Beer): 3€
COST OF A 2-BEDROOM RENTAL : 1700€ per month
Parque das Nações
WHAT IT’S LIKE: Parque das Nacoes is the former site of the World Fair of 1998. It has become one of the largest redevelopment projects in Europe. It's a stark difference from all other neighborhoods in Lisboa. This place is super modern and feels a bit like how Long Island City felt about 15 years ago. The architecture here is top notch and there are plenty of things to do if you have kids.
WHO LIVES HERE: Upper class expats (mostly Chinese Gold Visa holders who actually don't live in their flats). It's a real ghost town that only springs up when you have a big trade show.
PROS: It's quiet usually except when a big trade show happens. There is a big train station which give you access to all of Lisbon, but also other cities in Portugal. You won't have parking issues in the area and the apartments are really modern. There is a big mall called Vasco da Gama and also a bridge right their giving you driving access to everywhere in the Iberian Peninsula.
CONS: 30-40 minutes away from anything depending on traffic. Lots of buildings have been bought out by the Chinese Gold Visa seekers, so you might live in an apartment and never see your neighbors.
COST OF AN IMPERIAL IN PRACA DAS NACOES (Beer): 2€
COST OF A 2-BEDROOM RENTAL: 2000€ per month
WHAT IT’S LIKE: This is the Greenwich Village of Lisboa/Lisbon. It is a very nice neighborhoods with high end shops and restaurants. Apartments have lifts and usually a good view of the city and river. The area is very gay friendly, artist friendly and shopaholic friendly. It's a bit high end but not overrun like a few other neighborhoods.
WHO LIVES HERE: Middle & upper middle class. The neighborhood is very gay friendly and also very family friendly. You will see very few pensioners/retirees because the cost of housing is higher here than most other neighborhoods in Lisbon.
PROS: There is a great park along with the botanical gardens in the neighborhood. It's super easy to walk everywhere since it is at the top of the hill. Decent size modern apartments are easy to find.
CONS: Lots of small hills so be prepared to walk up and down. Many of the apartments are under construction so will be noisy if you are in the side street. Prices are higher here than most places in Lisboa/Lisbon, but the prices are worth the investment. As this area gets discovered by tourists the place will begin to get cluttered with holiday rentals. So be prepared.
COST OF AN IMPERIAL IN PRINCIPE REAL (Beer): 2€
COST OF A 2-BEDROOM RENTAL IN PRINCIPE REAL: 1600€ per month
WHAT IT’S LIKE: This art district that has so much charm it's crazy. I stayed here for 3-months and met every pensioner, artist, and expat in the area. Streets are typical stone (they are horrible for your knees and back), but you are also a "stone throw away" from the riverfront. The area has similarity to the Alfama, but less windy streets and a lot less tourists. It is still undiscovered by tourists and not many sites to see. It's a neighborhood neighborhood.
WHO LIVES HERE: Lower middle class with a few very wealthy people up in Lapa. You will see whole mansions owned by one family next to a pensioner/retiree living in a 2-room house.
PROS: No tourists or people from the cruise boats. There are some very nice and modern buildings up in Lapa. This neighborhood is very community centric, so you will know your Talho (butcher), market owner, restaurant owner, and even the cleaning people. On each street you will find 3 women who look out window every few hours to see "what's going on". Make friends with them (they will hook you up with pastries)!
CONS: Lapa is quite expensive because of the high rise building and large format homes. Santos offers more affordable but prices are jumping because the French community has purchased lots of the apartment blocks to convert to holiday rentals or to flip. You can hear French around every corner in this area.
COST OF AN IMPERIAL IN SANTOS & LAPA (Beer): 0.80-1.50€
COST OF A 2-BEDROOM RENTAL: 1300€ per month
If you have any questions or feedback on the different neighborhoods in Lisbon/Lisboa, please leave them in comments. We love to hear your experience staying in this beautiful city. And if you want to see more of Lisbon, check out my Instagram feed.