So I just wrote up all the things you will hate about living in Lisbon because I see too many people praising the city without noting any of its negatives. As I mentioned on that post, even with its negatives, I still love living here and my only regret after being here permanently for almost two years is not moving sooner. So, if you are getting close to retirement, are young and are looking for a wonderful place to live, or are just looking for a new adventure, here are the things you will love about living in Lisbon. Just one thing, this will be a long post, so I’m starting small and adding as I go…so come back and check it out from time to time.
Things You Will Love About Living in Lisbon
Two years before Antonio and I moved to Lisbon, we were in Colombia visiting my family. When we went home to New York it was cold and snowy. As you may know, we both run digital businesses…which means we run them from home (unless I decide to brave the world at one of Croissant’s co-working spaces). Soon after our return, Antonio asked me if I had left the house. I did a bit of accounting and realized I had not gone out in a week. That same week was when we decided we’d move out of the states. I’m a Francophile – I love everything about France…but it does get cold there. I love Rome, but I’ve seen too many people defecating on the streets there (and Antonio has been shown too many female private parts on the street) for us to move there. Croatia has lovely weather, but the language was too damn hard (I was foolish to think learning Portuguese would be easy – but that’s another story). Lisbon…weatherwise – was perfect.
Lisbon’s summers are hot and long (I’m used to it since I lived in tropical areas in Colombia). Spring and Autumn are simply perfect, and Winters are coldish, definitely wet, but never truly cold. Here’s a breakdown of the average temperature in Lisbon by season:
Spring & Fall: Springtime and Falltime temperatures tend to average 23°C – 73°F during the day. It’s practically perfect and you will see all the Alfacinhas at city parks, miradouros and kiosks, or enjoying views of the river Tejo. Heck, Antonio and I went to the beach in November one year, and while the water was freezing (it’s cold all year round), we had a great time picnicking on the beach.
Summer: 35°C – 95°F in the shade….it’s hot. But I don’t mind much since I absolutely hate cold weather. We usually only get 1 week of unbearable 100°F+ temperatures. During that week, we usually just stay home during the day or head to indoor places like El Corte Ingles.
Winter: Daytime weather is 15°C – 59°F. Nighttime weather fluctuates is usually around 6°C – 53°F. Like San Francisco, there is a lot of fog in the morning during November and December. The sun will burn it out around midday and it is comfortable during daytime hours. January and February are rainy and gloomy and I hate those months, but it is really only two months of the year.
This may only apply if you like art – but who in the hell doesn’t like art? Anyway, Lisbon has some wonderful museums and the majority of them are ignored by locals and tourists alike. That means that if you are like me, you can head to most of these museums and stand and stare at a painting for hours instead of fighting tourists who merely want a selfie with the Monalisa or Nike of Samothrace. On top of that, many of the museums offer incredibly cheap entrance prices…and some Lisbon museums have free admission on certain days. Some of my favorites include:
- Museu de Arte Antiga
- Berardo Collection
- Fundacao Gulbenkian
- and Pimenta Palace
When I lived in New Jersey, I would go to the Ironbound in Newark which had a high density of Portuguese residents. I’d see these NJ homes decked out in blue and white tile and I thought it was godawful. Azulejos are not meant to be in Newark. They are meant to be in beautiful Lisbon, decorating its colorful homes and telling the stories of the city and its people. The tile here is spectacular. I always tell people that they can simply walk the city to look for new azulejo patterns and that they will never get bored. Azulejos are just so damn pretty….and if you want to see the best azulejos, check out Bordalo Pinheiro’s work.
The Prices of Real Estate in Lisbon
Although prices in Lisbon are still rising, they are incredibly different than those in large cities like new York. All I’m going to tell you is that I am paying less than half of what I paid for almost the same apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. For comparison, my apartment in New York was a 2 bedroom, 2 bath on the 23rd floor of a high rise three blocks from Central Park. My new place is on a higher floor (not as high), a tad smaller two beds, 1 bath, and is just two blocks from Parque Eduardo VII and a few steps from Gulbenkian Gardens right in the Avenidas Novas neighborhood. I currently rent. This year a 2 bedroom apartment in good condition in an upscale neighborhood will cost you anywhere from €1400-2000. So, while this is not the best if you are coming from a smaller city, it’s great if you’re moving to Lisbon from a city like San Francisco. That being said, prices are going up quickly. Same goes for purchasing an apartment in Lisbon. You can get a decent apartment for around €300,000…but really amazing places can go upwards of a mil. For this part of the equation, it really depends on what you compare it to…and how soon you make it here.
I’m not going in-depth here since I have outlined the cost of living in Lisbon (and I am now updating prices yearly), but everything from healthcare to food to entertainment is fairly priced. You can definitely spend money if you want to…but it is not a mandate like it is in other capitals.
The Portuguese Desserts
While I am not a huge fan of Portuguese food (I am really in love with French and Italian cuisine), I LOVE pastries in Lisbon. It’s not just pasteis de nata either. I’m not sure what the heck happened here in Lisbon, but damn if it is hard keeping your weight down because of all the delicious pastries here. Yes, I know all these pastries are not necessarily from the Lisbon area, but they are easily found here. A few of my favorites are:
- Pão de ló (it’s a sponge cake of sorts)
- Queijada de feijão (it’s made of cannellini beans and egg custard – please correct me if I am wrong here)
- Leite creme (Portugal’s Creme Brulee)
- Rabanadas (it’s French toast made with day old bread)
- Ovos Moles (It’s like a communion wafer that protects a sweet egg yolk – they are freakin’ strange, but addictive)
- Pão de Deus (it’s this super light bread sprinkled with powdered sugar that is simply heavenly)
- And there are tons more…
Yes, there are bad things about the airport – too many tourists, noise pollution…but heck if I don’t love the airport. If you live on the red line, you can take the metro to the airport and be there in less than 30 minutes. It is ridiculously convenient and makes it easier for us to visit family and friends and for them to visit us as well.
Walking the City
Lisbon is an extremely walkable city. Yes, there are seven (actually eight) hills, and they are steep…but after a few months of living in Lisboa, your body will get used to the hills and you will love exploring. Walking the city by foot is my favorite way of exploring. I’ve had my Portuguese friends tell me that I know the city better than they do…and I think it may be true. Just check out my Instagram account to see all the cool places I’ve discovered.
Not only is Lisbon a great capital city, but its location also could not get better. Within 30 minutes you can be at the beach. Go 30 minutes in another direction and you’re in the mountains. Go 30 minutes in another direction and you’re in a castle wonderland.
It’s Easy to Meet People & Friends
Ok…by this I mean it is easy to make friends with expats (and there are plenty of us here). You can friend expats at co-working spaces, meetups, on Facebook groups, out on the streets. Locals…are another story. Alfacinhos are very nice and very polite, but they are a reserved people. They will say hi and chitchat with you on the street, but to really become friends with Lisbon’s locals, it takes time. That being said, once you are in, it means they actually like you.