(Editor’s note: This is Pt. 1 of a series of guides to Lisbon, one of the most popular destinations for expats. You can jump to Pt. 2 here.)
Lisbon is a cosmopolitan city full of expats and digital nomads, and generally speaking, it’s a beautiful and safe city to live in. Most, if not all, of its neighbourhoods have something that draws expats to them, and there are plenty of options depending on what you’re looking for.
Below we discuss the best neighbourhoods in Lisbon for expats and digital nomads, based on several factors such as amenities, access to public transportation, nightlife, and peace and quiet.
Covid Era aside, there are parts of Lisbon that are quite alive at night, with plenty of bars and restaurants open till late into the night.
Bairro Alto and Principe Real are the most popular spots
for late night partying, with many venues even offering live music. Bairro Alto has more of a bohemian vibe while Principe Real is considered more upscale.
During the day, Bairro Alto is a beautiful area to walk through, with its hills and cobbled stone streets, old Portuguese architecture, and street art. It’s also where the Elevador da Glória is located, a historic tram that takes you to the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, one of the best viewpoints in Lisbon. Bairro Alto is easily accessible via public transport and has lots of amenities and is also located on hills, meaning you get great views of the city.
Príncipe Real is another favourite for its nightlife, hip restaurants and bars, art galleries, small streets, and alternative shops. It is an attractive area for expats looking to live in a trendy and sophisticated neighbourhood with lots of amenities and public transport. It is also quite multicultural, which is reflected in the types of restaurants around. During the day, Príncipe Real is alive with tourists, and offers great opportunities for shopping, and the Botanical Garden of Lisbon there offers some greenery.
Downside of Bairro Alto and Príncipe Real:
Slippery downhill streets during rainy weather; difficult to find street parking; dirty streets after hours of partying; loud noises during the night; expensive real estate (particularly Príncipe Real).
If you like living in the cultural centre of a city and enjoy city noise (some people do), consider the neighbourhoods of Baixa, Chiado, and Rossio. They are next to each other, within walking distance. There is a lot of public transport in the area, as well as amenities such as international stores, restaurants and cafes.
Chiado is the historic centre of Lisbon, home to many landmarks, plazas, museums, and theatres. The architecture and small streets feel very Portuguese. However most of the people you will encounter there are tourists.
Downside of Baixia, Chiado, and Rossio:
Impossible to find street parking; crowded with tourists; real estate prices are high.
Calm and nature
Parque das Nações and Belém are the quietest areas of Lisbon, perfect for families and those looking for a peaceful place to live. Both are close to the Tagus River and have a few parks nearby, but are located outside of the bustling city centre. Parque das Nações tends to be pricier and more upscale than Belém, with lots of new and renovated residential buildings, contemporary architecture, amenities, restaurants, and shopping opportunities.
With close proximity to the river and the open parks around, Parque das Nações is a peaceful and serene neighbourhood. The Oceanáio de Lisboa is a major attraction, the largest indoor aquarium in Europe.
Belem attracts a lot of tourists along the riverfront, with the Tower (Torre de Belém) and Jeronimo Monastery being the main attractions. Despite that, Belém itself is not crowded or cramped, unlike the other neighbourhoods in the city centre. It offers big parks and open spaces, ideal for people who require a more tranquil lifestyle, have families, or dogs.
Downside of Parque das Nações and Belem: a bit outside of the city centre; not a lot of public transportation but still easily accessible. Parque das Nações can be quite pricey.
Traditional “Portuguese” feel
The two areas with more of a traditional Portuguese feel are Alfama and Graça. They are next to each other, and both are characterized by small cobblestone streets and old architecture.
Alfama is the oldest part of Lisbon and most of the residents are locals who have lived there for generations. A lot of the buildings are in dire need of renovation, but these two areas still provide a charming and welcoming feeling.
Alfama is famous for the São Jorge Castle and the Miradouro (viewpoint) of Santa Luzia, from which you can observe panoramic views of Lisbon. Graça also offers beautiful views of the city, the most famous miradouro being the Miradouro da Graça, frequented by locals and tourists alike. Some parts of these two neighbourhoods along the main streets offer shopping amenities, but mostly souvenirs and traditional crafts.
There are plenty of restaurants in the area, and most are traditional Portuguese restaurants with delicious food at fair prices.
Downside of Alfama and Graça: Streets are slippery during rainy weather; impossible to find street parking; crowded with tourists; no metro but some public transportation.
Residential areas in Lisbon with public transport (metro)
There are many parts of Lisbon that are typically more residential than others, where a mix of families, students, and young professionals live. The ones with a lot of amenities and public transport (metro) nearby are Saldanha, Campolide, and the four As (Arroios, Areeiro, Alameda, Alvalade).
• Saldanha is the commercial part of Lisbon, and is centrally located. You won’t encounter many tourists there, mostly working professionals. It’s within walking distance of the major landmark Parque Eduardo VII.
• Campolide is on the other side of Saldanha and is popular among students, due to the NOVA University.
• Arroios, Areeiro, Alameda, and Alvalade are located almost along a line, one after the other when looking north. These four neighbourhoods are not particularly touristy, but are very popular areas among professionals and families due to the abundance of amenities, easy access to the metro, restaurants, shops, gyms and a few green spaces.
They are flat (not located on hills) and therefore easy to walk through.
Downside of Saldanha and Campolide: Saldanha and Campolide are expensive areas to live in, and there is a lot of traffic around Saldanha. Arroios, Areeiro, Alameda, and Alvalade are probably the best places to live in Lisbon, but one of the cons is that you can hear the planes flying over Lisbon very clearly, particularly in Areeiro and Alvalade.
Residential areas in Lisbon without easy access to public transport
Residential areas in the city centre with no metro around but with other modes of public transportation such as buses include Lapa, Campo de Ourique, and Penha da Franca. Lapa and Campo de Ourique are close to each other and are very popular among families, although they are considered somewhat upscale and pricey.
Campo de Ourique was designed in a grid, and is a mix of old and new (modern and traditional architecture; trendy cafes and typical Portuguese restaurants; crafty artsy shops with international brands). Lapa is also very family- friendly, and both have a popular park where families like to take the kids and walk their dogs. Lapa is also one of Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhoods, and the Basilica da Estrela is located there, as well as many embassies.
A bit outside of the city centre you will find Santos, Alcântara, Ajuda, and Restelo, all located next to each other. Santos is a popular area among art students, as it is home to Lisbon’s Institute of Visual Arts, Marketing and Design (IADE). Santos can be quite lively at night, with various bars and nightclubs attracting partygoers.
Restelo is an affluent neighbourhood, while Alcantara and Ajuda tend to be for those looking for a more affordable option away from the city centre but while staying close by.
Downside: The main issue with these neighbourhoods is that you would definitely need a car to get around. In Lapa and Campo de Ourique parking can be an issue, and you can hear the noise of the planes flying over Lisbon.
And there you have it … an overview of the best neighbourhoods in Lisbon for expats, based on accessibility, amenities, affordability, and noise level.
About the author:
A graduate of Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif., Liina Edun has a background in psychology and a career in writing and content management.
Having lived most of her life as an expat, she is currently located in Lisbon.
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