Accommodation Options for Expats in Lisbon
If you have decided to relocate to Lisbon, one of the major decisions will be accommodation in which district you will live? Lisbon can be divided into five sections, each with its neighborhoods and flavors; Central Lisbon, North Lisbon, North-east Lisbon, South Lisbon, and West Lisbon. Do you want to be close to the action, near the bustling shopping areas, close to bars and restaurants, throbbing nightlife, or a more peaceful existence? Which one will suit you best?
Next is the arduous task of finding a suitable apartment for accommodation and not being charged tourist prices. Unfortunately, in Lisbon and Porto, the prices have dramatically risen over the last decade. This price rise is mainly due to the willingness of foreigners to pay these prices. In comparison to the United States or Canada, these rents may seem reasonable. However, by Portuguese standards, they are highly inflated. So much so that often the local Portuguese residents have had to move out. While wealthy retirees are happy to pay these inflated rents, the rents will keep increasing.
This guide will help you avoid these traps and find the most suitable neighborhood for you.
If you really want to immerse yourself in the very heart of bustling Lisbon life, then this is the district for you. This is also the flattest district in Lisbon if that is a consideration for you. Baixa has classic architecture, shops, restaurants, and Lisbon’s three most popular plazas; Restauradores Square, Praça do Comércio, and King Pedro IV Square, better known as the Rossio. As we speak, investors are buying up property in this area and restoring them with you, the foreign resident, in mind.
Narrow alleys, impressive architecture, cheap eateries, and a very active nightlife makes this district an attractive option if you enjoy live music and parties. If you prefer a peaceful life, then this area is not for you.
This trendy district is the home of alternative shops, art galleries, bars, and international restaurants. If you enjoy international cuisine, then you will find your restaurant here. It is also Lisbon’s most LGBTQI friendly neighborhood. Walking distance to the center of Lisbon makes this district attractive for ex-pats and global nomads. All that trendiness and convenience comes at a price and, rents can be a little high here.
Alfama and Mouraria
These districts are Lisbon’s oldest neighborhoods and boast the 11th-century São Jorge Castle. Alfama oozes tradition with its quaint cobbled streets and cute craft shops. While Alfama is going through a restoration period, there are still many derelict homes in need of a makeover. Mouraria is also the birthplace of Fado music. These districts ooze charm and romance but be aware there are some hills and steps.
This historic area on the other side of the castle has the same charm but lacks green spaces. Similar to Alfama, there are many derelict houses in need of restoration.
Avenidas Novas and Alvalade
This district might be dull when compared to central Lisbon. Architecture is modern, and there are even some rather boring office blocks. However, on a positive note, it does have a few universities. A high student population always gives a district a youthful, fun vibe.
Parque das Nações
Constructed for the 1998 Lisbon World Exposition, this district has modern buildings. It’s further from the center and lacks that traditional feel that you may be seeking.
The neighborhood of Belém is located near the Tagus River with views across the Tagus Estuary. Green areas and open spaces make it the perfect choice for those wishing for a peaceful life just outside the city. The iconic Torre de Belém is found there.
Close by to Belém is the affluent district of Restelo. It comprises luxury villas and the football stadium the Estádio do Restelo. Rentals are expensive here.
Campo de Ourique
This district is a conglomeration of old and new, traditional and modern buildings. It is a middle-class residential living area, but it lacks a metro station. This fact makes the commute to Lisbon center difficult.
This neighborhood is one of Lisbon’s oldest districts with classic architecture and boasting the Institute of Visual Arts, Design, and Marketing. Many design students and young people give Santos a lively, hip vibe.
This peaceful district is home to wealthy retirees enjoying life in their mansions. It also attracts tourists for its grand palaces and embassy buildings. Be aware, there is no metro stop here, and the area is quite hilly.
Finding an accommodation
Now the fun starts. Now is when you need to be alert and extremely cautious if you want to avoid being taken advantage of.
Do you want it fully furnished, or will you furnish it yourself? Do you want a short-term apartment for a couple of months to test the waters? Are you ready to take on a long-term lease? Do you choose to share a flat? Do you want the entire place to yourself?
An excellent starting point is to check out the websites Idealista and OLX Lisbon. You can view these sites in English. Adverts are from both real estate agents as well as private homeowners.
It is advisable to try an area before you commit to a year-long lease. There are many short-term rentals to be had. These are usually furnished in a modern style and have all the conveniences. Be aware that you will be paying a premium for these. Sites like Vrbo and Uniplaces cater primarily to foreign visitors and digital nomads. The prices may not seem high compared to the US and Canada, but in Portugal are expensive. These rentals may be OK for a month or two while you find your feet. Airbnb is also available, but not all apartments will be as modern. You can also find short-term rentals on OLX Lisbon that may be more affordable.
Whether you are looking for long-term or short-term housing, be sure to inquire about the heating available. While Portugal does have a pleasant year-round climate, winter evenings can be freezing. It’s a common complaint in Portugal that the homes do not have adequate heating. So if you’re not keen on being cold, try to find a place with central heating. You may prefer a traditional Portuguese home built from stone and tiles, but unfortunately, most of these will not have heating.
While looking to start your new life in Lisbon, it is imperative that you use common sense and thoroughly research the neighborhood that you have chosen. Make sure you discuss all the features of your rental agreement, whose name will be on the utilities, and whether or not there are any extras such as community fees? If possible, take a friend with you to witness all transactions. On moving-in day, take photos of any defects in the flat. Ask the landlord to sign the back of each picture. Taking these precautions now may be helpful in the future when you are trying to get your deposit back.