Moving to Lisbon

The complete guide to living in the city short term

May 28, 2024
aerial view of lisbonaerial view of lisbon

Lisbon, Portugal- hugely popular for number of reasons: the beautiful streets and architecture, delicious food and drinks, and wonderful array of monuments and landmarks. Portugal is also progressive, affordable, and friendly, helping to make it such a huge draw for people from all over the world. In recent years, Lisbon has invested greatly in its infrastructure and public transportation. Along with its reasonably priced accommodation, this has encouraged more and more to choose the city for business and international congresses, making it one of Europe’s most important business hubs.

Living habits are also changing, as remote work allows people to relocate more easily. These days, remote workers hop around the world to experience new cities and cultures, if only for a few months. Portugal was recently ranked the number one country in the world for digital nomads. In our complete guide, we’ll tell you why we think it’s a great city for expats, and everything you need to know if you’re thinking of living in Lisbon short term.

Is Lisbon a good place to live for expats?

If you’re thinking of moving to a new city for a few months, there is a lot to consider, and a lot of great European cities to choose between. We think Lisbon is one of the best, for many reasons. Here are some of them:


The sun (almost) always shines on Lisbon- the city gets over 300 days of sunshine per year, and the Atlantic breeze stops it getting too hot in summer. The people of Lisbon are warm and friendly, with a relaxed attitude to life. All this creates a fantastic atmosphere in the city, a thriving business hub where people know exactly how to enjoy their downtime.

lisbon plaza by ocean

Where old meets new

Lisbon is a fascinating, historical city, and is even older than Rome! As you would expect, it’s a great city for sightseeing. It is also one reason behind the iconic, paved streets, which give the city a distinctive, homely feel, and make it a treat to walk around. The river Tagus (Tejo) only adds to the beauty of the city, which is very easy to fall in love with.

On the other hand, the city is modern and progressive, and its transport and infrastructure are clean and efficient. This makes it the perfect choice for digital nomads who want to live somewhere new short term. You have so much to see and do, and you won’t miss a step professionally.

Safe and expat friendly

Portugal and Lisbon are very safe. There are records of crimes against tourists but these are very rare, and violent crimes even more so. The progressive, diverse nature of the country means that tourists are welcomed regardless of who they are or where they are from. LGBTQ+ and solo female travelers have no need to worry when visiting Lisbon.

Do I need any documents to live in Portugal?

What you need to live in Portugal depends on where you’ve come from and how long you're staying.


EU citizens don’t need one, and nor do residents from certain countries if only here short term. The US and the UK are included, so if you’re moving from those countries for less than 3 months then don’t worry about a visa. If you want to stay longer then you'll need either a Temporary Stay (for up to one year) or a Long Stay (for over a year) National Visa. There are several types of both, including the D7 visa- created with digital nomads in mind. For this you do not need to work for a Portuguese company but must prove your income from elsewhere. Apply for all visas by finding the Portuguese embassy or consulate in your home country.

Residence Permits

Those staying for longer than three months will need to apply for a residence permit. They are valid for one year and must then be renewed. After 5 years you can apply for permanent citizenship.


Anyone working in Portugal, including digital nomads, needs a tax identification number (NIF). This is essential for the Portuguese administration system, and things such as opening a bank account. A social security number (NISS) will allow you to access Portugal’s excellent and comprehensive social security system. If you work for a Portuguese company your employer will arrange this. Remote workers need to make contributions to access the system, unless Portugal has an arrangement with their home country. Fortunately there are many countries with such arrangements, including the US and the UK. You can apply for the NIF and NISS here.

Where to find the best apartment rentals

Finding the right accommodation is important for any stay in any city, and when you’re moving to a new city it can be especially stressful. Places that cater to people on vacation become very expensive if you decide to stay for a few weeks or months. At the other end of the scale you have long term rentals, which come with complications. Deposits and agency fees can be expensive, and there is often a minimum rental length. Also, you often need your visa in place to rent your apartment, and proof of accommodation to get your visa. This catch 22 situation is not ideal, especially if you’re only renting for a few months.

Fortunately, companies like Ukio have plugged this gap in the market. You only need a passport to rent an apartment, which will give you the address you need for your visa. We also know what’s important to people looking to live in Lisbon short term. We only have apartments in the best areas, and we fully furnish and service them so you can focus on what matters.

living room

What’s the best neighborhood to live in?

The different areas of Lisbon are one of the wonderful things about this city, with each one offering something different. There are more than we have space for here, but these are some of the highlights:


Translating to low, or down, in English; Baixa is, unsurprisingly, the downtown area of Lisbon. There is more of a literal meaning here too, with Baixa being one of the few areas of Lisbon that is not on a hill- perfect for the less fit. Being the center of the city has other advantages: Baixa is very well connected, boasts some of the city’s most famous landmarks, and has plenty of bars and restaurants. Probably the most popular district for business travelers.

Chiado - Barrio Alto

Chiado is next to Baixa, so while you will have to negotiate some of Lisbon’s famous hills, it’s still very central. A little trendier, Chiado is a great place for bars and restaurants. It's also the gateway to the Barrio Alto, Lisbon’s most famous district for nightlife. All manner of bars and clubs can be found in its easy-to-get-lost-in, quaint little streets.

Bica - Cais do Sodré

The picture image of Lisbon. Bica is home to some of the city’s most authentic bars and cafes, along with the Ascensor da Bica, the iconic funicular. You know the one- bright yellow, climbing up a steep cobbled hill lined with shops. Next to Bica you have Cais do Sodré, recently voted TimeOut’s second coolest area to live- in the world! One of the top spots for food and nightlife, Cais do Sodré is home to Pink Street, the well-known strip for bars and clubs.

walking down old lisbon street

Santo Antonio - Principe Real

For those want a little more distance between themselves and the action. Santo Antonio is where you’ll find the upmarket district of Príncipe Real, along with the botanical gardens, Marques de Pombal square, and the famous Avenida da Liberdade- a street known for luxury shopping and Michelin star restaurants. A particularly good neighborhood for monthly apartment rentals.

What if I don’t speak Portuguese?

First of all- don’t speak Spanish. As the languages are so similar and most locals understand Spanish, it’s tempting to use whatever Spanish you have. However, this grates on people, as it has the effect of treating Portugal as Spain’s little brother. You’ll get the same sort of reaction as if you call an Irish person English, or a Canadian person American. The Portuguese speak excellent English, and in touristy areas you’ll have no problem communicating with the locals.

If you’re living in Lisbon for a few months though, you might as well learn some Portuguese. If you’ve learnt any Latin languages before, you’ll find it quite easy. If you haven’t- well you’ll never have a better opportunity to pick up some phrases. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Oi / Olá - Hi / Hello

  • Bom dia / Boa tarde / Boa noite - Good morning / afternoon / night

  • Tudo bem? - How are you?

  • Sim / Não - Yes / No

  • Uma ginja por favor - One ginja please

  • Obrigado / Obrigada - Thank you (if you are a man/woman)

How to use public transportation in Lisbon

When you first get to Lisbon you’ll probably want to walk to most places, as the city is such an interesting and stunning place to walk around. It's also very hilly, and those of us who are not experienced mountaineers will eventually get tired. You can drive in Lisbon if you want to, but it can be a little chaotic, and difficult to park. Fortunately there is a comprehensive public transportation system in the city:


First you’ll want a ticket. In Lisbon you need to buy a card and then top it up with trips. Initially you’ll want the Viva Viagem card for 50 cents. This can be topped up with individual trips, unlimited day passes, or credit- you then pay a reduced price for each trips until you run out.

If you’ve decided you’re going to live in Lisbon for more than a month, and will use public transport regularly, you’ll want a Navegante card. These cost €7 (or €12 if you can’t wait a week and want the express delivery option). They allow you to buy monthly passes for €40. You’ll need an ID and a passport photo. All tickets can be bought online, or at metro and bus stations.


Clean, air-conditioned, and easy to use. Being underground, the metro lacks the sightseeing element of other methods of transport, but is normally best for a daily commute. Runs from 6:30 to 01:00, and all night for some special occasions, such as New Years Eve.


Some locals use this as part of their daily lives, but it is still more of a tourist attraction. Definitely worth checking out at the start (line 28 is a particular feast for the eyes), the tram probably won’t be what you normally use after a month or two.

trams in lisbon


Also yellow, the bus service is more flexible than its brothers on rails, and also more extensive. It isn’t always easy to work out the best route, but CityMapper or Google can help you, and the buses allow you to take in some of the scenery en route. There are also night buses to help you get back after a late one.

Taxis and ridesharing apps

Taxis in the city are black and green. They are reasonably priced, certainly when compared to other major European cities. Bring some cash, or check if they accept cards before you get in, as many don’t.

Uber and Cabify, among others, operate in the city. You’ll also see some little yellow tuk tuks. These are not just a fun way to travel- the steep, narrow streets make them practical too.

Bikes and electric scooters

Lisbon was never the best city to travel around by bike, thanks to its steep hills and cobbled streets. However, since electric bikes and scooters became more popular, the government has invested more in its bike lanes, and these are now decent ways to travel. The city’s official bike sharing system- Gira, can be used by downloading the smart phone app. You then choose between day, month, and annual passes, and use the app to find and unlock your bike. Other companies run similar services, and dockless electric scooters can also be found throughout the city.

What should I do in Lisbon?

There are a whole host of ways to spend a few months in Lisbon, and different people will enjoy different things. This guide has a few things everyone should sample:

See the sights

Have we mentioned that Lisbon is pretty? Well it is. In Lisbon the streets themselves are tourist attractions, and in among these are many actual tourist attractions. Some of the highlights are:

  • Belém - The famous tower and UNESCO world heritage site are not the only offerings here. Belém also features a beautiful monastery, botanical gardens, and other places well worth a visit.

belem castle
  • Castelo de São Jorge - On top of one of Lisbon’s 7 hills, St George’s castle is fascinating historically, and fun to explore. Most people go there for the views though. The castle looks out over the whole city, so they’re as spectacular as they come.

  • Santa Justa Elevator - Winding through the narrow streets of the city center, this staggering piece of architecture comes out of nowhere. It’s more beautiful from the top- so either queue and take the elevator, or walk to Largo do Carmo and approach from above.

  • Praça do Comércio - The grandest and most famous of Lisbon’s Plazas, and right on the waterfront. Beautiful to look at from ground level, you can also climb to the top of the big arch for a better view. Full of bars and restaurants if you’ve time to spare.

  • The MAAT - The museum of art, architecture and technology features a wide range of exhibits. Worth a visit if only to see the building itself, beautifully situated by the sea.

  • The Oceanarium - Maybe not the most highbrow, but Lisbon’s indoor aquarium is the biggest in Europe, and particularly excellent.

Find some Fado

If you’re moving here for a few months then you probably won’t need to go looking, Fado music will find you at some point. This traditional, melancholic music can be found in many restaurants, with some particularly known for their regular live acts. Whether or not it’s your favorite style of music, you should definitely see some, if only to see the skill of the locals in action.

Venture out

When you’re ready to get away from the city for a while, Lisbon has some excellent places nearby that you can visit in a day. The most famous is Sintra- the picturesque mountain town, packed with castles and stunning palaces. If you are looking for beaches there are plenty around, from the tourist hotspot Praia de Carcavelos in the south, to the more rugged Praia do Baleal in the north. Keen surfers will already know that Portugal’s Atlantic coast is one of the best places around. There are many more options available, so you’ll have no trouble filling a few months with different activities.

Where to go out in Lisbon

Lisbon is famous for having great food, drinks, and nightlife. We have covered this a little in our neighborhood section, but here’s some more info:


The centre, so it’s very touristy, but also where the locals go to work. This means that prices have stayed low, and you can find some great bargains here.

Cais do Sodré

Two places worth mentioning here are the TimeOut Market- a spectacular food hall where each person at the table can try top quality food from a different country. Also Pink Street: more famous for late night partying, but also home to some decent eateries, especially if you like tacos.

food hall


A more upmarket option for foodies. This is where you’ll find many top quality restaurants, a fine choice if you’re on a slightly larger budget.

Barrio Alto

Famous for its buzzing atmosphere and nightlife. Barrio Alto is also home to a number of restaurants, and the best place in the city for tapas.

Any local delicacies I should try?

The food in Portugal is fantastic, and reasonably priced; so eating and drinking your way around Lisbon will surely be one of your top activities. There are so many delicious things to try, here are some of the best and most typical:

Pasteis de Nata

The most famous are these fabulous, custard-filled pastries. You’re supposed to go to Belém for the best ones, but they’re sold all over, and are pretty similar across the board.

pasteis de nata


A personal favorite. Cheap, delicious, and everywhere. Marinated pulled pork in a bun soaked in meat juice and hot sauce. Ideal with a beer between meals.


In terms of savory food, Portugal is most famous for it’s seafood- Bacalhau (codfish) and Sardines being the most typical. Sardines are sold in restaurants, but you normally find them grilled in the street, especially at festivals and in the summer- when they’re at their tastiest.

Caldo Verde

This green soup is very traditional. Made with potatoes, chorizo, and (normally) kale, this comfort food goes down especially well in winter.

Vinho Verde

Sticking with the green theme, but moving on to drinks. The ‘green’ in green wine refers to lack of maturity rather than color. This makes the slightly sparkling wine crisp and refreshing. Enjoyed all year round, but perfect on a hot summer day.


Ginjinha, to give it its full name, is a tasty Portuguese liquor made with ginja berries (sour cherries). It’s served as a shot, and you’ll normally find some fruit in there. They sell it in most bars, but the authentic way is to find one of the tiny, dedicated ginja bars you’ll find dotted about the city.

Are pets welcome in Lisbon?

Any pet owners thinking of living in a new city for a few months will probably have thought about what to do with their furry friends by now. It’s illegal to turn down prospective tenants for having pets, so you’ll have no problem finding an apartment to rent. If you take a dog out with you, you’ll find the Lisbon locals love them, and will often stop in the street to say hi. Your dog will find few better workouts than running up and down Lisbon’s hills.

dog on street corner


Are you ready? Such a beautiful city, with fantastic food, nightlife, and places to visit, topped off with an excellent work environment, is such an attractive proposition. Surely you're convinced you that Portugal’s Lisbon is a wonderful place to move to, even if it’s only short term. It only takes a few minutes to find the right accommodation and book a flight- all that’s left is to take the first step in your new life!