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What You Need to Know When You’re Moving to Lisbon

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  • Gustavo De faz

    The quality of InterNations' members convinced me to join. And I've indeed received a very warm welcome from fellow Lisbon expats..

Relocating to Lisbon

At a Glance:

  • Lisbon has a subtropical Mediterranean climate, with very hot summers and mild winters.
  • The city is divided into many districts, all unique in character.
  • There are many available and beautiful properties in Lisbon, although they can be pricey.
  • EU/Schengen Area citizens staying longer than three months must register with the local authorities.

A Western Location and a Sunny City

Lisbon lies just south of the center of Portugal’s Atlantic coast. With the exception of Reykjavik in Iceland, no other major European city is located this far west. Given the city’s significance as Portugal’s (nearly) unrivalled cultural and economic powerhouse, moving to Lisbon is an immensely popular idea with both expats and Portuguese citizens, making the city the most densely populated area in the country.

Living in mainland Europe’s westernmost capital city comes with quite a few perks — at least for those of you who prefer heat to cold. When preparing and packing for your move, you can leave those long, heavy coats, wool hats, and mittens behind: the lowest temperature ever recorded in Lisbon was barely below freezing, just minus one degree back in 1956.

On the other hand, if you are not too good at coping with heat, you might need some time adjusting to the city’s four to six months of summer. Temperatures regularly exceed 35°C, so make sure you pack appropriately for the heat and always wear sunscreen.

Lisbon and Its Neighborhoods

While the city administration has divided the area into 53 freguesias (civil parishes), the 550,000 inhabitants calling the city home mostly think of and refer to neighborhoods as bairros. Bairros are not defined by clear boundaries, but they refer to parts of the city with a common atmosphere, personality, or history.

Some of these neighborhoods, all within the historic core of the city, are fairly well known outside of Lisbon and even Portugal, so you may even have come across a few of the names we have listed before:

  • Bairro Alto: Described as one of the most attractive neighborhoods of the city, it is arguably also the best-known. Luring both locals and expats with its wealth of cafés, restaurants, bars, shops, and various hotspots of subcultural life, Bairro Alto is definitely one of the most popular districts in Lisbon. Even if you are not moving to Lisbon’s main entertainment district, chances are you will experience some nights to remember here.
  • Baixa: Located in the heart of the city, Baixa is extremely popular amongst both local residents and tourists due to its close proximity to Lisbon’s best tourist attractions, cafes and restaurants, and shopping districts.
  • Chiado: This area is particularly popular among young people and art aficionados. Chiado is a nice area to relax with plenty of cafés — including the iconic “A Brasileira” — art schools, theaters, and historic sights such as the Carmo Convent and Church and the São Carlos National Theater. If you want to be surrounded with culture, both contemporary and historical, this might be for you.
  • Parque de Nações: Locally known simply as Expo, this area was the site of the World Exhibition of 1998. Today, it is a modern, emerging neighborhood, combining features of commercial and upscale residential areas — if you prefer not to live in the historic city center, looking for apartments here might be the better option.

Área Metropolitana de Lisboa

As with nearly any metropolis around the globe, moving to Lisbon does not necessarily mean relocating to the city center. The Lisbon Metropolitan Area (Área Metropolitana de Lisboa in Portuguese) is home to large-scale industrial activities, making it a feasible option for people moving to Lisbon for employment reasons. Portugal’s smallest region in terms of total area is also the nation’s most populous: the steady stream of people moving to Lisbon and its 18 satellite municipalities has resulted in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area being home to almost 27% of Portugal’s population. In fact, the Metro Area is more than five times as populous as its hub, with roughly three million inhabitants. The largest municipalities there include Amadora, Cascais, Loures, Sintra, Seixal, and Almada.

Housing and Admin Issues in Lisbon

House Hunting Can Be Expensive

Although expensive, there is no shortage of housing available in Lisbon, largely due to continued suburbanization. The most affordable accommodation prices are generally within the metropolitan area of the city. Housing in Lisbon is both beautiful and unique. The market is diverse, and apartments come in any size and shape. Nevertheless, this diversity and the expansion of the city has resulted in a super competitive housing. Apartments sell fast, so it is advisable to be as efficient as you can when searching for your new home.

First Visit to Lisbon: Your Entry Visa

Citizens from a country within the EU or Schengen area do not have to worry about any kind of visa or permit before heading to Lisbon — as Portugal is party to the Schengen Agreement, you are granted freedom of movement. If you wish to stay for more than three months, you will need to register your presence with the local authorities.

Apart from this intra-European agreement, Portugal has also signed a number of visa exemption agreements regarding short stays with other countries from all over the globe. To see whether your home nation has such an agreement with Portugal, you can check the list courtesy of the Portal das Comunidades Portuguesas. In the case that there is no agreement with your country of citizenship, you will need to apply for an entry visa with the Portuguese mission in your country. Fortunately, this should not be too much of a hassle — we have info on the process in our guide on moving to Portugal.

If you are going to be moving to Lisbon on a more permanent basis, please see our guide on working in Lisbon for information on the type of long-term visa you have to apply for — please inquire with the nearest Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF) for additional info on this matter.

Registering as a Foreigner

If you are a third-country national who has moved to Lisbon by virtue of your residence visa and successfully applied for a residency permit, you will be familiar with the registration process for foreigners. Thus, there is no need to register on a separate occasion.

However, if you are a national of an EU/EEA/Schengen country and wish to extend your stay beyond the three months the visa exemption agreement permits, you have to complete two different forms: one application for the extension of your stay and the foreigner registration form. In order to complete both, you will need to go to the Camara Municipal.

Connect with like-minded expatriates

Discover our welcoming community of expats! You’ll find many ways to network, socialize, and make new friends. Attend online and in-person events that bring global minds together.

Feb 21, 2024, 7:00 PM
15 attendees
Authentic food, for snacking, sharing or tasting among friends in a relaxed city environment, where traditional Portuguese flavours combine with the modern influences of a multicultural city. All this
As we gear up for a fantastic evening, we're excited to invite you to an exclusive get-together at the chic and trendy TOPO Martim Moniz bar. Mix and mingle with expats and global minds from all over
Feb 25, 2024, 4:30 AM
10 attendees
Hello guys. I hope you are fine. I am back in Lisbon and would like to invite you to the Dali The Immersive Experience, this Sunday February 25th at 3:30 p.m. You can buy the tickets here: https://f
Welcome to the Lisbon Changemakers Official February 2024 Meetup! 🎉 We're thrilled to have you join us for another exciting gathering of change-makers, innovators, and passionate individuals dedicat

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  • Gustavo De faz

    The quality of InterNations' members convinced me to join. And I've indeed received a very warm welcome from fellow Lisbon expats..

  • Melanie S. Hamann

    InterNations Events in Lisbon are great - I love the rightfully popular events organized by our friendly Ambassador team.

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