Where to live in Lisbon: the ultimate neighbourhood guide for expats and digital nomads
May 18, 2020
Living in 5 different cities over the last 10 years I've always been fascinated by the discussions surrounding neighbourhoods and how to choose the best one for you.
What makes a neighbourhood a good place to live?
Which are the trendy ones and which are up-and-coming?
It’s been quite a while since I started the Facebook group Lisbon Digital Nomads, but long story short, it’s become an active online community and something of a first-stop for expats and digital nomads searching for information when moving to the city.
Choosing the right neighbourhood has always been a common hot topic, so I decided to run a survey and try to figure out which neighbourhoods are the most popular.
My goal was to create the best compilation on the internet about Lisbon's neighbourhoods to help anyone who’s looking to:
Make an investment decision (e.g. buying a property in Lisbon)
Book an authentic holiday while visiting Lisbon
Get a better overview of the city to open a small business (e.g. a coworking space)
Be inspired while making city planning decisions and attracting new citizens
I circulated the survey in the Lisbon Digital Nomad group and also shared it on two other expat groups. More than 200 people filled out the form. Thank you all! 🙏
Below are the results from the survey:
How were the ratings calculated?
The survey contained 15 of 26 total neighbourhoods in Lisbon.
While I received a few comments (usually from locals) for not including some of the more remote neighbourhoods, after spending the last few years talking to literally hundreds of expats and digital nomads, I felt I had quite a clear idea of what neighbourhoods needed to be included.
As I wanted to keep the survey as short as possible (I'm sure you agree, long surveys can be a real headache) I made an executive decision based of prior conversations to condense my survey options to include only the most commonly lived-in neighbourhoods.
Each survey question included a screenshot of the map as this survey targeted locals who are not always familiar with the names. And we made sure to note that each neighbourhood often goes by plenty of “sub-neighbourhood” names (Lapa, Graça, Intendente, etc.) which many people use and can make things tricky.
The calculation of the final ranking was inspired by the Janeček voting method. The main idea behind this method is that you can give a negative vote and this way the winning options are better compromised.
With a few minor tweaks to this method, I was able to to use this process to calculate the rating for each neighbourhood:
Important note: None of the survey responders knew how the ratings are going to be calculated.
Results: Fantastic neighbourhoods to live in Lisbon
Here is the definitive list of the most fantastic neighbourhoods in Lisbon according to the survey results:
Estrela 308 points 🏆
Campo Ourique 215
Santo António 213
Avenidas Novas 166
Santa Maria Maior 145
São Vicente 136
Penha de França 66
How accurate is this ranking?
I wanted to conduct this survey in a city that I know relatively well so that I could compare the results with my personal opinion and easily spot if anything went wrong with the results.
What was very obvious, especially in the Facebook comments, was that the criteria for what makes a fantastic neighbourhood is very different when you compare nomads/expats and locals. Most nomads, for instance, don't have cars and kids, and they work from home or at a local coworking space.
Their lifestyle significantly influences their preferences. While many locals think that Benfica or Parque das Nações (both not included in the survey) are fantastic places to live, nomads wouldn't even consider them.
Personally, I was surprised at how bad the rankings were for Penha de França, Ajuda, Beato, and Marvila.
While I wouldn’t consider any of these neighbourhoods fantastic places to live, there is a lot of buzz about them as new, trendy and up-and-coming areas.
The city center is not so popular.
The most central areas like Santa Maria Maior and Misericórdia got fewer points than I expected. Tourist density is probably something that impacts people’s preferences in locations like this.
There are huge differences in one single neighbourhood.
Belém is a great example - it's one of the most touristy areas of Lisbon (negative votes) but on the other hand, a large part of it is calm and a great place to live ("Yes" votes).
An authentic review of each neighbourhood
There was another optional survey where I collected reviews of specific neighbourhoods that people love (you can still add your review if you haven’t yet!). There is an option to add a link to your website or social media profile.
The best answers I'm adding below 👇
A peaceful, colourful neighbourhood full of independent shops and restaurants, close to the city centre without the noise and inconvenience of living there. Oh and Jardim de Estrela is fantastic too. It’s calmness and beauty, and feeling as if you are in a bubble. I could quite happily never leave this neighbourhood. - Mairead
Close to the centre, yet quiet and not full of tourists, Ideal for families. Beautiful park,
Santos: An eclectic mix of historic and modern, a fantastic community and possibly the best integration of expats and locals in lisbon. - Rishav
Estrela. I love how close it is to many of my favorite cafes, restaurants, and miradouros, but still quite calm and quiet and near to the park.
Sao Bento: It's so many things at once depending what time of day you walk thru, so alive. - Justin
Hi, my own one (Sao Bento). It's a lovely mix of foreigners and Portuguese. Centrally located without being in the tourist throng. - Susan
São Bento retains the charm of the historic city centre, it's close to the action and the waterfront while offering a peaceful sanctuary away from the crowds. - Michal
The neighborhood is close to the important things in the centre (10-15 min walk) but feels cozier and less touristy. There are lots of families and friendly people, and Estrela Park is a highlight. There are also many markets close by. - Therese
Charming, beautiful, calm (but not boring), has great infrastructure (public transport, parking places, banks, shopping, medicine, sports, great restaurants, park). It is close enough to down town to go there by foot, but has enough distance from (stupid) mass tourism. Hotels and airbnbs are very discreet and normally not disturbing locals. Great local (portuguese and international) community. One of the few (2-3) areas in Lisbon, where quality life with kids is possible without being in suburbia kind of situation. - Anastasia
2. Campo Ourique
It felt very local, but still very close to downtown. Also not that many hills in that area. - Atli
The Best neighbourhoods in Lisbon. there are many traditional shops, restaurants and markets. Very local area. Its very local area. Near the city centre and with a lot of good restaurants and markets (like Campo de Ourique Market). - Paula
Easy to walk (less cars, noise), beautiful architecture, good food options. Campo de Ourique the parks just upped my quality of life 10x. - Kris
There is a lot of traditional shops of high quality, several services walking distance, top restaurants and green spaces. - Vanessa
I would say Campo de Ourique. The place is quite calm, far from the fuss of the city. Plenty of good options for food and coffee. Calm lifestyle. - Eva
3. Santo António
Coração de Jesus + São José + São Mamede
Principe Real! It’s a little slice of Paris in Lisbon. Tiny, quiet streets with the occasional cafe, bistro, or park thrown in for charm. Also home to the best little gelato shop and French owned bookstore in Lisboa. Good metro accessibility a walkable from the Rosalio train station. Enjoy exploring this gem of a neighborhood. It’s an expensive neighborhood to live in though. - Francine
Principe Real: Hipster, classy & traditional - Arianna
Príncipe Real: It’s very central, green and historical. I love the little parks and the botanical garden to be surrounded by nature while you’re still in the middle of the city. Everything is walkable from there. Tourists love it but it’s not too loud or crowded. The old buildings provide the neighborhood with its charm and the many restaurants give it life. - Juliane
Anjos + Pena + São Jorge de Arroios
Around Campo Mártires da Pátria, between avenida da liberdade and avenida almirante reis: It's near the trendy Intendente neighborhood (and the yummy Indian and asian restaurants), but also the city center and Chiado/principe real. It's quiet with a nice park. It's close to Marques de Pombal to take the highway toward caparica for surfing sessions! - Laurent
Estefania: Not touristic. Walking distance (10min) to all metro lines. Multiple food courts, supermarkets and other amenities in the neighborhood. A few min walking away from parque Eduardo 7, which is an amazing and peaceful spot to chill. - Maxime
Flat terrain, lovely neighbors and shopkeepers, easy access to public transport, not a tourist area - Sarah
Very central to everything, lots of transport option. Great bars, restaurants and shops. - Jane
Bica: Nice coffee shops. Good coworking spaces. Access to the river so you can go for a run easily. - Luke
Cais do Sodré: It's picturesque, close to the Tago and with many good restaurants. - Irene
Santa Caterina, Misericordia: Feels like a small village and has everything you need, with cheerfully painted buildings and a view of the Tagus and bridge. - Marika
6. Avenidas Novas
Nossa Senhora de Fátima + São Sebastião da Pedreira
Saldanha: Spacious, modern, not touristy, easy access to everywhere in the city, easy access to shops and services, parks
Picoas: close to the city center, very quiet, close to everything needed, fancy neighbourhood - Carlotta
Avenida Novas is wonderful. Very central, easy access to everything, tree lined streets, small neighborhood shops and restaurants. In the heart of the city but not over run by tourists or noisy like other central areas. Quiet but central. - Nic
It's where I live :) I love it because it has a perfect mix of local & foreign, traditional & trendy, there's space (streets are larger than other neighborhoods), it has beautiful views to the bridge and you can reach the river in less than 10min walking. It's also perfect for commuting to other areas of Lisbon avoiding the traffic, either by car through Monsanto (North, Cascais) or to the city center (5min with my scooter or less than 5€ by Uber). It is also very gardened, which I appreciate. Finally, I have some nice friends living close by :) - Inês
It has a local as well as an international vibe, many good specialty shops and restaurants, great links to the rest of the city (sadly no metro, but lots of trains and buses), and it's close to Lisbon's largest park. All this without being touristy. Oh, and the views of the 25th of April bridge are amazing, especially on foggy winter days! - Marek
The best area in Alcântara district is Alto de Santo Amaro. Here you have the real neighbourhood feeling. Everyone knows each other. You have everything that you need: banks, pharmacies, schools, restaurants, fish shops, butchers, croissinteries, sightseeing spots, gardens, cultural events.You are 3 minutes walking from the river and 5 minutes by car from the highway and from the bridge. - João
close to center, but quiet. close to train - Angie
A short walk to the river. Easy access to downtown by train, bus or tram. The touristic area next to the Jerónimos Monastery can get very crowded on weekends and holidays, but the rest of Belém is very quiet. The parks are also great! - Simone
9. Santa Maria Maior
Castelo + Madalena + Mártires + Sacramento +Santa Justa + Santiago + Santo Estêvão + São Cristóvão e São Lourenço + São Miguel + São Nicolau + Sé + Socorro
For me Alfama it's one charming, poetic and beautiful neighborhood specially in the area of the flea market and National Phanteon but everyone like diferent things. I wouldn't change for anything. - Hugo
Mouraria: The clash of different cultures (specially non Europeans) with old and new stuff brings the neighborhood together as a really interesting place to be. - Hares
10. São Vicente
Graça: Looks local but less tourists than Alfama, has a cool vibe, is still close to the centre and has cafes and coworking to work from. - Rosanna
Alto do Pina + São João de Deus
pretty much near everything, away from the tourist center and a lot of services/events going on - Teresa
12. Penha de França
Penha de França + São João
It is not very near to metro statio (even if you can reach with bus or walking for 20 minutes).It is full of Portoguese people without turist. Seems to be in a little town very typical and you have all the shops that you need around you - Daniele
I've lived in Avenidas Novas, near Gulbenkian, then I spent some time in Massamá, a few nights now and then in Alvalade and Benfica and now I live in Penha de França and it's my favourite place by far. Yes you have to walk a bit to the subway but I have so many buses right at my door that it doesn't matter. I just love how safe I feel there. Plus, I love the view. - Filipa
Just my two cents, living in Penha de França: depending on the street, it is basically a cheaper Graça with less tourist, a less busy Arroios or as bad as Olivais. I like it here, and honestly when looking for a place to buy I made a decision that I did not want to spend what is needed to live in these other neighbourhoods. I go to Estrela for brunch. It's nice, but it got to a point that it almost feels like another city, possibly because 1/3 of the people living there now are tourists or nomads. This is totally fine, but if you want to get a taste of the more "authentic" Lisbon, I suggest to get out of the "nomad comfort zone". Maybe you'll find out that having a chat with an old and loud Portuguese lady is better than your Copenhagen cold brew. - Enrico
The mix between modern culture and old traditions. - Rita
Close to the sea, close to Belem, village like feeling, locals take foreigners in and are friendly. Good up and coming restaurant scene. - Juuso
It's suburban, not central, but charming and village-like, much cheaper, and full of locals not tourists.Transports not so bad: Belem rail, 18 tram and lots of buses (incl. Nightbus). - Alex