Accommodation in Lisbon

Updated 2023-11-05 10:47

With a thriving expat community, a rising yet still manageable cost of living (for Western standards) and a brand-new digital nomad visa providing a fiscally advantageous tax system, Lisbon is an extremely popular city among the digital nomad community. However, its popularity sometimes doubles down as its downfall, as accommodation in Lisbon is increasingly more challenging to find. 

That being said, it is definitely worth beginning your search well before you plan to relocate. The best months are usually before the summer (especially May, June and July) when the students finish their studies and more flats are vacated. On the other hand, expect a harder time after September, when prices skyrocket due to higher demand. Be that as it may, things are getting so out of hand that even students are struggling to find a bedroom, with most families not being able to afford the cost of studying in Lisbon due to the shortage of accommodation.

Rent or buy property in Lisbon?

How you go about your accommodation search in Lisbon depends on whether you want to rent or buy. Naturally, there are lots of factors that will affect your decision here, from the length of your stay to budget considerations and more. Both options come with benefits and challenges of their own — and it's a good idea to do a generous amount of research before making your decision.

Renting in Lisbon definitely offers more flexibility. You will be able to switch apartments, move to a different city and basically not have anything substantial holding you down in Lisbon. However, you also need to keep in mind that renting options may be quite limited in popular areas. Plus, rent prices are high. In fact, news outlets have recently highlighted Lisbon as the single most expensive city in Europe to rent a 1-bedroom apartment in the city center (2500€/month), surpassing the likes of Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin or Milan. Unfortunately, things aren't looking any better outside the downtown area, where prices for renting a studio have risen 70% in a year, and a modest bedroom in a shared apartment can currently set you back 525€/month (a 30% increase from 2022). Furthermore, and looking at the entire city, new leasing contracts signed in the first quarter of 2023 have shown that rent prices have gone up 23% since the same period of 2022, reaching an average of 1480€/month.

Buying property in Lisbon, on the other hand, can be a better option if you plan to stay in the city for a long time and have found a suitable property. While many foreign investors used to buy 500,000€ worth of property in order to get access to the Golden Visa Scheme, allowing them to live legally in the country and apply for citizenship after 5 years, the government has suspended the program in Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve. Furthermore, new legislation to tackle speculation and high prices has deemed it illegal to open up new Air Bnb's in Lisbon and Porto, so you won't be able to rent your property to tourists (legally) if you're away from the city.

Regarding prices, a study from the real estate platform CASAFARI, which compared real estate prices across different southern European cities in the first quarter of 2023, has shown that Lisbon's average price per square meter in the city center was sitting at 5,149€, with the last few months aggravating this figure. According to Portuguese real estate website Idealista, that same square meter rate had risen to 5,400€ in October 2023.

The process of buying property in Lisbon is rather straightforward — but can also be complicated if you are not familiar with how things work and do not speak the language. It is, thus, strongly advised to rely on a real estate agency and a legal consultant. Some of the biggest real estate agencies in Lisbon are Remax, ERA, Century 21 and Imovirtual, among others.

Whether you choose to buy or rent in Lisbon, it's absolutely essential that you invest a generous amount of time into doing market research. Navigating the real estate market in a foreign country can be an overwhelming process — and it's important to come prepared. It may also be helpful to look through our Lisbon forum for more hands-on advice on renting and buying property in Lisbon.

Neighborhoods in Lisbon

Lisbon has many attractive neighborhoods which are popular with expats. Bairro Alto and Baixa are both beautiful and within the city center, offering stunning architecture, cafes and many options for shopping and dining. Plus, Bairro Alto is also considered a staple of Lisbon's nightlife, with plenty of bars and loud music all night long. Nearby Chiado is also trendy, especially among younger people, who enjoy its food and wine scene. However, these areas are also regarded as being among the most expensive in the city, starting at 2,000€ for a one-bedroom apartment (and averaging 2,500€).

Benfica is more removed from the city center but offers large parks, open spaces and fast public transportation to the city. Affordable housing options used to be found here, but they've become increasingly scarce. Another suburb for those who prefer to be in a quieter area is Restelo, on Lisbon's western side. Restelo is popular with families, as it offers many parks and open spaces and is a predominantly residential area. Penha de França, Martim Moniz, Intendente and Anjos are neighborhoods that are about 15 min from the city center and used to offer a more diverse price range as well.

Nowadays, even the areas where the middle class used to reside have become too expensive for the average Portuguese worker, though these districts – such as Odivelas, Loures or Amadora – can still offer a good bargain for budget-savvier expats (rent starting from 900€ for a small one bedroom apartment). On the other hand, if you're running on a pretty tight budget and don't mind living quite far away from the city center, you may look up your options in Sobral do Monte Agraço, Azambuja and Arruda dos Vinhos, about 50 km away from the downtown.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.