The Digital Nomad Neighborhood Guide to Lisbon
No matter the direction I took when heading out of my apartment to my temporary office for the day, I knew that breathtaking panoramic views of Lisbon’s historic old town and seaport would greet me along the way.
As a traveling digital nomad, I mix work with play in iconic and affordable destinations like Lisbon. Thankfully, the decision on where to work in Lisbon on any given day, is easily made due to the healthy number of coworking spaces available throughout the capital.
With Lisbon’s steep hilly landscape (known as the City of Seven Hills), I could opt to work in either an `upper’ or `lower’ neighborhood, depending on which quarter I wanted to experience that day. Each one sports its own personality, ambiance, and attractions so it’s fun to sample a variety.
Why Park Your Laptop in Lisbon
Working remotely is on the rise attracting freelancers, digital nomads, travel writers, and online consultants. Like most, I’m always looking for a better work-life balance and the chance to travel somewhere new and shake it up a bit.
Lisbon definitely fits the bill. The historic city is considered a top European destination for digital nomads because of its affordability and wealth of spectacular scenery, outdoor activities, delicious cuisine, and popular sights. And, with Lisbon as your home base, you have ready access to a bundle of amazing day trip destinations such as Sintra, Jeronimos Monastery, Tower of Belem, Cascais Beach, and more.
Four Lisbon Neighborhoods for Digital Nomads
Whether just starting out or a seasoned digital nomad adventurer, it’s a good idea to pick where you want to hang your hat in Lisbon according to your personal preferences. For example, do you want to stay city-center such as in the historic, tourist-packed Baixa `lower’ neighborhood, or in a laidback `upper’ residential neighborhood like the Principe Real quarter which is only a short walk away from all the excitement? To help you choose, here are four areas that represent some of Lisbon’s best neighborhoods for digital nomads.
I’ve happily stayed in Baixa (downtown), one of Lisbon’s `lower’ neighborhoods, finding it convenient to everything – from scores of restaurants brimming over onto the walkways, to large elevators like Santa Justa, transporting folks to the `upper’ neighborhoods (avoiding lots of steps).
Baixa draws crowds of tourists thanks to its central location offering a variety of traditional and eclectic restaurants like Uma and Bastardo. It also boasts the city’s famous shopping area and is known as one of the most historical and lively neighborhoods in the city, thanks in part to the many Fado (traditional music) taverns found here.
Lisbon’s downtown area is where you’ll find the popular gathering spot, the large Praca de Commercio square, lined with monumental government buildings and picturesque sea-view restaurants. You’ll also find the Yellow Bus Tours kiosk on the square offering day trips to destinations like Sintra, Tower of Belem, Jeronimos Monastery, and Cascais Beach. They also sell tickets for the iconic tram rides carrying you uphill to the oldest quarter Alfama and hilltop Graca and hop on, hop off bus tours.
Basically Lisbon’s heartbeat, Baixa stretches from Lisbon’s Tagus River Port to tree-shaded Avenida da Liberdade, Lisbon’s most beautiful boulevard. Stroll the shaded Avenida feasting your eyes on high-end boutiques and pop into the discrete luxury shopping mall, the Tivoli Forum, just steps off the avenue.
Other top spots to see and experience include: the iconic Nicola restaurant next to the grand Praca do Comercio, the Elevador de Santa Justa which ascends from the downtown `lower’ level to `upper’ neighborhoods like Bairro Alto and Principe Real. Another handy elevator from Baixa, is the Elevador Castelo - for St. George’s Castle in Graca.
I stayed in Principe Real on one of my visits and thoroughly enjoyed the lovely quarter due to its welcoming and laidback ambiance. Principe Real is a residential area with quiet gardens like the Jardim do Principe Real square bordered by four outdoor cafes, park benches, and a corner food kiosk selling pastries, tapas, and beverages. There are also a few boutique shops, bars, and cafes like the Pesca and bakeries like the Confeitaria-Cisterl scattered throughout the neighborhood.
As an `upper’ neighborhood, it’s a 25 minutes winding downhill walk but the views along the way are stunning. After 10 minutes you arrive at Bairro Alto, also an `upper’ neighborhood, where you have the opportunity to stop off at the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte (look-out point) to grab a coffee and pastry while gazing at the city and port below.
Bairro Alto is Lisbon’s well-known trendy neighborhood with a bohemian flare. It’s where interesting street art graffiti can be spotted and where balconies still display colorful laundry left drying on the centuries-old balconies.
An `upper’ neighborhood, Bairro Alto sits above Baixa and just below the Principe Real neighborhood - therefore it’s less hilly and closer to town. From its position above Baixa, you’ll find miradouros (points of interest) where you can enjoy breathtaking panoramic views over the city and port.
In this popular neighborhood, you’ll find seafood restaurants like Sea Me and bakeries like Manteigaria where you can join the locals to indulge in Lisbon’s favorite pastry, pastel de nata (cream custard tart).
Graca is definitely an `upper’ neighborhood boasting ancient landmarks like St. George’s Castle and the Lisbon Cathedral (known as Santa Maria Maior de Lisboa or Se) overlooking Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood, Alfama.
Home to the famous perched castle built by the Moors, Castelo de Sao Jorge, it’s believed that the castle hill was occupied since at least the 8th c. BC and that the hilltop perched castle fortifications date from around the 1st c. BC.
Along the winding maze of cobblestone streets, you’ll find bustling restaurants and bars like the Botequim da Graca and Graca do Vinho offering traditional dishes, tapas, wine, and music. Packed with so many eateries in Graca and neighboring Alfama, you’re likely to smell some traditional dishes cooking such as grilled sardines, and hear strains of soulful Fado music wafting throughout the quarter. Just step into a hidden alley and or side street for a real treat.
Four Day Trip Experiences from Lisbon
The four top day trips featured below are easy to reach from Lisbon – by train, car, mini-van tour bus, or Yellow Bus Tours. Two of these day trip destinations, Cascais Beach and Sintra, are very attractive spots where you might want to stay a while and set up a temporary remote work station from there.
Cascais, a small quintessential fishing village with glorious beaches, is about a 35 minutes train ride from Lisbon. Fishermen still venture out each morning in their small boats for fresh catch which ends up as the day’s special at the restaurants. A pretty seaside town with sweeping ocean beaches, Cascais has a most charming vibe, felt throughout the welcoming town, brimming with colorful and lively cafes and boutiques.
Sintra, an idyllic hillside village surrounded by incredible natural beauty, sits just below the dramatic hilltop perched Pena Palace, a popular tourist attraction. About 15 miles from Lisbon, you’ll find the Palacio Nacional de Sintra, the Castelo dos Mouros, and Palacio Nacional da Pena surrounded by richly forested scenery. It’s an absolutely beautiful oasis away from Lisbon city’s hustle and bustle.
Also known as the Hieronymites Monastery, Jeronimos is a UNESCO site, constructed from the 16th c. to the 17th c. The unique religious building was designed to commemorate the return of explorer Vasco da Gama from his India explorations. The grandiose Jeronimos Monastery was actually built on the chapel’s site that Vasco da Gama and other sailors prayed at, prior to venturing out on their discovery journeys.
The Jeronimos Monastery is one of the most spectacular buildings I’ve visited, thanks to its exquisite decoration, ornamentation, architectural symbolism, and breathtaking spiritual spaces.
The Belem Tower (Torre de Belem) was built between 1514 and 1520 by the sculptor Francisco de Arruda. A UNESCO site, the imposing tower sits on the northern bank of the Tagus River, up the river from Lisbon city. The famous fortified tower’s primary purpose was to fend off would-be invaders coming by sea.
To many of the sailors leaving from this spot, the tower was the last sight of their homeland that they would see. Officially the Tower of Saint Vincent, the Belem Tower is Lisbon's most famous landmark. It’s considered an enduring symbol of Portugal’s maritime heritage, dating back to the early 16th c.
Guest writer Carol Barron is a well-seasoned digital nomad covering her adventures on her site, LiveLikeaLocalAbroad.com. Follow along and see where she’s off to next. If you’re looking more into Lisbon, you can find more of her tips and guides below: