Saunders 1865 | Moving to Lisbon

Moving to Lisbon

Are you moving to Lisbon? Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal, has a rich history and takes pride in a wealth of Portuguese seafaring explorers and historic buildings.  It is Europe’s second oldest capital and the financial centre of Portugal. The moderate climate records summer highs of 25°, winter lows of 15° during the day, and 8° at night.  It has a reputation of being a global city, evidenced by growth in the financial sector, and is also important in terms of media, arts, international trade, commerce, entertainment and tourism.  One of Lisbon’s claims to fame came in 2006 when 18,788 people raised the largest national flag ever at the national stadium.

Our free, in-depth Moving to Lisbon report includes info on:

• The best areas to live
• The good schools
• The average monthly rental prices
• The excellent public transport system in the city

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Putting Lisbon on the Map

Situated on Europe’s Atlantic coast, Lisbon is the westernmost capital of mainland Europe.  Placed at the Tagus River mouth Lisbon is built on seven hills.  With its central location, the city is bordered by the ocean on the south and west, and Spain on the north and east, and is 249 miles from Spain’s northern border.  The southern region of the Algarve is 186 miles to the south.

The excellent transport links make commuting in this heavily traffic congested city very convenient.  The old, narrow roads, impatient drivers, very little parking and a lack of good signage all add to the frustrations.

Lisbon Portela Airport is 4.5 miles north of the city. The Metro Red Line is the quickest way to reach the city, but there is also an airport bus and taxi services.

The main railway station is Oriente, situated 3.7 miles from the centre in the midst of an urban area made up of reclaimed land.  This efficient station is also a high-speed commuter and regional hub, a Metro station, a local, national and international bus station, a police station and a shopping centre.

The Lisbon Metro is the most efficient way to travel, especially between the residential areas and the city centre.  The trains run from 6.30 am until 1 am.  Many of the stations feature contemporary art décor.

Remodelado trams, which are pre-war, quaint and classic, still travel the tram lines of the city.  There are five tram routes.

The Areas

With many residents leaving the city to live in the suburbs in the ‘70s and 80’s, the city centre was largely abandoned.  However, new residents are slowly filtering in, mainly expats and singles.  Whilst the accommodation may appear costly to the locals, foreigners can find luxury apartments at up to 50% of the price of their home cities.


With a village-like atmosphere, this is the oldest city neighbourhood based around the castle (Graca) and the river (Alfama).  Mainly singles, pensioners, immigrants, and the original working class families – that have lived here for generations –  enjoy the charm and ambience of the area.

Renovated houses often offer lovely river views, but the best homes are close to the cathedral.  Apartments are small and most often do not have lifts.

Driving and parking are both a problem.  The maze of narrow medieval streets and the lack of public transport means that walking is the most convenient.  But the area is popular for historic buildings, restaurants and bars.


A mix of late 20th-century office buildings and stunning award-winning architecture line the wide avenues, catering mainly to upper and middle-class families.  The spacious apartments, great transport links and world-class shopping may lack atmosphere and historic value and are costly, but the new 2.4 hectares of green space ensures a good location for couples with children.


Bohemian and central, nightlife is hectic.  A multitude of restaurants, bars and nightclubs make the area noisy at night, with dirty streets in the mornings.  Mainly inhabited by pensioners, artists, singles and expats, this fun area is really not really suited to young families.


This grid of streets, once lined by shops, is now a business and banking district with touristy shops.  Once deserted, middle-aged investors are now moving here.  It is very central, with spacious apartments and is a great investment opportunity.  It is extremely quiet at night, but hectic and noisy during business hours.


Close to the seaside suburbs, Belem is home to the most famous museums and monuments in Lisbon, most of them UNESCO World Heritage sites.  Inhabited by middle-class families, the riverfront and many green spaces, including the 7-acre Botanical Gardens, make this a fantastic place for expats with children, who require small houses or apartments in low-rise buildings.

Belem has many great educational institutions, from nursery and pre-schools to a university.

Restelo is up-market, tranquil, more expensive, and inhabited by the more affluent.

The downside to both areas is the lack of a metro station, but there are plenty of trams and buses, although it is quite a distance from the city centre.


A prosperous and lively residential suburb, this area was originally farmland.  It became a residential neighbourhood in the late 18th-century and is a mix of Art Nouveau and 20th-century architecture.  The area is famous for the old Campo De Ourique market, which is one of the most popular dining destinations in the city, and the Jardim da Estrela, a romantic park opposite the basilica.  More or less central is the small family park, the Jardim da Parada.  There is no metro station, but again, buses and trams are available.


Known as the most sophisticated area in the city, many buildings date back to the 1700’s, with a number of them going through a massive restoration after the devastating fires in 1988.  This is the trendiest and most elegant suburb, packed with five-star restaurants, chic bars, all the big-name international shops, and theatres.  Transport links are excellent, residents are mainly professionals and the prosperous, and rental prices are steep.


This area was a former World Fair site and has since become of one of the largest redevelopments in Europe, with contemporary architecture housing business premises and a residential area.  Formerly a refinery and industrial slaughterhouses, this stretch of land measures 3 miles along the banks of the Tagus, a total area of 330 hectares.

The new marina with 600 berths, the 142 metre Vasco da Gama Tower, and a giant aquarium add to the attraction.  Good public transport, lots of green spaces, plenty of parking, and many apartments having a garage makes this appealing to the wealthy, although it is at quite a distance to the city.  It has none of the historical appeal of traditional Lisbon.

The longest ever Mexican wave, involving 8,453 people, happened here on 12th August 2007.


This is a charming neighbourhood with sophisticated shops and appealing architecture, attracting a wide range of residents of different social status and ages.  Although restoration is taking place, it retains its unique appeal and the public parks and gardens, the Saturday market, unique shops all add to the old-world feel.  Transit links aren’t great, with the Metro and the bus route both outside the district.  There is a distinct lack of parking available.


Popular with expats, Cascais and neighbouring Estoril are 19 miles, or half an hour, from central Lisbon by bus or train.  Both are seaside resorts, with picturesque tile-roofed houses and cobbled streets and they have tranquil areas away from the tourist zones.  Modern high-rises and shopping malls cater to the resident population.  A large expat population and the lively tourism make it easier to get by in English.  More laid back than Lisbon and lined with gorgeous beaches, these areas attract families and singles alike.


Also, half an hour from downtown Lisbon, Sintra is a mountain town and was previously the summer residence of the Portuguese royal family, with the fairy tale castles to prove it.  The royal route and the old town sit in green, wooded hills.  Charming residential areas are in the opposite direction, with friendly locals, shops and restaurants.  The temperate mountain climate appeals to many expats, along with the tranquillity of living in the country.

Who Lives and Works in Lisbon?

The population of Lisbon is approximately 545,000, although including the outlying metropolitan area is in the region of 2.8 million.  Immigrants number just over 50,000, mainly from Brazil, Ukraine, Moldovia, Romania and Russia.  Religion-wise, Portugal is  majority Christian, with a smaller number of Muslims, Jews and Protestants.

As the capital and financial centre of Portugal, the city fared badly after the economic crash.  However, it has recovered reasonably strongly.  According to PWC, Lisbon is now the 7th most attractive city in Europe for investment, due to its recovered credibility.  It has gone through an inspiring economic recovery, fuelled by trans-Atlantic connections and international popularity.

Local industries include Portucel Soporcel, a major player internationally in the paper market; Cimpor, the 10th largest cement producer in the world; Amorim, a world leader in cork production; Conservas Ramirez for canned food; EDP Renovaveis, 3rd largest for wind energy production across the globe; and TAP Airlines, with a respected safety level and great routes.

Many international companies and banks share space in the capital, employing a number of expats and locals.

Lisbon has one of the busiest container ports in Europe, with shipping playing a major role in the economy.

Tourism plays an important part in the economy, with attractions for beach lovers, history buffs and varied scenery.

The Best Bits

With one of the lowest crime rates in Europe, a fantastic climate with warm summers and mild winter temperatures, a low cost of living – up to 50% lower than New York, and the relaxing laid-back lifestyle all add up to giving Lisbon a high quality of life.

Its rich history and well-preserved buildings, a multitude of museums, and an active theatre-going fan base will keep lovers of the arts amused for years.

The beaches.  What more can be said?

The nightlife is vibrant, with excellent restaurants, clubs and pubs.

Nearby attractions, including mountain retreats and historic villages, make for entertaining day trips and weekend getaways.

Keep the kids amused with the Hippotrip, a fun day around the city and along the river, or the Fun Track for hiring bikes, trikes, scooters, karts and skates for use along the 7km cycle path from Cais do Sodre to Belem.

The Marechal Carmona Park, in Cascais, is a handy alternative to packed beaches for families.  Trails and wooded areas, ponds and lawns and a fantastic playground, separated into 3 areas for different age groups will keep the kids entertained and the parents relaxed.

Bringing the Kids

The Portuguese education system has modernised and expanded since the 60’s and has achieved recognition for world-class practices and trends recently.

There are 7 international schools, making life easier for the children of relocated parents.  The schooling will be in the home language of the child, easing the kids into the Portuguese way of life.  It is important that the family lives in close proximity to the school of choice, as transport may be an issue otherwise.  Your relocation specialist would be the best choice to guide you as to the best location, with the right transport links.

Portuguese state schools offer free and excellent education, but schooling is conducted in Portuguese.

There are world-class universities, including the University of Lisbon, home to more than 47,00 students in 18 faculties.  The Universidade NOVA de Lisboa specialises in STEM, science, technology, engineering and maths, and FAME, finance, accounting, management and economics.  It also offers the Lisbon MBA, partnering with Universidade Catolica Portuguesa.

Relocating to Lisbon

This beautiful city, rich in history, offers a relaxed way of life, with good residential areas to choose from.  A surfeit of culture, an educated workforce, a growing economy, good education, stunning scenery and many resident expats has earned Lisbon a great reputation for safe and comfortable living.

Of course, the language difference and the formalities of enrolling kids into the right schools, finding the best accommodation in a good location, and importantly, with good transport links may prove tricky and daunting at first.  However, the services of a relocation agent will smooth the way, ensuring that you make the right choices.


City Centre
Museums & Galleries
Natural Beauty
River side icon
Average Monthly Rent - Lisbon
Apartment (1 bedroom) in city centre €789
Apartment (1 bedroom) outside of centre €531
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in city centre €1,543
Apartment (3 bedrooms) outside of centre €910
Contact us for a free initial consultation about your specific situation.
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