Just Wanderlust Blog » A discerning, food-loving, & culturally curious road warrior seeks the world's beautiful and bizarre destinations.

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10 Reasons Why I Want To Move To Lisbon, Portugal

I’ve been fortunate to visit so many cities around the world, but I usually find myself thinking, “that’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”  I love the comforts of home and familiarity – who doesn’t?  Well, that thought changed within a couple of days of being in Lisbon.  Lisbon, darling – you’re a nice place to visit AND I totally want to live there!  Here’s why:

1) Lisbon is beautiful: The city has gorgeous black and white tiled sidewalks, the buildings are colorful, and the city is right next to the water.  The alleyways remind me of quintessential Italian villages (if you’ve read my posts long enough you know I adore Italy) and the many hills and trolleys remind me of San Francisco.  Plus, its 25 of April bridge is a dead-ringer for the Golden Gate Bridge (they were built by the same people).

(Doesn’t this look like San Francisco?)

2) The city center is walkable: You can walk from the neighborhoods Alfama to Bairro Alta to Baixa in the same day, which works out great for both tourists and locals!  On a similar note, a lot of locals actually live within a 15min commute of the city.  Just imagine all the things you could do if your commute to work were that short!

(Alfama neighborhood)

3) The climate is perfect: Because of its geographic location, it is blessed with Mediterranean climate.  Living in Southern California, the perfect weather would be hard to give up, but it doesn’t look like I’d have to if I moved to Lisbon.  The city has fair weather year round and it barely rains!

4) Stores close late:  The city really takes advantage of all the daylight it gets.  In fact, you can get food as late at midnight!    A local I met explained it best when he said that stores open later because people are out later… and since people are out later, the stores close later. It’s a nice self-sustaining cycle they’ve got!

5) The Mediterranean lifestyle: 1.5 hour lunches are the norm as are 6 espresso breaks throughout the day.  When my friend asked the local, “What if I don’t want to take 1.5 hour lunch and instead, I want to go home earlier– is that possible?”  The local replied, “That question doesn’t make sense to me.  Why would I want to give up my 1.5hr lunch?”  Uh, yeah.  Sign me up!

(This is dining with a view, Lisbon style!)

6) You can drink on the streets: Lisboans seem more relaxed and it might be because of their lax attitude towards alcohol (and their 1.5 hour lunches and espresso breaks).  Everyone drinks with their meals and it’s acceptable to drink on the streets.  The best part, however, is that people don’t abuse this privilege unlike some US cities I can think of (ahem, Vegas).

7) Barely any fast-food chains: While we’re on the topic of food and drink, Mc Donalds, KFC, and Burger King are around every corner in the U.S.  It was refreshing to be somewhere where the golden arches (and all other similar chains) have yet to be a big presence.

(Why use dryers when you have all that beautiful sunshine?)

8) The public transportation rocks: The bus system in the city deserves a medal.  I barely had to wait five minutes for a bus the entire time I was there.  Not only that, they have this cool system where you can send SMS messages to find out how many minutes until the next bus or trolley shows up.

(Portuguese tile work was everywhere – even at this old police station!)

9) Racial tolerance actually exists: Lisbon’s immigration history is unlike any in the world.  The Portuguese realized long ago that they weren’t big enough to become a “world empire” so they opted instead to become a “commercial empire”.  To do so, they sailed the world, lived in other countries, and married natives in other countries.  As a result, this allowed them to have more influence in other countries since they were so already intertwined with the locals there (genius!).  In fact, at one point, the Portuguese had a presence in all the coastal cities from Africa to Asia!  Anyway, those who married locals in other countries were often in the Navy so when they moved back to Lisbon with their immigrant wives, it meant that the immigrants in Lisbon were often the spouses of high ranking officials.  As a result, immigrants in Portugal were respected and accepted. This is a place where racial tolerance actually exists.

(The black and white “waves” on the ground in this plaza are symbolic of the the sea.)

10) They are more liberal and it works: While the U.S. is still debating whether same sex marriages are legal or not, same sex marriages have been legal in Portugal for the last five years.  Transgenders can also be recognized as their gender of choosing by changing their gender on their ID cards and no one actually questions them (what a concept!).  The government also chooses to fight only the bigger battles.  For instance, drug use is legalized but the sale of huge amounts of drugs is not.  Why?  It allows the government to focus their efforts on combating the big drug lords instead of wasting their energy on the “everyday” druggie.  Addicts, instead, can ask for clean needles and get help without worry about repercussions.  This strategy has actually decreased the overall number of drug users in the city.

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Trevor - June 22, 2013 - 11:48 am

Wow … totally makes me want to check out Lisbon now!

Just Wanderlust - June 27, 2013 - 1:40 pm

Trevor – it’s a great city to explore for a few days. If you ever go, let me know so I can tell you which restaurant had the best meal I’ve had on my trip so far!

Peter Hands - August 15, 2013 - 10:02 am

Interesting article ,came upon it while surfing .I know Lisbon well, Florence too, but you are so wrong about it barely raining – you can have a drought year like winter 2012, but other years the opposite is often true (but wih plenty of sunny intervals creating great light effects). late spring is pretty dry and summer is really dry. I like the rain though and you wouldn’t have the green hills of Sintra without the Autumn and Winter rain!
I in fact dread what one hears of climate changs -how it’ll affect weather in Southern Europe.

JustWanderlust - August 19, 2013 - 10:00 am

A little rain here or there never hurt anyone! We even get some down pours in Southern California and we claim to have Mediterranean weather too. Anyway, I was going off of what the locals in Lisbon told me… but plenty of rain or none at all – that doesn’t change how I feel about Lisbon. I really liked it!

Dorian - September 18, 2013 - 12:44 pm

Thanks for this great share, me and my wife have decide to move there, let the process begin !
This will be Fun

JustWanderlust - September 23, 2013 - 10:36 pm

Good luck with your move!

Cristina - October 7, 2013 - 9:14 am

Thanks for sharing. My husband, I and our 3 kids are thinking about moving there next month.

JustWanderlust - October 10, 2013 - 7:31 pm

Hi Christina – good luck with the move!

AC | iwandered.net - December 10, 2013 - 6:22 pm

I echo the same sentiments about Lisbon! It is absolutely my favorite city in Europe. It also helps that the city in some way resembles SF with its trams and hilly streets with steep inclines.

Ari - March 31, 2014 - 7:33 pm

I wanted to know if anyone actually made the move yet? I’m planning on attending grad school there and would love some advice!
Awesome post by the way!

Claudia - April 27, 2014 - 4:09 pm

First of all, I am a portuguese living in Lisbon and I just found this post when searching what others would say about my country, when considering living here. It’s great that you and all these positive experiences and I also have traveled a bit myself throughout my life, both in Europe, Asia and America and I still love that I can call Lisbon my home. Though I may just point out that weather is changing year after year and we are getting more and more rain during Winter, and hotter and hotter Summers. The fact that you waited no longer than 5 min for buses and trams was indeed out of pure luck 😉 but well you’ll be luckier with the subway where you wait less than those 5 min every single time for the next one. Though the employment scene and the government politics have been highly in discussion here, because our economy was in such a bad shape, I work as a freelancer and manage to have a nice lifestyle, appreciating both the good and the simple things.

don - April 3, 2015 - 1:28 pm

True about many things. But, I live in Lisbon (for 15 years now) and I have to say: 1. We have lots and lots of fast food chains. 2. Lunch in usually 1 hour, some may have more (or less) but the norm is 1 hour. 3. Most people commute time is 1 hour. 4. Not many people live in the center of Lisbon, it is a place for commerce and tourism, most of it. 5. Stores close at 7pm, or earlier, unless you go to shopping centers. It seems to me that you went to the tourist area only. Apart from that, Lisbon is beautiful, good transport, good food and wine, and racial intolerance is less visible than in other countries, certainly we don´t have right wing political parties taking advantage of issues such as immigration. LGTB laws are very progressive, locals love everything from abroad, yet, they love their country. I am very lucky I live here.

Robert Williams - August 8, 2015 - 4:35 am

I’m a street musician. Can I make a honest living in Lisbon

Sharon Tsang - October 24, 2015 - 2:50 am

Hello!
This article is amazing and it might have confirmed my decision to moving to Lisbon from the UK.
I was wondering if anyone could give any advice on moving to this beautiful city good or bad. I need as much advice as possible!
Thank you 🙂

Darja - April 13, 2016 - 7:57 am

Thanks for your blog and thanks for sharing! My friend and i are visiting Lisbon in few weeks, so any tips for good places for eat and drink would be welcomed!

[…] Whether you’re in Lisbon, in the Algarve or just out in the country, it’s better to rent a property rather than buy straight away. This gives you a taste of life in the area from day to day. If an area is habitually noisy or there is some kind of trouble always going on, it’s not too late to get out. A lot of properties are suitable for students, but if you’re looking for something more upmarket for an expat, you’ll have to raise your budget. You can see how life might be like in parts of Portugal like the Algarve by booking a stay there with Villa Plus. […]

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