A Digital Nomad's Guide to Lisbon Portugal
To be fair, I travel a lot. I also fall in love a lot. I’ll be the first to admit that every new city I visit is my “new favorite” (literally just said this about Florence, Italy) but listen. I’m for real this time. Lisbon, Portugal is EVERYTHING. Not to mention, Lauren in Lisbon. It has a ring to it, don’t you think?
I spent one month in Portugal, from mid-October to mid-November, and it was nothing short of magical. I have a lot to say about the country in general, but I’ll dedicate this post to Lisbon, a place where everything you’ve ever wanted in a city collides and makes you wonder where it’s been all your life. It didn’t take long to understand why it’s a huge digital nomad hub, and also a place where tourists are flocking to. Each day, new items on my “perfect city” wish list were ticked off. Culture? Most definitely. Affordability? Check. Beaches? A cheap taxi ride away. Nomad Scene? Plentiful. Wi-Fi? Download speeds you’ve only dreamed about. Nightlife? Insane. Food? Delicious. Safety? Non-issue. English? Rampant. Not to mention, it was sunny and in the 70s every day. When I ventured a few hours south of Lisbon, I went swimming in the ocean and was tanning on beaches…in NOVEMBER, in EUROPE.
So, digital nomad or not, I’m going to drop names of all of my favorite places in Lisbon, which anyone visiting can benefit from. If you go, you’ll fall in love. You’ve been warned.
Places to Work
When you arrive in a new city, you don’t always know if your accommodation is going to have reasonable Wi-Fi. That is why it’s always nice to have a list of cafes and co-working spaces on hand to fall back on. I present, My Top 5:
1. LX Factory & Village Underground
This place is DELIGHTFUL. Yes, delightful. Imagine a small neighborhood filled with artsy cafes, bars and shops and a community of creatives running amuck. That’s LX Factory. Whether you’re working or just visiting, this is a must in Lisbon. Show up, take a walk around, and hunker down with your laptop wherever strikes you. You’ll be spoilt for choice. There’s even a co-working space, called Coworklisboa, but if we’re being honest, I didn’t make it in. When you’re finished with a work day, check out the rooftop bar Rio Maravilha. This eclectic drinking hole has indoor and outdoor space, and offers great views of the Tagus River, the San Francisco-like bridge, and Jesus, just hanging out across the water. The rooftop area has its own towering female statue, seemingly mirroring Jesus. She is a beautiful mosaic of colors standing with her arms wide open as if to say, “bring it in for the real thing.” There's also the Village Underground, pictured below, which isn't in the LX Factory complex but right next door. You'll have to take a walk down the street to find your way in, but I promise it's worth it. That double decker bus on the left? Yeah, you can work in that and the food is very diner-esque and delish. For everything LX Factory, check out their website here.
2. Wan Li
Ok, this is a weird one, but in the best way possible. If it's open, because it appears to have some whacky hours, it has some of the best Wi-Fi you’ll find in Lisbon, and the most unique vibes around. The strange thing about it is you kind of feel like you walked into a collector’s living room from another time and place. And maybe, if you’re lucky, there may be some cakes or beverages to offer. It’s not unheard of to have to flag the owner down to place an order…so don’t walk in with any customer service expectations. Grab a seat, check out the knick-knacks, and be prepared to wonder why there aren’t more places like this in the world. In short, it’s just really f*cking cool. It was no surprise that they don't have a website, but their info on Zomato can be found here.
3. Dear Breakfast
If you want to up your IG game, just pay Dear Breakfast a visit. The clean, cavernous interior is bright white, with cozy tables that are more often than not accompanied by power outlets. It’s sleek, it’s beautiful, and the food is delicious. Omelets, açai bowls, and smoothies are just a few of the tasty items on the menu. It closes at 4 PM every day, so best to get there on the earlier side. Check out their website for photo inspo before you go- it's on point.
Over in Alfama you can find Pois, a cozy café with high ceilings and a chill atmosphere. Open late, it’s a great spot to grab a bite and crank out some work. They offer daily specials, which are often on the healthier side. Outlets here are also abundant. Score. Check out their website for more info.
5. Hamburgueria Portuguesa by Farnel
Ok, so this isn’t someplace you would normally think to work from, but this GORGEOUS new hamburger joint was one of my favorites. Completely renovated, the interior is stunning, and for whatever reason, it’s usually empty. I honestly can’t figure it out, because their hamburgers are cheap (5.50 euros for a classic one) and some of the best I’ve had in Europe. It’s a little harder to find a table with a charger nearby, but they do exist. If you prefer aesthetically pleasing surroundings, this place will do the trick. You can check them out on Zomato here.
Things to Do:
There are loads of things to do in Lisbon that will have you walking around with hearts in your eyes. I’ve narrowed these things down to my 10 favorites.
1. Tram 28
A ride on this famous yellow tram is a must, and a quick way to see the highlights of Lisbon. It winds through major tourist sites, and is a simple joy in all of its vintage glory. A full route takes about an hour, and can be boarded from several locations. Try to grab a window seat if you can! For more info, Lisbon-Portugal-Guide.com has a pretty comprehensive guide that's been updated for 2017.
2. Jeronimo Monastery
If beautiful architecture tickles your fancy, take a walk around Jeronimo Monastery. Beautiful hallways run alongside the giant courtyard, highlighted by intricate window arches. After you’ve explored the ground level, head to the upper level where you can look down into the stunning cathedral. The view from this upper balcony may have you singing songs from the Hunchback of Notre Dame (or maybe that’s just me).
Tip: when you buy your monastery ticket, grab your ticket to the Tower of Belem (6 euros) as well to avoid the lines. Check their official website here for more info.
3. Visit the Tower of Belém and Pastéis de Belém
In the same area as the monastery, you can find the Tower of Belém and Pastéis de Belém. These are two separate attractions, but in the interest of time, they can be done together. If you’re staying in central Lisbon, you’ll find that Belém is a bit of a hike. The tower is a beautiful fortress on the river, which, depending on the time of day, is completely encircled by water. When the tide is low, you can wander out on the sand beside the tower for a really cool photo. Pastéis de Belém, on the other hand, is the home of the famous pastel de nata. This egg custard tart is the one thing I’m missing most post-Lisbon. Eat many, and make sure to put cinnamon on them. As far as I’m concerned, no trip to Lisbon is complete without trying one. You will see them absolutely everywhere, but when a fresh, warm one from Pastéis de Belém hits your mouth, much like your first love, nothing else can ever compare.
4. Time Out Market
Hungry? Good. This place is essentially a glorified indoor cafeteria with a huge array of permanent vendors selling all kinds of food and drink. You can find typical Portuguese food, pizza, Asian, desserts, wine, and more at Time Out. Watch out though- when it’s dinnertime, trying to grab a seat turns into a scene straight out of Gladiator.
5. Praça do Comércio and the Rua Augusta Arch
This square stole my heart. Highlighted by the massive Rua Augusta Arch and a central statue overlooking the river, Praça do Comércio had me awestruck every time I walked through it. If you’d like to see it from an aerial perspective, the arch is a viewpoint you can visit for only 2.50 euros. It offers 360-degree views of the city, and is a great spot to visit at sunset. It was also a fantastic place from which to fly my drone (something I wasn’t able to do without having a small heart attack, mind you.) Check out some footage from my high-anxiety flight:
6. Alfama Flea Market (Tuesdays and Sundays)
If you think flea markets in your home country are fun, give the Alfama Flea Market a try. Open on Tuesdays and Sundays, it’s a pretty large catch-all where you can find all kinds of foreign-to-your-eyes goodies. Souvenirs, antiques, classic Portuguese tiles, clothing, etc.
7. Castelo de Sao Jorge
Truth be told- I stayed in an Airbnb right next to this castle but didn’t go in. Having visited nearby Sintra with all of its palaces and glorious castles, I didn’t feel like I’d be missing much. Some friends visited and confirmed this feeling. Nonetheless, it’s on everyone’s suggestion list and I’d be remiss not to at least mention it, especially if you don’t have time to make it out to Sintra (this place is getting its own blog post by the way, it’s incredible).
8. Livraria Ler Devagar (in LX Factory)
Alright, so I touched on LX Factory in places to work, but I wanted to give a special shout out to the Livraria Ler Devagar- an incredible library and café that made my jaw drop when I walked in. It’s so photogenic it’s silly.
9. Fado Music
This is a general recommendation, but fado music is something culturally unique about Lisbon that you should experience. All around Lisbon you’ll see signs advertising “Fado Music Tonight!” and should you choose to go, you’ll be serenaded by all kinds of beautiful, emo sounding songs that you won’t understand. Just keep drinking your wine and try not to cry.
10. Free Walking Tour
I’m a pretty big fan of the free walking tours that can be found in most cities, and it appears that Lisbon has several. It’s important to note that while “free” means the tour has no set cost, tips are expected. I booked a tour with Discover Walks and while it went well past the scheduled time and my attention span started to dwindle, it was a nice way to see the city and get some history and background from someone who spoke great English.
Nightlife and Bars:
Pink Street and Barrio Alto
Here’s the thing: everyone will tell you to go to Pink Street and Barrio Alto for a night out and initially, you might be confused. Allow me to clarify. Pink Street is in fact a street that is painted pink. Pepto Bismol pink, to be exact. On pretty much any night of the week, it is chock-full of people spilling out from the bars and clubs that line both sides. Similarly, Barrio Alto is a neighborhood teeming with nightlife and bars. The drinks are cheap, the streets are packed, and don’t bother asking anyone for specific bar recommendations. Just rock up and go where the wind takes you.
Pretty much the only bar I visited that wasn’t in either of the two aforementioned places, Pavilhão Chinês was an absolute gem. Giving off an exclusive speakeasy kind of vibe, we had to knock on the big red door to get in. Once inside, you will find a bombardment of knick-knacks (similar to what Wan-Li has going on) but with an added touch of class. One room leads to another, which leads to another, and as you wander, you’ll find an ornate bar, cabinets full of amazing trinkets, toy airplanes hanging from the ceiling, pool tables, and a generally difficult to describe atmosphere of pleasant sensory overload. Order a bottle of wine or a cocktail, and enjoy.
And if that isn't enough information to keep you busy in Lisbon, just walking around and getting lost is a beautiful adventure in itself.
Stay tuned- I'll be cranking out a few more posts on the magic of Sintra and the unparalleled beauty of Lagos and the beaches of the south!