People in general were really nice and helpful in Lisbon. Service in shops and restaurants were nice even if the older generation didn’t usually speak English. I had a neighbour – a friendly old gentleman – who was determined to teach and remind me of the Portuguese greetings like Bom dia, Boa tarde and Boa noite after I greeted him with Hi.
Traffic was quite hectic in the central area of Lisbon, but the cars always gave way for pedestrians and somehow I felt more safe crossing the road in Lisbon than in Finland. However I saw few dangerous situations where people just suddenly stopped their cars along the street, put emergency lights on and started smoking or speaking to phone.
My initial plan was to get a 30 day travel card for Lisbon, but apparently it had 10 day delivery time (or 12 € charge for immediate express delivery) so I ended up using the chargeable Viva viagem card which I bought from the airport metro station. Just make sure to load credit into the card in metro or train stations and you can use the card to pay for the transportation. Public transportation – except for trains – cost something like 1,25 € / ride if you paid with the card so public transportation is very affordable in Lisbon.
Metros were usually quite alright for traveling, but during certain big events – like the web summit – some metro lines can be really crowded. During busy hours of the day busses and trams are regularly packed full – really, in Hong Kong style – and that made the commuting between central Lisbon and LX Factory a bit unpleasant.
I think people in Lisbon have a tendency to wake up and work later than most Finnish people do. I’d say the people started to arrive in coworking space after 9:00 and due to long lunch break around 13:00 they stayed at work until 18:00 or so.
I also noticed the people in my neighbourhood stayed up quite late and it seemed the kids stayed up with their parents as well. In the weekend I regularly heard small kids playing in the streets and nearby apartments after midnight.
Buildings and streets
The streets and buildings in Lisbon are very interesting and atmospheric. In Finland we have very few old stone buildings due to wars so I really appreciate the opportunity to be able spend time in this kind of environment. The vibe in these old stone buildings is nice, but the utilities are not necessarily very modern. For example in my apartment the water was heated by a gas powered heater and getting the water temperature right was quite difficult. Also the October nights started to be a bit chilly – temperatures dropping under 15 degrees – so separate electric radiators had to be used to keep the temperature in the house in decent level. Many buildings also had very creative electricity, television and internet cabling solutions since it is no doubt very challenging to do discreet cable installations for old stone buildings.
Even if we are moving out of cobblestones as street material in Oulu it is very common street material in Lisbon. It looks classy and I’d guess guess the maintenance is not that hard since the ground frost is not an issue here, but the streets get quite slippery after a rain.
I try to run regularly even when I’m traveling and the environment in Lapa/Estrela area was really nice for morning runs. The streets go up and down along the hills and during morning and evening hours the traffic didn’t cause too much trouble. There were also few nice parks – albeit quite small – in the area which were good places run.
It was somewhat challenging to find gyms near my apartment since they didn’t seem to advertise much or the online information they provided were very limited or out of date. In the end I made one month contract for Academia Life Club which is located near Santos station and well within walking distance from my apartment. Academia Life Club is a modern fitness club providing good gym facilities, group training classes and even small swimming pool. I had expected the gym contracts to be a bit cheaper, but apparently gyms are somewhat expensive in Lisbon. I ended up paying about 70 euros for the month since I also had to pay the one time insurance fee. Despite the somewhat high price I really liked the gym and the gym staff was also were friendly and helpful.
Phone contracts & wifi
I had some challenges activating my Sonera phone contract – which provides some monthly data transfer for free – so I bought a MEO prepaid sim card with a data plan for 10 €. In the end I didn’t really use the prepaid card much, since I got my old sim card working and so far it has been enough for me.
I’m a breakfast person and like to start my day with a hefty breakfast or brunch. I checked out handful of different places, and even if most of the places were alright Copenhagen Coffee Lab was the only place I ended up visiting multiple times. The prices have gone up there during the last year or so, but I’d say the prices were still reasonable. My favourite breakfast set was Breakfast – which included coffee of choice, bread and natural yoghourt with granola – with extra boiled egg and cinnamon bun which cost about 10 e together. I also saw customers using laptops there so I’d guess it is digital nomad friendly cafe. The place isn’t too big and the service is not lightning fast so arrive early if you need a good place to work with computer.
After arrival I bought the Lisbon Card which can be a good deal if you’re planning to dedicate few days for checking the usual tourist attractions, since the card gives discounts and free entries into many places. Public transportation is also free for the cards duration. I selected the three day Lisbon Card, but I doubt I saved much money with that, since I decided to enjoy Lisbon in more relaxed way and visited only one or two attractions per day.
I was checking out Vasco da Gama shopping mall one afternoon and wondered what else could be found from that area. After brief internet search session I found out the Oceanarium is nearby so I thought to check it out. I really enjoyed the few hours there and I’d recommend it for everyone else as well. Lisbon Card grants you a small discount from the entrance fee.
São Jorge Castle
I really enjoyed just to wander around the city and up and down the streets along the hills. There were multiple good viewpoints throughout the city, but I guess the best ones I encountered were in São Jorge Castle.
I did a one day trip to Sintra and I think the place is worth a visit. During the day trip I had time to check out Pena Palace and Castle of the Moors, but there were many other interesting locations I didn’t have time to visit. If you’re into castles and old buildings I’d recommend to reserve two days for the trip.
Following budget contains pretty much everything from flights to accommodation and entertainment, except for business related expenses like coworking desk costs. During the 35 days stay in Lisbon the average cost for me was 60.3 € / day which is more than my original 50 € / day target.
The accommodation is the biggest single expenditure, but I’m not planning to reduce those costs much while staying in Europe. In the beginning of the trip I ate twice a day in somewhat high priced restaurants so I should be able to reduce those costs in future.
There are few things I’d do differently in next visit.
- As I mentioned in my previous post the coworking spaces in the central Lisbon were full and I ended up working in Coworklisboa for a month. Coworklisboa was a nice coworking space, but it was somewhat far away from my apartment and gym. Next time I’d make an early reservation to get a desk from more central coworking space.
- Break the tourist bubble. In case I had the time I’d invest more of it for networking, participating in local happenings and maybe even learning the Portuguese basics.