Lisbon vs Barcelona for mid- to long-term stay: any advice?

Hi guys,

From this spring onwards I’m returning to Europe and I’m looking to either set up a home base in Lisbon or Barcelona. Any fellow nomads who can share their experiences of living in either of those cities?

I’ve only been to Barcelona and I like the vibe a lot. Major downside is the tourists (obviously).

To me it seems that both cities have good infrastructure, internet, climate (mediterranean), nightlife, culture, food, beaches (and Lisbon is good for surfing as well of course). Price wise, Lisbon is obviously a bit cheaper.

One important consideration is the public transport. Since I’m not looking to rent a car I prefer the city where I can travel on foot, bike or metro.

Based on my limited info, it’s hard to pick one. Any advice would be very much appreciated!

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I am in Lisbon right now and having spent about 3 months (cumulatively) in each of the two cities, I sort of feel that I am starting to feel at home in both of them. Although I like them both, I imagine it’s very personal.

Lisbon feel smaller. There are fewer tourists (although still quite a few, especially downtown) and those who come are not necessarily young and boisterous (as it largely seems to be the case in Barcelona). The Lisbon Metro is excellent, but I rarely use it since I tend to go everywhere on foot. Actually, entire Lisbon is borderline manageable on foot: the distance from the very “bottom” of the city (Praça do Comércio) to the Campo Grande (an effective northern boundary of the central city) can be walked in about an hour and a half.

Lisbon is indeed cheaper than Barcelona. I’d also say that it feels somewhat safer. On the other hand, Barcelona feels more “developed” and modern. Nevertheless, what I like about Lisbon’s commercial texture is that there are many super-modern and designer-y boutiques, cafés, and shops peppered even among its seemingly rundown blocks. This creates a pretty cool contrast. There are also many low-end shops in central Lisbon, which I think makes the city a livable place for locals and less of a museum (the day when everything here becomes a boutique targeting foreigners will be a sad day indeed).

Finally, you have to train your ear to figure out which language (or combination thereof) you like better: Portuguese, with quite a few local English speakers, or Spanish+Catalan, with more tourists but fewer local English speakers. To me, Portuguese is a lot more challenging to understand, especially the local, European version, but I still like it.

But don’t decide anything before you visit.

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Thanks for writing this. I am moving to Lisbon (will be living in the Alfama) in 1 week and will be there for about 5 months. My girlfriend and I deliberated the Lisbon vs. Barcelona question.
Your info is incredibly helpful. Cheers.

What a great reply. This is very helpful.

2 follow up questions:

  • For a health conscious person, who likes to eat fresh, organic foods, is there a scene for that in Lisbon? Even just a few good supermarkets and restaurants would be good enough tbh : )

  • How is the expat/digital nomad/online entrepreneur community in Lisbon? I know Barca has quite a big community in that regard.

Re: the language. Yeah it’s tough. I speak a bit of Spanish, but spanish in Barca is prtty different then, say, Valencia or South America. Much faster, much harder to understand.
Sounds beautiful though :wink:

FOOD

This is a little strange, but I haven’t noticed too much of a “farmer’s marker” culture here. In fact, I don’t know of any outdoor markets. People just seem to be content to go to the supermarkets.

For higher-end groceries, including organic stuff, there is Celeiro with several stores in central Lisbon:
www.celeiro.pt/lojas

I’ve been meaning to check out Brio (www.brio.pt) but haven’t yet gotten around to do that.

STARTUPS

I have no idea about nomads, but there are digital entrepreneurs moving here for sure, especially from ridiculously expensive locations such as the UK. The biggest draws are a reasonable cost of living, decent infrastructure, and plenty of under-employed students and young grads (=inexpensive yet highly educated labor force, ripe for being exploited by pie-in-the-sky start-up impresarios… I am being cynical, I know…).

I haven’t made a concerted effort to network with anyone since I am no longer sure I have the required “startup” mentality (I suspect I may have grown out of it, having been doing things online for 20 years and seen how much of the culture around it is pure BS), but maybe this will be useful: startuplisboa.com. Check the meet-ups, too.

For shared offices and such, I think there are a few decent options and none very expensive. Here is one example I was considering myself: liberdade229.com. As you can see, it’s only 180E / mo.

You can also check out what’s listed on copass.org. FWIW, I once used that site for a 2-day meeting and quickly grokked that people running small spaces would prefer if you came to them directly rather than through an intermediary. It’s all very informal, anyway.

P.S. Sorry for injecting my ideological bias into this. Just take the links if you don’t care for the jaded would-be tycoon talk.

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I would choose Lisbon over Barcelona. I personally prefer it more and one of the main reasons is that fewer tourists seem to make it all the way there and when they don’t they don’t seem to be as much ‘frat boy on drunken holiday’ as the ones in Barcelona do. :smile:

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(I suspect I may have grown out of it, having been doing things online for 20 years and seen how much of the culture around it is pure BS)

haha THIS! I agree so much with this. Yeah I was referring more to a lively expat community then a startup scene tbh.

Once again thanks for the info.

So, IIRC Barcelona’s metro closes kinda early (except Saturdays), but the city is a lot more foot and bike-friendly than Lisbon. But since most expats in Lisbon tend to stay in the more center (and thus foot-friendly) areas, I would say that it’s not that big of a deal.

Like it has been said, Lisbon will have less young (and drunk) tourists. And it’s cheaper. I also prefer Portuguese cuisine to the Spanish cuisine. People don’t really worry about organic food since this is Europe and the EU is a lot more restrictive than the FDA. Most veggies/fruit in the supermarket will be fresh.

There are some tech/startup meetups in Lisbon and there are now quite a few coworking spaces. Startup Lisboa is the main startup organization in Lisbon/Portugal and they have a few expats there.

Btw surfing isn’t really “close”. It’s a ~1hr drive (and similar ride by train).

I cant vouch for Lisbon, but I have spent tons of time in Barca and even run coliving houses for digital nomads there. For me it is the best city on the planet. I think it is amazing for DN’s and just the perfect place to be…for me. To each their own. I know the DC (a group of digital nomads) has a strong presence there and growing. Good costs, good people, good living!

I have lived in both for months at a time. Lisboa is more my vibe the older I get in that its smaller and feels a bit more intimate. I would also agree with people saying it is safer. Much less pickpockets or too much dunken silliness (though in Bairro Alto you would see that). Really all depend on you. I would stay each for a month then see which you would like best.

The DN Community in Lisboa isnt as big compared to Barca.

@tvr I’ve lived in Lisbon for nearly 3 years and before that my “childhood” was spent about 60 km from the city.
It’s hard to appreciate and describe a city when you haven’t spent much time somewhere else, but I’ve spent nearly 6 months in Taipei, Taiwan, and I’ve been traveling around SE Asia (Phuket, Bangkok, Shanghai, Singapore).

All I can say is that I can’t wait to go back.

Biggest points to Lisbon:

  • Crazy cheap living costs, really. After being in Taipei, I won’t ever complain with the prices in Lisbon. 80 cents for a Kg of spaguetti to cook at home and 40 cents for a litter of milk never felt so awesome.
  • The weather… I used to dread the winter months (from November to February), where half of the days are grey and rainy and temperature is around 12 to 19ºC. Only now I realized how great that is compared to most places. Specially the sunny part, I can stand some low temps and rain, but please give me some blue sky and sun. Apart from those months, it’s a great weather to live/work with, may get a bit hot in the summer some days, but completellly managable since it’s dry weather.
  • The easyness, calmness of the city. Some may consider this a downside, but it’s just THAT easy to live in Lisbon. To give you a perspective, I lived in Campo Pequeno and had a car, which I parked on the street (free after you get your “resident card”) and drove daily to the university (also in the enter). Try doing that in Barcelona :slight_smile: Everyone is laidback, things move slow, it’s a great environment to work on, as long as you don’t let yourself be slow aswell.
  • Portuguese people usually do their shopping in big supermarkets, but you still have small stores everywhere in the city. The quality of the food, veggies, fruit, etc, is really good even in the big supermarkets, and everything is so f*cking cheap!
  • 200/20 MB internet costs 26€/month with TV (2 year contract tho), cellphone card with 1GB and unlimited calling costs around 15€, 5Gb for 20€.
  • Low costs gymnasiums cost 25€ / month, the big chain with spa and stuff, around 40-50€.
  • Local restaurants cost anywhere from 7€ to 15€ (eat all you can/buffet) and the food is great. You can also have small meals (main dish, coffee and drink) for as low as 5 to 7€.
  • A bedroom in the city center costs 250 to 280€. A studio/1 bedroom probably around 350 to 400€. This prices go up if you try to live near the “tourist center”, which I don’t recommend for daily living.
  • Taxis suck as they try to overcharge foreigners, but you have Uber that is super cheap compared to other Western countries.
  • I don’t know about bikes and walking, portuguese people are lazy, we drive everywhere :smile: . Metro system is solid, monthly pass costs 35€ if I’m not mistaken.

Ok I could go on and on… @tvr @bisonravi @joshadamlevy If you do the move or anyone else that will or is already in Lisbon, I don’t mind being your “go to guy” whenever you need some “local” info or anything sorted out. I’ll be back to Lisbon next month :smile:

Cheers

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great post, I will contact you if/when I go to Lisbon : )

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We would land in Lisbon on monday :smiley:
Stay tuned for ongoing #Nomad’sDinner! (and meetup asap)

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For healthy food in Portugal: there are large dome-shaped things all over Lisbon with farmers markets inside. They’re all ordered cyclically with fruits and vegetables on the
outside and meat and fish in the center.
Once you know this you will start recognizing these things all over town.

But you can also get decent quality stuff at Pingo Doce, they have a store every few blocks.

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@dpt This is very interesting… Could you give me a couple of approximate locations (e.g. intersections) where I can look for the “dome-shaped things”? I don’t think I’ve ever seen one and I’ve walked pretty much all over: Baixa, Bairo Alto, Rato, Amoreiras, Campo Pequeno, Estefania… Of course, it could easily be that I saw one but didn’t know what I was looking at.

P.S. If anyone wants to get together for dinner in Lisbon in the next 2 weeks, I’d be game for that.

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There is one somewhere between Arroios and Intendente; walk Avenida Almirante Reis (on the eastern side). Look into the side streets, somewhere there is one of the domes.

Another one was on the azul line somewhere after São Sebastiao, but even after looking at the map I can’t remember what stop.

Another market is the Mercado de Campo de Ourique (http://www.mercadodecampodeourique.pt/contactos/). It’s somewhat similar, but it also has a food court and is not in a round building like the others. Maybe it would work to go there and ask for locations of similar markets.

I am based in Barcelona however, I enjoy both Barcelona and Lisbon, even though the city-vibe is quite different from eachother.

In Barcelona, high energy can be seen throughout the city with tourists flocking to La Ramblas and the nearby beaches, while serving as a perfect hub for start-ups and freelancers to network.
Lisbon, on the other hand is more like an hidden gem. It is very authentic with more places still yet to be discovered.

Compared to Lisbon, Barcelona is about 15% more expensive than Lisbon - as long as you don’t run into the many tourist traps.
If you compare both cities on numbeo.com, most goods and services are more expensive here in Barcelona, but there is the possibility to pay much less if you know how thing work in this city.

Getting an apartment isn’t difficult either.
You can get long-term apartments for about 8€/m² in non-trendy but well connected parts like Sants or Sant Andreu.
In Poble Sec, you can find plenty of bars to meet up for beers, pinchos, and tapas for about 1€ or a enjoy a set lunch for 7,50€.
The metro is also conveniently located and costs less than 1€.
And if you’re looking to jetset, Barcelona serves as a great hub with hostel beds in low season are from 6€ and plenty of flight connections to all over Europe around 20€.
However, it’s easy to get caught up in the high-energetic life in Barcelona with many temptations all around.
Much of the nightlife is posh and the better-known clubs charge 7€ for a beer or 10€ for a cocktail.

The good thing is, you can make living in Barcelona as expensive as you want.
Most of the locals live off 1000€ or so a month.
In a sense, you can hack the system and learn tricks to survive on a shoestring.
For example, you can pay nothing to get into clubs just by signing in online at guestlist.
Additionally, you can go coworking from cafes with fast-internet, meet other nomads, join lectures and workshops at the many zero-cost-meetups (where also the beer is free).
Also the infrastructure is surprisingly good—efficient public transport, bike-sharing stations everywhere, and a there’s a walkable city centre so there really is no need to use the metro most of the time.
There are so many great opportunities funded by the city such as free support for entrepreneurs from Barcelona Activa, free use of libraries, open air events all year round and many possibilities for outdoor-activities. The beach and the great weather are also a priceless advantages!
So, take your time and soak it all in. In the end, you’ll see that spending some time in this city will be a much better investment than a quick tourist trip.

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Tomorrow (thursday) ? PM us :slight_smile:

Me and @chapuppi are here too in Lisbon. Loving the city, but struggling with food. One is veggie and one is wheat-free.

Hoping to meet @phillippe and Conchita and @bisonravi soon :slight_smile:

It’s a Go for us, we may find our way to Carinho do vino or A merendinha do arco (or someone’s hidden gem) afterward !