Lisbon neighborhoods: get to know the best ones to live in the capital

6 de December, 2022

Lisbon neighborhoods: get to know the best ones to live in the capital

Knowing the neighborhoods of Lisbon is essential to ensure that you choose the one that has the features you need and fits your pocket.
Reading: 12 min

Have you decided to pack your bags for Lisbon and still don’t know how to begin the search for the place where you will live in the near future? Knowing the neighborhoods of Lisbon is essential to have an informed choice and ensure that the corner you will call your own has the same characteristics you need and fits your pocket.

Finding the right address, however, may not be easy at all: Lisbon is a big city, with very different regions and a high cost of living compared to the rest of the country. To help you with this task, we have prepared a step-by-step guide to better understand the ins and outs of the country’s capital.

What is the best neighborhood in Lisbon to live in?The most central neighborhoods in Lisbon are: Avenidas Novas, Arroios, Santo António, São Vicente, Santa Maria Maior and Estrela.
What are the neighborhoods in downtown Lisbon?There is not exactly a consensus on the issue, however, the most central region of Lisbon is the one that gathers the Avenidas Novas, Arroios, Santo António, São Vicente, Santa Maria Maior and Estrela axis.
What is the oldest neighborhood in Lisbon?The oldest parish in Lisbon is Lumiar. Lumiar was created on April 2, 1266.

What are Lisbon’s neighborhoods?

In Portugal the term bairro is not used very much, the cities are divided into Juntas de Freguesia. Lisbon currently has 24 freguesias, the current configuration was established in 2012. The parishes are:

  1. Ajuda;
  2. Alcantara;
  3. Alvalade;
  4. Areeiro;
  5. Arroios;
  6. Avenidas Novas;
  7. Beato;
  8. Belem;
  9. Benfica;
  10. Campo de Ourique;
  11. Campolide;
  12. Carnide;
  13. Estrela;
  14. Lumiar;
  15. Marvila;
  16. Misericórdia;
  17. Olivais;
  18. Parque das Nações;
  19. Penha de França;
  20. Santa Clara;
  21. St. Mary Maior;
  22. St. Antônio;
  23. São Domingos de Benfica;
  24. St. Vicente.
Map of the parishes of Portugal's capital
Map with all the 24 parishes of Lisbon after the administrative reform of 2012

Best neighborhoods in Lisbon to live

The choice of the best neighborhood in Lisbon is controversial: I bet that if you ask ten residents of the capital you will probably hear ten different answers. Lisbon is a city with houses with very varied profiles: there are buildings with more than 500 years of history and there are super recent buildings, erected in the year we live in.

There are very central neighborhoods where you can do everything on foot and there are regions where you have to take the car or be held hostage by public transportation for everything. There is, therefore, no categorical answer for the best neighborhood in Lisbon.

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What is more important to you: a good location or a larger property?

The best neighborhood in Lisbon will depend on your lifestyle and personal taste. Let’s imagine that you have small children or elderly people in your family: living in the historic center can be an aesthetically beautiful but impractical experience since the buildings rarely have elevators.

Older buildings also have more fragile thermal and sound insulation, since the structure of the building is not made of cement but of wood (the windows are also rarely double-glazed, which makes a huge difference in winter).

In general the apartments are also smaller, or even when they are large they have a complicated floor plan (with windowless inner rooms).

Alfama, Lisbon's traditional neighborhood
Neighborhoods in Lisbon’s historic region carry a typically Portuguese charm

For a family with children and elderly it may be more interesting to live in a more peripheral neighborhood like Benfica, Olivais or Lumiar, but with better conditions.

It is worth remembering that the more central the property the more expensive it will be, and the cost of living in Lisbon is a central factor to take into account when choosing.

Consider how your routine works before you start searching

If you are one of those people who go out a lot at night, it might make sense to invest in neighborhoods with more nightlife, such as Bairro Alto, Cais do Sodré or Almada.

If you are a lover of physical activity, it might be interesting to look for a place to live near the river, with a huge sidewalk where you can run, bike or skateboard. There are also many urban parks like Quinta das Conchas, and your search may start from regions that offer this infrastructure. Belém, for example, is a privileged neighborhood with access to the river where many Lisboners practice sports.

In summary: tip number 1 is to know your routines and needs very well before starting the search. Also having a clear figure of how much you can spend to live in Lisbon is important since housing consumes a huge slice of the budget.

Visit before closing a deal

If you can, before you close the contract on the house where you will live, explore Lisbon a lot on foot. Spend an afternoon or at least a few hours in each neighborhood to discover the difference and feel the atmosphere of the region. Surely you will choose your favorite corners and probably experience the feeling of being a stranger in the nest in other places.

An interesting option, in terms of costs, may be to invest in the region around Lisbon, known as greater Lisbon. If you are willing to live in Oeiras, for example, you may find more affordable options with better conditions.

If you are not yet in Portugal, but already want to start your search, there are numerous videos available that help introduce you to the city. To get to know five of Lisbon’s most famous neighborhoods, you can take a look at the video below:

Which ones are the safest?

Generally speaking, security in Portugal is not a problem.

And, despite having the largest urban concentration in the country, Lisbon is a very safe city. There are, however, some problematic areas such as Cova da Moura, Quinta do Mocho, Bairro da Bela Vista and Quinta da Princesa. Apart from these rare spots, all the rest of the city is considered quite safe.

Most Expensive Neighborhoods in Lisbon

Lisbon can be an extremely expensive city in terms of housing, in the ranking of the most expensive cities to live in Portugal the top of the list is always in the capital.

In terms of neighborhoods, at the moment, the square meters with the most alarming prices in the Portuguese capital are located in Santo António, Chiado, Misericórdia and Estrela.

Belém, Avenidas Novas and Parque das Nações are also in the ranking of the most expensive addresses in the country.

Cheapest Neighborhoods in Lisbon

Currently the cheapest neighborhood in Lisbon is Santa Clara, with the value of the square meter significantly lower than other regions of the capital.

You can also find cheaper opportunities in Carnide, Benfica, Ajuda, Olivais, Marvila and Beato.

Best neighborhoods in Lisbon for students

Especially these days it can be very difficult to find student accommodation in Lisbon. Much of the available room rental supply has preferred to migrate to local accommodation leaving the city complicated for students.

For university students, especially those from the University of Lisbon, the best neighborhoods in terms of location to live in Lisbon are: Alvalade, Campolide, São Domingos de Benfica, Avenidas Novas, Areeiro.

If you are a student at the Instituto Superior Técnico it might be interesting to look for houses in the Alameda, Penha de França and Arroios area.

There are also specific university hubs further away, such as the Universidade Nova de Lisboa. The NOVA School of Business and Economics MHIP, formerly the Economics Faculty of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, is now in Carcavelos.

Which ones are the busiest?

If I had to choose which are the busiest neighborhoods in Lisbon I would certainly bet on the axis Santo António, Arroios, São Vicente, Penha de França, Santa Maria Maior, Avenidas novas, Estrela, Campo de Ourique and Alcântara.

Located in the heart of the city, these regions are always busy.

Which are the most bohemian neighborhoods?

The most bohemian region of the Lisbon scene is Bairro Alto. With an intense nightlife, with many bars and clubs, Bairro Alto gathers every day, but especially at the weekend, many young people.

Not far from there, and usually a walk that many people take during the early morning hours, is Cais do Sodré. With the well-known Rua Cor de Rosa, the region is super charming and has places for all tastes.

There you will find nightclubs with completely different styles, restaurants of the most diverse nationalities, and a lot of excitement. I would even say that the hottest nightlife in Lisbon is in the Bairro Alto – Cais do Sodré axis.

Cais do Sodré in Lisbon
Cais do Sodré, a neighborhood known for its intense nightlife in Lisbon

With a more traditional and classic touch, Alfama is another spot known for its bohemian atmosphere. The neighborhood famous for its hillsides is considered the birthplace of fado and there you will find very famous houses such as Parreirinha de Alfama. The region is also very suitable for those who want to have a glass of wine and feel welcomed by a typical view.

Best neighborhoods in Lisbon to buy a property

Buying a property in Portugal can be a complicated saga, especially in Lisbon where demand is high and supply is low. Our first recommendation is to know your real needs well and know what your limit is in terms of budget.

Experimenting with walking around the neighborhoods of Lisbon is also a great option to find out which corner you most identify with since the climate can vary a lot according to the region you are in.

Pay attention to your needs

If you have small children or older family members it may not be a good idea to buy real estate in the more historic part of town. This is because the buildings rarely have elevators and the stairs are not the safest or most comfortable.

Think about how complicated it can be for an elderly person to walk up and down a few flights of stairs every day, or how carrying strollers up and down the stairs every day can impact their daily lives.

If your need is to have more space inside the house and have more accessibility (elevator, garage), it may be interesting to look for properties in a more peripheral and flat region such as Benfica, Carnide, Moscavide or Olivais.

Are you a fan of contemporary architecture?

If you are looking for a property in a modern region, my suggestion is to start your search right at Parque das Nações. With recent construction, the buildings are comfortable and surrounded by all kinds of services.

Are you a regular in Lisbon’s nightlife?

For those who are a fan of nightlife it may be interesting to look for a property to buy in Bairro Alto, in Alfama or in Cais do Sodré. Just remember that many apartments can suffer from nighttime noise, so be prepared to invest in double or even triple glazing.

Do you prefer the traditional view of the city?

If you are a fan of the classic Lisbon landscape, prepare your pocket and start your search for the parish of Santo António or Santa Maria Maior. With the most expensive square meter of the capital, this charming region is super central and also very well served in terms of transport.

Advantages and disadvantages of living in Lisbon

Lisbon is a charming city with many entertainment options, restaurants and green spaces. With good connections to the rest of Europe and the privilege of having an airport wedged practically in the center of the city, Lisbon allows easy travel to other countries.

Within the city itself you can also get around very easily via the excellent subway network or by bus. There is also the possibility of cycling almost everywhere in the city.

The biggest downside of living in the city concerns prices, especially for housing. In recent years we’ve seen both rental and purchase values skyrocket, and it seems to be a path with no return. Living in Lisbon is expensive, and the cost of living is also quite high compared to the rest of the country.

Frequently asked questions about Lisbon’s neighborhoods

Does Lisbon have dangerous neighborhoods?

Generally speaking the neighborhoods of Lisbon are very safe. However, there are some areas that can be problematic, especially during nighttime periods. Chelas, for example, has long been known as an area that is not as safe as the rest of the capital.

In Greater Lisbon there are also regions that frequently appear in the newspapers such as Cova da Moura. Neighborhoods near so-called social housing projects can also be a problem.

What are the neighborhoods on the outskirts of Lisbon?

Within the administrative region of Lisbon there are more peripheral neighborhoods like Santa Clara, Olivais and Carnide. We call them peripheral neighborhoods because they are not exactly located in the historic center, which does not mean that they do not have good support and a fairly complete range of services such as large and varied supermarkets.

Living in the outskirts of Lisbon also doesn’t mean that you will waste much time in the means of transport, since, in general, the city is very well connected either through the metro network or through the buses.

Living on the outskirts of Lisbon can be a great option since rents and the cost of living are usually much lower than in the center of the capital. Keep an eye out for options in Odivelas, Loures, Setúbal, Almada and Amadora.

What are the typical neighborhoods in Lisbon?

That classic landscape of low buildings with clotheslines sticking out full of drying clothes is no longer present in all regions of the city, but it is still possible to find neighborhoods that retain much of Lisbon’s typical spirit.

The region of the Santo António parish, for example, retains much of the characteristic air of the capital, especially because of the urban construction formed by many small alleys so narrow that it is often impossible to pass with a car. In this case it is best to rely on the public transportation structure in Lisbon to get there and back.

A similar spirit prevails in Mouraria, a stronghold of artists with many small paths that almost always lead to the famous São Jorge castle. Despite the charm, it is worth remembering that living in these regions may not be as incredible as one might imagine. In terms of accessibility it is usually quite complicated since the buildings have no elevators and the stairs are narrow and have irregular steps.

South Bank, where it is cheaper to live
Living on the south bank is cheaper than living in Lisbon

Old buildings also often have old metal plumbing, which makes it necessary for residents to buy bottled water or use filters. Because the buildings are old, made of wood, the sound and heat insulation is not the best (be prepared to hear your neighbors and feel colder in winter).

Another very typical neighborhood is Graça, situated on top of a hill, with many beautiful viewpoints overlooking the city. Príncipe Real is also another typical and charming neighborhood. Full of stores, taverns, restaurants, and nightlife, Príncipe Real can be an excellent choice.

For those who want to live in a typical neighborhood surrounded by monuments and museums a great bet might be Belém. Despite the salty prices, the traditional region, which always has many tourists, has the advantage of being right on the river Tagus.

Which are Lisbon’s historical neighborhoods?

Some of the main historical neighborhoods in Lisbon are: Bairro Alto, Alfama, Santa Catarina/Bica and Castelo. In these areas it is common to have traffic restrictions for non-residents.

Graça, Cais do Sodré and Baixa Pombalina are also part of the historic region. Although we are gathering here all the regions within the same category – historic districts – the truth is that there is a lot of difference between them.

Bairro Alto, for example, is well known for its nightlife. Alfama is also often remembered for its bohemian Lisbon. Baixa Pombalina is celebrated as the heart of the city, and in it we can find a number of offices, restaurants, and museums.

Article originally published by our partner site Euro Dicas.



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