‘Where digital nomads come to die:’ Why Lisbon wins remote working hot-spot status
With more and more workers identifying as digital nomads, cities across the globe are jostling to attract their talent. In 2023, one stands out above the rest, and that’s Lisbon, the capital of Portugal.
This Portuguese, hilly, coastal capital city is the perfect option for inexpensive, delicious food, beautiful weather and scenery and excellent infrastructure, according to the data team at office space broker Instant Offices, who ranked almost 80 locations on affordability, weather and broadband speed.
It’s also one of the sunniest places in Europe and boasts local markets with freshly caught seafood, coworking spaces and more. Behind Lisbon, Bangkok, Madrid, Seoul and Delhi are also some of the best places to be a digital nomad this year, according to Instant Offices.
Meanwhile, research from HomeToGo, a marketplace of vacation rentals, also found Lisbon to be a top destination for digital nomads and workations for this year. It scored cities based on coworking, price, things to do, internet and daylight, and identified Porto as number two for remote worker hot spots. Porto is Portugal’s second biggest city and is known for its stately bridges and port wine production.
Carla Biesinger moved to Lisbon in 2019. She said a common phrase in the country is: “Lisbon is where digital nomads come to die.”
“I came here and found this amazing community,” said Biesinger. “It happens to a lot of people. You arrive in Lisbon and you feel at home. It’s a weird thing.”
Biesinger isn’t alone in her love for Lisbon. Will Fenton is a digital nomad who has been spending shorter stints in Lisbon for a few years now, but recently made the decision to live there permanently.
“In 2015 I went on a surf trip and flew into Lisbon and spent a few nights there,” said Fenton. “We roamed around the streets at night and it felt cinematic, ending up at a stunning restaurant on Rua da Silva, one of Lisbon’s most beautiful streets. Since then, it’s always been at the back of my mind.”
There’s a large digital nomad community there, made possible by Portugal’s more relaxed immigration laws. But these folks aren’t separate from the locals who live there.
“I don’t think there’s a huge distinction between communities of digital nomads, communities of Portuguese people, and communities of longer term expats,” said Lauren Razavi, author of the Global Natives Substack. “That’s one of the things that’s really unique about it. When I compare it to other digital nomad destinations that I’ve spent time in, you find that these places can be subject to digital nomads being a parallel social circle. In Lisbon, the community is really strong. It’s easy to make friends with people. It doesn’t feel like nomads are segregated.”
She’s spent a few months here and there in the city for the past six years. In line with Lisbon being a place where digital nomads go to die, Razavi plans to make it her home base in August. She says walking down the street she hears multiple different languages, meets people from all over the world and has a myriad of different cuisines at her fingertips.
“The Portuguese culture values taste very highly, so things are done where there is an emphasis on quality and doing things well, whether that’s food, art, design or accommodations,” said Razavi. “I found that very, very appealing. There’s a warmth and friendliness and celebrating local culture there.”
Besides that, she agrees that the WiFi is good, ensuring she has access to work, which is a must-have for any city hoping to be a digital nomad destination in 2023.
Attracting so many digital nomads can pose challenges too, though. Just like any other city that is dealing with an influx of people, housing costs have risen.
“The housing market is super inflated,” said Biesinger. “There is a big difference between Portuguese salaries and all of these foreigners coming with a lot of money, which isn’t great for the locals. But overall, so many people are coming here and pumping money into the economy. Some of my friends started companies here and are providing jobs. It’s a good thing, but we need to be aware of some of these impacts.”
Biesinger says she has no plans to leave anytime soon. “I love Lisbon life,” she said.