My name’s Elsa – I’m a French girl living the expat life in Lisbon. I’ve always loved to travel and that’s what brought me to the Portuguese capital city. Basically, I used to live in Paris but I moved around a lot for my studies.
Being of Portuguese origin, Portugal is close to my heart. After spending the night in Lisbon with friends over the 2018 New Year, I fell in love with the city. With a constant wanderlust, I decided to do everything I could to settle there. So I finished my master’s degree in Angers, France and came to Lisbon for my final internship – and I’ve been living here since.
Why Lisbon is a Great Expat Destination
I moved to Lisbon in January 2020 and soon it will be four years since I’ve been in the capital. I arrived on a French expatriate contract (VIE) and then a company hired me on a contract. I work as a full time business manager and besides that I have an Instagram page @lisboabyelsa where I post about my expat experiences in Lisbon. My days are punctuated by work, going to the gym, and enjoying the beach and good weather on weekends.
I live in Anjos which is very well served. I’m close to the metro but also to buses – and the city center is even accessible on foot. Lisbon is a small capital and hence it is easy to get around everywhere quickly. I like all the different neighborhoods, with a preference for the more typical ones such as Moscavide, Benfica and Alvalade. For an expat in Lisbon though, I suggest Campolide, Rato, Intendente, Saldanha and Campo de Ourique.
Lisbon is a pleasant place to live in. It’s a city full of opportunity and friendly people. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a change while remaining in the European area. Lisbon is a simple city full of good energy, where it’s easy to feel happy and fulfilled – regardless of what you’re doing.
My Favorite Place in All of Lisbon
My favorite spot in the city is without doubt Miradouro de Santa Luzia in the heights of Lisbon. I love the view, vibe and often there’s live music in the heart of the city. I find this lookout super relaxing despite the fact that it’s often crowded. And once again, the view is simply breathtaking. I adored this terrace right from the start, and I regularly take photos and videos of it.
What the Rest of Portugal Offers Expats
I’m Portuguese and come from the Guarda/Sabugal region north of Lisbon. So I’ve already visited the mountainous Serra de Estrela area, which I recommend for a change of scenery. In winter, you can also go skiing.
Northern Portugal is another beautiful slice of the country with Geres National Park. Staying in the north, Porto is a romantic little city as well. Like Aveiro, it almost resembles a miniature Venice. My number one favorite region in Portugal, I think, is Alentejo in the center of the country. It’s so typical and the food is amazing. Finally, no expat adventure in Lisbon is complete without exploring the south and the famous Algarve. For road trippers, the Vicentine coast boasts epic beaches and landscapes too.
How I Became Fluent in Portuguese
I used to understand Portuguese because my grandparents always spoke it with me, but I would always answer in French, so I had little vocabulary and my writing skills were disastrous. I had to adapt and learn fast, as my work colleagues are Portuguese and all my training courses are in the native tongue. Today, I consider myself fluent even though I still have a lot to learn.
Visa Considerations for an Expat in Lisbon
As a European citizen, I didn’t need a visa for Lisbon. Before I came, I applied for my European Health Card but there were a few steps to follow when I got there (long ones – the Portuguese administration is not the best). If you’re thinking of moving to Lisbon as an expat, you’ll need to register for a fiscal identity number (NIF) which you’ll use everywhere and for everything (opening a bank account, telephone, water, electricity, etc.).
Then you’ll need to obtain your European Citizen Registration Certificate, which you’ll need to renew every five years and register with your local health center. Those from outside the EU, I don’t know enough about visas to help. A little research or engaging the services of an immigration expert may be the best way to secure your dream expat life in Lisbon.
Final Tips for Expat Life in Lisbon
All in all, Lisbon is a fantastic city to settle in – even if today the cost of living has increased a lot. There are still affordable restaurants if you like generous Portuguese food. I have a Mapstr account where I put all my addresses. This could be handy for you. One last tip: don’t be afraid to go out and chat with people – everyone here is sociable and there’s a lot of mutual support.