I started writing this week’s blog from a café on the side of Rossio Square in the center of Lisbon, and I’m editing it from a tiny bar in Peniche on Portugal’s Silver Coast. I moved to Portugal seven months ago and have been living in a very small fishing village on the Silver Coast called Consolação. It’s less than ten minutes south of Peniche. This past week, I packed up, rented an apartment in the heart of Lisbon, and decided to experience a week of city living. This week, I’m going to revisit my decision to move to the beach by comparing and contrasting life in Lisbon and life in my tiny town on the Silver Coast.
All For Big City Livin!!!
The Benefits of Living in Lisbon
Let’s start here since this is a must have for most digital nomads. Fast internet is everywhere in Lisbon. On the other hand, getting fiber can be a real issue in some parts of Portugal. Peniche offers fiber, but my town of Consolação does not.
There is so much to see and do in Lisbon. It has the ‘feel’ of a busy city. As a result, I felt so motivated and productive. When you’re around people who are always working and moving, it puts you in that same state of mind. You also come into contact with people who are entrepreneurial and successful. In small town Portugal, that’s something that is exceedingly rare. Portugal is the poorest country in Western Europe. In my town, most people make the minimum wage of 700€ per month. Living in such poverty is not easy. As a result, you can see it in the faces of the people and feel it in how they carry themselves.
Portugal has a well-known colonial history. As a result, you see many immigrants from former African colonies like Mozambique and Angola in Lisbon- not to mention the thousands of immigrants like myself who’ve come to make this country home. Portugal also has a booming tourist industry. Most tourists make Lisbon their jumping off point. As a result, you come into contact with people from all over the world. This is less common in my small town.
In Lisbon, I had the chance to meet up with and hang out with people from all over the world. It’s not just the expanded access to social opportunities. It’s the type of people that you’re going to have contact with. I had dinner or drinks with people who had interesting and exciting careers, people who were entrepreneurs, and those on exciting journeys of their own in life. By contrast, my sleepy little town has a dearth of such residents. People who get a good education and who have big dreams usually take off for somewhere else- either a large city like Lisbon or Porto, or outside of Portugal. As I mentioned, many of the people in my town have jobs that don’t offer them very much. They may be working in a café or a grocery store and that’s all they will likely ever do. It’s difficult to connect with these people that don’t have much on the horizon.
In Favor of Silver Coast Living!
The Benefits of Living in Peniche/Consolação
Cost of Accommodation
Absolutely no comparison here. Lisbon is EXPENSIVE!!! Small studio and one-bedroom apartments (and I mean SMALL) are expensive in Lisbon. I saw a few places on Idealista that were listed for around 150k€ and only about 26 meters squared. By comparison, my place in Consolação has a two-bedroom downstairs (115 meters squared) and a separate studio upstairs (16 meters squared) for only 130k€. The same place in Lisbon would likely go 2-3X that price. My place is actually expensive for this part of Portugal. Many small flats can be found for less than 100k€.
Rents are pricey too in the capital. A friend of mine just rented a nice two-bedroom flat in Areeiro for 1,000€ per month. By comparison, my friend here in Consolação has a one-bedroom flat with an ocean view for 350€. Another friend of mine has a one bedroom flat in Peniche for only 300€. There are other expenses that I am going to outline below which add to the cost of living in Lisbon, but accommodation is the most glaring difference.
Parking in Lisbon is difficult and can be expensive. The accommodation I stayed in this week had underground parking that was a short walk from Rossio square. However, it cost 48€ PER DAY! You are able to rent a spot by the month for just under 200€. You can also rent a spot by the month for overnight parking only and that is just under 100€. Bear in mind that this was in the very center of the city and prices may be more affordable as you move away from the center. Many places have street parking that is free overnight. Parking in Alfama is free all day (except Tuesdays and Saturdays). Metered street parking usually has a four-hour max.
It goes without saying that there is going to be more traffic in a big city. What makes Lisbon traffic so tough is the tiny, narrow streets, which are also quite hilly. It can be difficult to drive. The fact that most cars here have manual transmissions only magnifies the problem. By comparison, my little town offers tons of free parking and almost no traffic.
Lisbon is a coastal city and so is my little town. If being by the beach is a ‘must have’ on your list, then the Silver Coast may be the place for you. Peniche and Consolação are awesome, but other spots like Areia Branca and Nazare are beautiful beach towns as well. If you want to be closer to Lisbon, but also want to be by the beach, look into places like Carcavelos, Estoril, Caixas, and even Cascais. I have a short and quiet walk to the beach every morning, and I would never trade that for big city living.
It's a Toss-Up!
Wherever you go in Portugal, you’re likely to find good food. The food is fantastic and affordable. Lisbon offers a lot more variety of course- including pricier options. If you enjoy going out to eat or having drinks out, you will likely experience the higher costs of dining in Lisbon. I actually enjoyed having the opportunity to put on some nice clothes and go out to dinner at a few nice restaurants. The atmosphere was fantastic. Having said that, the fish and the glass of wine that I paid 25€ for in Lisbon didn’t taste any better than the fish and wine I would have paid 10€ for in Peniche. This is close, but I have to give the edge to Lisbon for the sheer variety.
Portugal is a really safe place. Big cities always have the reputation of being more dangerous and that’s probably true of Lisbon when compared to Peniche/ Consolação. Despite this, I never felt unsafe while in Lisbon. Portugal has very liberal drug laws, and the thing you probably notice most is people trying to sell you drugs on the street- especially in the city square. These people are more annoying than they are dangerous. If you just say, “No thank you,” and keep walking, they don’t bother you any further. I go running alone around 4:30 AM and never felt unsafe. This morning, I walked a mile to my car carrying my laptop at 6:30 in the morning and never gave it a second thought. Again, this is a close call, but I’ll give it to the small town on the Silver Coast.
It’s pretty hard to make a bad choice in terms of where to live in Portugal. I have obviously spent much longer on the Silver Coast than I have in Lisbon, so my experiences are far from complete. However, I hope this article helps inform your decisions on where you may choose to visit- or maybe even call home here in Portugal.