We decided to fly to Lisbon on a whim.
Dave and I knew a couple who had recently made the city their home, and, as we were looking to find a base somewhere in Europe but hadn’t yet decided where, we dropped them a message to find out what they liked about it.
When we received a gushing response back, essentially describing a place that ticked every single box we had on our dream city checklist, we booked a flight from Miami and a month-long stay in an Airbnb apartment.
We were giving ourselves a month to explore the city and see if it could potentially work as a base for us.
Neither of us had ever even been to Lisbon before.
It took exactly three days.
On our third day in the city, we turned to each other, head over heels in love with this city and knew this was exactly what we had been looking for.
I’ll go into more depth about why we love Lisbon later this month, but to sum it up: it’s inexpensive; it’s beautiful; English is widely spoken; the weather’s great; the locals are lovely and welcoming; it’s close to a beach; the food scene is incredible; there’s a thriving start-up scene; we have lots of friends here; it’s close to an international airport.
It was perfect for us, and I wasn’t even the slightest bit apprehensive about deciding to stay there for longer. I was ready to have a familiar place to return to between my travels.
Now we just had to find an apartment.
We gave ourselves a month to find our dream apartment, which felt like a decent amount of time, especially after chatting with friends who lived in Lisbon and had picked up bargains in a short time on their places. €900/month for a 100sqm two-bedroom apartment; €700/month for a 75sqm one-bedroom apartment.
We gave ourselves a budget of €1000 (around $1100) a month for a two-bedroom place in a central location, and started hunting. We spoke with both our local Portuguese friends and digital nomad friends to find out which sites were best to search, looked at them all, and promptly realised there was absolutely nothing.
We would be looking at either €1000/month for a dark, dingy, one-bedroom apartment in a crappy neighbourhood, or €2000/month for exactly what we were looking for.
And this totally felt like karma.
Because Airbnb has screwed Lisbon so much.
It turns out that if locals put their apartment up on Airbnb for three months over summer, there’ll make more money than they would renting it out to a local for an entire year. So why list it anywhere but Airbnb?
For us, though, and many locals in Lisbon, when it comes to renting an apartment, they’re incredibly expensive relative to the price of everything else in the country, and places are snapped up within minutes.
Few of our Portuguese friends can afford to live in the centre of the city any more. We no longer believed we could afford to live there.
I had ten tabs of apartment listings open in my browser for weeks and I did no work over that time. All I did was sit and refresh all of them every five minutes, and there was nothing. Whenever we found an apartment that looked nice, we’d email them within half an hour of the listing going live and hear that it had already been taken by someone.
I got to witness first-hand the downside to Airbnb and it had me seriously rethinking my use of them.
(Side note: after three awful experiences in a row with Airbnb recently, I’ve actually sworn off them for good [aside from using my referral credit up]. It’s hostels and hotels all the way for me now!)
We started looking at alternatives, because our month in Lisbon was rapidly drawing to a close and we hadn’t even looked at a single apartment. Granada was cheap, but we hadn’t liked it that much; we liked Madrid but didn’t know many people there; we loved Amsterdam, but apartment-hunting sounded like it would be even more competitive there; we couldn’t afford London; we knew tons of people in Berlin, but did we want to spend winters there?
Nowhere felt right but Lisbon, and we were devastated we couldn’t find anywhere to stay.
Then: a hope.
A beautiful apartment that had everything we wanted and was within our budget. The apartment was listed at midnight and I sent the real estate agent an enquiry immediately.
The next morning, we turned up for our viewing and found out that five people had already also arranged to see the apartment today. As the guy showed us around the apartment, his phone didn’t stop ringing with more people wanting to see it, too. This was going to be vicious.
Fortunately, the owner of our Airbnb apartment knew the owners of this apartment, and also knew that they happened to be travel bloggers, too. That was our in! We wrote a kickass pitch to convince the owners we would be the best possible candidates and was thrilled when they chose us.
A few days later, we collected our keys.
We had an apartment in Lisbon!
And while that craziness was going on, we somehow managed to find the time to road trip around Portugal with some friends. This month, we checked out Nazare, home to the biggest wave ever surfed:
Obidos, a medieval walled town that’s famous for its ginjinha — a cherry liqueur that’s drunk from a chocolate cup.
And Alcobaça, where you can find the stunning Alcobaça Monastery, built in the 12th century and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
And that was the month!
Countries visited: 1
Places visited: 1
Distance travelled: 0 miles
Number of photos taken: 13
My Next Steps
Over this next month, I’ll be spending a significant amount of time exploring the different Lisbon neighbourhoods and checking out the best beaches in this part of Portugal.
Towards the end of the month, I’ll be flying out to Girona to see travel blogging buddies Pete and Dalene. I sometimes feel as though I’m the only travel blogger to have not yet visited Girona, so I’m looking forward to seeing what makes it so special. Also: drinking gin.