Modern Lisbon is suffused with the memories of past centuries that emanate from the cobblestone streets and crenellated castle walls. The Gothic and Baroque architecture is complemented by sleek boutique hotels and waterfront development, and sunny days and warm weather — not to mention access to golden Atlantic beaches — make the Portuguese capital a permanent draw to the westernmost part of Europe’s Iberian Peninsula.
What is it known for?
Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in Europe -- older than London and Paris --
and its position at the intersection of the Tagus River and the Atlantic Ocean made
Lisbon the jumping off point for many 15th-century Portuguese
explorers, including Vasco da Gama during the city’s golden age.
In the last
20 years, the city’s revival has been astonishing. As the 1994 European Capital
of Culture and the host of the 1998 World Expo (for which Santiago Calatrava
designed the soaring Oriente train station), Lisbon’s antique neighbourhoods
got a facelift, while rundown areas around the port were completely
revitalized. Many of the city’s derelict buildings have been renovated in the
the current economic climate has taken a bite out of Portugal’s economy and the
country is facing a recession, Lisbon is still capable of putting on a fabulous
time. From inexpensive, but delicious Portuguese wines to coffee and pastries
in the cafes of the Alfama district (the city’s oldest), lisboetas do not shun
the good life. Being further blessed with a subtropical climate, mostly sunny days
and nearby beaches, the city’s main selling point is a high quality of life.
Where do you want to live?
Some of the most popular neighbourhoods to live in are those close to the Tagus
River and the Alfama, such as Bairro Alto and Chiado, with their narrow streets
and lively nightlife. Much of Chiado was destroyed in a fire in 1988, but has
since been rebuilt and brought back to life. Also popular, especially with
foreigners, are small neighbourhoods “uptown” that have a village-like feel, plus
amenities like schools, pharmacies, restaurants and parks. “These include
Alvalade closer to the airport, Amoreiras and the Avenidas Novas district,”
said Pedro Ribeiro, general manager of Real Living Portugal, a real estate
agency. “The site of the former World Expo near the river is also popular.”
areas of northern Lisbon that are gentrifying, but so far, they are more
popular with locals than with foreigners. Lumiar is home to palaces of former
aristocrats and the largest park in the city, Quinta das Conchas; Benfica is
home to the Estadia da Luz football stadium and the Benfica football club; and
Telheiras is between the two.
When lisboetas want to get away, they go to the Atlantic coast. The wealthy
resort town of Cascais to the west of the city is a short drive or train ride
away and attracts locals and tourists for its beaches. Even closer is the Costa
da Caparica on the south side of the river, with golden, sandy beaches and
lively markets. Sintra, a Unesco World Heritage Site, is in the Sintra
Mountains, close to Lisbon and filled with historic castles and ornate palaces.
go farther afield for a longer holiday. “It’s common to rent a house or
apartment in the Algarve where the sea isn’t as cold,” said Joël Le Déroff, a
Frenchman who spent a year working in Lisbon. Lisbon Airport is inside the city
(there are plans to replace it with one outside city limits) and provides
flights to all over Europe and elsewhere. Lisbon is about a seven-hour flight
to New York and a nine-hour flight to Rio de Janeiro.
The recession has affected Lisbon’s property market and foreclosures are up
across the country. Prices are mainly flat in the city, although in central
Lisbon “they are hanging on”, according to Ribeiro. Mortgages are no longer
easy to get which has put the brakes on many purchases. As a result, many
people are renting rather than buying property.
Lisbon, the price of a two-bed flat ranges from 250,000 to 300,000 euros, while
the rent for the same flat is around 2,000 euros a month. “People should keep
in mind that we are very transparent now and there’s not a lot of red tape like
there used to be,” said Ribeiro. “There is no danger you are buying something
you shouldn’t.” And living in Lisbon still has its benefits, even today.
“Lisbon has a holiday atmosphere,” said Le Déroff.
The Portugal News: English-language
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Lisbon’s neighbourhoods, nightlife, restaurants and shopping
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