With a property market as buoyant as its start-up scene, the Portuguese capital’s stock is rising.
“I love everything about it, from the hills and the views to the jacaranda trees, the kiosks in the squares, the light, the sea breeze, the food and the wine. It’s a very human city and it’s architecturally beautiful,” says Tariq El-Asad, 32, who has traded London for Lisbon. He is not alone in eulogising the charms of the Portuguese capital, which seems to cast a spell on the increasing number of foreigners relocating here.
Andrew Young, 33, arrived from London in 2015. He is a fan of the sun, sea, sand — and of surfing before work. “There is an energy here, an electricity that few places have,” he says.
The surprising fact about Lisbon is not that it is suddenly cool, but that it has taken so long to hit the mainstream radar. Located on the western edge of the continent, it has never been an exclusively European city; open to the Atlantic, it has historically had strong links to Africa, India, China and Brazil. This cosmopolitan, if not uncontroversial, legacy is visible today in a streetscape encompassing Roman and Moorish architecture with hilly, limestone-cobbled lanes lined by pastel-coloured houses and intricately tiled palaces.
Its influence continues: the Portuguese politician Antonio Guterres, who was born in the city, heads the United Nations. Lisbon has a happily diverse population that now includes Madonna and her children. Add in good transport connections to Europe, Africa, Brazil and the east coast of America, along with an enviable climate — 2,806 hours of sunshine per year, temperate summers and mild winters — and you have the recipe for a fantastically liveable city.
According to the Association of Estate Agents in Portugal (APEMIP), foreigners bought one in four homes sold in the country last year. In Lisbon, cranes dot the skyline and the property market is booming: the value of homes sold in the city reached €2.6bn (£2.3bn) in the first quarter of this year. With property prices increasing by 10.5% in the fourth quarter of last year, the Portuguese National Statistics Institute reports that house prices now stand at their highest level since 2009, rising for 18 successive quarters.
Lisbon has hosted the global tech conference Web Summit for the past two years, and a growing number of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are basing themselves in the city, along with the founders of European start-ups that go beyond tech to include hospitality, creative industry and service businesses. El-Asad launched his property business, Tamea International, in 2014, initially working from his dining table. This year, he says, the business is on course to close transactions worth between €30m and €40m. He has become an official Portuguese resident, enabling him to take advantage of one of the country’s other lures — its generous tax benefits.
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