One of the main advantages of being in Lisbon is that it’s the closest European capital to the United States and to South America, particularly to Brazil. Lisbon also maintains privileged ties to its former African colonies, especially Angola. It’s also less than one hour away from Madrid with several flights every day, and about two and a half hours from Paris and London (it’s the only capital in mainland Europe sharing the same time zone with the British capital).
With close to 300 days of sunshine throughout the year, no snow, and temperatures that never reach the freezing point, Lisbon is a truly blessed city. It’s great living in a place where you can have beach days in October or March, where you can sit comfortably outside at a café terrace in February, and where you don’t have to worry about the dangers of snow on the ground.
Lisbon officially has the lowest homicide rate of any European capital and the lowest number of residents who have been victims of any crime in the previous five years, making it Europe’s safest capital. Naturally as a big city that doesn’t mean it’s crime-free, and you do hear reports of petty crime like pickpocketing and car break-ins are not that uncommon. But compare Lisbon’s safety issues with that of any major city in the world and you begin to get a sense of how much safer and lucky you really are in Lisbon.
Safety and agreeable weather are just two factors that contribute to a high quality of life in Lisbon. Freedom, human rights, a stable democracy, recreation facilities and leisure time also make the Portuguese capital one of the best places to live in Europe. Residents can be at the beach just minutes from downtown, or enjoy nature in several green spaces such as Monsanto, the largest urban forest in Europe. Golf, surfing (Europe’s first surfing reserve is 30 minutes away) and other outdoor activities are also more accessible here that in other European capitals.
Portugal is in the world’s top 10 for best road network, and while people in Lisbon will say that was in detriment of other more useful investments, it does reflect the focus on modernizing the country in the last couple of decades. The expanded airport is within 15 minutes of downtown, there’s a modern metro, new hotels and conference centers are growing businesses, and there are new world-class research centers (such as the Champalimaud Foundation which helped Portugal become the 4th country in the OECD with the biggest rate of researchers in the fields of science and engineering).
Lisbon was the first city in Europe to set up a network of electric car recharging stations, was recognized in 2011 as having Europe’s best fiber optic network, and Portugal has pioneered services in banking (particularly ATM), telecommunications, and renewable energy (close to 60% of the electricity in the country comes from renewable sources). These are just a few examples that reveal the experience and the opportunities in innovation and technology in Lisbon.
Unlike in the rest of southern Europe, you’ll find that in Lisbon there’s a sizable multilingual population, with 42% speaking two languages (especially English) and 23% speaking at least three. Improvements in education levels also means that there’s never been a better-prepared young generation in the country entering the job market.
While it’s recently been given several high-profile awards (Europe’s Best Tourist Destination, Cruise Destination and City Break at the World Travel Awards), and while it’s one of the world’s top 10 cities for corporate events, it’s still overlooked as one of Europe’s must-see capitals. It’s a growing low-cost and cruise destination attracting major markets beyond the British, Spanish, French, American and even asian.
Because the Portuguese market has become known for being open to technological innovation, it’s been used by international companies as a test for new products. It’s now much easier to do business in Portugal, and the European Union has recognized it as one of the countries that most reduced bureaucracy. It’s possible to set up a company in less than one hour, and according to the 2010 Global Benchmark Report, Portugal is the 7th country in the OECD with the lowest level of costs and taxes.
When the higher classes moved to the suburbs by the sea (Cascais, Estoril and Sintra) and the middle class moved to the city’s northern districts, Lisbon’s center was abandoned to the lowest classes, especially to poor pensioners living on frozen rents. The buildings reached a shockingly advanced state of decay but in the past two decades there has been a massive effort to renovate the old historic center of the city.
While it looks like most of the work still needs to be done, seeing photos of Alfama from 20 years ago shows just how much has already been achieved. As the mostly elderly population died, younger investors renovate homes and discover the charm and the privilege of living in the center of the city.