The streets of Lisbon

A nicely looking colorful street, many house facades richly covered with azulejos (Portuguese style tiles >>>) and much dynamic traffic climbing the hills, at which the city is located. A quite nice view. My favorite photo from Lisbon, Portugal.


Although showing an actual location, the picture is barely representative of the Lisbon historic city. As our guide took us for a walk through the old city quarters at first, we were not asking any questions about ruined and deserted houses we saw around. Each city, especially a historical one, has problems with renovating facades of old houses. The bigger the historic town, the bigger the problem. But in Lisbon, the problem seems to be indeed very acute. The number of deserted or simply neglected houses we saw around us was outstanding. The same evening we came back to spend a fado evening in the historic city (fado is traditional Portuguese music). The streets were empty, almost no nightlife in the middle of the summer.

It was, indeed, surprising. The layout of the city and its architecture are great. The city is one of a kind. The historic quarters, like in other great European cities: Paris, London or Rome, are widespread. This would be an excellent place for small hotels, restaurants, clubs, and posh apartments. And much life from the very morning till late in the night.

Back home, I did my little investigation on the internet. Found articles about the aging city, a half a million people choosing small towns surrounding Lisbon at the coastal side and commuting day by day by railways or cars. Apartments and houses are at last tree times cheaper there than in the historic Lisbon quarters. But also people, who could afford higher rents avoid the Lisbon historic center. It is a chain reaction. As people prefer the suburbs, it is no longer profitable to offer daily and leisure services in the city. Those who would afford higher rents, had, however, have no life quality. There is also a historical background behind the problem. In times of the Salazar regime, the rents had to be very low by low. Low rents meant for years no funds for renovation at the disposal of house owners. Through years houses went into ruin. Now, only wealthy investors may afford an all-around renovation. But later on, they have to demand high rents to reach break-even in the foreseeable time. The circle is closing. The other problem is property rights. To sell a house, one has to agree on with all the owners. As the city has been deserting for decades, we deal here with outstanding inheritance issues. They can prolong the investment process forever. The outstanding proprietary issues are particularly problematic for foreign investors.

Walking the streets of historic Lisbon, you can see the greatness of the city. But when you are on vacation and look for a place to spend the night and before enjoying the evening, just choose the location more carefully than in other European capitals.

The streets of Lisbon