Monthly Archives: April 2016

  • 0

All you need to know about the Golden Visa

portuguese-golden-visa-749x390 (1)

STEP 1 – THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU COME TO PORTUGAL

  • Contact our consultants (info@cascaisvilla.net): provide your basic information, so we can send you an invitation for applying for a business trip schengen visa.
  • Contact the portuguese diplomatic mission that serves your region and, if applicable, obtain a valid schengen visa from the portuguese embassy or consulate in your country.
  • Obtain a copy of your criminal record from the authorities of the country in which you have most recently lived during at least one full year and have it certified by the portuguese consulate or by the apostils of the hague convention.
  • Documentary evidence of the eligibility of family member applicants other than the spouse and under 18-year old children will be required (if in doubt, please contact us about this).
  • If your documents are not in portuguese or english, obtain certified translations by a portuguese consulate-recognized translator of: (1) your passport; (2) your criminal record; (3) your health insurance policy, which must cover medical and hospital care in Portugal (you haven’t got this you may purchase it through your portuguese bank); and (4) your driving license or recent utility bill.

STEP 2 – VISIT TO PORTUGAL: PROPERTY SELECTION, LAWYERS, FISCAL REPRESENTATIVE, BANK ACCOUNT AND SEF

  • Meet with any of our consultants to find out more about the properties available in Portugal. We are currently marketing a range of properties :
    1. Residential properties: apartments and villas to live or lease
    2. Touristic apartments or villas (ideal for short-term rentals), in some cases with guaranteed return
    3. Buildings or palaces for renovation
    4. Commercial properties, including shops, and offices
    5. Hotels and resorts
    6. Wine and olive farms
  • Start your one-stop shop of real estate property. We will bring you to visit not only our properties, but also other properties from other real estate agencies.
  • Once you select a property, we will recommend you a trustable and full-experienced law company as well as a fiscal representative.
  • Lawyers will be responsible for golden visa application requirements and procedures, as well as for property due diligence, including confirming: the title of the property, if the person or company selling actually owns the property, whether there are any outstanding charges or costs associated with the property, if the appropriate building licenses or permissions are in order should you buy a plot of land or building for renovation, and that the terms and conditions stipulated by the vendor are fair and legal
  • Lawyers will be granted power of attorney to represent you and sign the promissory contract and definitive contract.
  • The fiscal representative will get you a portuguese tax number, required for the purchase, and manage your tax issues in Portugal on an ongoing basis
  • On the day of visit to the lawyers’ office, besides making the property reservation, appointing a fiscal representative, they will assist you on opening a bank account at a portuguese bank and schedule an interview at SEF (foreign exchange services) to give your biometric data and information.

STEP 3 – PROMISSORY CONTRACT, FINISH PAYMENT, DEED OF TRANSFER, AND PROPERTY REGISTRATION

  • To complete the purchase, your lawyer will need to prepare the promissory contract. This contract stipulates the details of the purchaser, vendor and property, payments, timings, etc, which have been agreed between the parties. You can either attend the signing in person or grant your lawyer power of attorney to attend and sign on your behalf the promissory contract.
  • Most of the time, investors will need some time to transfer all the money into their portuguese bank account to finish the payment. (warning: to apply for the golden visa, you must have the record of transferring more than 500k euros to your bank account).
  • After you have transferred the funds, the deed of transfer will be signed. The deed of transfer is signed in the presence of a notary who will ensure that the title deeds have been exchanged and all conditions have been understood by all parties concerned. Following the signing of the deed, the notary bears witnesses to payment, or an acknowledgment that the full payment has been made, and this fact is incorporated in the title deed.
  • Property registration: after signing the deed of transfer, your lawyer will take a notarized copy of it to the land registry for registration and payment of fees.
  • You are then an official owner of property in Portugal!

STEP 4 – GOLDEN VISA APPLICATION

After finishing the investment, the lawyer will be able to complete your golden visa application. Reminder: all documentation below needs to be delivered:

Documentation necessary:

  • Passport or travel document with a validity of at least three months.
  • Valid schengen visa
  • Proof of lawful entry in Portugal
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Request for consultation of criminal record at sef (to be declared at the time of the request)
  • Certificate evidencing that the applicant has not been found in default by any court of law (preventive)
  • Sworn affidavit by the foreign national, attesting that the same will comply with the minimum quantitative and time requirements regarding the investment activity in Portugal.
  • Declaration issued by the portuguese tax authorities and social security attesting the inexistence of any debts of the foreign national to the said entities.
  • Criminal record certificate of the country of origin and of the country where the applicant has resided for more than a year, duly recognized by the portuguese authorities (authentication by the portuguese consulate or apostille)
  • Proof of real estate property investment.
  • Documentary evidence of the eligibility of family member applicants other than the spouse and under 18-year old children will be required (if in doubt, please contact us about this).

STEP 5 – THINGS TO DO ONCE YOUR GOLDEN VISA IS APPROVED

  • Pay the visa issue fees.
  • Collect you resident permit card (the lawyers can be send them you to express mail).
  • Renew your golden visa on time. For renewal of the golden residence permit, applicants must keep their investment, and demonstrate that they have stayed in Portugal for at least 7 days in the first year, then 14 days in each subsequent period of 2 years. Therefore you should keep as proof: invoices, airplane tickets, and hotel stays. After year 5, you may apply for permanent residence.

DOCS

Provided by client:

  • Valid passport, schengen visa and travel document (all family)
  • Birth certificate (all family, apostilled and translated)
  • Marriage certificate (apostilled and translated).
  • Document that states that the children are dependent from fathers, if they’re over 18 years (apostilled and translated).
  • Absence of criminal conviction (criminal record) (all family, apostilled and translated).
  • Proof of address (e.g. utility bill, bank letter)
  • 2 passport-type picture (all family)

Law office takes care of:

  • Portuguese fiscal number
  • Proof of valid medical insurance valid in Portugal
  • Proof of legal entry and permanence in national territory
  • Declaration proving the absence of debts issued by the inland revenue and customs authority and by the social security
  • Updated property documents showing ownership of property, or
  • Signed promissory contract with payment of a deposit above € 500,000
  • Declaration from a bank in Portugal confirming the transfer of the funds
  • Absence of notice from the portuguese immigration authorities or schengen services
  • Declaration from the investor confirming compliance with the investment requirements for 5 years

Additional documentation necessary for family members:

  • For children over 18 years old, documentation proving they need their parents support
  • For elder family members, if they are not over 65, documentation proving they need their children’s support

(79)


  • 0

Lisbon – Europe´s best work-and-play capital

Category : Lisbon

Trams criss-cross the entire city (Credit: Alamy)

A city still getting back on its feet after the Eurozone crisis which battered the national economy, Lisbon’s working hard to support home-grown businesses and attract fledgling entrepreneurs from around the globe.

Over the last three years the council’s support for start-ups has helped the city win the title of 2015 European Entrepreneurial Region of the Year. At the same time, it’s also undergone a facelift: crumbling city centre properties have been renovated and new shops and cafes have opened, as workers return.

Trams criss-cross the entire city and are a great way to get up some of the steeper hills (Credit: Alamy)

“The change has been dramatic,” said Rui Coelho, executive director of InvestLisboa, Lisbon’s investment promotion agency. “We saw all-time record investment in real estate, tourism and entrepreneurship in 2015. This is fantastic. However, we’re not complacent. Unemployment is still very high and regarding rehabilitation of the city centre there is still a lot to be done.”

Although unemployment nationally has dropped from a high of 17.5% in 2013 at the end of 2015 it was still running at 12.2% of the population.

The change has been dramatic. We saw all-time record investment in real estate, tourism and entrepreneurship in 2015.

Startup Lisboa, founded in 2011 has helped create more than 250 businesses. About 30% of new entrepreneurs are foreigners. “Because of technological evolution, talented people can work and live anywhere so they choose a nice place to live and for sure Lisbon is one of these places,” he said. Among the start-ups, high-tech, tourism and creative industries are particularly well represented, he said.

Set on the Atlantic coast this port city is a relatively small capital of 548,000 people, with golden sandy beaches and 220 days of sunshine a year. Lisbon offers a work-live-surf-and-golf culture in a picturesque setting where English is widely spoken. Plus, office and staffing costs are relatively low compared with other capitals in Western Europe.

25 de Abril bridge crosses the Tagus river (Credit: Turismo de Lisboa)

25 de Abril bridge crosses the Tagus river (Credit: Turismo de Lisboa)

With practically no heavy industry, the service sector is everything. Major players who have established service centres here include Japanese IT equipment and services provider Fujitsu, French bank BNP Paribas, US IT networking equipment firm Cisco, Finnish data networking and telecommunications company Nokia Networks, and the Belgian chemical firm Solvay among others. Energy firms Subsea 7, Technip and National Oilwell Varco have their service sector operations here, as does business jet firm Netjets.

Office and staffing costs are relatively low compared with other capitals in Western Europe.

The city pulls in more than four million visitors a year, with around 40% arriving for business.

Cultural know-how

This relatively small capital operates with a subtle mix of formality and spontaneity. “Oftentimes in the States, when you ask for a meeting, people will look at their calendar and say, ‘Can we meet in three weeks?’ But in Lisbon people will say, ‘Sure, why don’t you come over this afternoon for a coffee?” said Maureen Ferguson, a consultant in food, beverages and hospitality, who recently moved to Lisbon from Philadelphia in her native US.

“People are very warm and friendly and their English is spectacular but friendship has to be earned. It takes a little while to move from talking about business to sharing personal information,” Ferguson said. The perfect icebreaker is to enquire about regional cuisine and wines, she advised.

There’s a real can-do entrepreneurial spirit in Lisbon right now.

Due partly to the financial crisis (which overturned career expectations for so many Portuguese), there’s a tangible openness to new ideas in the city. “There’s a real can-do entrepreneurial spirit in Lisbon right now. People love their traditions but they are also very open to innovation,” she said. “During the crisis lots of people found opportunities to live elsewhere and to discover different ways of doing things. Now that there’s starting to be more opportunity here they’re coming back and bringing all that energy with them.”

Airport:

About 7 km (4 miles) north of the city centre, Lisbon Portela is Portugal’s slick, modern, primary airport with direct links to 43 countries and 110 destinations. In addition to flights from many European cities, these include the African cities of Accra, Bamako, Dakar, Luanda, Maputo, and in the Americas, Rio de Janiero, Sao Paolo and Brasilia; Boston, Miami and New York; Bogota, Caracas, Panama.

Lisbon's colonial buildings have taken on a whole new lease of life (Credit: Flickr)

Lisbon’s colonial buildings have taken on a whole new lease of life (Credit: Flickr)

Terminal 1 offers a range of high end shops and restaurants, while Terminal 2 is used mainly by budget airlines and has very limited facilities.

Metro trains run directly from the airport into the city centre (Saldanha metro station) from 06.30 until late and take 21 minutes. Tickets cost 1.40 euros ($1.52).

The majority of business travellers will take a taxi to reach the town centre quickly, this will cost about 15 euros ($16.33) and take about 15 minutes, but prices are higher at night and there is also a charge for luggage. Hiring a car is also popular as it’s a low cost alternative for meetings beyond central Lisbon, costing around 30 euros per day, plus fuel, for an economy car such as an Opel Corsa.

Money matters

Amex and Visa are widely accepted, Mastercard slightly less so, but it’s useful to carry around 50 euros ($54) in cash for all small purchases, taxis and snacks. A bica (espresso) costs 60-80 euro cents (67-85 US cents) in a neighbourhood café, apastel de nata around one euro (the famous custard tarts baked in Belem).

Much of the fish and seafood is priced by weight so make sure you’re clear about the quantity you want.

It will cost more if you sit outside on the terrace or if you’re in a tourist hot spot. If service isn’t included the customary tip is around 5%, or up to 10 % in a formal restaurant. No need to tip at all if you’ve just had a snack or a coffee but if you wish, leave the change from the nearest euro.

Hotels

Popular options for business travellers include near Marques de Pombal, the 311-bedroom Epic Sana is a sleek and ‘zeitgeist-y’ five-star option, eight minutes-walk from the nearest metro station, but also offering paid-for covered parking. With 2,169 sqm (23,346 square feet) devoted to flexible event space, the hotel can host anything from a small meeting to a vast banquet. For downtime there’s a spa with indoor pool plus a rooftop outdoor pool.

Also downtown, close to Avenida da Liberdade, the 89-bedroom Inspira Santa Marta is a popular boutique hotel with feng shui styling, a wellness spa and a restaurant which prides itself on offering veggie and vegan options. There are two meeting rooms and a cinema-style auditorium. The nearest metro station is only four minutes-walk. Rooms cost from 106 euros ($115) non-refundable.

Stunning Torre de Belem, Lisbon (Credit: Turismo de Lisboa)

Stunning Torre de Belem, Lisbon (Credit: Turismo de Lisboa)

Dinner for one

Beneath the landmark 25th April suspension bridge, 5 Oceanos is an airy dockside restaurant with a market-style display of glistening fresh fish and seafood. Whether upstairs in the airy modern interior or outside on the terrace, you can enjoy painterly views over the River Tagus as you sample local specialities such as octopus a Lagareiro (oven-baked with potatoes) and razor shell clams Bulhao Pato (in garlic sauce). Much of the fish and seafood is priced by weight so make sure you’re clear about the quantity you want. Open seven days-a-week.

For a great people-watching spot, set within the elegant arcades on the waterfront square of Praca do Comercio (also known locally as Terreiro do Praco), café-restaurant Martinho da Arcada has been a favourite rendezvous since 1782 and is popular with local business people and civil servants. Used in the last century as a writing haunt by Fernando Pessoa, the renowned Portuguese poet, you can pop in for a coffee andpastel de nata (eggy custard tart) on the terrace, or head into the atmospheric interior for white-tablecloth service and hearty local fare such as sardinhas assadas (grilled sardines) orbacalhau (salted cod).

Traditional Portuguese folk music, fado (Credit: Turismo de Lisboa)

Traditional Portuguese folk music, fado (Credit: Turismo de Lisboa)

Off the clock

It would be remiss to leave Lisbon without going to hear some fado music, Portugal’s homegrown sound.

Wander through the historic districts of Alfama or Bairro Alto to discover a fado club for yourself or book at a restaurant such as Clube de Fado, a cosy stone-vaulted venue in Alfama near the cathedral. In the Bairro Alto, behind a yellow-tiled façade, the Adega Machado, founded by musician Armando Machado in 1937, also offers poignant performances, accompanied by local and international cuisine.

An ideal way to explore this city of steeply winding streets is to jump on one of the local trams.

To see where Vasco da Gama and other great navigators set sail, head to the western district of Belem, a UNESCO world heritage site where the square shaped Belem Tower has guarded the waterfront for nearly 500 years. Close by lies the sublimely beautiful Jeronimos monastery where sailors returning from the seven seas used to make confession.

Special considerations

An ideal way to explore this city of steeply winding streets is to jump on one of the local trams. Tram line 28 is particularly scenic but as an established tourist highlight it also attracts pickpockets. If you can, ride it when it’s less crowded, first thing in the morning or early evening, and however fascinating the view, keep tabs on your wallet or bag.

Credit: http://www.bbc.com/

(29)


  • 0
Lisboa-seguro-viagem-portugal

20 Reasons Why You Should Invest in Portugal

Category : Portugal

Lisboa-seguro-viagem-portugal

Did you know that purchasing property in Portugal could enable you and your family to become Portuguese citizens? This is one of many reasons why an investment here could be a very wise decision.

So, if you’ve been considering relocating your family or making that investment in a holiday home, retirement home or a home you can rent out for extra income, you should really consider Portugal. The reasons are overwhelming:

  1. A Portuguese passport for the whole family. Our top reason for investing in Portugal has to be the fact that if the head of the household qualifies for residency, all dependents automatically qualify without any additional costs.
  2. A secure property market. Possibly the most important reason you would want to invest is that Portugal has a proven and secure property market with an average property growth of 15% per annum over the last 15 years. Not too shabby.
  3. High rental income. Rental yield in Portugal on average remains one of the highest in Europe – you could rent your house out a good few weeks of the year and even more if it is in a prime spot like Cascais.
  4. It’s a peaceful place. According to the 2015 Global Peace Index rankings, Portugal is the 16th most peaceful country in the world, boasting one of the lowest crime rates in Europe. In fact, Lisbon was recently voted the safest capital city in Europe.
  5. One word: golf. Portugal is undoubtedly one of the world’s top golfing destinations, with more than 50 world-class golf courses already built or under construction and many more in the planning phase. If you enjoy the sport, there is probably nowhere else in the world that caters better to your golfing needs.
  6. Sport is big. You can also enjoy many other sports, including most water sports, horse riding and even skiing in the north.
  7. Open space rather than crowds. Portugal has one of the lowest population-to-land densities in Europe, so even the major cities are not overcrowded and there is plenty of open space for all to enjoy.
  8. It cares about its environment. For many years, Portugal has seen a trend towards the development of the country’s renewable resource industry. It has considerable wind and river power resources, the two most cost-effective renewable resources.
  9. Relaxed immigration rules. Portuguese residents can also choose to live and work almost anywhere in Western Europe or Brazil, and can visit most countries without any restrictions.
  10. A low cost of living. Living costs, including food, drinks, gas, electricity, water and transport, are relatively low compared to most other European cities.
  11. The climate is unbeatable. Expect long, hot summer days cooled by the Atlantic breeze, and extremely pleasant winters. Short bursts of rain ensure that the landscape stays lush and green.
  12. A solid public transport system. Getting around the country is easy and pleasant, as public transport by road or rail is safe, reliable and affordable.
  13. Unspoilt countryside – both now and in the future. The Portuguese Government enforce strict planning regulations to ensure the beaches and countryside remain unspoilt – so you can be sure your investment won’t be tainted by hundreds of developments springing up around you.
  14. Life is good. Portugal has a wonderful laid-back culture of enjoying “the simple things in life” – good food, good wine, good company, sport, leisure, and plenty of natural beauty.
  15. High living standards. The life is good in Portugal is a fact! Lisbon has climbed four places in terms of living standards, according to the Mercer 2011 Quality of Living Survey, placing it above cities like Milan, Tokyo, Rome and Madrid.
  16. Internal flights are cost-effective. With flight times of less than three hours, a great choice of airports and low-cost airlines, the whole of Portugal is close, easy to reach, and affordable.
  17. A not-so-difficult language. Portuguese is not that difficult to learn. And once you’ve mastered it, Spanish and Italian will be a breeze!
  18. Easy, quick access to and from Europe. From Portugal, the rest of Southern and Central Europe are super accessible, so you can explore even more. And friends and family in the UK will have no problem coming to visit you as often as you want them to.
  19. No language barriers. Many Portuguese residents speak English, so you won’t have to struggle with language barriers.
  20. A place to call home. And finally – the Portuguese people are truly friendly and hospitable. You will feel welcome and “at home” if you decide to make Portugal your second or even your only home!

Interested? Contact us!
Office. +351 21 485 75 10
Mobile. +351 96 174 9562 /+351 96 707 0005

(339)


  • 0

World Corporate Golf Challenge Final in Cascais

Category : Events

WCGC_social_2016

World Corporate Golf Challenge (WCGC) Final, for the second year running, will be held in Cascais, Portugal, from 21 June – 26 June 2016. Players and guests from over 50 countries will be able to enjoy the many delights that this wonderful coastal town has to offer.

The World Corporate Golf Challenge represents one of the biggest corporate golf tournaments in the world. Since its inception in 1993 WCGC has grown to such an extent that over one million golfers have taken part in more than fifty countries. The 2016 World Final represents a fantastic opportunity for players to represent their company and country against other corporates from around the world. Participating in the World Final is an experience of a lifetime. Last year’s World Final was held for the first time in Portugal, and the WCGC organising committee is thrilled to once again be bringing the event back to Cascais.

Cascais is a must-see destination for any visitor to Portugal. Offering beautiful beaches that range from sheltered coves to miles of dune-backed sands, visitors can immerse themselves in a variety of quaint villages, unparalleled history, and unspoiled forests. A former small fishing village that was regularly frequented by the Portuguese monarchy during the 19th century, nowadays Cascais is a lively and cosmopolitan town that still preserves a great deal of its earlier aristocratic atmosphere.

Carlos Carreiras – Mayor of Cascais

“Cascais is truly happy to welcome the World Corporate Golf Challenge for the second time in a row. We hope (and we are, again, seriously working for it) that all participants will enjoy their time in Cascais. A place you already know is much more than a premium venue for golfers. As we like to put it, this is simply the best place to live a day, a week or a lifetime. Be most welcome and may everybody join us in our town: Cascais.”

Jose Guerra – Chairman of WCGC

“We are delighted to once again bring the World Final to the spectacular Lisbon Coast and in particular Cascais. The 2015 World Final was a huge success thanks to the fantastic support from our Host Destination, Cascais, as well as our other sponsors and partners. We look forward to working with them once again in 2016. I am certain that the World Corporate Golf Challenge will provide a great platform to continue showing what Cascais has to offer to the global corporate golfing audience.”

Harry Lloyd –Event Director at WCGC

“I am extremely excited to be working with Cascais, as we look to produce yet another memorable World Final. Cascais is an extremely special place and we look forward to showing this to the competitors and guests in attendance, as well as the watching world, in 2016.”

Source: worldcorporategolfchallenge.com

(60)


  • 0

Cascais hosts Longines Global Champions Tour 2016

scott_sga1002The lively coastal town of Cascais, plays host to the Longines Global Champions Tour and Global Champions League for the 11th year running, from the 7th – 9th July 2016. The wonderful parkland of Cascais is transformed for two days of high-calibre show jumping which last year saw two-time Champion Scott Brash take top honors in the Grand Prix once again – his third win of the season.

Estoril has grown into a renowned international destination for world-class sport, hosting the America’s Cup sailing, golf, tennis, surfing and motorsports. Blessed with a fine climate most of the year, visitors flock to the coast to soak up the sun and enjoy the great landscape and attractions. One of Estoril’s biggest draws is the beautiful sandy bay of Praia de Tamariz.

Cascais became the summer destination of choice for Portuguese nobility in the 1900s – it has since become a lively international beach resort. Down the road, Estoril’s famous casino is thought to be where Ian Fleming came up with the idea for Casino Royale, as he stalked Yugoslav double agent Dusko Popov at its tables.

In Portugal there are palaces, museums and national parks to visit and the capital city, Lisbon, is only a short distance away with its top-class hotels, restaurants and bars. The Grand Prix of Cascais, Estoril is sure to be an exciting event, as riders fight for supremacy in the overall 2015 Championship Ranking.

(53)


  • 0

Why Lisbon is Europe´s coolest city right now

Lisbon

LISBON GLOWS. YOU WALK ON LIGHT. This isn’t a figure of speech. It’s a matter of fact, of science. The seven hills on which the city sits form a vast natural amphitheatre that collects and reflects light. This amphitheatre is open at one end, where it meets the broad estuary of the Tagus, which acts as a huge mirror, reflecting still more light. The pale stone buildings, many painted yellow, pink or ochre, send the light bouncing around the hills; innumerable windows redirect it into the deepest and narrowest of alleys, so that even the shadows seem radiant, reverberant. Above, the prevailing northerly winds disperse clouds and increase visibility. Below, the intricately patterned limestone pavements, calçada portuguesa, cause the light to rise from the ground as well as from the water.

It’s the combination of these various factors – geographical, topographical, material and meteorological – that give Lisbon its otherworldly luminosity and make it unique among European cities.

The attitude here is different too. You find none of Berlin’s angst or Paris’s hauteur or Rome’s braggadocio. Instead, a modesty that borders on reticence, a wistful humour tinged with melancholy. (Note that the less-than-modest and not obviously reticent José Mourinho, perhaps the most famous living Portuguese outside Portugal, is from Setúbal, not Lisbon, and should be understood as exceptional in any case.) You see it in people’s eyes and hear it in their music, their poetry. The word saudade is sometimes mentioned in this connection. It’s impossible to translate. It refers to a bittersweet kind of longing, although it can also refer to a premonition of future loss, nostalgia for something that hasn’t happened yet. The loss may be personal – lost love, most likely – or collective – an apprehension of the distant but unforgotten glory of the nation as a whole.

Tower-of-Belem_Belem-Tower-night-view_3482

Distant but unforgotten glory is something of a Portuguese speciality. The explorers who set sail from Lisbon during the Age of Discovery – principally during the 15th and 16th centuries – were among the greatest seafarers the world has ever known. ‘O mar sem fim é português,’ as Fernando Pessoa splendidly put it: ‘The endless sea is Portuguese.’ And so, for a while, it was – along with all the spoils that the endless sea afforded. If you’re curious about what that order of imperial success could buy, pay a visit to the Jerónimos Monastery, where Vasco da Gama is buried among mad stony flourishes in the Manueline style; or to the Chapel of St John the Baptist in the Church of São Roque, a baroque hymn in marble, amethyst, alabaster, ivory, porphyry and lapis lazuli, and reputedly the most expensive – not to say ostentatious – chapel ever constructed.
This was a very high point from which to fall. And in Lisbon’s case, the fall, when it came, was dreadful. The Great Earthquake of 1755 reduced 80 per cent of the city to rubble. The shock was felt as far away as Brazil. The terrible fires that followed were extinguished by a tsunami. Afterwards the Portuguese king refused to live within stone walls. He moved into a tent while his prime minister, the Marquess of Pombal, rebuilt the capital in a style widely admired by architects for its resistance to seismic disturbance and by everybody else for its exquisite, pared-down elegance.

Lately Portugal has entered a second Age of Discovery – only this time the traffic is flowing in the opposite direction, as travellers from all corners of the globe make their way over land and sea to discover Portugal, and Lisbon in particular.

90592626When I first came to Lisbon in my late teens I was struck not so much by the light as by the lettering. Lisbon is a living museum of fonts, a safari park of typographic styles, in paint, in neon, etched in glass, carved in stone, on signs and storefronts and trams, everywhere. The country’s political and economic difficulties during the 20th and early 21st century – dictatorship followed by the doldrums followed by near-bankruptcy – meant that, commercially, little changed at street level. The international names didn’t come, or not until very recently. So Lisbon isn’t a ‘branded’ city in the way we’ve become used to. The quirky, the independent, the family-run is still the norm, not yet the exception. The writing that was on the wall 20, 50, 100 years ago is still on the wall. ‘Reading’ Lisbon is one of the delights of spending time here, even if you don’t speak the language.

Hence the sense you get of drifting effortlessly through layers of history. This impression isn’t limited to one part of the city. You feel it wherever you go. Suppose you were to pause for a moment to refresh yourself with a sip of ginjinha, a cherry liqueur, at one of the atmospheric, hole-in-the-wall bars around Rossio station that dispense the stuff (and nothing else) for about a euro a shot. Having greeted the nonagenarian regulars and sprightly bartender – a whippersnapper in his sixties – you might find yourself glancing across the street at the entrance to a hip new graphic-design studio or hi-tech start-up outfit. Doing your best not to turn an ankle on the ginjinha-cherry stones that have been cast like so many ball bearings onto the footpath outside, you might step further into the street and extend your gaze towards the nearby square, which is dominated by a towering statue of Dom Pedro IV. (Though some say it actually represents Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, who looked a little like Pedro. Maximilian was executed by firing squad soon after the statue was completed; no longer needed, it was supposedly sold on to Lisbon at a knock-down price.) It’s overlooked from a hilltop by a severe scowl of Moorish fortifications, which were built over existing Roman ramparts. Which were erected on the site where, some 3,000 years ago, pre-Celtic peoples – the forebears, no doubt, of the cherry-stone-chuckers whom you greeted at the ginjinha bar just a few minutes ago – pitched their rudimentary encampments.

Lisbon is like that. I once met the claimant to the Portuguese throne. Portugal became a republic in 1910 but Dom Duarte continues to fly the flag for the House of Bragança, which had ruled until then. With his proud bearing and well-tended moustache, he reminded me of William Faulkner. With his polite but firm insistence on his family’s role in the life of the nation, he reminded me, too, of Faulkner’s observation that, to certain people in certain places, the past is never dead – it’s not even past.

Be that as it may, there is plenty happening in the present. New bars, restaurants, boutiques, clubs, galleries and hotels are multiplying at a dizzying rate. Parts of town that five or 10 years ago were no-go areas, or at least areas to which you had no obvious reason to go, have been reclaimed and reinvented. The entire city is thronging with visitors bearing pleasantly baffled expressions that seem to say: ‘Awesome. Who knew?’

Which must, I suppose, be an odd spectacle for those old enough to remember the lean years when nobody paid Lisbon any attention at all. During my most recent visit this past summer I popped into a shop called A Vida Portuguesa, which sells traditional bits and bobs. I commented on the tremendous charm of the place and then suggested that this must be something that only a foreigner would say. The assistant corrected me. No, she said. Elderly Portuguese who have heard about the shop will sometimes burst into tears of joy at the sight of simple things – a particular kind of toothpaste, a certain style of ruled exercise book – that they remember from their childhood but thought had ceased to exist. Saudade sorted.

I’ve been coming to Lisbon for nearly a quarter of a century. I honestly don’t know what took the rest of the world so long. I can’t think of another city that more richly deserves the attention. Long may Lisbon’s moment last. Long may it see its extraordinary beauty mirrored in the eyes of others. Long may it rejoice, in its own modest way, in its own inimitable glow.

Source: Condé Nast Travel

(36)