Portugal rises as Europe’s Answer to California

As California struggles with wildfires and searing heat, the State’s rich and famous are heading to its European twin – Portugal.

When Madonna ditched London for Portugal in 2017, a few people might have raised eyebrows; but, not for the first time, where the Queen of pop leads, others have followed. Scarlett Johansen and Michael Fassbender have followed suit and so have plenty of others. Whether you’re an A list celebrity looking for yet another home, an entrepreneur looking to launch the next big start-up or someone just looking for a place to live and work, Portugal is the place to be. 

Porto has plenty to make Californians feel right at home. Lisbon is home to a thriving and diverse community with a vibrant culture and excellent nightlife. It even has its own red painted suspension bridge across the Tagus River which, if you squint and tilt your head sideways might look a little like the Golden Gate Bridge. There are seven steep hills and iconic cable cars. 

It has fantastic weather and is close to some world class beaches attracting some of the best surfers in the world. 

The city is even home to a thriving start-up scene, to mirror California’s Silicon Valley. The Web Summit Conference is coming this November with in-person attendance thanks to one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. The economy has been thriving, despite the ravages of COVID-19. 

Portugal suffered massively during the economic crisis of 2008, but one of the consequences of that was a move to a vibrant economy driven by entrepreneurs. If you’re looking to start a business, you’ll benefit from one of the most welcoming environments in Europe. 

The Golden Visa has also made Lisbon particularly attractive to investors from outside the European Union attracted by the prospect of a fast track to citizenship and European free movement. Already this scheme has seen billions of euros pumped into economy. Although it will be ending for Lisbon and Porto in January it continues elsewhere in the country and could attract investment beyond the usual property hotspots. 

Small wonder, then, that Portugal and Lisbon in particular have seen a dramatic influx of people over the last few years especially from the US. Immigration from the states is up by more than 30% over the last year, as upwardly mobile American’s seek a new European life, free from the political and social turmoil of their home. 

They are encouraged by a post-COVID world in which people have become more footloose. Digital technology has made it easier than ever to work remotely. Office workers have been set free and many have taken advantage of that new-found freedom to start a new life in a new place. 

The move also reflects some of the struggles California has been having for some time. Homelessness and unemployment were exacerbated by the pandemic. Meanwhile, climate change has seen the state hit by wildfires and droughts in recent times. Unsurprisingly, for those who can afford it, Portugal looks like an attractive alternative.


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