We have moved into our new apartment. At long last, we can unpack our luggage and settle into being residents of this city. The apartment is in the heart of old Lisbon, in one of the oldest neighborhoods. The neighborhood was established around 1559. We are within stumbling distance of a dizzying array of restaurants, bakeries, bars and historic sites.
Unlike many of the remodels of the historic buildings, this apartment maintains it historic charm with some architectural detailing. The owner also furnished and decorated it in an aesthetic that appeals to us (read: not all IKEA, as with most of the short-term rentals on the market). She used to live here and moved out when she married. She’s had it as a short-term rental for several years but now she is the mother of three boys and has grown tired of the turnaround of guests every few days so she has flipped back to being a long term rental.
This is one of the many old neighborhoods that is struggling to cope with the crush of tourists and the transition of long-term rental apartments to short-term vacation rentals. It’s not as bad as neighborhoods like Alfama or Mouraria, which have seen 800 new AirBnB applications in the last month alone. But you can definitely see the change of old shops turning into tacky tourist tchotchke shops.
We’ve managed to identify a few neighborhood talho (butcher) shops and one or two green grocers. Our mission will be to support these businesses that exist to serve local residents rather than tourists. We hope to help reverse the trend from short-timers to longer-term residents.
Another challenge of this neighborhood is the influx of foreign investors and private equity turning historic buildings into luxury apartment buildings — also pricing out locals. It runs a real risk of turning into a Disney version of itself, with apartments that are mostly empty due to absentee owners. While I am excited to see dilapidated buildings coming back to life and resurrecting to their former glory, I hope these old neighborhoods can find a way to sustain the ambience that has been the attraction in the first place.
Either way, we are excited to explore this neighborhood and to learn the narrow roads and steep cobblestone paths.