Lisbon is the next Berlin and Athens the next Lisbon.
It is a crazy world where cities become fashion items, all the rage one moment and spat out by the fashionistas the next. So Lisbon becomes the next Berlin and Athens the next Lisbon in a frenzied spinning wheel. READ MORE These are places of substance with a rich resonating history that are easily accessible and with, in global terms, undervalued property markets. Who then will be next when most European capitals have had their moment? But fashion for what – being a hipster place, being undervalued, being a finance hub, being ‘a stag and hen do’ centre for the last days of bachelordom and bride to be parties. Two trends collide – the ability to be nomadic and to work anywhere and anytime.
What then happens when global capital razes through a city or what does being fashionable leave to the city? Take Lisbon and Athens, there is light and shade. After years of the young leaving in search of work elsewhere, mostly Germany, there is an element of growth and tourism in particular was the trigger. The city feels buzzy, there are more foreigners around, restaurants and bars open, money is being made and there are more jobs, although mostly low paid and low skilled. Yet this in turn gives the young the confidence to stay and organization like Second Home full of local start-ups set up shop, for instance in Lisbon.
Then, if the city becomes too popular and think of Lisbon here, it belongs less to the citizen. The city centre is now a busy, upmarket hub, and distinctive local shops are making way for international brands such as Cartier, Prada and Bulgari, interspersed by an H&M, a Zara, a McDonald’s or a Burger King. The magisterial Rua Augusto, that leads to the triumphal arch, sees barely a Lisboan or the iconic tram no. 28 that winds its way up the hill through the steep city hills is full of tourists and locals cannot get on.
Mostly importantly though is the threat to the lifestyle of Lisboans. Popularity causes gentrification, and since 2014 prices in more central areas have risen by over 40% and over the last three years more than 50% of the pricier apartments have been bought by foreigners, often renovating crumbling buildings. Locals are being priced out of their own backyard and the backlash has begun. But with prices still 40% to 50% cheaper than Paris or London gentrification has only just begun.
Add to this pressure the stag and hen do brigade, where often drunken groups transported by cheap, no-frills airlines like Ryanair, invade a city and you begun to get a de-stabilizing mix.
So where next? Is Athens ready? Who is next in the fashion parade?