IN PARTNERSHIP WITH
The City of Seven Hills pulses on the female grapevine. Friends gush about Lisboa, they read Internet posts, devour YouTube videos – and then they book a flight. They come without baggage, often without a job or partner. The attraction is more than physical – it’s emotional, spiritual. These are talented professional women, who often find what they are seeking here in this ancient city on the river Tagus, Lisboa.
While building an entrepreneur’s club in Lisboa, I’ve met hundreds of women, and my estimate is that ninety-five percent of them adore the city. Why do women love Lisboa? Here’s what my research has uncovered on this positive trend.
Because here, these women can build communities. Because here, they share a dream of a better, more diverse, more dynamic city, which together they’re working to create.
Welcoming and Instinctual
Lisboa charms women with its darling cafés, classic tascas, vibrant nightlife, art, culture, medieval castle, cute eléctricos, ubiquitous palaces, and ever-present swirling patterns of calçadas. But after the initial enchantment, women stay on.
Korra Juliana thinks it’s the people. “The energy is very welcoming and feminine. It’s soft,” says Juliana. “They make you feel, even if you’re different, even if you’re a foreigner…they make you feel like you’re not an alien.”
Coming out of the pandemic, the native of the Caribbean island of Curaçao wanted a year “to discover what I wanted to do with my life,” a common thread among women exploring Lisboa. Surprised by how much she found online about Portugal, she saw that “people were just very happy with their move.”
Portugal’s international reputation for safety, quality healthcare, fabulous weather, and high English fluency checked all her boxes. Soon after arriving in February of 2022, Juliana and a friend launched a Lisboa meet-up for women and more than 30 showed up. The crowds soon neared 100 per event, and Juliana hoped their Facebook group might hit 1,000 women by year’s end. Instead, HappyinLisboa attracted 3,000 by the end of the year.
“That was a surprise, seeing women from all over the world here in Portugal,” says Juliana, who has since hosted dozens of meetups in the city with her now 7,000-strong FB group. “It’s not just digital nomads, it’s professional women who have shifted their careers to online, with the freedom to work from wherever they choose.”
Latoya Nicole Hamilton snuck in a 36-hour Porto layover during a trip to Switzerland – and became hooked on the Douro varietals. “I returned to New York, and started buying Portuguese wine everywhere I went.”
She soon set her sights on Lisboa, came for ten days, met another Jamaican, and ended up “meeting a ton of people. Between partying, exploring, eating at some of the best restaurants, and enjoying the nightlife, I fell in love.”
Hamilton extended her Lisboa trip by 10 days. This project manager who once led New York City’s celebrated international marketing campaigns, fast-tracked her move. She set her New York visa appointment for July 2022, grabbed an apartment online, and moved to Lisboa that November. Today, she loves her multicultural neighborhood of Arroios.
“I started hanging out at a Nepalese restaurant down the street where the locals go, and we became friends. So I go to the cafés, hang out, and they know my face now. It’s just amazing,” says Hamilton.
There’s a sense that Lisboa may be the new Rome or Paris. Hayley Enright and her partner chose Lisboa after a long stint in Paris, what she dubs a “haughty, spectacular” and often “difficult” city. The Florida Gulf Coast native says Lisboa has advantages over Paris and other European metropolises. “It’s the smallest big city you’re going to find. And because it’s not that big it feels like a collection of villages you can easily transition between. You see the same faces, and that builds community.”
Yes, finding your people in Lisboa, is a common theme among many women here. Ieva Griguceviciute, a native of Vilnius, Lithuania, has travelled to dozens of European and Asian cities, and lived in many of them, but she calls Lisboa home because of how easy it is for her to make friends with women and men from all over the world.
Europe’s sunniest capital is easy on the senses. “Women love beauty, and Lisboa is beauty,” says Nina Simone Franke, who came on holiday with her mother, and stayed on because she too was instantly drawn to this place where she could engage and build. “By nature, women want to see things grow and being created, in their life cycle,” says Franke.
“Lisboa has a lot of small shops, and little parks. A lot of corners with social interaction. So many small cycles of blooming life we feel drawn to as women.”
Franke studied Communication and Leadership at Católica, developed a professional framework to foster innovation and communities, then co-founded SheSapiens, an international female founders’ community with a major presence in Lisboa.
Peace and Potential
Safety, slowing down to smell the roses, and love of family are central. Keren Weinstein loves being able to “walk at night and not have to look over my shoulder,” whereas in her home city of Los Angeles, she wouldn’t dream of walking to her car in the company parking lot without an escort.
After the birth of her first child, Weinstein felt the warmth of the city’s parks.
“Here, if my kid’s sitting on a swing and there’s a Portuguese mom nearby, she’ll come over and push my kid on the swing, and she’ll wave at me, going, ‘I got it! You enjoy your beer.’ It’s a community – very social, and open.”
And not just moms. “The local policemen often come say hi to the baby, tickling him inside the stroller. I’m like, ‘This is so crazy!’ You’re a young mom and your baby’s very important to you. And, wow! Somehow, I picked this place that’s great for me, and maybe it’s even better for my baby!”
For many of the women who discover Lisboa, there is a peacefulness and calm they rarely encounter elsewhere. Verbal harassment against women was banned here several years ago. Hamilton, who carried pepper spray in New York to protect herself, and faced “Catcalling” – the portuguese “piropo” – just walking to the gym in the morning, says that is no small advantage. Living in Lisboa has brought her a newfound sense of freedom.
“I have to be living up to my true potential,” says Hamilton. “Let’s just say that Portugal makes me feel I’m living the life that I never expected to be living.”
*Jonathan Littman is the co-founder of RedBridge Lisbon and author of The New California Dream is in Portugal. Playboy Mag writer. Author of two international innovation bestsellers.
If you want to know more about Jonathan and RedBridge, follow his monthly articles in Mensagem in this partnership with RedBridge.