Lisbon, is one of those delightful cities that never fails to fill the soul and captivate the heart. Situated along the south of the country’s west coast, it has an incredible mix of colorful houses, museums, architecture, eclectic music, squares, and cafés to watch the world go by.
Bright sunny weather, delicious fresh catch and centuries of history awaiting to be explored, join me as we wander through its winding streets, sipping some wine, greeting the locals on either corner, while discovering Europe’s hipster capital.
Lisbon is a city that is hard to not love. It is the second oldest city in Europe after Athens and is fondly known as the Last City of the old world before the discovery of the Americas. Every street in Lisbon abounds with tales of history, the great fire, the earthquake and of heroic battles fought and wars won.
Walking down the streets of Lisbon to find my hostel at Rue de Santa Catarina I couldn’t help but notice the trash, graffiti, and abandoned buildings everywhere. The city had this old, gritty feeling to it, that lend it tons of character. On the beach front at Cais de Sodre lies the life size mockery statue of Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, 18th Century Portuguese Statesman who abandoned his people after the deadly Lisbon earthquake in 1755
The city is a wonderland of narrow cobblestone streets, opulent tiled buildings, vintage yellow trams, and stunning views at every turn. The best way to explore Lisbon is to walk. Despite being a city of 7 hills, Lisbon will surprise you at every turn, be its panoramic views of its classic red titled roofs, a little vintage boutique or its amazing street art.
Sitting close to the main area of Baixa Chaido, which is the elegant and artsy district loved by poets and writers is Belém, which was formerly a harbor and departure point for all Portuguese ships in the Discovery Era. Each monument and garden you explore will seem like turning the pages of a history textbook.
The main attraction in Belem is the Torre de Belém (Belém Tower), which was built in the early 16th century and was part of a defense system at the mouth of the Tagus river and a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon. Overlooking the Tower of Belem on the other side of the road is the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, a former monastery of the Sainte Jerome near the river in the Parish of Belem. The construction of the monastery and Church began in 1501, and was completed 100 years later.
The Metro in Lisbon is simple to understand, and isn’t a massive network. However, it’s easy wandering around the old city, spotting charming vintage trams that take you where you need to go. If your schedule permits and you have a free day, head off in a 40 minute train ride to Sintra, a beautiful place filled with palaces in the mountains .
Lisbon eats well and looks good doing it. As most of Lisbon is along the coast, sea food is plenty and fresh. The city’s diverse immigrant communities cook cuisines from Goa to Cape Verde to Brazil which for now blends harmoniously with the city’s old-school traditions. This is a city to indulge a sweet tooth and dig into grilled meats paired with good, affordable wine. On my first evening in Lisbon I picked up some juicy Portuguese sausages Linguica de Botics and later dinned at Florista do Calhariz an authentic Portuguese café where I ordered grilled octopus and dog fish with some local Port wine. A must try dessert in Lisbon is Pasteis de nata, a kind of custard tart. The place to go for the original version is the Antiga Conferitaria de Belem, a bakery where they are known as Pasteis de Belem. Often dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar, these soft-in-the-center sweets go best with coffee, and you’ll want the time to nibble at them, still warm from the oven, in one of the bakery’s serving rooms.
Lisbon is a city that is hard not to love. Don’t breeze through here. Spend a few extra days to really settle in and enjoy a city where no one rushes, meals last a few hours, and everyone has a smile on their face!
Portugal wooed me. In my few days in Porto and Lisbon, I loved what I saw. Although it’s lively and busy, the rhythm of life is somehow slower. Although it has got a modern vibe, it respects tradition. And although it is visited by an ever-increasing number of tourists, it still boasts tons of character and uniqueness.
Some places wow you. Some places take your breath away. And then there are places like Lisbon that capture your soul, and you’re never the same again.