The Portuguese capital is full of contrasting charm. It is imbued in bohemian modernity, with the unique hospitality of its people always in the air.
By J.M. Towers
Edward II Park
"Preparing a trip to Lisbon is a waste of time." That is what a Portuguese friend told me when I planned my first visit to the capital of Portugal years ago. At first, I did not understand, but once I arrived, I understood the logic of his words. It is impossible to imagine all the things Lisbon has to offer; the city is overflowing with charm.
Lisbon is an unexpectedly amazing city, with modern buildings, old houses, mansions, and palaces—some already into abeyance—showing detailed decorations, tiles and ceramics typical of a country that loves art. A multitude of young university students brings joy and vitality to the city.
Above: Lisbon's emblematic rooftops.
Below: Lisbon Cathedral
Perched on seven hills, the Portuguese capital is bathed by the omnipresent Tagus River, which runs along the Iberian Peninsula and flows into the Atlantic sea. A large suspension bridge built in the 1960s by American engineers welcomes the arriving visitors, revealing a beautiful view.
In 1755, Lisbon survived a terrible earthquake that killed a third of its population.
The city vibrates in every one of its different neighborhoods. The Baixa—where different squares and streets are located—starts at the Restauradores Square. It crosses the busy street of La Libertad and ends at the Plaza del Marques de Pombal, where we enter into modern Lisbon. The medieval quarters of Alfama and Mouraria, pure and authentic, are the most famous and recognizable in the city.
The Praça Luis de Camoes, one of the scenarios of the Carnation Revolution—in Portugal even the revolutions bear the names of flowers— marks the boundary between the Chiado and Bairro Alto neighborhoods.
The Chiado is an elegant, bohemian neighborhood, where you will find fashion boutiques and the most famous restaurants. Meanwhile, the Barrio Alto represents a more authentic Lisbon, with its graffiti-filled walls, and laundry hanging on the balconies to dry. It is an ideal place to hear the best fado—a traditional music imbued with saudade, that poetic and melancholic sense of life.
Belem, the district located by the Tagus River, is the place from where the Portuguese explorers sailed to the New World. You will find there two of the brightest gems of the city, Jeronimos Monastery, and Belem Tower.
Above: Lisbon Bridge by Santiago Calatrava
Below: Lisbon Marina
Finally, I recommend a visit to the Park of Nations, a new and modern neighborhood that emerged after the 1998 World Expo, where commercial areas coexist with modern residences. Not to be missed are the domes of the Orient Station—designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava—and the Portuguese Pavilion, designed by architect Siza Viera.
Docas de Santo Amaro is one of Lisbon’s most charming areas. There you encounter the old port warehouses that have been converted into bars and trendy restaurants.
Alfama is one of Lisbon's oldest neighborhoods.
This is a city that captivates and surprises, a place to visit more than once because there are always more things to discover.
Images © Turismo de Lisboa / www.visitlisboa.com. ■
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