Lisbon: The Pearl of the Atlantic
January 1, 1970
For my first work, the choice could be no different. I present you Lisbon: the city where I live since ever and keep falling in love with every time.
LISBON AT A GLANCE
Lisbon is Portugal’s capital and one of the prettiest cities in Europe and world. Many publications share this idea and put Lisbon at the top of rankings displaying the most beautiful cities to visit. Its location by the Tagus River and several hills seduces anyone to pause for contemplation. This is what makes Lisbon such a romantic city. Moreover, it is a place to be explored and where beauty can be found in the most unpredictable streets so, it is recommended for visitors not to be afraid to lose themselves a little, and to roam around in ancient neighbourhoods such as Alfama, Madragoa, Bairro Alto or Mouraria, where Portuguese architecture can be observed, being easy to discover all kinds of tiles and street art.
Lisbon can be visited at any time of the year since the climate is generally good and temperatures are never extreme, but June is definitely the best time to go because the sun shines, nights are warm and popular saints’ parties around the city take place. There you can enjoy sardines with beer in a crowded and festive atmosphere in downtown colourful streets.
In order to observe the most iconic Lisbon postcard with Tagus at the horizon and all downtown in between, go at the top of Parque Eduardo VII where the Portuguese flag rise and shine. After the park you’ll find Marques de Pombal, where locals celebrate important events and on the way to the river lies Avenida da Liberdade, some kind of Portuguese Champs Elysees.
GOING DEEPER INTO LISBON
If you are looking for more historical attractions, there is plenty to discover. From the beautiful and central St. George Castle, which can be reached by the most scenic tram course – the number 28 – it is a must. Just be aware of pickpocket.
Going down towards the main plaza – Praça do Comércio, a yellow shaped arcade style square embracing Tagus – you will find the Lisbon Cathedral, the oldest building in the city dated 1150. Once in Praça do Comércio, don’t miss the chance to visit Rua Augusta Arch, which provides a 360º view of Lisbon at the top of a historic structure.
More to the east, stands the National Pantheon, a beautiful domed church where relevant Portuguese celebrities were buried: Amália Rodrigues, epitome of Fado; Eusébio, epitome of Football; and several presidents and writers. At the back of the Pantheon lies Feira da Ladra, a traditional fair containing numerous relics at the top of the hill.
The most remarkable area in Lisbon is Belém, a district that embraces the Portuguese spirit and its Golden Era – back in the 15th century, when Portuguese navigators ventured into the sea, discovering new countries and new ways to get there, like Africa, Brazil and India.
The main attractions are Monastery of Jeronimos, Tower of Belém – where the navigators used to leave for their adventures –, and the most recent Padrão dos Descobrimentos – built in honour of those brave navigators.
After such an intense history lesson, time to eat a delicious Pastel de Nata.
PARQUE DAS NAÇÕES
In 1998, the Expo was held in Lisbon and a brand new ultra modern neighbourhood was built on the riverside. It’s called Parque das Nações and combines beautiful structures with pretty natural landscapes.
Do not miss the chance to visit Oceanário (Oceanarium) – the largest indoor aquarium in Europe, home to 16000 individuals of 450 species. Its mission is to spread awareness and encourage people of their duty to preserve their natural heritage. The largest tank provides the illusion of an open ocean.
Parque das Nações is the perfect place to ride a bike by the river and enjoy the beautiful landscape around you.
You cannot think of Lisbon without also thinking of food in every corner. Its distinct gastronomy can be seen in two different perspectives. On one hand, Portugal itself is famous for having fantastic traditional dishes together with a large variety of fish, seafood and meat. Nevertheless, the worldwide famous Pasteis de Nata can be found in almost every single pastry. On the other hand, many international food restaurants have been opening recently with recognized quality, turning Lisbon into a perfect place for foodies. In this category we can also include new Portuguese chefs recreating Portuguese food with a twist.
When the sun goes down, Lisbon remains interesting and some neighbourhoods dress themselves for the night. Bairro Alto is a mandatory destination with its narrow puzzle of streets having plenty of restaurants, bars and shops for all tastes.
- I recommend Galeria Zé dos Bois, where drinking and nightlife meets art with several hipster parties and concerts
Down to the river, Bica is a trendy neighbourhood with a more refined setting and charisma due to Elevador da Bica, a steep street containing a scenic tram line surrounded by bars and restaurants.
- I recommend Enólogos Amadores, a bar offering beers of many breweries and a wide range of Gins together with an intellectual atmosphere.
Going through the usual route of Lisbon at night, Cais do Sodre is the right spot to finish the night and to meet all your friends before going home. If you’ve never heard about the Pink street, definitely you will after visiting Lisbon.
- I recommend Musicbox, an alternative room always with an appealing agenda full of international acts absorbing styles such as Electro, Rock or Hip Hop.
For art lovers, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation is a must, but there are plenty of museums to discover in town, such as Museu dos Coches (Carriage Museum), which has a new location.
LISBON AND ITS SURROUNDINGS
Taking advantage of its attractive climate across the year, Lisbon is next to some of the best urban beaches in the world, located in Caparica. In order to reach them, a 20 minute car ride towards south is enough if you cross 25 de Abril bridge (April 25th in English, corresponding to the day Portugal got rid of its Fascist regime, in 1974), which is similar to San Francisco’s Golden Gate, and was elected the most beautiful bridge in Europe, in 2014. If you go north you can also find pretty beaches to practice surf or similar activities, such as Praia Grande, alongside with Nazaré, where the famous surfer Garrett McNamara broke the record for the largest wave ever surfed.
- I recommend a day trip to Arrábida, a mountain with a rich ecossystem considered one of the most beautiful bays in the world, home to beautiful turquoise beaches and unforgettable landscapes.
Half an hour from Lisbon there is a fairytale village called Sintra, a very common and popular daytrip from the capital. It is known for its castles, for Jardim da Regaleira, for beautiful landscapes around the mountain and for its highlight, Palácio Nacional da Pena – a coloured palace full of history at the top of Sintra’s mountain where can be observed most of Lisbon district and enjoy a peaceful and magic atmosphere. Before leaving Sintra don’t forget to buy some Queijadas or Travesseiros, two significant examples of Portuguese pastry.
LISBON SOUTH BAY
From Lisbon downtown Cais do Sodre you can get the typical Cacilheiro, a white and orange boat connecting Lisbon to the south margin of Tagus river. There you can have a different perspective from Lisbon and explore the trending Cacilhas – offering several possibilities for eating and drinking. Not so far from that, the imposing Christ the King (Cristo Rei) statue is very popular for its location next to the 25th April bridge and right in front of Lisbon.