Things I Have Learned In Lisbon, Portugal
“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.” Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon
Lisbon is known to be built on seven hills: Castelo, Graca, Monte, Penha de Franca, S.Pedro de Alcantara, Santa Catarina and Estrela. It makes the capital of Portugal similar to such cities as Rome, Istanbul and Moscow.
The views are crazy good from different parts of the city. My hotel was at the top of one of the hills because I was always walking up the wrong street to get there and having to walk down and up again. Walking the streets of Lisbon is a definite workout.
Lisbon’s superb natural setting, spread across seven hills facing the Tagus River, offers a network of terraces from which to contemplate the beauty of the city. They are called “miradouros” or viewpoints, they’re usually located at the highest points of each hill, and all have spaces to sit and rest. Some even have cafes serving snacks and light refreshments.
I’m usually not a fan of getting lost but I didn’t mind in Lisbon. There are interesting streets that I would have missed.
The Barcelos Rooster is considered to be the unofficial symbol of Portugal. The story varies but it has to do with a roasted rooster getting up from the table and declaring a falsely accused religious pilgrim innocent. It is carried for good luck. I buy every country’s good luck charms.
In Lisbon, there exists one of the oldest bakeries that makes Pastel de Nata. It’s located in the neighborhood of Belem. The Antiga Confeitaria de Belém is a favorite of locals and tourists alike.
The tarts here are called Pastéis de Belem and served plain with cinnamon and sugar toppings.
Lisbon has its own Cristo Rei (Christ the King statue) – a Catholic monument overlooking the city, standing on the left bank of the river. It was inspired by the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. The statue commemorates Portugal’s survival of WWII.
The Jerónimos Monastery was constructed in the Portuguese Manueline style. The Monastery was commissioned by King Manuel in 1501 and took 100 years to finish. The monks role was to pray for the King’s eternal soul and give spiritual help to navigators and sailors leaving to explore the world.
Vasco de Gama who is buried here left from this site in 1497. There are no advance tickets so come early or be prepared to wait up to an hour. The cloisters and architecture are magnificent and worth the admission. The Church of Belem is free.
Tower of Belem is Lisbon’s iconic landmark. The Tower is located on the Tagus River a twenty-minute walk from the Monastery. It was built in the Manueline style the sixteenth century as part of a defense wall which was never finished.
Manueline style is a very specific interpretation of Gothic architectural structure and decoration only found in Portugal.The style emerged during the reign of King Manuel I (1495-1521) but the name was not adopted until the 19th century.
Buying gloves at the tiny Ulisses glove shop in Lisbon is a serious experience. They have made unique and high quality gloves in the same way since 1928. Place your elbow on a cushion and have the special opportunity of getting gloves fit to your hand. They are guaranteed for life and you don’t need a receipt as they know which are their gloves.
The Vasco da Gama Bridge over the Tagus River is the longest bridge in Europe – 17, 2 km (10.7 miles) long.
Fiera de la Ladra (thieves market) is a flea market in the Alfama district every Tuesday and Thursday. A market has been in this place since the twelfth century. It is one of the oldest areas in Lisbon and so beautiful to walk around in.
Lisbon was the first city in the world to import Guinness from the UK.
Sardines are a typical Portuguese meal . I can live without them but they weren’t that bad served fresh and much larger than the canned variety.
Canned fish seems to be a common staple in Portugal and there is a lot to choose from.
Right up there with sardines, octopus is the most fished species in Portugal. It is one of my favorite dishes and I had it a lot.
Eating grilled fish in Portugal (Peixe Grelhado) is an amazing experience.
Museu Berardo is a wonderful space for modern and contemporary art in Belem.The collection owes its existence to the Portuguese businessman Joe Berardo who, in his lifetime, amassed a great number of works of contemporary art. The space houses the permanent collection and changing contemporary exhibitions.
The Gulbenkian Museum is located in a modern complex with beautiful gardens and ducks, an extensive library and a Modern Art Center.The Gulbenkian collection was mostly collected by Calouste Gulbenkian during his lifetime.
The Modern Art Center(CAM) has an extensive collection of twentieth and twenty-first century modern Portuguese art. Temporary exhibits are scheduled throughout the year of Portuguese and international artists.
Lisbon was a love at first sight city for me. It is beautiful, colorful, full of layers and character. People are so friendly and helpful and many speak English or Spanish. The city is relatively inexpensive. Portuguese seafood is a reason alone to come here. It is very easy to get around by walking, taxi, boat or public transportation. I want to return soon.