I arrived in Lisbon (Lisboa in Portuguese) a few days ago and it’s a glorious, exciting city! This is my first visit to Portugal. Lisbon has many unique qualities, especially its layout on a “series of hills” with views in every direction. Artists refer to Lisbon as Portugal’s “City of Light“. Blue skies, long sunny days, white limestone buildings and walkways, outstanding sunsets, and water reflecting from the Tagus River (Rio Tejo) all add to the city’s well-deserved nickname.
Visitors compare Lisbon to San Francisco and Rome. The Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge is a smaller version of the more famous Golden Gate Bridge. Like Rome, Lisbon is known for its seven hills.
As Europe’s second-oldest capital (after Athens) Lisbon’s history is rich and the Portuguese people are warm and animated. Portugal is deeply affected by its Moorish neighbors in Northern Africa and adjoining European countries – Spain (Portugal’s former arch rival), France, and Italy.
Lisbon’s spring weather is fantastic – clear and in the 70s during the day and 50s at night. My apartment is in Bairro Alto near the Baixa, Rato, and Chiado Districts. I’m almost recovered from jet lag and still learning my way around.
The narrow winding cobbled streets are confusing and the white limestone tiles slippery! Yesterday I was hopelessly lost but after stopping at several cafés to regroup, managed to find my way back to the apartment hours later. The metro is slow with many delays, so walking is the most efficient way to get around. For a relatively small city of about two million, the traffic gridlock is horrific.
Yesterday I explored Lisbon’s “medieval village-like neighborhoods” and rode famous Tram No. 28. The popular tram was crowded, so exploring was mostly on foot. After walking cobbled streets for hours my feet ached. I’m taking it easy today. Tomorrow it’s a day tour of coastal areas including parks, palaces, castles, and beaches in Sintra, Cascais, and Estorial.
Like Buenos Aires, Lisbon comes alive at night and I’ve enjoyed a few late dinners and Fado (derives from the Latin word for destiny) shows! This will be my first weekend in Lisbon. I hear Saturdays are festive and thoroughly enjoyed by the locals.
My itinerary includes visiting little-known side streets as well as notable attractions including cathedrals, bridges, monasteries, museums, and castles:
- Vasco da Gama Bridge
- Mosteiro dos Jeronimos
- Mosteiro de Alcobaça
- Monument to the Discoveries
- Castelo de Sao Jorge
- Belem Tower
Most of the city’s original architecture was destroyed by the devastating 8.5 – 9.0 Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 followed by a tsunami and fires. The earthquake struck on the morning of November 1st, holy All Saints’ Day. Reports state that the earthquake lasted between three to six minutes. The earthquake destroyed eighty-five percent of Lisbon’s buildings, including most examples of Portugal’s distinctive 16th-century Manueline architecture.
Lisbon’s Late Baroque architecture is magnificent. Each district has its own church. Today I saw several spectacular Cathedrals, including Sé de Lisboa. Photographs don’t capture their grandeur:
Next week I’ll spend a few days in the Azores (Asores in Lisbon Portuguese) and then on to Denmark in May. More later….