The Ups and Downs of Lisbon
Talking about Lisbon already brings me the nice smell of the Pastelarias (the traditional Portuguese cafeteria) and their fresh Pastéis de Nata – a very traditional Portuguese sweet. But also comes to my mind all those narrows streets going up and down with really small sidewalks and many curves like a swarm hole. Lisbon is charming, enchanting and very welcoming. Get comfy on your sofa and Join Me There.
Traditional architecture and the empty house
Lisbon was turned into pieces on 1st November 1755 because of The Great Earthquake followed by a Tsunami. The event destroyed pretty much the entire city and killed most part of its population, but 3 neighborhoods remained intact: Alfama, Sé and Mouraria causing the interesting effect on the nowadays architecture. The city needed to be basically all reconstructed and it was done through the years. While walking in nowadays Lisbon, you can see the different history and eras of architecture duo to that. This architectural history is not too common to see in Europe, because of World War II. While most of the capitals were heavily bombed down, Lisbon was kept safe and its buildings survived the war.
What is pretty common to see all around – and it doesn’t matter the architecture – is houses walls covered by tiles, which is a very traditional aspect on Portuguese constructions. They even have a Tiles museum, which translated to Portuguese is called Azulejo.
One very curious thing about Lisbon is the amount of abandoned buildings you will see around there. What we discovered about it is pretty impressive: many of those buildings were in some point abandoned by its owners. Would be easy to appropriate those empty and abandoned places anywhere else in the world, but not in Portugal. They have a very unique law: after 50 years, if no one showed up to claim the building as their own, the government take this building, restructure it and sell it again all refurnished. Sounds pretty cool and honest, but at the same time those projects depends on public money and can take decades to be done. When a building is already claimed by the government, you find in front of it a sign telling what was the year that building was claimed. Some were dated from 2005 and was still with a very abandoned look, without any indication that the reconstruction would start any day soon.
The Saint George Castle
You can already learn some Portuguese and call it Castelo de São Jorge. It is a medieval castle in honor to the Saint George and lays on the top of the highest peak of Lisbon. The view from the castle is amazing and the visitation is very pleasant. One great thing to do while visiting the castle is to sneak peak in the Dark Chamber. The structure is new, but the technique is pretty old. Using just mirrors and lenses you can almost see the entire city projected Full HD in a half sphere. It is impressive!
This is the highest neighborhood of Lisbon and it’s where you are going to have the best overview. Besides the nice restaurants and cafés, Graça has several viewing platform to the different sides of the city. It’s pretty beautiful during the day but even more during the night.
One of the neighborhoods that survived the 1755 devastation, Alfama is the medieval district of Lisbon. The entire area is pretty much only for pedestrians. Just in few streets you will find some car or the Tram line. With its narrow streets and a lot of ups and downs, Alfama brings you back to a very old time. The local business is pretty intense in the area with several local shops and restaurants that look like old taverns. Alfama is the charm from Lisbon and walking around is a very special thing.
If you go to Lisbon, you need to see the Belém tower and eat the original Pastel de Nata, actually called Pastel de Belém. The most famous (and delicious!) one it’s served in a Pastelaria that takes the same name of the specialty. The place is huge inside, so the waiting time is not so big. Also, with very nice (and honest) prices. Go to Belém to see the tower, but in no way miss the Pastel de Belém.
Really near to the Belém Tower there’s this impressive monastery. The building architecture is all in Gothic Manueline style, which is full of details. The construction of this site took 100 years. It started in 1501, at the same period that Portugal was going stronger on exploring the waters and sailing to India. The tomb of the navigator Vasco da Gama, one of the firsts navigators to leave Europe and approach India, is inside this Monastery.
Elétricos, Elevators and more
The main thing in Portugal is to walk and explore by foot everything you can. You will be impressed in many corners and there are many central squares to relax, have a fresh orange juice and rest a bit. There are not much parks and green areas in the central area from Lisbon, but the squares are very well arbored and with several benches for you to enjoy. Walking you can get to the Augusta’s Arch, the port, see some museums, churches, the Sé Cathedral and many other important buildings in the city. Also, a tour with their Tram, the Elétrico is a must do. They are pretty cute and they go through unimaginable areas. If you have extra patience for queues, taking a ride on the elevators is also an extra entertainment in the city.
Lisbon is a very beautiful city, with an amazing kitchen and very fair prices. The city deserves more than just two or three days and if you realize that your visit is getting too long, you can even make some travels to cool cities very near to Lisbon like Sintra and Cascais. Enjoy Portugal! 😉
Date of our visit to Lisbon: 13 – 19.04.2017