As I landed at the airport in Lisbon, I remember being an agog soul set to discover the new European land (my first time in Europe). I was excited. To my surmise, I felt a pinch of disappointment. Like many others, I had always heard of Europe as a land of exquisite beauty and grand history. My mother (who has travelled to almost all of the European continent) said, “If you visit Europe once, you wouldn’t like travelling to any other place.”
The short route from the airport to our Airbnb apartment was the suburban area of the city leaving behind my expectations of a grand entry. Little did I know, I was heading into a city that would catch my soul and refuse to leave it. The only eye-catching element during the 20 minutes drive was the revealing yet comprehensive street art. No wall, no alley and no building in the city is left without its ubiquitous graffitis! I have always been readily attracted towards street art as a form of free expression or rebel. If you have the same pull for the unruly art, Lisbon is the dream destination for you.
This capital city of Portugal can easily be tagged as the ‘Capital of Chill’ for its free, vibrant and relaxed vibes. The Portuguese believe in this simple mantra, luxury lies in simplicity and it is reflective in the way they have designed their home city. The country specialises in porcelain production particularly its intricate tiles that are used in decoration of the houses.
Portuguese land has been invaded by several reigns, therefore the idiosyncratic architecture. The influential periods include Romans, Germans, Suebians, Arabs and Visigoths amongst others. Refrain from booking an accommodation in the high-end hotels. Instead book a place in the old city to get in touch with the mood of the country.
Luckily I was travelling to Lisbon during the St. Anthony’s Festival, an event that jives up the whole city into a united wave of festivity, streets flooded with locals and tourist that comes from all around the world. The sardine festival (held on 12-14 June) is jammed packed with events like the St. Anthony’s parade at Avenida da Liberdade street and pub-crawl parties in almost all alleys of the city. It is a wide-scale celebration. The Principe Real and Bairro Alto street are long lanes lined up with great restaurants and pubs. We went to a place called Pizzeria Zero Zero on Bairro Alto for some mouthwatering Italian food, do try it out. As you walk down the road with a pinch of Portuguese music coming from the bustling doors, the smell of rustic food and the chores of laughter infuse you with a frisky holiday vibe. It is the perfect route for a jazzy night. If you are the one to sit back, relax and enjoy a drink, make plans to visit the city during the time of the festival.Vibrant graffitis covering the lanes of Lisbon
On my second day, I started by visiting the Jerónimos Monastery; which is a massive church built by the Portuguese elite of the 14th century. Tales suggest that Vasco da Gama stayed at this place before leaving for the voyage to discover India. Just opposite the Monastery is a colossal memoriam, Padrão dos Descobrimentos embarking the great journey to the Indian subcontinent.
From the memoriam you can take a walk down the river side to the Belèm Tower while taking in the view of the city at large. With the cold winds from river on one side and radiant city on the other side, how can one not feel lighthearted?
One of the famed items of Lisbon is its fine pastry stops. From creamy rolls to fruity pies- it is a palatable route to the stomach! While you are there do not forget to try out Pasteis de Belem, which is one of the oldest confectionary in Lisbon. The pastry outlet is set in traditional Portuguese ambiance with characteristic blue tiles that will make you want to travel back in time.
Authentic to the European style of city building is the concept of squares in almost all the cities of the continent. The squares are usually occupied by small outdoor cafes, live music and in most cases, a community building. The Rua Augusta Arch is the place-to-be in central Lisbon which is flooded with shops, restaurants and beautiful cafes under the trees! Just behind the Arch is a shopper’s paradise and traditional cuisine restaurants for the foodie in you. The city has something to offer for everyone.
On my third day in Lisbon we planned to take a day trip to Sintra, an Italian styled city set against the Portuguese backdrop on the Atlantic coastline. (Read my post on Sintra). There is an array of options for day trips from Lisbon like- Berlenga Grande, Cascais, Òbidos, Nazarè and scintillating beaches as soon as you step out of the city! Do not miss on the flea market on Tuesdays if you are an antiquarian.
Set in the Moorish era, the São Jorge Castle is the unbeatable spot for a 360 degree view of the city. The castle is surrounded by lush green gardens embracing numerous peacocks. The palace set on a hilltop has walls surrounding the citadel and the silhouette of the castle stands out at day and night when it is illuminated. The place offers imposing panoramic pictures at the time of sunset.
My buzzword to enjoy Lisbon was to avoid the crowded/ Internet recommended places and instead absorbing the vivid details of the Portuguese culture in off-beat locations. The yellow tramps, street parties, the urban touchè against the traditional background of the city and the smooth Portuguese wine ended my quench to find my soul city! One can easily avoid the populous areas and escape to little by-lanes to enjoy the nuanced street art. Prepare to be amazed once you are there!
Feeling Energetic? Vibrant? Cheerful? Adventurous? Carefree? Go to Lisbon now.
Lisboa, Eu Te Amo!
Day 1: Roam around the town and go out for an amiable evening at Principe Real and Bairro Alto street.
Day 2: Visit the Jeronimos Monastery, Padrão dos Descobrimentos, Belèm Tower and . You can also visit Rua Augusta Arch for a lively evening.
Day 3: Visit the gorgeous bijou town of Sintra. After return from Sintra, one can hit the various cafes, restaurants and bars in the city for a relaxed evening.
Day 4: You can visit the São Jorge Castle and leave for Porto.