Lisbon is a unique capital in Europe. 20 minutes away from sandy ocean beaches, an intensely blue river, heaped houses painted pink, yellow, light blue and green, terracotta roofs, historical squares, hundreds of manor houses and palaces (some decadent, some renovated), scenic little gardens, baroque churches all over … and some great modern architecture, museums and public parks.
Crowned with the Moorish São Jorge Castle, with views towards the old, historic centre, Lisbon is a city to be discovered by foot. Walk down the lovely cobbled-stone streets and narrow alleys that link this hill to Lisbon’s beautifully designed downtown streets (they were designed after the 1755 earthquake). Here do not forget to visit the arch above Rua Augusta and Praça do Comércio, one of Europe’s widest and most scenic squares, as well as the 19th century neo-gothic lift (Elevador de Santa Justa). They both offer stunning views of the Lisbon hills and Tagus river. For design and funky shopping, as well as a taste of a district which combines aristocracy, artists and “plain” people, visit the Principe Real quarter and do not miss the fabulous Convento dos Cardaes, a unique Lisbon jewel, in Rua do Século Street. Loose yourself in the maze of those delightful streets and head to Chiado, Lisbon’s current shopping and trendy core. Sit down for a while at Brasileira café and watch the people go by whilst enjoying an expresso and a “pastel de nata”.
If you walk down to the river (check the many antique shops!) you will come across the former Lisbon’s Red Light District, now called the Pink quarter. It has been completely renovated and is now home to many great bars and restaurants. The funky Pensão do Amor is a good place to have a beer or a glass of wine. For a taste of a very old, emblematic quarter, head to Alfama, with its wrought-iron balconies adorned with flowers, drying laundry and caged birds.
If you know or would like to know about fado (Portugal’s typical song), visit the Museu do Fado, at the heart of Alfama, and buy a CD of Carminho to take home with you. She represents the refreshed essence of the Portuguese Fado which is so much part of our identity. For a night of good fado, book yourself a table at Clube do Fado (Alfama), Guarda-Mor restaurant (Santos) or Senhor Vinho (Lapa). You’ll be able to join good, traditional food with good traditional fado.
Finally, for a good example of modern Lisbon, visit the fabulous Champalimaud foundation (near the Belém Tower) and have a meal at its beautiful and affordable Darwin restaurant. Or head to the Expo area, in the eastern part of Lisbon, with great views over the river and many contemporary buildings. A quarter which was decadent and full of deactivated factories is now home to many offices and comfortable apartment blocks. We could go on and on and on…
Photo: Visit Lisboa
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