It baffles me to think why Lisbon remains to be not as popular as the other neighboring European capital.
Who will not fall in love in a city where there is abundance of sunshine, an easy access to the beach, beautiful old Gothic churches to admire, nostalgic tram ride to take, and faded grand architecture to get lost into?
Then, when you wanted to unwind, you can have a feast on delicious Bacalhau (Cod fish) for lunch, Pasteis de Nata combined with strong Uma Bica (black coffee) in the afternoon, and flowing of Uma Cerveja (beer) in the evening.
The airport is a short train ride away. The streets are safe and easy to navigate, you actually don’t need any transportation passes, but just willingness to walk around. To top it all, the people are genuinely friendly, and there is no instance where you will feel like an unwelcome tourist.
I am one of those who is guilty of dismissing Portugal capital city as a worthy destination, I skipped the first time I travel across Europe and almost brush it off again. But I’m glad that I did not, because Lisbon is a wonderful travel destination that will exceed anyone’s expectation, whether you are a seasoned traveler or it is your first backpacking trip.
Lisbon is a metropolis minus the chaos and noises. The vibe is so homey that there are times you will forget that it is indeed a global city of more than half a million inhabitants and the center of Portugal economic, political, and commercial power.
Lisbon atmosphere is unhurried and relax, almost no trace of what once a mighty and powerful Portuguese empire, if not for its historical architecture as a reminder.
To feel what Lisbon was way back when it is the home of explorers and traders, is to visit the Praça do Comércio or Commerce Square.
Positioned at the edge of the Rio Tejo (Tagus River), Praça do Comércio, which is still commonly known as Terreiro do Paço, is Lisbon’s biggest and grandest plaza. Historically known as the place to do business, particularly for those looking for financiers to fund their world exploration, the U-shaped yellow symmetrical buildings were once filled with government offices that regulates both customs and port activities.
Nowadays, Praça do Comércio is indeed one of Lisbon’s busiest plaza and the symmetrical buildings are now occupied by museums and restaurants. The plaza is the city’s most popular destination for souvenir photos, where visitors mostly spent their first and last day in Lisbon, and is the starting point for any city exploration, whether you are heading west via tram to the district of Belem or walking east on the way to Sé cathedral.
The Santa Maria Maior de Lisboa or Sé de Lisboa (Lisbon Cathedral) or simply called Sé is the city’s oldest church and an iconic site that is worth a visit.
Designated as National Monument, Lisbon Cathedral can be mistaken for a fortress from the outside, due to its solidly built exterior facade and the two imposing clock towers. However, once inside, there is no mistaking that it is ia beautiful church.
If you are really after for some great classic Lisbon photo, I suggest to spend sometime outside the cathedral and wait for the tram to pass by right in front of the church.
Though the iconic sites are worth a visit, to really feel Lisbon’s one of a kind city atmosphere is to walk around and explore its Barrios de Lisboa (neighborhoods). A good day will be more than enough, but be ready for some uphill steep walk.
Take the Tram 28E to go to the charming old district of Alfama, but just walk around to see the old and modern shopping district of Chiado, the downtown district of Baixa and everyone’s favorite hipster enclave and nightlife destination, the Bairro Alto.
Though the Barrios are often categorized by certain defining characteristic, one thing remains true, they are what gives Lisbon its own unique city beat.