The Eldorado of hipster chic
A city of rich history, where every alley and building tells the tale of a glorious past, it is also a resolutely modern destination with neighbourhoods in full creative effervescence.
If Lisbon were a flavour, it would be pastel de nata. A smell? Sea air. A sound? Fado. A tree? The jacaranda. But capturing the essence of Lisbon cannot be summed up in these few words. Lisbon lives. Physically, the city demands breath − lots of breath. Wander through the Chiado quarter, stop, like Fernando Pessoa, at the café A Brasileira for a cafézinho. Climb to Castelo de São Jorge at the top of the Alfama district and enjoy the views of the city and its monuments from miradouros ('lookouts') like the one at Santa Luzia. In the evening, climb once more, to join the festa up in the Bairro Alto.
Walking through the neighbourhoods bordering the Tagus also demands endurance. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the Age of Discovery, the Belem neighbourhood was the launching point of the caravel sailing ships. It contains essential historical sites like the Jerónimos Monastery and the Belém Tower, but it is now a contemporary cultural center that includes several exhibition venues, including the Museu Berardo Coleção.
Between sea and river, the Portuguese capital has constantly modernised itself. Facades in azulejos - glazed ceramic tiles - slippery limestone sidewalks, churches, Baroque architecture, and the oldest bookstore in the world, founded in 1732, now share pride of place with the creations of Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano, and Álvaro Siza Vieira's Vasco da Gama, the longest bridge in Europe.
It is difficult to resist Lisbon's many charms, which also include fashion boutiques, underground galleries, 'arty' cafés and antique shops. If you still have energy, visit the historical towns of Sintra and Cascais, and do not forget the still virgin beaches on the Atlantic coast toward Comporta.
To discover Lisbon in all its authenticity takes time and stamina, but it never disappoints.
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© Text and photography courtesy of EnVols