I’d realized that a lot of travelers don’t know more about Portugal. Do you know that it is one of the best and most affordable destinations in Europe? I am not going only to write about tour guides here but travelling to Portugal and experiencing a marvelous weather, unique culture, beautiful scenery and wonderful people particularly in Lisbon.
When I was in Spain, I heard about the ancient city of Guarda. It never stops me in exploring this place in Lisbon so I took a trip in 2009 since Portugal is a border of Spain. Take note, Portugal speaks Portuguese NOT Spanish- that’s what I thought before. I contacted Pedro- my neophyte friend who is also a travel writer in Portugal to explore the magnificent city of Lisbon and how this vibrant country helps travelers explore it’s hidden gems.
Bounded by the iconic seven hills and the emblematic Tagus river mouth, Lisbon is not only the largest city in Portugal but also the country’s political and financial center, with over 500,000 inhabitants within the municipality limits. Perfectly situated in the Iberian peninsula at the western corner of the European continent, Lisbon offers its travelers like me the opportunity to combine different marvelous green areas with historic attractions that shaped Portuguese history as well as delicious and appetizing food- ranging from fresh seafood to beautifully tender steaks- with the finest weather in Europe, unquestionably.
Idea to explore and get lost in its captivating atmosphere, Lisbon is definitely a city full of contrast, where the diversified architecture takes center stage across every single one of the city’s neighborhoods. From awesome picturesque mosaic pavements to brightly tiled houses, passing by various Art Nouveau structures and fashionable modern areas, Portugal’s capital city has a lot to discover, believe me the medieval Moorish areas, such as Alfama, couldn’t be forgotten by anyone who’s strolling down Lisbon’s traditional and historical narrow streets.
The historical center of Lisbon is definitely the city’s heart and soul and is characterized by five distinctive but complementary areas. Two of the areas- Rossio and Baixa- are connected by their inherent squares: King Pedro IV Square which is commonly known by locals as Rossio square and then forget to check the outstanding railway by the nearby – and the commerce square which is popularly known as Terreiro do Paco. Well, the crowded, cosmopolitan and commercial Rua Augusta or Augusta Street connects both squares, comprising various shopping stores, souvenir stalls, pastry shops and tourist oriented restaurants. Highlighting a ( more then probable) sunny walk towards the Tagus river is the imperial Rua Augusta Arch which is a triumphal arch style of monument built to commemorate the city’s regeneration after the massive 1755 earthquake, as well as the brilliantly design Santa Justa Lift whose idea came from Raoul de Mesnier du Ponsard, an apprentice of the brilliant- minded Gustava Eiffel.
Easily reachable at short walking distance from Baixa and Rossio, I visited two other historical areas, Chiado and Bairro Alto. The first one is where Fernando Pessoa, the famous Portuguese writer, used to relax and have a cup of coffee while wondering about the script of his next masterpiece. For the most curious ones, a statue was erected in his memory in Chiado’s most famous coffee terrace, A Brasilleira. On the other hand, Bairro Alto is well-known for its busy nightlife, with hundreds of bars open throughout the night, attracting a lot of young people, students and travelers.
Another landmark that it’s hard to take own eyes off it is certainly the remarkable St. George Castle, located on top of another of Lisbon’s historic center neighborhoods- Alfama. If the castle looks incredibly gorgeous on the outside, the views that this royal fortress offers over the legendary capital of Portugal are absolutely breathtaking. Additionally, the history behind this historical fortification nested in one of Lisbon’s seven hills is absolutely captivating and noteworthy, since it paid the important role during 1147 triumph over the Moors. However, my observation is that Lisbon is way more than its historical center and nearby attractions.
The charming Jerónimos Monastery and the beautiful Belém tower are astonishing architecture examples of Manueline style or known as the Portuguese Gothic, both dating back from mid 16th century and consecrated as UNESCO world heritage sites back in 1983.
While writing this article about Lisbon, I want to take my siblings here again someday.