It looks like I’m the newest passenger to climb on board the I love Lisbon train or tram is probably more appropriate. I’m hooked on the city, actually Portugal in general but I’ll save that for another post. I may use the term "love" loosely when describing my travels, but this time my feelings fully reflect the true meaning of the word. Portugal ranks right under Ireland for my affection (you never forget your first love), a level of prominence I don't hand out lightly. What in particular do I love about the city? Friendly locals top the list, and this is true for the whole country. I met nothing but lovely, warm, and engaging people throughout my two weeks in Portugal. I can technically end the post here, that's enough to make me fall in love with a place...but I must go on.
I arrived in Lisbon following a few days in Washington D.C. and I spent a week there. Half solo, half with a friend who met me for the remainder of the trip which continued on to Nazare and Porto. I rented an AirBNB apartment on the edge of the Alfama neighborhood. It was located on a pedestrian only street and a one-hill climb (see photo below) from the central area of the city. Easy walking distance to everything I wanted to see, and that’s exactly what I did for seven days straight. I explored the city by foot, peppered with one or two activities along the way. If I could go back (which I will), I wouldn’t do it differently. Every view was amazing, every street picturesque, every building a work of art. I had no reason to go indoors.
While strolling around Lisbon, I noticed my usual lack of navigational skills was exacerbated. I am the absolute worst at getting lost, even when I use my phone’s GPS. Not really lost, just off track, turned around, or a small detour. I don’t really understand the disconnect from my brain to the map, but it happens so often that I’ve learned to factor it into my travels. The map says the castle is 15 minutes away, which translates to 30 in reality. If I must get lost in any city, Lisbon is the ideal place to do it. The winding streets, pedestrian alleys, and beautiful distractions around every corner left me breathless (from the up hill climb and beauty), four pounds lighter, and infinitely happy.
In addition to the incredible vistas, someone (I'm pretty sure it was the Moors) decided to cover all the buildings in hand-painted tile. The color, pattern, and craftsmanship that went into every tile is remarkable, and discovering new murals around every corner left me feeling inspired. If you too are fascinated by art, design, or architecture there are two stops I highly recommend, the Museu do Azulejo (National Tile Museum) and Solar Antiques.
The Tile Museum is a little outside the central tourist area of the city, and I assume this was the reasoning behind the lack of visitors when I was there. The building is a former convent and is interesting in its own right. Along with the museum's exhibits, you can explore the architecture and tile preserved on the convent’s walls and chapel. Aside from all of the beautiful tiles, my favorite part was the enclosed gallery along the central courtyard, which housed the workshop used for cleaning, preserving, and organizing the tile. It was one big wonderful tile puzzle, and I was scheming for a way to work there and get my hands on that tile.
My second tile related excursion was to Solar Antiques, where they specialize in antique tile recovered from the city. If you want to see me truly floating on happiness there are two places you can take me, an antique book or tile shop. I bounced from room to room, drooling over all of the options. They didn’t allow photographs, but let me tell you…this place was magnificent. There were stacks and crates of tile everywhere you looked, all colors, styles, and patterns imaginable. I ended up with a set of four 18th century tiles that will soon be framed and hanging on my wall. Very happy girl.
If music and food are more your style, then spending a night listening to Portugal's traditional music is a must. The Fado venues are made for tourists, and with mixed reviews it can be hard to decide where to go. I picked a place that felt a little more contemporary (based on the website and menu) then some of the other options I found. I chose perfectly because it ended up being a small intimate restaurant, with delicious food, and my friend and I loved every minute of the music. It was situated on a street full of great bars and restaurants with an assortment of live music. We could have easily spent all night bar hopping, but jet lag got the better of us.
One week was more than enough time for me to see the highlights of Lisbon, but I already want to go back. It would be the perfect city to spend a month working and exploring a little deeper. Maybe next year.
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