Likes & Dislikes

Opinions

“Whenever Lisbon comes up in conversation, I’m incapable of holding back a declaration of love: I adore the Barrio Alto! This means the high district, on the hills above the city center or ‘low district’. During the day, long walks in its not-so-crowded streets are extremely pleasant and relaxing. No stress, no unpleasant surprises, just charming houses, and winding, rising, and falling streets. Wrought-iron trellises, clothes drying on small balconies, birdcages, old ladies examining the lives of their neighbors.

During the day, the district is primarily interesting for the insight it gives into the everyday lives of the locals. The oldest quarter, Alfama, is full of tourists even during the day, as it is a must-see attraction. In my head, Alfama is the place for spectacular panoramas, and for gazing off across an infinity of tangled rooftops. What luck that this district survived the terrible earthquake of 1755 – the one which led Voltaire to philosophize on the nature of evil.

Alfama is extremely quaint: cobbled streets, alley, tiny shops, and old men chatting at café tables.  (aji, 2017)

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“I didn’t like Lisbon as much as Porto. It’s undeniably a very beautiful city, but also quite dirty, smelly and litter-strewn. There are also a lot of homeless people, who unfortunately pee on the street, so you can smell urine in many places. This may have been exacerbated by the heat of the summer, and the lack of rain, but when I think of Lisbon now, it’s the first thing that comes to mind.

My favorite district was Belém, which has the Belém Tower and the Monastery of Saint Jerome, as well as a monument to the heroes of the Age of Discovery, and plenty of museums and green spaces.” (2014)

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“Overall I’d say that while Lisbon and its surroundings certainly have a lot of atmospheres, and the city is definitely worth a visit, for me it lacked the atmosphere of a Mediterranean city, with palm trees, flowers… Lisbon is a lot more ‘lived in’ than I expected, and it could definitely do with a bit of a touch-up. If you want to experience the real Portugal and the lifestyle of its inhabitants, you’ll have to travel out to a smaller town or city. If you do, though, a trip to Portugal can be a real highlight for any traveler.

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“Almost at once, I felt right at home. The first feature of the city that struck me were the endless cobblestones that covered the streets downtown. This type of paving has its advantages, but also some disadvantages… On the one hand, it gives the streets a very quaint, charming look, but on the other hand, it’s tiring to walk on them, and easy to slip in rainy weather.

Since Lisbon is a coastal city, rain and wind are not uncommon, but as soon as the sun comes out, you can go out in a short-sleeved shirt, even in winter. Sunshine is important here, not only because it warms the city, but also because it’s in bright sunlight that Lisbon looks its best. The multi-colored houses and patterned tiles are a common feature (almost no houses here have central heating – they rely on the thermal insulating effects of tile) and they really come to life in the sunshine. In addition, this ‘city of seven hills’ has many vantage points, from which to admire these charming, brightly colored houses.” (2018)

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“Maybe it’s just that my expectations were too high, but Lisbon definitely wasn’t my favorite Portuguese city – in fact, I really didn’t care for it. It’s a beautiful city, of course, but the fact is, it’s also pretty dirty and smelly. There are a lot of homeless people on the street, many of whom clearly don’t bother seeking out a restroom when nature calls, so the smell is pretty pervasive. In the city center, I liked the area around the castle and the Barrio Alto district. Belém, which is outside the city center, is cleaner and quieter, and I liked it too. Belém is home to the Monastery of St. Jerome (closed when I was there) and Belém Tower. It’s also possible to visit some museums which some may find interesting, including the Maritime Museum. I’m not saying it isn’t worth visiting Lisbon if you’re in Portugal, but at the same time I wouldn’t spend too long there.” (2016)

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“Looking at photos of Lisbon, my first thought was ‘that can’t be real!’ Though they do indeed liberally photoshop their images of Lisbon on tourism websites, still the reality really is something: colorful houses piled up on top of one another – houses which, viewed from afar, look almost like a Lego city, and you have to really immerse yourself in it, as you walk up the steep, sloping hills in search of ever more beautiful panoramas. White cobblestones harmonize perfectly with the colorful houses – obviously local officials chose white to reduce the heat absorption, and not because they knew no other color would blend so well with so many shades, but it has an undeniable aesthetic appeal.” (2017)


Practicals

Transport

Trams

The old "electric carriages" are nowadays more of a tourist attraction than a means of transport. Full of charm and sometimes almost exclusively touristy (like lines 28 and 14).


Route 28: don’t hope that you can sit down. It’s often overcrowded. To improve your chances of getting a seat: go early or late and get on the tram at the beginning or end of the line.

Be prepared for some waiting and queuing before you can hop on. The view may not be what you were hoping for…it might be lots of shoulders instead of lots of beautiful buildings.


Metro (subway

There are four metro lines.. Very convenient for connecting the city center to the airport (pink line) and train stations (Oriente, Rossio, Campo Grande)

Bus

Nine bus lines do night service, all night, every hour. They all depart from Cais do Sodré, serving well two of the main nightlife hubs (Cais do Sodré and Bairro Alto).

Prefer to purchase bus and tram tickets in advance, as it cost more buying them on the board.

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“In terms of public transport, there are four metro lines, and many bus routes. Yellow trams are cute, but more a tourist attraction than a practical means of transport. You have to watch out for unscrupulous taxi drivers, especially on the route from the airport (I prefer the subway, which is significantly cheaper, and fast enough). Unfortunately, cycling is still not seen as a normal means of transport here, which may be partly due to the city’s hilly nature. These hills are often steep, which is not very conductive to getting around on two wheels.” (2017)

Lisbon - trams- v.j. photo

Lisbon - tuk-tuk - s.p. photo

Food

A three-course meal for 2 people in a mid-range restaurant: 35 Euro

In Lisbon's restaurants, you mostly find bread, olive oil, and olives on your table. These are not appetizers offered by the restaurant. You have to pay for all these. So take a good look at the prices on the menu and search for what they call "the cutlery"  They also charge for the bread, even for the tap water, being served in a bottle.

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“I might be wrong, but I had the impression that Lisbon has a much less diverse culinary scene than cities like Paris, London, or even Barcelona. Obviously, part of the reason for this is that there simply aren’t many restaurants in the Portuguese capital which offer Chinese, Indian or other ethnic cuisines. The Portuguese, it seemed to me, are happy to stick to what they know.

Of course, I know and have read about how Portuguese cuisine is both varied and refined, with many styles of preparation. Still, while the great explorers brought home the flavors and aromas of distant spice islands, the basic format of Portuguese cooking, at least judging by restaurant menus, is fairly narrow. I’m sure that if you lived here you’d get to know the many nuances and secrets of their culinary art, but as a simple, private tourist, I didn’t get much sense of that.

For a light lunch, we almost always ate shrimp fried in garlic oil, which is of course not an exclusively Portuguese delicacy, but is at least widely available across the city. While we pulled the shells off the shrimp, the slices of bread absorbed the oil below, and every mouthful got a slice or two of garlic. Superb.

For more substantial meals, I often chose a bean-based dish called feijoada. It is a thick, meaty bean soup, first made by slaves in Brazil, who mixed the meat and offal left over by the lords with beans. Maybe they ended up eating better than the gentry?

In front of restaurants they fry fish, mostly filleted, over charcoal. Swordfish is popular, as are sardines, but the main star is undeniably the cod, or bacalhau, for which you can find literally hundreds of recipes. I generally stuck to a simple, grilled version, but gourmets will no doubt find something more refined.



Lisbon - traditional portuguese dish - n.l. photo

Lisbon - hearty meal - m.f. photo

Fun

“It’s possible to begin your evening at around 8 pm, but if the goal is bars and partying, there’s no need to start so early. Generally, I wouldn’t advise heading out until at least 11 pm, since the Mediterranean lifestyle prefers to make a real night of it. At clubs, you can generally get in for free or at a discount before 2 am since this counts as ‘early.’

In the narrow streets of Barrio Alto, an endless number of bars await both the local youth and a not insignificant number of Erasmus students every evening. There is fierce competition, in terms of discounts and special offers, to attract this latter group. Erasmus Corner is a separate corner within this hustle and bustle – here you can bump into larger groups of foreigners at any time of day.

Pink Street is one of the most obvious places to spend a night out in Lisbon, and not surprisingly, there are also plenty of bars and entertainment venues on offer. Incidentally, the paving here really is pink, though that isn’t as apparent at night. There is also the Champanharia do Cais and the more upscale Musicbox.

Lisbon - nightlife in Bairro Alto

Lisbon - a ginjinha, cherry-like liqueur - v.j. photo

Public safety


Lisbon is safer than many European capitals.

,, During the day, avoid some areas in the suburbs like Amadora, Chelas, Casal Ventoso,  Alta de Lisboa, and the “Linha de Sintra” which is kilometers away from Lisbon and has some impoverished neighborhoods with ethnic minorities.
In the center, small streets and alleys of the Intendente zone are a bit risky but not dangerous. The inhabitants there are Asian, East European minorities, and Islamic communities. Better avoid the small streets and alleys of these areas.
During the night: You should avoid all those neighborhoods and zones mentioned above + the bars of Cais do Sodré + Avenida Almirante Reis.
 The center is safe with police officers patrolling 24/7 and always has some crowd. Of course, be aware of pickpockets.

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The metro (subway) and the bus network are by and large safe, even by night. Take extra precautions on the famous 28 tram line, as pickpockets are active there. Pickpockets aren't aggressive, but skilled enough.

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“I’ve been to Lisbon twice, and I love it. I could make a long, long list of all the sights which I particularly enjoyed. This is quite incidental, but I should mention that there are many African immigrants on the streets. At first, I was a little intimidated by their presence, especially in places where they congregate in large numbers, such as at the fountain in front of the Hotel Mundial. I don’t know how many police officers patrol the streets of Lisbon because of them. Anyhow, I quickly got used to their presence – they were perfectly friendly, and I had no problems with them, even though I was walking through the city as an unaccompanied female, and not only in the tourist districts.

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“Two pickpockets joined us on our city tour – we only found out because a passing tuk-tuk driver alerted our guide. They pretended to be tourists, and had come with us all the way, but luckily they hadn’t yet had the chance to steal anything. As soon as the tour guide told us they disappeared. Later, we were looking through the window of a souvenir shop when a thief stole a bag right in front of our eyes, then crossed the road and signaled to his companion that the ‘operation’ had been a success. They spotted that we were watching them, and walked close to us for the next few minutes. It was pretty scary. The whole thing happened so suddenly that we didn’t even have time to tell the store’s owner, but what could we have done? Probably nothing, and we could have ended up in trouble if the pickpockets had seen what we were doing.” (2018)


Others

1. There are many superb lookout points in Lisbon. We recommend you these: Miradouro da Graça, Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, Miradouro das portas do Sol and Miradouro de S. Pedro de Alcântara.

2. Lisbon is very hilly. You have to be ready for a lot of climbing. Luckily not all hills are very steep, but access to some sights and monuments can be exhausting, particularly in summer. Another difficulty is that many pavements are cobblestone and can be slippery, so it is essential to wear proper shoes. There are plenty of cable cars, lifts, stairs, and streets - pedestrian and non-pedestrian - that connect these hills, making it easier for anyone to walk around.

Lisbon - drying clothes - v.j. photo

Background

Lisbon - Rua Augusta, the main pedestrian street in summer

Destination in brief

Lisbon's Portuguese name is Lisbõa.

Population (in 2020): 2.9 million- Lisbon gets more than 3 million visitors per year

Average net monthly salary (in 2020): 990 Euro

Torre de Belem is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.

In 1755 a brutal earthquake almost destroyed Lisbon, annihilated its downtown area, taking 40 000 lives.



History

Lisbon is older than Rome, and is the second oldest European capital, after Athens.

“A little way outside the city center, in the riverfront Belém district, and especially at the Explorers’ Monument and the former coastal fortification, I was reminded of one of my favorite stories from childhood: Magellan, by Stefan Zweig. I remember his description of the Portuguese explorer as a man of brilliance, yet also someone whose undertakings almost always ran into catastrophic problems.

In Lisbon, I often found myself gazing out at the Tagus, which is a sort of gateway to the ocean. The sea itself is barely 17km further out. In my imagination, I tried to picture the hustle and bustle of the port in its heyday, at the end of the 15th and beginning of the 16th century. It must have been somewhere around here that King Manuel welcomed Vasco de Gama, when he returned from his voyage of discovery to India and rewarded him with a knighthood, an annual civil list pension, and a large country estate.” (K.J.)

Nowadays

“You can already see that the downtown districts of Lisbon will increasingly become the domain of travelers and tourists, and the hospitality industries that cater to them. All the same, the situation is not nearly as extreme as in Florence and Prague, for instance, where tourists have literally pushed the locals out of their own city center, nor as fraught as in Barcelona, where locals complain that the number of tourists increases the population of the city so dramatically that they simply don’t fit.

The people of Lisbon are still present in the old town – they sneak from their workplaces to their canteens at lunchtime or peer down from their balconies, and sometimes you’ll even spot one on the number 28 tram. They are also present in the sense that they’re still happy to help tourists, and though they admit to not speaking English, still they are attentive and courteous, with no trendy internationality, and in fact, they’re rather baffled by what all these hordes of foreign travelers could really want in their city…”

Most people, however, have moved to districts further out, where it’s easier to find peace and quiet, and a livelihood. The past is protected because it is interesting and instructive, but the living space of the present has already shifted: the people who really represent modern Lisbon have moved to the outer districts, to the agglomeration, though they have brought their tiles with them, and decorate their modern houses just like the old.

People

“It’s difficult to say what the people of Lisbon are really like. People on the street are generally quite friendly towards tourists, but also a bit distant and aloof (though for some reason older ladies seem much more direct. They chat away to tourists in Portuguese, and take no notice of the fact that they don’t understand). Perhaps they feel a little uncomfortable since most tourists come from countries which are richer than Portugal, but I might be wrong.

Is there some deep-seated inferiority complex in Portuguese culture? That would be a controversial statement to make in Lisbon since it’s clear that national pride is a big deal there. This can be seen in their love of their football team, but also their pride in their fine climate, beautiful beaches, and glorious historical past. They are also proud of the fact that they have developed a great deal economically, in terms of living standards, though much of that is thanks to the generous support of the EU (they entered sooner than the Central and Eastern European states, and got much more support than those states did). Now, like Spain, they may be heading for trouble, since they seem to live too well, compared to the actual state of the economy.”


Attractions

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Lisbon - Praça do Comércio, the main square - i.l. photo

Alfama district

Lisbon - Alfama - f.p. photo

Lisbon - Alfama - n.f. photo

Bairro Alto

Lisbon - Bairro Alto


Lisbon - Belem Tower - i.l. photo

The Jerónimos Monastery or Hieronymites Monastery,

Lisbon - The Jerónimos Monastery or Hieronymites Monastery - n.c. photo

Lisbon - The Jeronimos Monastery - interior of its church - Elter photo

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