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Travel Logs January 2017

Compulsive Traveler

Visiting Lisbon

By Sandra Scott

Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in Europe – older than Rome and the second oldest European capital after Athens. Portugal’s neutrality during World War II saved Lisbon from the destruction suffered by so many other European cities so most of the historic buildings are original.

Lisbon is often overlooked by people planning a Europe trip. What a shame. The city has a lot to offer. It is one of the oldest cities in Europe – older than Rome and the second oldest European capital after Athens. Portugal’s neutrality during World War II saved Lisbon from the destruction suffered by so many other European cities so most of the historic buildings are original.

  1. Getting around: There is a good metro system, metered taxis, and tuk-tuks. Yellow Bus Tours offer a variety of tours in the city plus day excursions outside the city. There are free walking tours offered by locals who want to share their city with visitors. Check out the reasonable sailboat tour at the small kiosk near the Belem marina.

  2. Getting acquainted: All visits to Lisbon should start with “Lisboa Story Centre,” a wonderful interactive presentation detailing the history of the city. It is a self-guided tour through the various periods in the city’s history. The climax is the film that brings reality to the catastrophic 1755 earthquake.

  3. Belem: The Belem area is a must-do. The iconic white, heavily ornamented Tower of Belém is a prime example of Maueline Architecture. Nearby are the historic Jeronimos Monastery, one of the most ornate churches in Portugal; the National Coach Museum with fairytale royal coaches; and the Monument to Discoveries celebrating Portugal’s leadership during the European Age of Discovery.

  4. Alfama: To get a feel for the “old’ Lisbon head to the Alfama and meander along the maze of narrow streets past some of Lisbon’s most important historic building including the SE Cathedral and Lisbon Castle. The castle dates from the 11th century at the time Christianity was brought to Portugal. Before 1147 Lisbon was an important Moorish trading post with stronger ties to Africa then Europe.

  5. Museums: There is a vast variety museums in Lisbon devoted to art, archeology, money, communications, technology, water, and even Portuguese tiles and fado. Fado is uniquely Portuguese. Typically it is a sad song with instrumental accompaniment and a dance that is performed at restaurants.

  6. Parks and gardens: Lisbon is blessed with many parks including the large Eduardo VII Park right in the middle of the city plus a greenhouse with exotic plants and a Botero statue.  The Jardim Botanical Garden has plants and trees from Portugal’s former colonies. The butterfly greenhouse in the Botanical Gardens is the only one in Europe open to the public.

  7. Shopping: Avenida da Liberdade is the Rodeo Drive of Lisbon with all the designer shops represented. On the opposite end of the scale is Lisbon’s Feira da Ladra (thieves market) with kiosks lining Eduardo VII Park every Tuesday and Saturday. Bargaining is the rule.

  8. Day trips: There are several day tours to other parts of Portugal but the must-do is the Sintra Palace tour that visits the architecturally amazing Pena Palace, the village of Sintra, and the National Palace Queluz. There are also tours to the beach. Another popular day tour includes visits to Fatima and Obidos.

  9. Culinary: Favorite Portuguese dishes are caldo verde (a soup) and bacalhau, a salted cod dish. Try chourico, a spicy sausage. Olive oil is one of the major ingredients of Portuguese cuisine. No meal is complete without a glass of Portuguese wine. In Lisbon, wine trucks are as common as food trucks in touristy spots.

  10.  Unique: Take note of the airplane statue near the Tower of Belem. The statue commemorates the first transatlantic flight by Sacadura Cabral which inspired Charles Lindbergh five years later. Near the marina there is an unimposing kiosk where you can book a one-hour sail on the Tagus River in a traditionally made wooden sailboat. A must-do.

If you go: For more information check www.visitlisboa.com where they have e-brochures and apps. Portugal is a safe country where many people speak English, especially in the tourist areas. Rental cars are not recommended due to the traffic and lack of parking. Rush hour traffic in Lisbon can be heavy.

 

Sandra Scott travels the globe recording the top attractions at every destination.

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