Lisbon is the place I call home. The place where I can get lost and find myself simultaneously, surrounded by contrasting faces and stunning views. For me Lisbon puts together a mix of things I love: history, people, sea, food and arts.
Built on top of seven hills and facing the Tejo river, it is impossible not to be amazed by its colourful landscapes that include not only castles and historical monuments but also contemporary buildings and modern streets. Each building or street has something historical, and you can easily see a 6th century castle fortified by the Romans, Visigoths and the Moors (“Castelo de Sao Jorge”), a romanesque and gothic cathedral from the 12th century (“Se de Lisboa”), the world’s oldest bookstore in Chiado (“Livraria Bertrand”) and the pombaline style downtown rebuilt after the great earthquake in 1755. But Lisbon is a contemporary city too, with design and fashion museums, modern art expositions and completely innovative stores, like the small and vintage shopping center located in Principe Real (“Embaixada”). One can appreciate the Europe’s longest bridge (“Ponte Vasco da Gama”) and the Orient train station designed by the world-renowned architect Calatrava while walking in the waterfront.
Lisbon is also a walkable place but the city wouldn’t be the same without the well-known yellow trams that cross the downtown, the hills, the monasteries and the Discoveries monuments remembering us that we were one of the most ostentatious colonial empires in History. Some of the most scenic and famous viewpoints can be seen while travelling in the tram. The narrow and old streets of Lisbon are full of beautiful shops, traditional restaurants and smiling people. And there is nothing like enjoying the typical Portuguese coffee (“bica”) in one of the many Lisbon terraces while deciding what to do next. Portuguese artists, like Pessoa, Camoes or Amalia Rodrigues have been inspired in some of the Lisbon magnificent plazas, usually surrounded by cafes, wine bars and restaurants.
I am pretty sure that our love for food has hundreds years of History. In fact, our cuisine has always represented an important role in the society, specially during and after the colonial times where Lisbon had a pioneering role in the world exploration. The food is so important for the Portuguese, that it’s not unusual to find streets full of restaurants displaying grills, fresh fish and pastry. There are amazing traditional restaurants with typical Portuguese plates (like salty codfish, sardines, fried pork with clams) but also modern and contemporary world cuisine (like japanese, moroccan, brazilian).
In the end, Lisbon is a hard place to define with such a diversity of neighborhoods, people and buildings. I left Lisbon two years ago and as time goes by I find myself listening more to our traditional and nostalgic “Fado” music, ordering typical ingredients to cook, reading famous Portuguese writers and, of course, writing about this place I call home: Lisbon.
Text written for Rough Guides Travel Writing Competition (May, 2015)