Are you fired up for lively, lovable and laid-back Lisbon?
Feel the vivacious vibe of Portugal’s capital…
If you’re arriving in Lisbon from South Portugal by coach like us, you will probably be riding the cable-stayed 17 km long Vasco Da Gama bridge straddling the Tagus River. While you make a mental note of the fact that you’re on the longest bridge in Europe, are you unconsciously cooking up an image of Portugal’s capital? Don’t do it…let it reveal itself in all its glory!
One of Europe’s most under-hyped destinations will exceed your expectations by far. Bonus: what you see is what you get. Lisbon is an open book. Whether you stay a day or a week, you’ll go back with the same first impression. Large public squares, hidden back-alleys or Alfama’s delightful maze, the city’s inimitable character manifests itself unrestrained everywhere. You will stumble upon it through dark crevices of buildings and you will stare at on sunny patios open to the blue skies. One word says it all: unpretentious.
Lisbon is lively
An uninhibited and expressive persona reflects in the cheerful colors of her elegant residential buildings. Sky’s the limit with dusky pink, sunflower yellow, sage green, blush peach, aqua blue, apricot orange. French windows and delicate iron-grille balconies to complete the look. An inexplicable harmony, despite the seemingly adhoc mix-match. Which facade is your favorite?
More color inspiration? Unleash yourself in the mosaic of the city with an Azulejo (glazed tiles) hunt. Walls, floors and steps, street signs, house numbers, and store names are adorned with an unimaginable array of intricate patterns and symbols celebrating life, nature, religion and history, in 2-D and 3-D. Don’t forget to take home a souvenir of this 15th century import of the Moors, now a sophisticated art form and an iconic part of Lisbon’s culture.
The walls may be gorgeous, but don’t forget to look down for one more Lisbon treasure…its stunning stone carpets (Calcada). Squares, sidewalks and miradouros (viewpoints) are embellished with beautiful patchwork of limestone (white) and basalt (black). Trace out marine motifs like caravels, compass, shells, fish, ocean waves and ships apart from flowers, stars and other Moorish geometric patters. Starting with the São Jorge Castle and the Rossio Square in the early 19th-century, Calcada spread to other parts of the country and even to Portuguese colonies like Brazil, Macau, Malacca, Malaysia and India. Sadly, its now a dying art form since it is very laborious, rare and expensive, and the surface gets slippery when it rains. No deterrent for the local ladies in stilettos. Just saying…
Lisbon is lovable
You see it in the bonhomie of people on the streets. Stopping on the sidewalk to exchange friendly pleasantries. Greeting you with a cheerful smile as you pass by. Calling out to advertise their roasted chestnuts or umbrellas. Conversing unabashedly in loud voices. Joyously cheering for a solo street performer. Making place for you to squeeze into the crowded Tram 28. Giving you a warm, genuine compliment. Feel like a local already?
Lisbon is laid-back
Relaxed, casual and informal, irrespective of oodles of grandeur. Extraordinary examples of Manueline architecture. Ornate monuments glorifying historical discoverers. A massive 11-century hilltop Moorish castle with commanding views over the city. Huge public squares with elaborate statues and fountains. Majestic arcaded corridors that go on and on. And unbelievably ostentatious gold-laden cathedrals that would make you wear shades.
The city is glamorous, but in a gritty kind of way. Resplendent, but with hints of rustic. Graceful and grimy at the same time…if you know what I mean. The grand buildings exude an element of magnum opus. Lisbon lacks the sleekness and sophistication, polish and élan so characteristic of a European city like Berlin, Paris, Geneva or Amsterdam. A handful of abandoned, crumbling buildings, a few cracked glass windows, a tattered curtain or two, chipped paint, exposed brickwork. Okay, okay, its not immaculate, but that’s its unique brand of charm. Imperfectly perfect!
–> check out the other articles from Punita Malhotra too!