Cheerful, calm, and vibrant, Lisbon is a capital like no other. The city has a lot going on with events, exhibitions, flea markets, and shows scheduled practically around the clock (at least that’s how it feels), but it also offers a peaceful and relaxing environment where visitors can stroll off the beaten path and revel in nature or wind up in a historic neighborhood where time seems to stand still. The roads are windy and maze-like, yet you’ll never get lost and there is usually a friendly local, known as a Lisboeta, to help you find what you’re looking for. In Lisbon, English feels like an unofficial second language, unlike many other European capitals. It’s not only possible but common to meet a Lisboeta who speaks English almost flawlessly.
Portugal may not be a Mediterranean country, as such, since its coast lies purely along the Atlantic Ocean, but it does reflect a Mediterranean-styled culture. Like France, Spain, Greece, and Italy, the Portuguese culture is devoted to fresh food, healthy living, and quality time with loved ones and the outdoors. Lisbon locals love to spend sunny days by the water or sitting at an outdoor terrace to drink a coffee (usually an espresso) or cocktail while chatting with friends. As a socially-oriented city, Lisbon always provides many opportunities for music, dancing, and shopping, among other events. The city is also very laid back and there is an ever-present emphasis on enjoying the moment.
In Lisbon, you can eat very well without spending a fortune, including seafood if you know where to go. Even within some of the neighborhoods that act as tourist traps, the prices compare well with other European countries. Dourada (known in English as sea bream), bacalhau (salt cod), and sardinhas (sardines) are a few traditional catches that many restaurants center their entrees around, creating sumptuous dishes for €10 or less, depending on where you go.
Hillsides covered in tumbledown houses and a mix of baroque and neoclassical buildings, including cathedrals and palaces, make up Lisbon’s skyline. The city is a combination of old and new, with beautiful modern buildings constructed near renovated historical landmarks and ruins. Here you can visit the oldest bookstore in continuous operation (Livraria Bertrand), built in the 1700s, and then dine at an ultra-modern luxury restaurant around the corner. Many buildings are also covered in spectacular azulejo tiles, a style that’s rarely seen outside the counrty.
Fado, Portugal’s version of traditional folk music, grew out of Lisbon and the number of fado restaurants offering dinner with a show, can be overwhelming. The recurring theme in songs revolves around a word that’s also an integral part of the Portuguese culture: saudade. It signifies longing, love, loss and sadness in one powerful word.
Whether you want history, beaches, food, and/or events, Lisbon is a city that offers its visitors all of the above. Historical landmarks and ancient surprises, including underground treasures, can be found around every corner. The nearby beaches are perfect for lazy days in the sun or splashing around in the waves. Portuguese cuisine is a mouthwatering blend of the Mediterranean diet and hearty comfort food.
Traveling can be exhilarating and exciting but also scary for those with less experience. For people who plan few vacations and/or aren’t used to navigating fast-paced cities, Lisbon is a great city to shake off the traveling jitters and get your feet wet. It’s one of the safest cities in Europe and, as previously mentioned, very easy to navigate. The metro is made up of four lines, which is a doddle when compared to the transit webs in the Madrid Metro or London Tube.