Portugese capital Lisbon welcomed us with its grandeur from the very first moments when we arrived at Santa Apolónia train station(coming from Porto). To sum up Lisbon in one sentence – it is a mix of majestic old architecture, the city built on 7 hills with its narrow winding streets and apartment buildings filled with mysterious inviting cellar bars in someone´s living room. Fair to say, most of what we saw in the brief (and rainy) two days was in the old town district of Alfama, by the river Tagus.
The noble architecture reminisces about the glorious past of Portugal and its long gone rulers. As building citys between seven hills meant good luck in the past(similarly is Rome, Jerusalem, Istanbul, San Francisco, etc. built on seven hills), it also means walking up and down the hills a lot! The streets of Alfama are narrow and remind of a labyrinth where it is easy to get lost in, however if you walk long enough, you are pretty sure to find your way out(unless it´s a dead end).
As you walk along those winding streets, with clothes drying from the windows, every few blocks there is an open door of the apartment building inviting you to peek in, as if to someone´s living room, to find a tiny bar and a possibility of some music. And in Portugal they do like to sing!
As well as Porto, Lisbon also has many abandoned houses and a tiny tram running up and down the hills. With the smooth evening light it looks like pastel-coloured ice-cream city, especially with Spring blooms accessorizing it. With a sprinkle of street art in forms of graffiti and azulejo tiles.
Lisbon reminded me a little bit of Prague, where I once lived a while, and it sure has the old European Bohemian vibe – that certain something present in Paris, Barcelona and elsewhere, but the thing London is surely lacking!
Here are a few(tried and tested) suggestions where to go to eat, drink, listen to Fado and be merry.
Our first night´s discovery, local´s favorite with red walls Bela Vinhos e Petiscos, tapas bar with live music. Just along the street from there is another place with purple walls, called Arcaz Velho. We listened to some Fado music (or perhaps it would be more correct to say we got dragged into this place by a very funny team of waiters, who are also the performers and musicians) at Guitarras de Lisboa.
Wandering further towards the castle, the place to go to is the circus school and performance venue with multi-level restaurants and bars Chapito. And further up from Martim Moniz there is a cozy venue with inner garden, recommended by a local, called Casa Independente.
Even though it was just a brief encounter with Portugal over a few days, I hope there will be more to come, as it surely has so much to offer!