Lisbon is a very pleasurable discovery….
The city offers a bouquet of urban visuals. Every outing throughout the many neighborhoods of the city reveals more layers of architectural or graphic expression, which we are thoroughly enjoying.
Here are our Green Global Trek TOP 5 for the city of Lisbon:
But wait, before we start — We must introduce you to Lisbon’s absolutely addictive famed pastry ~ Pasteis do nata! There are more pastellerias (bakery shops) in Lisbon than anything else! Lisboets (residents of Lisbon) have a very sweet tooth and the proliferation of bakery shops are constantly full of pastries and people eating them at any time and all the time!
The English translation for this pastry is something akin to “custard pie”, yet this small treat, is SO much more than that! Imagine a crispy shell of croissant layers, filled with a warm and sweet, yet subtle interior of creaminess.
This popular spot for Pasteis do Nata, works like a “Pastry Bar.” When the treats come out of the oven, a bell gets rung to notify those nearby, that a hot tray of fresh Pasteis do Nata, is ready for consumption! Eaten standing up at the bar, the customary additions are a sprinkle of cinnamon and powdered white sugar on the top!
Here are our top 5 highlights of the city of Lisbon, from our first visit:
#1 ~ Architecturally, it’s all about the ceramic tiles (“azulejo”) which adorn the exterior of many of the grand buildings:
Azulejos are found on the interior and exterior of churches, palaces, ordinary houses, schools, restaurants, bars and even railway or subway stations. The word azulejo is derived from the Arabic word from Az-zulay, meaning “polished stone”. The origin shows the unmistakable Arab influences in many tiles: interlocking curvy linear, geometric or floral motifs.
We are captivated by the variety of colors and designs which brighten up the streets in a very graphic way.
Blue and white tiles combined with black wrought iron balconies.
A close up of an abstract bold pattern created by tiles.
Gorgeous combination of blue and cream tiles with huge old golden wooden front doors.
One building, two floors, each with it’s own tile patterns and colors.
A particularly grand building with rounded corners, arched windows and 5 floors of tiles.
Love the bright turquoise tile used on this multi story building. The building is bright as a luminous jewel.
Seeing two buildings resplendent with tiles right next to each other ~ an interesting complementary combination.
A very sophisticated pattern graces this building.
Close up of bands of colored tiles on a building. It is interesting to see how the tiles are used in so many different ways which impact the overall design of the buildings.
The interesting combinations of 3 different tiles, makes us stop and stare and appreciate the graphic design incorporated into the architecture.
This building has a tile accent with religious theme over one of the shuttered windows.
Wooden shutters, intricate design.
It is not only the tiles which are an element of design, but also the mosaic stone sidewalks which add to the graphic punch of the city!
Gorgeous dramatic mosaic of charcoal grey and cream stone is prevalent in the sidewalks and public spaces of Lisbon.
The city, comprised of 7 hills, has many overlooks with vistas over rooftops, such as this one. Circles of stone surround a central fountain.
2) Another fun dimension of Lisbon ~ its many kiosks:
The kiosks of Lisbon are small structures, often open on one or more sides, are used as places to sell tobacco, magazines, newspapers, lottery tickets, coffee and drinks, appeared in Lisbon in the late 19th century. These kiosks are now an obligatory meeting point at the beginning of a work day and in the evening and well into the night, for people to get together and socialize.
A modern kiosk with bright purple tables and chairs brightens up a small city park.
Kiosk and mosaic stone plaza, a classic Lisbon combination!
#3 The boardwalk ~ a place to relax, chill and enjoy the river
During our travels, we have seen many cities built around river systems. The level of investment to beautify the river banks and the extent to which the local population enjoys its river is indicative of the relationship between the people and their city.
The river Tagus has the notable distinction of being the longest in all of Portugal and Spain. It was from this river that all the boats sailed to discover the new world in what was later called “The Age of Discovery.” The river continues nowadays to be navigated by cargo ships, the ferries that connect Barreiro and Lisbon and sailing boats.
Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in Europe, older than London and Paris and its position at the intersection of the Tagus river and the Atlantic ocean made Lisbon the jumping off point for many 15th century Portuguese explorers, including Vasco de Gama, during the city’s golden age.
This beautiful city is fronted by a modern wooden boardwalk perfect for enjoying the large river which has been a mainstay of commercial activity throughout the ages.
Sitting on the boardwalk, we enjoy the crashing surf and views of elegant ships in the bay. (In Istanbul most of the boats were very modern, by comparison.)
Sunset on a winter’s day. The best place to catch the last few rays of warmth is on the boardwalk on the Tagus River.
Walking along the boardwalk and coming across this grand plaza and square, where 15th century buildings of notaries and former warehouses are a testament to Portugal’s grandeur.
This looks like Venice, but is in fact the arrival docks for the grand cargo ships which once navigated these waters.
If Lisbon’s hilly geography is reminiscent of San Francisco, the kinship between the two towns is reinforced by Lisbons Ponte de 25 Abril, which bears striking resemblance to the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco. This bridge was in fact built by the American bridge company, the same company which constructed San Francisco’s Bay bridge.
4) Urban Wall Art ~ adding an element of urban grit.
Our sensitivity to graffiti / urban wall art evolved dramatically upon our travels to Yogyakarta in Indonesia where the walls of the city have become a large canvas for artists (see prior blog entries on graffiti and urban wall art: Yogyakarta: http://www.greenglobaltrek.com/2014/03/jogyakarta-indonesia-city-life-vs-village-life.html .) So too, have Lisbon’s spray can artists seized on the city’s walls that are not tiled, to express themselves. Below a sampling of this urban art form.
The bright colors and large scale of this wall mural dominate a small street in our neighborhood.
Some seriously good graphic art .
Lisbon is known for its good sea food and this mural attests to this aspect of culinary history. What an awesome painting!
Where is the line between urban art and graffiti which can be viewed as defacing buildings? In Lisbon it is a very blurry line only to be determined by the individual viewer.
Is this art or is this vandalism? Perhaps it’s a question of critical mass: For us, we are still on the fence about this. What do you think?
An eye catching face pops off the side of this building.
One thing is for sure… The graffiti, the urban art all add to the aesthetics and grittiness of the city of Lisbon.
5) The surprise graphic elements that present themselves…
We came across these unusually brightly colored rolls of toilet paper displayed on a wall in a public toilet coined “The sexiest toilet in the world.”
A tiny, bright red electric car! Great for parking and low footprint on the environment!
Local handmade chocolate bars wrapped in graphic print. Art and creativity extends to displays of local foods.
Very boldly decorated chocolates. Nice to look at, but we prefer the unadorned pure stuff for consumption.
Trays and pyramids of dusted truffles. There is a chocolate bar, where we stand to make a selection of truffles with different fillings such as passion fruit and caramel (our favorites.) Pop, pop pop, like a sushi bar.
Portugal has a highly developed seafood canning industry as it has had for over century. The variety of different fishes and preparations that are canned, is simply mind blowing. A far and beyond stretch from canned sardines. Again, graphic artistry on the cans adds to the visual experience that Lisbon delivers.
We had this very simple classic preparation of grilled salmon, in a local taberna. Quite simply, it was one of the best pieces of salmon we have ever eaten! Perfectly cooked (rare to our request) and exceptionally fresh and delicious.
Mussels galore… prepared in a variety of different ways. This batch were broiled with garlic and wine. Portugal’s reputation as a seafood mecca, is well earned!