FIVE LISBON BASICS
Lisbon is one of Europe’s most atmospheric cities. ..moody, secretive, with a whiff of the Moorish about it. With its ancient tiled façades, curious shop fronts, quirky trams and funicular railways, it has a character all its own. It’s a city for walking (mostly uphill!) and your fondest memories may be of aimlessly wandering its colourful streets and picturesque alleyways. But if you’d like to put a shape on your roaming, here are five things to check out in Lisbon:
Start with Baixa- the old town that climbs up from the shore of the Tagus River. A handsome archway – the Arco da Rua Augusta- commemorates the city’s reconstruction after the earthquake of 1775 and leads to Lisbon’s principle street.. Rua Augusta cuts a line through the city, with Chiado and the Barrio Alto on the hills to the left, Alfama crawling up the steep slope on the right. Chiado has a Belle Époque feel, and is the ‘in’ place for bookshops, cafés, and boutiques. Night owls nest in the clubs and bars of the Barrio Alto, from midnight until the early hours.
2) The Alfama
The Alfama, the oldest part of Lisbon, is where ‘fado; was born. Fado means ‘fate’ and this poignant music expresses the loss and longing common to Lisbon’s poor. To find authentic fado, wander the twisting streets of the Alfama. When you hear a soulful lament seeping out of a darkened bar, you’ve found your spot.
Two to try: Clube de Fado, R.S. Joao de Praca 92/94. Old fashioned Fado club. Mainly local clientele. Daily 8:30 pm to 2am A Taverna do Juliao, Lg. Do Peneireiro, 5. Wed. to Sun, 9pm to 2 am.
3) The tiles
The tiles you see all over Lisbon (azulejos) were originally imported from Moorish Spain. After 1550, the unique Portuguese version developed. Learn more at the Museum of Azulejos, and see Portugal’s longest azulejo installation, a 40-metre panorama of Lisbon in 1738, The convent kitchen (where you can have lunch) is beautifully tiled, too.
Museu Nacional do Azulejos, Rua da Madre de Deus 4. Tel. 21 81 47 747. Tuesday 2-6 pm, Wednesday-Sunday 10am-6pm.
4) Gulbenkian Museum
One of the world’s outstanding art collections is housed in Lisbon’s Gulbenkian Museum – 6000 treasures from Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, Islam, Armenia and Asia. Plenty of western art too. A stroll through the garden brings you to the Museum of Modern Art.
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum entrance, Avenida da Berna, 45. Tel. 21 795 02 36. Museum of Modern Art entrance on Rua Dr. Nicolau de Bettencourt. Tel.21 78 23 00. Open Tuesday 2 – 5:45 pm; Wednesday to Sunday 10am to 5.45pm.
5) The Park of Nations
The Park of Nations, a landscaped stretch of shops, restaurants and museums, runs for five kilometres along the bank of the Tagus River. Go for the Science Pavilion, the historic Coach Museum, but especially for the truly astonishing oceanarium. Great views from the cable car linking the oceanarium at one end of the park with the Vasco da Gama tower, Lisbon’s tallest structure, at the other.
Parque da Nacoes. Tel: 21 891 98 98. Sunday-Thursday 9:30 am-1 am. Friday-Saturday 9:30 am-3 am Oceanarium, Tel: 21891 70 02. Open 10am to 7pm daily from April-October and 10am to 6pm November-March. This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner« Back