Ever since arriving in Lisbon, we had been aware of the Igreja da Santa Engrácia, with its massive dome capping the skyline of Alfama, and wondered how beautiful the church inside must be. Upon visiting, we immediately realized that, while beautiful it is… a church it isn’t. At least, not anymore. Today, the Santa Engrácia holds the National Pantheon, which honors some of the country’s most prestigious historical figures.
Trams have been a way of life in Lisbon since 1873, with the installation of cars powered by horse. Unlike the city’s remaining funiculars, which have primarily become tourist sights, the trams are still useful and popular with locals. Though, they’re touristy, too. We took a ride on the #28, which is known for its breathtaking route past some of Lisbon’s most iconic sights.
One month in, and Lisbon was already starting to feel like home. We had adjusted to the culture almost immediately, and our legs were starting to adjust to the hills. Almost every day of our first month was spent outside, exploring some corner of Lisbon, so we had plenty of opportunity to build some solid first impressions.
In 1998, Portugal honored the 500th anniversary of Vasco da Gama’s historic journey to India by constructing the longest bridge in Europe. A gondola provides incredible views over the bridge, the Tagus estuary which it spans, and the former pavilions of the 1998 World Expo.
If you’ve spent enough time among the cobblestone streets and 19th-century architecture of Baixa and central Lisbon, the Parque des Nacões might come as a shock. This area which stretches along the Tagus estuary northeast of the city center, was totally redeveloped for Lisbon’s 1998 World Expo, and is defined by its modern pavilions, parks and attractions.
Just around the corner from the Miradouro de São António is the Igreja de São Roque. You’d never guess from its plain facade, but this is considered to be among the city’s most beautiful churches. Next to the church, in a former Jesuit residence, is a small but excellent museum of religious artifacts.
Connecting the Praça dos Restauradores to the Bairro Alto, the Ascensor da Glória has been in operation since 1885. We took a ride to the top, where we checked out the views from the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, one of the most popular viewpoints in the city.
As the world continues to get smaller, certain holiday traditions have come to be shared. For example, it doesn’t matter if you’re in Ohio or Serbia, kids are going to recognize Santa Claus. But there are still differences in most cultures, and we always enjoy learning about them. So what are the holidays in Lisbon like?
What is it that Christians are supposed to ask themselves? Ah yes… “what would Jesus do?” Well, if Jesus were alive in Lisbon on Christmas Eve, he’d definitely visit the huge statue of himself in Almada. How could he resist? I bet he’d even take a selfie, posing with his arms up in front of his own likeness. Jesus is so meta.