Set within a 17th-century palace across from the popular Miradouro das Portas do Sol, a viewpoint that looks over Alfama and the cruise ship docks, the Museu de Artes Decorativas (also called the Fundação Ricardo do Espírito Santo Silva, or FRISS) introduces visitors to the exquisite furniture and design of Lisbon during the Age of Exploration.
We were surprised to learn that the patron saint of our adopted hometown of Valencia, San Vicente Martir, is also the patron saint of Lisbon. Although he’d never visited Portugal in life, his mortal remains were brought here in 1173. We visited the ancient church and monastery named in his honor, set on a hill in Alfama.
If a city can be said to have a birthplace, Lisbon’s is the massive stone bluff which soars over the Tagus River Basin. This hill was home to the earliest humans to populate the area, and has served as a fortress and a castle for centuries of Romans, Moors and Christians. Today, the remains of the Castelo de São Jorge serve mostly tourists, who show up in droves to take in the best views in the city.
The Basilica da Estrela lies west of the Baixa, in the upscale neighborhood of Lapa. Built by the Queen of Portugal to fulfill a promise to God, the church sits atop a hill, with a giant dome that’s visible throughout Lisbon. We visited both it, and the adjacent Jardim da Estrela on an overcast Sunday.
What better place to begin our exploration of Lisbon, than the square which has long served as its entrance gate? The Praça do Comércio, usually called the Terreiro do Paço (Palace Yard), is situated at the base of the Tagus River, where ships laden with riches from around the world once came to shore.
Our home for the next three months is going to be Lisbon, Portugal’s capital and the oldest city in Western Europe. Within the past few years, this city has become extremely fashionable among both tourists and expats, and it’s no wonder. Lisbon boasts a fascinating history, affordable way-of-life, eclectic culture, excellent cuisine, thousands of things to see and do… and a whole lot of hills.