I wouldn’t have guessed it before arriving, but a big part of our Lisbon experience has had to do with tiles. They cover the facades of the city’s buildings, decorate its churches and palaces, and are even the subject of a popular museum. So it seemed natural to visit a workshop, where they’re still being made the old-fashioned way. The family who runs the Cerâmica São Vicente was kind enough to invite us inside and introduce us to their craft.
You probably wouldn’t think that Lisbon’s Military Museum would be anything special. Nobody ever talks about it, and it hardly appears in travel guides. You’ll never find it on a “Best of Lisbon” list. So when we showed up on a lazy day during which we had nothing else to do, our expectations were low. But this turned out to be a major surprise; in fact, it was one of the coolest museums we saw during our time in the city.
Largely unknown outside Portugal, the musical style of fado is a big deal in Lisbon, where it was born in the early 19th century. On a chilly Sunday night, we were introduced to the mournful music at the TascaBeat do Rosário, a tiny joint tucked away in one of Alfama’s many hidden corners.
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.