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.
The hills were our first challenge after arriving. Our apartment is found in the neighborhood of Mouraria, at the top of an alley so steep that it requires stairs: 77 of them, to be exact. Adding to the difficulty, the streets and sidewalks are all made up of uneven cobblestone, requiring us to carry our suitcases as much as roll them. And then there was the heat; this was an early afternoon in mid-November, and it was t-shirt weather. It definitely wasn’t sweater-and-jacket, suitcase-lugging, hill-climbing weather.
But listen to me! Even as we were sweating and grumbling, we were laughing at ourselves. Looks like Lisbon might be too warm and sunny! These cobblestone hills which will provide a million photo opportunities are going to be mildly inconvenient exactly twice during our three month stay! Almost as soon as we had arrived in our new apartment, we threw down our suitcases, shed our jackets, and ran back outside to properly check out our new neighborhood.
Soon, we were standing at the top of the Miradouro da Graça, looking out over a city bathed in golden evening light. Lisbon is larger than I would have guessed, and from this viewpoint, it looks like the oldest city in Europe. This mad jumble of houses and architectural styles could only have been designed by centuries of disconnected development. It’s like God was running out of time, so he just grabbed the bag of Legos labeled “Misc. Buildings” and spilled it out into the Tagus river valley. “There, Lisbon’s done.”
We ordered a couple Super Bock beers and sat along the railing to take in the view. To the south, high atop a bluff, we could see the Castelo de São Jorge, which dates from Roman times. We admired the Ponte de 25 Abril, a suspension bridge which spans the Tagus, and looks just like the Golden Gate. (With its hills and trolleys, Lisbon was already reminding us of San Francisco.) And we had a blast just hanging out on the terrace, enjoying the pleasant buzz of life on a Tuesday evening in Lisbon.
Looking down on Lisbon from above was great, and we could hardly wait to get into the city and start making sense of it all. But the sun had already set on our first day and, after all, we were going to be here for 90 more. There’s no need to rush it.
Jürgen and I are in the market for tips. We’ve never been to Lisbon before, and are almost completely ignorant about the city. So if you know of any hidden gems, please get in touch! Guidebooks are great, and ensure we won’t miss the “big” sights, but our favorite experiences are usually the ones recommended by our readers.