The small town of Mafra, 40 kilometers to the north of Lisbon, is home to one of Portugal's most monumental palaces. Built between 1717 and 1750 by King João V, the Palácio Nacional de Mafra is jaw-dropping in its dimensions, and seems as large as the village of Mafra itself. We laced up our sneakers, stretched our quads, and prepared ourselves for the herculean effort of visiting the palace.
Ever since Lisbon's Museu de Arte, Arquitetura e Tecnologia (or MAAT) opened its doors in 2016, the museum's two adjacent buildings have been locked in an eternal struggle for ultimate coolness. In this corner, a former electricity plant, with much of its equipment still intact. And its opponent, a sleek, wave-shaped building of gleaming white panels. I'm not sure which is going to win!
Reconstructed after the 1755 earthquake in accordance with an ultra-rational plan devised by the Marquis de Pombal, Lisbon's Baixa (or "Lower") district is a rectilinear grid of streets at the base of the city's main valley. Many of the shops that were opened during the earliest days of the neighborhood's rebirth are still in operation. We checked out 22 of these "lojas com historia" ("shops with history") during a long day spent exploring Baixa.
Without a doubt, the most celebrated novelist in Portugal's recent history is José Saramago, winner of the Nobel Prize, author of modern classics like Blindness, and general proponent of run-on sentences, a great man who has been remembered at a museum in Alfama's Casa dos Bicos, and whom I will honor by constructing each paragraph in this article as a single flowing thought, just like this one.
There can't be many visitors to Portugal who don't at least once gorge themselves on a pastel de nata, the small, flaky, buttery custard pie found in every bakery in the land. To watch them be made, we visited the famous Pastéis de Belém, which has been cranking out the treats since 1837.
What is it about rich people, always choosing the highest neighborhoods in which to live? Do they have to literally lord it over the rest of us? Apparently so, because in a hilly town like Lisbon, you can bet that the highest hills are going to be populated by the richest people. It's a law as immutable as gravity, and should you be in doubt, then please check out Lapa. Just make sure to step out of the road as the Porsche SUV blasts by.
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.
Not many stray dogs roam the streets of Lisbon, but there seems to be no shortage of cats. Perhaps they just breed faster, or they're more difficult to catch. Or maybe nobody cares, because the slinking, sneaky creatures fit into this mysterious city so perfectly. Throughout the course of our time in Lisbon, we've collected a bunch of fun photos of the city's photogenic street cats. -The Cats Of Istanbul
The neighborhood of Amoreiras is best known for its mall, encased within towering glass buildings that are visible from across Lisbon. We wouldn't be visiting Amoreiras, though, for its luxury shopping or modern architecture, but to see something more ancient: the Reservatório da Mãe d'Água, a cistern built in the 1740s.
Lisbon is such a monumental city that it can be overwhelming. What's around this corner? Another ancient church with another fascinating history that I'll want to spend hours learning all about? Ain't nobody got time for it all! So, it was almost a relief to be exploring the neighborhood of Alvalade, where the biggest "sight" is an everyday produce market.