It takes exactly 5 days to get used to and enjoy Lisbon. At first glance, it’s a hard looking, torn apart city that everyone seems to have given up on. We found out just before coming to Lisbon that it’s one of the oldest cities in the world, and by the looks of it, we weren’t too shocked. Also, I’m pretty sure it makes San Francisco look as flat as Saskatchewan. It was impossible to find a building, bus, or train that didn’t have every inch covered in graffiti. It’s heaven if you enjoy graffiti, but the buildings that were covered were completely run down and not taken care of.
I did some research and found out that graffiti is legal in Lisbon. If you ask the landlord permission to graffiti and they give it to you, go nuts! Some landlords pay for graffiti artists to come in and spray their buildings, as long as it looks good. Of course there are people who don’t ask permission and write stupid things that don’t make sense and just make the building look terrible. One recurring graffiti was “Greve Geral” which means “General Strike”. This was the theme of downtown Lisbon where we were staying. It was a simple hostel that had just been taken over by a new guy in January. There was no heat, like most places, but if you needed anything, our guy helped us out every way he could. He even provided us with a free beer one night.
The first night, we decided to go to the Whyte Ave of Lisbon and check out the local scene. Since it’s February, there are hardly any other tourists around so most of the restaurants on this street had people standing outside practically pulling you into their restaurants. We finally caved to one guy and went to an Indian/Italian/Portuguese restaurant which was really good. Afterwards, we went to a jazz/blues bar Graeme heard about. It was absolutely fantastic. The band was great, the bar was really cool and the place was packed. Definitely the place to be until the cops showed up. We didn’t stick around to find out why.
We decided to do a 2 day hop on hop off tour of Lisbon to see the rest of the city. At 19 euro a person, it was worth every penny. The first day, it took us around the water and what seemed like even more shanty areas of Lisbon. We got off at the Aquarium (which is the second biggest in the world, biggest in Europe) and enjoyed it thoroughly! Afterwards, the tour took us around the Expo 98 area, the business area and other neighborhoods that were graffiti free and really nice.
The second day of the tour took us around Belem (which is Portuguese for Bethlehem) and it was easily my favourite place in Lisbon. It was gorgeous and located right by the Tagus river. During the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, Belem was the least affected place so the King took refuge here and transformed it into an amazing place to live. The houses, which were built in the 1940s, around Belem are gorgeous. Belem’s main street, Rua de Belem, is a strip of 160 year old buildings that have survived several years of change and modernization. There’s one famous pastry shop Fábrica de Pasteis de Belém known for a specific Portuguese egg tart made with flaky pastry. They sell 10,000 a DAY. It was pretty dang tasty.The most amazing structure in Belem is Jeronimos Monastery which was built in 1459 and is an absolutely stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site. Check out the pictures on facebook!
As the second day of our tour came to an end, I had a new view on Lisbon. The buildings looked a little brighter, the food was tastier, the hills…well the hills were still incredible, the people were friendlier and we realized Lisbon wasn’t the same city we saw when we first arrived.
Lisbon is a person covered head to toe in tattoos. You can’t judge that person based on their looks, you have to get to know them, and you’ll find out they’re just another human being.