Perched on the edge of the Atlantic, Lisbon is not only a city with an exciting history dating back to the Roman and Phoenician Empires, but boasts a modern vibrant culture. Lisbon is a global city as it is an important finance, commerce, arts, international trade and tourism hub. The metropolitan area of this capital city actually houses a whopping one-third of the country’s population.
|One of the many pedestrian walkways of Lisbon|
Of course, my only point of reference for Portugal before visiting in 2007 was Brazil. Silly, I know but there are some very interesting similarities to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo – besides the fact they speak Portuguese (wink wink). When you walk along the many pedestrian walkways and preciously manicured sidewalks, it doesn’t take much to imagine these same patterns that decorate the boardwalk of world famous Copacabana beach. Another common misconception is that Portugal as a whole is just an extension of its Iberian neighbour.
The city centre is quite packed in – for lack of a better explanation – and the advantage of this is that the main touristy locations are a short walk away from each other. There really is no better method to get a better sense of life in the capital. The churches are prime examples of a rich architectural history if you happen to overlook the Roman walls. The Sé Cathedral of Lisbon dates back to the Reconquista in 12th Century and the Castelo São Jorge uses foundations from the Roman Empire but was originally erected in the 11th Century, just to mention a couple of examples.
One of my favourite sites is the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, an immense Manueline-style monastery named after Saint Jerome, the patron saint of translators. This was very fitting as at the time since I was a translator and interpreter (as opposed to an “interpretator” which I am not sure exactly what they do). The building is lavishly decorated, as it was once a Royal funerary during Spanish occupation, noticeable by the many tombs (I have a keen eye for detail). Vasco de Gama is also buried here for all you discovery nuts!
|The Monument to the Discoveries and the monastery of Saint Jerome in the background|
Walking along the Tagus River, there are two more pieces of eye candy. The more obvious one (you’ll know what I mean when you go there or if you have been there) is the Golden Gate Bridge’s sister, the 25th of April Bridge, connecting each end of the bay. The second, another personal favourite, is the Monument to the Discoveries, a proud display of heroic Portuguese ventures across the mean seas on raggedy boats. Discover this true sovereign of the Atlantic… I highly recommend it!