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Lisbon Highlights

If you go to Lisbon, be sure to take hiking boots.  At least day hikers, the kind for up and down and uneven surfaces. The narrow and sometimes treacherous streets in the old part of City of Seven Hills are steep, turning, twisting revealing great slivers of the Tagus River and urban landscape. Leave the Manolos at home.

Our hotel, the Bairro Alto Hotel, provided us with a great view from the terrific terrace ……a lovely spot to relax after a day of sight seeing and a lot less difficult on the feet.








We loved Lisbon. Who wouldn’t when the hip  hotel threw a Party the first night we were there.  Overflowing with coolness.

Lisbon is different from other European cities in its own charming way.  When we flew into Lisbon a month a go, a first time for both of us, Jack commented, “Well, its not Barcelona” referring to Barcelona’s uber modern glass airport that puts the neighboring Spanish city on the aviation map.  Lisbon is well worn. But that is ok.

We took what felt like a long taxi ride from airport to our hotel in the trendy Bairro Alto area through a lot of rather down trodden sections once colonial splendors.  Old buildings, crumbling mansions, clearly once grand but no more.  Jack reminds me that Portugal’s economy has been in the dumps.  No money for renovation.


Some of the huge buildings were covered with interesting murals, disguising the decay. Making the best of things.

Everyone talks about the cobblestones and I can see why.  Sidewalks made with carefully thought out designs populated most of the streets in the older part of town. Distinctive. Attractive. Not a spot for high heels.









The people clearly love color and ornamentation.  This kept me busy looking at all the ways a building could be decorated.  We saw many remnants of this city’s golden age.

The trolley system dominates the area.  The cute old colorful cars buzzed about tethered to the  tangled web of wires above us.  At first I thought the electrical maze  overhead  was ugly but I got used to it….

And then I smiled to see how an artist took the idea of the overhead wires to create a sculpture in an urban shopping center in recycled building.

A lot of people asked me, Why are you going to Portugal?” Well, the first and most obvious answer is, “Cause I haven’t been there.”  But as we enjoyed our stay, I found the people to be sweet, gentle and oh so nice.  Helpful. Never rushing me when I stopped at the main desk of the hotel to ask questions which I did  every day. None of the rude edginess we encounter in France or the boisterous exuberance in Italy.  They are just lovely.

Not good or bad.   Just different.  Delightful.

I am  fascinated with fact  that they have been explorers.  This heritage shows up in many places—palaces with rooms devoted to ships and the sea, nautical  images on the buildings, statues and monuments.  The Portuguese  wanted to see the new world and were not afraid to venture out to discover its treasures.

I liked the quirky stuff. For example, we didn’t go there but they have a Museum of Electricity. We also enjoyed the Fado—traditional folk song type music.  We went to a Fado restaurant even though our thirty something bell man told us, “Only tourists go to hear Fado.”

We enjoyed it but then we ARE the age of his parents and we are tourists.  The service at the restaurant the hotel recommended was very attentive—nothing slap dash and the food good. I found Fado to be much gentler and more soulful music than the neighboring country’s Flamenco.  Both are great.  Interesting to experience the differences.

Have you been to Lisbon?  What’s your favorite or most interesting experience? I’d love to know.   Do share in the comment section below.





Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.


  1. posted by
    Jun 22, 2011 Reply

    I have had Portugal on my second-tier list of places I need to go since my mom went there in the early 1970s, and now, now?? Now it’s going to the first-tier! I LOVE this post. Everything you had to say and show (esp.about the cobblestones,so much like Prague) screamed “gotta get there!” Thanks.

  2. posted by
    Jun 22, 2011 Reply

    Susan, I think your rationale for going to Portugal is perfect…”because I haven’t been there”. I can’t think of a better way to explore the world, open one’s eyes, and learn about different cultures than to GO SEE ANOTHER COUNTRY. Hurrah for you and Jack! I haven’t been to Portugal but it’s inching ever closer to the top of my wish list.

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