5 Reasons to Visit Lisbon Beyond the Tourist Attractions

aerial view of lisbon – the city of light – at sunset

Cathedrals, castles, cafes – check, check and check. Yes, Portugal’s Lisbon has everything it needs to be a typical stop on a European holiday.  Yet after spending time here, visitors can discover many reasons to love Lisbon, beyond any such “European capital city” checklist. Of course, there are the essential Lisbon experiences, but there are also a few ways to appreciate the city beyond the tourist attractions.

Become Inspired by a City of Light

reason to visit lisbon, portugal - monument to the discoveries
Aerial view of the Monument to the Discoveries in Lisbon, Portugal.

Paris remains the city of light, thanks to its efforts in the European enlightenment, but the Lisbon light is radiant. The weather, far more agreeable than most places, offers blue skies (often cloudless) with a distinct light that seems to shine a unique brilliance. This makes it a perfect place to enjoy time outside.

This light seems to inspire artists, writers, photographers, and even Instagrammers (see #Stay_Lisbon) today. It is also not necessarily a new phenomenon, either, as poets appear among the royalty and explorers on its famous Monument to the Discoveries.

Take in the Views

reason to visit lisbon, portugal - the torre de belem
The Torre de Belem – A famous landmark of Lisbon.

With such light, this city of seven hills and no tall buildings (because of a major earthquake in 1755) seems to offer visitors the chance to appreciate its expansive views at every turn. Whether it is a stroll along the edges and winding streets of Barrio Alto before tucking in for dinner, or a visit to St. George’s Castle, the Rua Augusta Arc or the Belem Tower, views from above are the best way to enjoy this city. And they often become the most memorable moments.

One of the best times to take in the views and the light is during the golden hour at sunset. There are plenty of places for a drink and enjoying the passing of the day, but the place to be “SEEN” is watching the sunset atop the Tivoli Hotel.

Taste the Culture Through Cuisine

reason to visit lisbon, portugal - enjoy the cuisine like traditional pastel de nata
Pastel de Nata — Traditional Portuguese desert.

Chili peppers, potatoes, and spices were all part of the globalizing trade effort Portuguese navigators sailed the oceans to accomplish. They helped change the world’s cuisine and attracted some unique tastes to its own country. Locally, fish is foremost, and sardines and salted cod are musts, but make sure take a local coffee with a Pastel de Nata (with cinnamon spice).

One of their own exports, wine, is another must when visiting Portugal. Sample the unique vino verde and port wine (northern Portugal), but in Lisbon make sure to sample the sour cherry liqueur known as Gingja.

Listen to the Lisbon Sound Track

reasons to visit Lisbon – the music like traditional fado singers
Portuguese guitar player, fado singer and acoustic guitar player in front of Fado Museum in Lisbon.

The day may include the sounds of the trams bustling through the streets, but in the evening it’s time to listen to Fado music. Attending regional folk performances in many European cities may be too touristy in other cities, but in Lisbon, Fado connects its visitors with the country.

This soulful, melancholic music emotes feelings of loss and love. Whether you understand the words or not, listening to the sounds of the Portuguese guitar coupled with its intense vocals will enable you to feel the rhythm the country.

Appreciate the Pace of Portugal

reasons to visit Lisbon - the pace of the culture
Patrons enjoying their coffee outside A Brasileira, a cafe in Lisbon’s historic city center.

Cities often come with a speed—a certain tempo—and it is often rarely relaxed. No doubt work needs to get done, but the pace of Lisbon invites everyone to relax. Never rushed or stressed, the city is a place of acceptance—a place where everyone seems to appreciate each day, every day.

A working man’s lunch in a local taberna can come with a half-liter of wine. Local (non-chain) pastry shops still line the streets and everyone always seems to have the time to take a coffee break for conversation. And don’t worry, conversations can also be had in English; the language is well-spoken in this city, too.

Yes, there are many attractions to visit in Lisbon, but after a trip to the Portuguese capital, the reasons you’ll want to return are its views, weather, pace, cuisine and music. Trust me.

About the Author

Craig Zabransky is an ex-global management consultant for top-tier banks gone rogue. After a year-long travel sabbatical, he decided to leave Wall Street to pursue his passion for travel. With the belief travel is a gateway to positive life change he podcasts, writes, blogs, and photographs his adventures to inspire others to take and make adventure in their life. To date, he has traveled through more than 55 countries, 40 U.S. States, 5 continents, and is still traveling from his home in the Florida Keys. For more of his story visit his site StayAdventurous.com.
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