When people make plans to study abroad, the first thing that comes to mind is the opportunity to travel. Since childhood, there was an urge in me to see the world from another perspective. Being from a very small town in the Dominican Republic fueled this curiosity further. As I grew older, the more assured I became that I wanted to get to know the world beyond the frontiers set by that small little town. At 22 years old, I set out on that journey.
From the beginning of my travel years, the curiosity to visit Portugal was always there. After graduating from college, I had the opportunity to start traveling the world. A few years later I arrived in England with a mindset on new professional goals, a better knowledge of traveling, and a heart full of expectations. While in England, the historical relationship between the British crown and Portugal reignited the spark of curiosity about this seemingly small country in the Iberian Peninsula.
Though geographically compact when compared to other nations, Portugal is a country big in history, traditions, and culture. The first colonial empire of centuries pasts, Portugal has seen its share of ups and down. Walking through the streets of Portugal and its cities, the scars of the past can still be found. Nevertheless, above it all, the richness of its culture, and the charm of its people is what makes Portugal a must-visit.
On my first trip to Portugal, and as the plane approached the Humberto Delgado Airport in Lisbon, my heart grew with excitement. I was eager to get to the cultural center of Lisbon, walk its streets, admire its architecture, and meet its people. To get to the city center is relatively easy, as it is accessible by all public transportation. Known as “A Cidade das Sete Colinas” (The City of Seven Hills), Lisbon is very easy to get around by foot. It is possible to go from one important landmark to the other in a matter of minutes.
Recommendations from past visitors included staying in “Bairro Alto.” This neighborhood is the fundamental district of the city as its development influenced the expansion of Medieval Lisbon, and embodies the history, and character of Portugal. Buildings in Bairro Alto are characterized for their picturesque architecture. Their facade embellished with beautiful azulejo tiles which create an abstract vision in par with the hanging lines of clothes from the buildings’ balconies and windows.
Small in size, but large in population, Lisbon is the 11th most populous city within the European Union. Its people are lively and jovial, proud of their culture and heritage. A night out in Bairro Alto will surely be a memorable one. A welcoming spirit of friendliness is present at every corner. Tiny bars and eateries line the narrow streets, full of people enjoying the nights away. Lisbon truly offers a nightlife like no other.
There is so much to share about visiting Lisbon. From the selection of delectable wines notable to this region, the diverse traditional cuisine, to its monuments, and history, Lisbon is a city full of charm and excitements. When in Lisbon, hop on the tram or tuk tuk, and explore some of the attractions suggested below.
When in Lisbon
Start your journey through the city at Marquês de Pombal. This square is considered one of the most important in Lisbon, connecting you to various important avenues. From there, walk to the Parque Eduardo VII, a green landscape of 26 hectares which pays tribute to the British King, Edward VII.
After visiting the park, head to Church of Sao Roque, one of the earliest Jesuit churches in the world. A quick walk will lead you to the ruins of Carmo Convent, and the Santa Justa Elevator. This elevator is the only vertical public lift in the city. Continue your walk South to Rua Augusta or North to the Rossio Square, both popular sites with locals and tourists alike. St. Geroge’s Castle, on the highest hill of Portugal, offers amazing views of the city. The Monastery of Sao Vicente de Fora, built in the 17th century, offers equally beautiful views of Lisbon and the sea, as well as of the National Pantheon of Lisbon. End your day at the Commerce Square on Cais das Colunas, and be sure to save your spot to admire the sunset with the rest of the locals.
The next day head to Belem. This parish of the municipality of Lisbon is popular with tourists for the Belem Tower. Built in the 16thcentury, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has a key role in the history of Portugal and its maritime expeditions and discoveries. Other sites to visit while in Belem include the monument Padrao dos Descobrimientos and the Jeronimos Monastery.
Camera: Nikon D850/24-70mm f/2.8G ED