Tourists these days. What more is there to say really. Well, after three weeks living in Lisbon I like to think I am living more “locally” than other visitors to this beautiful city. The truth is I am probably not. My Portuguese is terrible, I can’t understand what I am meant to order at the Snack Bar when I am distracted by Pasteis de Nata and I still can’t bring myself to eat dinner past 8:30pm. But, I do know Lisbon without a map. How? Because I have just walked. Without a paper map, without my phone map and kept my eyes open.
Lisbon is not a big city, but this time of year it is packed with tourists. There are areas I would like to called congestion zones. Not only due to the number of tourists, but also because its hilly, the sidewalk is narrow and slippery and there are trams coming at you on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. The old Portuguese women take no prisoners and just keep on walking, not moving an inch to let you by on these narrow sidewalks. But tourists, oblivious to everything probably never see this, or notice the crowd of people trying to get past as they are six abreast staring at their map or phone to work out where they are. But you can discover Lisbon without a map and you’re missing out if you don’t give it a try.
If you feel ‘lost’ in Lisbon then thats actually a good sign as you have removed the searching and you’ve started exploring. So much of Lisbon life, the street art, good cafes and delicious local restaurants are to be found in the back-streets. If there are moments of panic there are some glaringly obvious signs around the city that will stop you from ever actually getting lost for very long.
Remember that giant Moorish castle on top of the hill, the one known as Castelo de S. Jorge? Well thats to the East (slightly North East) of the city.
Remember that really large river that runs out to the Atlantic Ocean called the Tagus? Well that runs past the bottom of the city to the South. You can literally see if from the top of most Miradouro’s (or viewpoints) across Lisbon.
Remember that really really large statue of Jesus Christ like the one you’ve seen in Rio? Yea that one. Well that is on the opposite side of the river. A pretty good judge to know what side of the river you are on.
Remember that large bridge, that could be a tiny Golden Gate Bridge but its not? Well that runs to the West of the City. Also. the sun sets in the west, I hope that is common knowledge. Lisbon has many unbelievable sunsets.
OK so we have our limits to the South, East and West. To the north you have Parque Eduardo VII. It over looks the city from the North. I doubt many tourists make it up there as its out of the congestion zone, but you’ll know when you get there. Plus, if you do get there, you will likely be able to see every landmark I have mentioned and know exactly where to go.
Try to get lost in Lisbon
Lisbon is the most colourful city I have ever been to, coupled by the fresh sea air and amazing sunsets every day, it is a city you have to experience with your head up and eyes open. You will never do it justice if you fixate on where you are trying to get to without getting lost. Aim to get lost, it will be the best part of your trip.
Sidenote: If you aren’t very good with knowing your directions of a compass, north, south, east and west, it goes in a clockwise pattern “Never, Eat, Soggy, Weet-bix”. That is also a very wise piece of life advice.