Lovely Lisbon in Winter
by Teri E. Popp, Tastemaker in Residence
I have found that most of my friends have a visit to Portugal on their bucket list, with many viewing it as quasi-exotic: birthplace of the lyrical Portuguese language spoken by only a few countries; located in such a way on the European continent that it is definitely a destination-not just a pitstop as we jet from one country to the next; and not necessarily within easy grasp, either geographically nor linguistically.
But, after visiting 62 other countries first, I somehow finally found the time to insert a visit to the “San Francisco of Europe” located on the Tagus River and Estuary-Lisbon (known by the Portuguese as Lisboa)-and, I must say, I should have made this journey much earlier! What a treasure!
Clean, friendly and beautiful, this gem of a city, perches on cobble-stoned streets and hilly overlooks. Literally, this place actually has it’s own San Francisco Bridge, albeit, called the 25 de Abril Bridge in homage to the country’s peaceful revolution from dictatorship to republic in 1974.
Since we only had a short time in Lisbon, we opted to hire a guide and were not disappointed! We started with the Church of Santa Maria Maier (also called the Sé), the oldest church in the city with portions of this Romanesque and Gothic cathedral dating back to 1147 AD.
We then traveled through the twining, cobblestone roads up to the Graça neighborhood. From the top, we could see much of this amazingly beautiful, tiled city.
Crossing through Lisbon, we made our way over the 25 de Abril Bridge to Almada to see the Christ the King statue overlooking the harbor from the far side. Lisbon, a sister city to Rio de Janeiro, features Rio’s familial twin in honor of their shared Portuguese ancestry.
On our way back to the city center, we stopped to tour the Palace of Quelez, an 18th century Rococo mansion located in the Sintra Municipality. We happily watched a children’s party as the participants, all dressed in costume, played a game in the rambling gardens!
From there we toured the Jerónimos Monastery, a former Catholic Church built in the picturesque Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline style of architecture. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it is truly worth a visit! It should be noted that this is the final resting place of discoverer Vasco de Gama, as well.
We finished our day enjoying a sumptuous seafood meal at O Palacio in the Prazeres neighborhood upon the recommendation of our fabulous guide, Gonzalo Santos, and it did not disappoint! Off the beaten path, it featured Portuguese specialities and friendliness in an environment frequented by Lisbon locals! Felicidades!!!
Note: We visited Lisbon in winter with the temperatures hovering around a comfortable 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re planning a visit at another time of year, check temperatures before you go as it can reach above 115 degrees during the summer.
Up next: Touring the Greater Lisbon Area including Sintra, Cabo de Roca, and Cascais!