Lisbon, the white city dazzling of a thousand colors

9 août 2016

The ocher facades for as far as the eye can see hit by the blinding brightness of the sun gave Lisbon the nickname of the White City. Yet, a stroll in its winding streets quickly confirms that white is far from being the only color that creates its beauty. Cultural mosaic with many influences, Lisbon is a modern city driven by an active past.

Time travel

By putting a foot on the calçada portuguesa, these traditional sidewalks paved with paterns evoking the golden age of the Portuguese discoveries, you will get immersed in a wider horizon than the one of Lisa. Its pastel houses, some of them scratched by tags, remind of tunes from Cuba, the Alfama streets can be compared to the North African ones, its bridge and its trams give a San Francisco touch, while its luxury boutiques, bars and restored docks call London or Berlin to mind.

Two barrios are unmissable: the Alfama and the Bairro Alto, one will keep you busy during the day while the other one will illuminate your evenings. In this historical center sits the very heart of the City of Fernando Pessoa. By wandering in those sinuous streets you will certainly come across the famous Museu do Fado. A short distance from the Santa Apolonia train station, this museum will get you to better understand the notes - often melancholic- of the urban popular Portuguese music genre,inscribed in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists since 2011. A special exhibition focused on Pedro Guimarães entitled "Somos Fado “ is featured through September 18.  Take a look at the Museu Militar or Museu de Artes Decorativas Portuguesas before you go admire the best view of Lisbon from the medieval stones of Castelo São Jorge. Like the city, the castle suffered from earthquakes and tidal waves in the sixteenth century giving it a huge archaeological interest. Its permanent exhibition on ancient artifacts unearthed on the site will delight visitors as much as the breathtaking and stunning view. After taking the legendary tram 28  and walking through historical places from the Rossio to the Praça do Comércio (Trade Square), the largest one in Europe, and the Avenida da Liberdade, it's time to discover that the identity of Lisbon  also sits  outside the historical center.

Modern and cosmopolite

The Belém district, represented by the legendary tower docked by the River Tagus, is entirely shaped by  the soul of explorers who, once, sailed their ships before exploring new lands. Today, the area a the west of Lisbon has two faces where past and present intertwine without difficulty. Facing the Jeronimos Monastery, a masterpiece of Manueline style and a tremendous testimony of the wealth of the Portuguese discoveries around the globe, stands the very modern Belém Cultural Centre. Built between 1989 and 1992 , the 140 000 sqm building is dedicated to the performing arts and hosts  a convention center. Since 2007, it exhibits the Berardo Collection, which includes internationally renowned modern and contemporary artworks, like Picasso, Dali, Warhol, Lichtenstein or Vasconcelos. In terms of museums, it is impossible not to mention the Gulbenkian Museum. Very close to the  Praça de Espanha, visit the private collection of Calouste Gulbenkian, an Armenian industrial settled in Portugal in the 1930s. Various tours offer you to discover ancient civilizations through the Egyptian statuettes, the Greco-Roman weapons, the Chinese porcelain ... and also European art from the Middle Ages to the present day through paintings by Rubens, Renoir, Degas or Rembrandt.

Finally, to conclude in a non-exhaustive way the must-seen of  Lisbon, a tour in Parque das Nações is highly recommended. In this district built at the dawn of the 2000s for the 1998 Universal Exhibition, proudly stand the Oceanarium , the Gare do Oriente domes , the Pavilion of Portugal and the iconic Torre Vasco da Gama , which  its 145 meters is the highest building in the city , along the Ponte of the same name and which spreads over 14 km above the Tagus.

Azulejos, historical monuments, atypical neighborhoods, suspension bridges, wrought iron balconies, paved streets ... gem of a country wedged between Spain and the Ocean, Lisbon is constantly reinventing itself to offer both its children and visitors, a colorful culture, ultimate irony for a white city.


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