This city is often overlooked as a destination, considered an also-ran to Paris, Rome and other European capitals, with their iconic attractions and masses of tourists. But there's something to be said for Lisbon's subtler charms.
Lilac-hued jacaranda blossoms carpeting the stone benches in Largo do Carmo Square, for instance. Or melancholic fado music wafting from cafes in the twisting streets of Alfama. Or the perfume of sea spray along the waterfront in Belém, close to where the Rio Tejo joins the Atlantic Ocean.
Lisbon peaked as a global powerhouse in the 15th and 16th centuries, when Portuguese explorers sailed from its shores, returning with treasures from India and the coast of Africa. A devastating earthquake and tsunami in the 1700s humbled the city. The current economic crisis has put Portugal in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. An upside of centuries out of the spotlight is that Lisbon's gems weren't razed in the name of progress.
There are also advantages to the capital's lack of notoriety on the cultural front. Visitors can enjoy Lisbon's museums—the trendy (the Museu Coleção Berardo and the Museu do Design e da Moda) and the traditional (the fado and tile museums)—without crowds.
Yet the city isn't stuck in the past. Santiago Calatrava designed the futuristic Oriente metro station in Parque das Nacões. The new Beautique Hotels Figueira were created by acclaimed Portuguese designer Nini Andrade e Silva. And British architect Amanda Levete is creating a spaceshiplike EDP Foundation Arts and Technology Centre in Belém.
Back home, regale your friends with your discoveries. Better yet, don't.
Source: Wall Street Journal