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Lisbon: top of your Euro-bucket list

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Lisbon: top of your Euro-bucket list

With it’s sexy slow-paced rhythm, winding white-and-black tiled streets, gentle sea breezes, and unbelievably sunny afternoons, how could a girl not fall in love?!

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I went to Portugal with no expectations. Of course I assumed I would like it, but I hadn’t done much research so I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d find.

To summarize: Lisbon is a laid-back city with an extremely rich history, it has great food for very low prices, world-renown hostels, and a strong music culture. 

I kept finding myself comparing it to Madrid (where I’ve been living for the past 6th months), and I found it to be cheaper, have better food, and to be a much more beautiful city in general. I might be biased since I love cities that are close to water, but there was something so charming about Lisbon.

Also, nearly everyone I met spoke or understood English, much more-so than in Madrid or Paris. It’s always a good idea to learn a few basic sentences to be polite, but don’t think for a second that you’ll have a difficult time in Portugal if you don’t speak Portuguese!

WHAT TO DO

FREE WALKING TOUR

I highly recommend starting off your stay in Lisbon with a free walking tour from Wild Walkers. It’s about 2 hours long, so bring your walking shoes and a camera because there will be tons of great photo ops. Lucky for you, Lisbon is a very photogenic city!

The tour guide was probably the best I’ve ever had due to his honest, quirky & interesting presentation of Lisbon. He was so good that we decided to also take his fado Tour…

The tours are offered every day, and assuming you enjoy it, it is customary to pay a small donation/tip at the end.

FADO TOUR

If you do a Google search on Portugal, the musical genre of fado is sure to come up.

Fado generally has a melancholic tone, and was traditionally sung by the poor & the outlaws to express their sorrows, but it has experienced a resurgence in recent years. I don’t want to give away too many details about the history of it, because it’s much more fun to learn from the local tour guide, but I can promise that it is fascinating.

Of course you could find an expensive touristy dinner & fado show package on your own, or even dig up a few free fado bars to check out, but chances are you won’t know what you’re listening to, you won’t understand the lyrics, and you’ll end up with a very superficial appreciation for the music.

The fado tour from Wild Walkers costs 15 euros & includes: a local guide who is extremely passionate and knowledgeable about fado & its history, free local ginjinha cherry liquor in a traditional chocolate cup, tapas & wine at a fado restaurant during the show, translations from the guide and discussions about the meaning of each song, plus a behind-the-scenes tour of the restaurant. We even got to meet and talk with the performers!

I was so thrilled by this tour, I would do it again in a heartbeat. To be honest, I looked up a fado video on Youtube before my trip, and wasn’t blown away. This tour completely changed my perception of the music, and was the most memorable part of my time in Lisbon.

As you might know, I obsessively seek out live music when I’m travelling, but I truly believe this is an activity that everyone would enjoy.

The fado tours are not offered every day, so contact the company beforehand to find out when they are.

PEOPLE WATCH IN PRAÇA DO COMÉRCIO

People watching is a great activity that can be done in any cafe or plaza anywhere in the world. But doing it in Praça do Comércio, despite its popularity with the tourists, is definitely worthy of a few hours in your schedule.

I recommend going in the mid-afternoon to soak up the last of the sun and relax with a cup of coffee or wine. Make sure to grab a seat at one of the restaurants on the left, then turning your chair outward to face the center of the square.

The food served at the restaurants here is good but definitely on the pricey side, so it’s best to plan on just having a drink and grabbing lunch/dinner elsewhere.

BUDGET SAVING TIP: If you’re trying to save money, grab some snacks from a market and head across the street from the Praça do Comércio. You can sit right by the water for as long as you want, & take in the river and the plaza at the same time. You might even catch some free live music…

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CATCH A SUNSET FROM ZAMBEZE ROOFTOP RESTAURANT

You’ll be taken to the ZamBeZe rooftop during the day on the free walking tour for the great views of the city, but it’s definitely worth going back in the evening to catch a sunset.

If you’re on a budget, you can order just a glass of water or wine while taking in the scenery. I even saw some people sitting on the edge of the rooftop who did not appear to be paying customers, so you could make this a free activity.

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EXPERIENCE LISBON NIGHTLIFE

Lisbon is known around Europe for its amazing nightlife. Having spent the past 6 months in Madrid where the nightlife doesn’t end until 9am (or later), I wasn’t totally blown away by the nightlife, but found it to be pretty on-par with Madrid.Americans read: you will most likely be blown away. 

If you’re staying at Home Lisbon Hostel, and  feeling like a big night out, just hop on the Pub Crawl that stops by the hostel every night.

The best neighborhood for a mix of eclectic bars with something for everyone is the Bairro Alto area that I mentioned earlier. The bars here close at 2 or 3am, so if you’re in the mood to dance or keep drinking, you’ll probably want to head to a club.

There are no clubs in Bairro Alto, but a local recommended Lux Club for a good time. There’s also a popular club called Lust in the Praça do Comércio.

TAKE A DAY TRIP TO SINTRA

Sintra is sometimes described as “the most romantic place on Earth“, and I couldn’t agree more. There is so much to do and see that I would recommend not trying to fit it all into one afternoon; it’s best to spend an entire day there.

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Source: www.fleetinglife.com

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The Garb al-Andalus

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The Garb al-Andalus

The Garb al-Andalus was the name given to the west of the Muslim Iberian Peninsula, which covered the centre and south of Portugal and also the extreme west of Spanish Estremadura and Andalusia. Portugal is a mystery of cultures, a Catholic country without a doubt and a very devoted one. But the old continent was the cradle of many civilizations way before the crusades conquered Europe. In the year 710 the Muslims entered in the Iberian Peninsula and one year later Cordoba and Toledo fell. It was only 800 years later that the last breath of the Muslin Empire in this peninsula was taken.

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As I know you are passionate about Portugal, otherwise you wouldn’t be considering buying a home and maybe retire here to live under this splendid sun, I thought of sharing with you just a glance of the Arab heritage in the country. The Muslins left a strong presence in some Portuguese cities and as I know that sooner or later you will visit the cities in your process of getting to know us better, you will probably recall this article and look at the view with a different perspective.

The cities of Garb al-Andalus developed notably under Arab domain. They didn’t have a scorched earth policy, and often concede broad administrative autonomy in return for the recognition of the authority of the Caliph and the payment of taxes. The introduction of new products and goods brought about not only by sophisticated techniques in the areas of agriculture, science and handicrafts, but also by the silk and spices route revitalizing old cities that where fallen in to decadence, making them prosper. Muslim geographers describe the cities of Garb in glowing terms, boasting of their natural riches and the beauty and qualities of their inhabitants

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Beja (Baja) is probably the most important Arab city in Portugal, as it was the home of very illustrious intellectuals like the theologian Sulayman Ibn Khalaf al-Baji, the poet king al-Mu’tamid or the historian Ibn Sahib al-Sala, but also has the foremost of a region rich in cattle, olive oil, honey and other fruits of the heart.

Alcácer do Sal (Al-Qasr Abu Danis or Al-Qasr al-Fath) they say, had the advantage of its pine forest from where wood was taken for naval construction. For this reason, its shipyards and arsenals where famed.

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Lisbon (Lishbuna) is referred to as an important port, its city walls having many gates. The most important was the west gate (Bad al-Garb) near Aljama Mosque, on the site of the present cathedral. This gate was adorned with monumental marble arches and columns. It was, even then, a city of sailors and alfama was famous for its hot springs and baths. The Saga of the Adventures  took place here, the story tells of eight cousin-brothers who went off in search of the mythical Enchanted Islands and reached the Canary Islands before landing in Morocco. It is a true story, the precursor of the Atlantic navigations of the Portuguese. The best –known poet of the Lisbon region was Abu Zayd ibn Muqana.

Santarém (Shantarin), home of the great poet Ibn Sara and of the noted historian and literary commentator Ibn Bassam, is portrayed as an important agricultural town, living on the abundant harvest of wheat from the Tagus plains and the breeding of horses.

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Sintra (Shintara), probably the birthplace of the poet-mystic bakr Ibn Dawudal-Marwani al-Shantarini has two castles attributed to it. All indications point to these being the forticications today known as the Castelo dos Mouros and the Palácio da Vila, which would have been the governosrs palace. It was praised for its apples (hence Praia das Maças – Apple beach).

Coimbra (Qulumriya) is credited with an unconquerable castle on the banks of the Mondego (Mundik), which after flooding proved to provide excellent soil for abundant harvests. The riverside plains produce olives, apples, grapes and cherries. The Mozarab culture around the Lorvão Convent was prosperous.

Mértola (Mirtula) was important for its strategic position as the strong castle dominated the landscape of the Guadiana river (Wadi Ana), an important access route to the interior and to the sea. It was the birthplace of the poet Sufi AbuÍmran al-Mirtuli. At an early stage the centre of the ephemeral reign of the poet and notable Sufi master Ahmad Ibn Qasi was based here. In Mértola, there is the only relatively intact Portuguese mosque from the Arab period, although altered as a church. 

Évora (Yabura) described in Arab sources as an important city was, however, presented as dependent variously on Beja and Badajoz. It had beautiful estates outside the town, backing on the to the castle walls. One of its many illustrious sons was the poet and notable scholar Ibn’Abdun.

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Finally, Silves (Shilb) is the object of the most praise from the Arab historians and geographers, both for the beauty of its architecture and landscape and for the prosperity and culture of its people. In the castle was famous the Palácio das Varandas (Qasr Al-Sharajib), which existed inside it, was no less so. The river Arade, which the city is built on, was then navigable for a long extent and, along its course, there where watermills and shipyards for naval construction. If its markets where famous, no less where the poetic vain and the purity of the Arabic language of the inhabitants mainly of Yemeni origin.

These prosperous cities with fertile soils, strategic positions or riverside used their fortune and intellectual abilities to enrich the culture and footprint in the territory. Take a ride through these towns and explore ancient churches and take closer look to details – you will find 800 years of history that bring an exotic singularity to the scenery and an enchantment to handcrafts goods.

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Traditional properties in the Algarve are very representative of the Arab culture, their white walls, flat roofs and round shimmies are Algarve’s postcard and the culture brand of this coastal territory.

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