Almost under the radar Lisbon is about to become a thriving tourist metropolitan as more and more people catch on to the unique mix of culture and architecture in this city built of pastels and tile. Perfectly poised on the coast, the heavy colonial history of Portugal makes its capital a Rosetta Stone of architectural design.
Originally built as a lookout point, this river tower is perfectly located on the outskirts of Lisbon. Residing on the riverbank, the tower looks like a miniature castle nestled on the shore. Surrounded by water and a mini beach (about ten square meters), this is the best spot to capture a sunrise or sunset.
April 25 Bridge
Initially named after the dictator Salazar, when Lisbon was granted independence, they renamed this bridge for the date. If you did not know you were in Portugal, you would swear that this was the Golden Gate bridge as the two share the same style and colour. Almost two miles long, the bridge connects Belem’s industrial neighbourhood to the eighty-metre high lookout point on the other side (which offers panoramic views of Lisbon).
This industrial neighbourhood is home to a host of various historical totems of Lisbon’s past. Here you can find two castles (one is pink) as well as the former Queens Gardens which are now a botanical garden. Famous Portuguese tarts are baked in the streets behind the castle, and the haphazard pastel coloured homes splattered with tall palm trees illustrate Lisbon’s current modernization.
Lisbon was previously a Muslim city, a fact which still shows in the architectural style of the older areas of the city. The classic tiles and mosaic art for which Portugal is famous reign supreme in these winding streets, and can be found at almost every intersection. The city has even commissioned newer artworks to line the streets and maintain the theme central to Lisbon’s artistic past. Lisbon is one of the few cities outside of the Middle East to still use mosaic tile to such decorative extremes in the infrastructure.
Technically a group of neighbourhoods, Barrio Alto is an urban photographers dream. It is here that the mosaic and pastel exteriors host tags and art from local street artists. The steep hills can be climbed on one of Lisbon’s famous trams, which are also decorated courtesy of the locals.
Lisbon is a hodge-podge of surprises. While at first glance, it is rather unassuming and somewhat grimy, a quick venture beneath the surface reveals a stunningly beautiful mixed city. East meets west in this port city, and I would highly recommend exploring it with an eager eye. The city is home to various gardens, castles and forts in a multitude of styles that trace it’s ping pong heritage.