Listening to Fado music while sipping on some fine Portuguese Ginjinha is the perfect way to end your day in Lisbon. Although quite soothing to the ears, Fado is a melancholy wrapped in melody. Listening to Fado reminds one of all the hardships this city had to endure before becoming the joyous, friendly picture it is today. Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world and the westernmost capital city in mainland Europe. 

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The colourful city, watched over by the shrine of ‘Christ the King’, is located at the mouth of river Tagus, often poetically referred to as the lover of Lisbon. 

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Lifestyle

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Traditional Fado Music_© Patricia de Melo Moreira

Lisbon is a place of culture for food, music, art, and architecture. Much of this is owed to the fact that Lisbon welcomes its guests with open arms. It is a cosmopolitan city with one of the highest percentages of expatriates in the world. A typical day of leisure here could start with a visit to the LxFactory: a very fun and creative area with good restaurants and value for art. 

Tourists could then explore the rich wealth of Architecture in the city. When hungry, know that Mercado da Ribeira is the food hub of Lisbon. Here, one can expect to appease any of their cravings. However, the famous custard tarts are to be enjoyed from their place of origin, the Pasteis de Belem. You could either eat in or grab a few for your walk through Alfama, one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Lisbon. 

Come the night, Bairro Alto is one of the more popular nightlife quarters. The famous pink street is an alternative or even the next destination considering that it’s only a 10-minute walk away. Find a Tuscas in an old neighbourhood to wrap up your day and have a hearty meal with good music and a few locals for company. 

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History

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Rich Interiors of Sao Roque Church_ © https://www.discoverwalks.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/800px-lisboa_-i-i-_27718410408.jpg

Lisbon has a significant place in the history of the world as being the starting point of Vasco Da Gama’s “Voyages of Discovery”. This event ultimately made riches for Portugal, which became one of the leading traders in spices and gold at the time. Indicators of those prosperous times are still visible in some of the older buildings in Lisbon today. 

What shaped Lisbon as we see today, however, was the catastrophic earthquake of 1755 and subsequent fires and a tsunami, which destroyed about 3/4th of their buildings and other infrastructure. This was followed by massive reconstruction works under the Marquis of Pombal.

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Planning

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Marquis of Pombal planned the new Lisbon with large, open squares, wide footpaths, and medium-rise buildings that are resistant to seismic activity. The official entry to Lisbon is a set of wide, marble stairs that start from the Tagus and go up to the Commerce square. The commerce square is an open space with buildings on three sides. It has an arch (Praca do Comercio) that opens into the Cidade Baixa (Lower district), which was entirely rebuilt into a grid layout. Some of the older neighbourhoods in the upper district, like Alfama and Bairro Alto, were also rehabilitated after the happenings of 1755.

Like Rome, Lisbon is situated among 7 hills. Although a pedestrian-friendly city, the steep slopes of some neighbourhoods mean that people have to rely on cable cars and elevators to reach their destination. A lot of the places have narrow roads, which makes it difficult to own cars here. Trams are the popular and most eco-friendly alternative for transportation in the city. 

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Architecture

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Lisbon is a sunny and vibrant country with a very modern outlook. However, most of its prominent buildings have managed to retain an identity that is rich in history and tradition. Manueline, Pombaline, Baroque, Gothic, Moorish, and Neoclassical are the most common styles of Architecture seen in buildings across Lisbon. 

Much of the variety in its portfolio is owed to the fact that they have experienced a wide range of governance under different empires and systems. The Sao Jorge castle, Convento do Carmo, Belem tower, Sao Roque church, Aguas Livres Aqueduct, Monument to discoveries, etc., are just a few examples of the historically significant structures in Lisbon. 

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Today, although modern architecture has replaced some structures of significance in the history of Lisbon, a few aspects of it have been closely guarded. The Portuguese ceramic tile facades and the unique patterns used while making sidewalks are a few examples of this. Modern architecture in Lisbon is known to embrace its views, especially that of the mighty Tagus. The Gare do Oriente, Portugal pavilion, MAAT, etc., are a few examples. 

Current State of affairs

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Streets of Lisbon_© https://www.santjordihostels.com/wp-content/uploads/most_popular_streets_lisbon_05.jpg

Although the capital city of Portugal, Lisbon is presently facing population erosion. Statistically, the city has lost about 10% of its population in the last 20 years. A couple of the factors identified for this phenomenon are peripheral urbanization and lower living expenses of some adjoining towns. Policies in the past, aimed at encouraging companies to occupy and work from vacant buildings in the city, have now resulted in increased house prices and rents. This also caused the city to be lifeless and isolated after work hours. However, the city offers enough to encourage travellers to find a home and settle down. 

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Lisbon has one of the highest numbers of happy expatriates in Europe and is also one of the friendliest and most aesthetic cities in the world. The rich culture, vast history, and enjoyable Mediterranean climate have made it one of the most popular destinations for travellers in recent times. 

References

  1. The Spaces. (2016). Get to know Lisbon in 15 buildings. [online] Available at: https://thespaces.com/get-know-lisbon-15-buildings/ [Accessed 26 Jul. 2021].
  2. Happy Frog Travels. (2019). Lisbon Architecture Guide – From Ancient to Modern Times. [online] Available at: https://happyfrogtravels.com/lisbon-architecture-guide-from-ancient-to-modern-times/#Lisbons_Unique_Architecture_Elements [Accessed 26 Jul. 2021].
  3. Nast, C. (2019). A Design Lover’s Guide to Lisbon. [online] Architectural Digest. Available at: https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/design-lovers-guide-lisbon [Accessed 26 Jul. 2021].
  4. The Next Crossing. (2017). A Quick Tour of Lisbon’s Architectural History. [online] Available at: https://thenextcrossing.com/lisbons-architectural-history [Accessed 26 Jul. 2021].
  5. Www.eoi.es. (2013). Urban Planning: A general overview of Lisbon’s current urban planning and its possible improvements. [online] Available at: https://www.eoi.es/blogs/imsd/urban-planning-a-general-overview-of-lisbon%E2%80%99s-current-urban-planning-and-its-possible-improvements/ [Accessed 26 Jul. 2021].
  6. Encyclopedia Britannica. (n.d.). Lisbon – City layout. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/place/Lisbon/City-layout [Accessed 26 Jul. 2021].
  7. www.youtube.com. (n.d.). Lisbon, Portugal: Distinctive Architecture – Rick Steves’ Europe Travel Guide – Travel Bite. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7cICyL3j48 [Accessed 26 Jul. 2021].
  8. www.youtube.com. (n.d.). 48 Hours In Lisbon – What You NEED To Know | Lisbon Travel Guide. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8R1GS-d6zI [Accessed 26 Jul. 2021].
Author

Avneeth Premarajan is a practicing Architect and an ardent “student” of Architecture. He is intrigued by concepts, ideas, philosophy, evolution and geography of design. He is more than willing to give up a few hours of day-dreaming to write about his thoughts.

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