3 Ways to Have an Immersive Cultural Experience in Lisbon
From Delicious Eats to Wandering the Streets
Lisbon is one of those cities that can be endlessly explored. Being one of the oldest cities in the world, you can imagine the amount of history and tradition there is to be discovered here. Thankfully, the hilly city is quite condensed and seeing all the sights can be done mostly by foot.
Lisbon is a city that embraces travelers from abroad and is proud to share its rich and vibrant culture with the rest of the world. Here are three things to do in Lisbon that will help you fully experience the Portuguese way of life in this incredible city.
Immerse Yourself in Fado (Music)
Fado is a deeply emotional musical genre that originated in Lisbon in the 1820s. It is the only genre of music that was specifically created in Portugal. Just as America has the blues, Portugal has fado. It was created by the lower class, working folk and has a mournful, longing sound.
Fado cafes can be found all over Lisbon, concentrated specifically in the Alfama (old town) district. Attending a fado show is a must while in Lisbon as it allows visitors to feel some of the pain and emotion the Portuguese people went through to arrive where they are today.
Also, if you have time, a visit to the Museu do Fado (Fado Museum) is worthwhile. It is located in the same area of town and the cost of entrance is €5, which is a modest price for a highly informative, interactive experience.
Eat Your Way Through History (Food)
Lisbon is a foodie’s dream city. From amazing seafood and pastries to delicious sangria, this city does not disappoint when it comes to gastronomy. The best part is how affordable and high quality it is.
Being a coastal city, Lisbon’s seafood is a must-try if you eat fish. It’s important to note that only a couple of fish are actually local, though, so stay away from restaurants with huge varieties of fish — they’re usually tourist traps. The local fish in Lisbon are: sardines, tuna and mackerel. There are others as well, but if you’re unsure, always ask where it was caught before consuming.
Another staple in Lisbon are nata (Portuguese custard tarts). There are so many bakeries dedicated solely to these pastries and in order to get the best ones, apparently you must venture to Belem (a 20-minute drive west). In the city of Lisbon, the ones at Manteigaria are regarded as the best. If you enjoy soft, custardy, warm tarts, these are the pastries for you.
As well as amazing food, Lisbon has delicious drink options at a very affordable price. As many fruits grow in Portugal, it’s no surprise that sangria is extremely popular. Ordering a pitcher of sangria and sharing it with friends is a normal, everyday experience for those living in Lisbon. If fruity isn’t your style, vinho verde (bubbly green wine that is more bitter than champagne) is a delicious option.
Explore the World of Pessoa (Literature)
Fernando Pessoa is one of the world’s most highly regarded poets. He was born in Lisbon and lived there most of his life. He has written poetry under many different names or heteronyms (personas) and it is incredibly interesting to explore his work.
Reading Pessoa and learning about his life is important as it is integral to Portuguese history. His words had a great impact on the development of the Portuguese nation and schooling. A visit to his home is a nice excursion, but not necessary to gain the most from his work. I’d suggest visiting Livraria Bertrand (the world’s oldest bookstore), picking up one of the many compilation books they have there, and sitting in one of Lisbon’s many parks while getting lost in his words. It’s a wonderful and meaningful experience to read such timeless, passionate work about a city while being in the city itself.
As you can see, Lisbon has a lot to offer when it comes to arts and culture. It truly is a European gem that the world is lucky to be able to enjoy. As well as intentionally seeking out the culture in Lisbon, I highly recommend wandering the side streets and getting lost a little. There’s so many amazing street performers, outdoor dancing and unique patios to be enjoyed serendipitously while visiting Lisbon.