How to travel in the time of a pandemic, when covid seems to be only one sneeze away? Go slow, live like a local, stay outdoors and away from the crowds.
This is the West Coast of Europe, the weather and views are so very California. Lisbon is on the same latitude as San Francisco, same-same but different with its hills, trams, bay, red bridge, fabulous coffee and restaurants for a fraction of the cost. Wear comfy shoes since in the Lisbon hills you will be climbing 100 floors a day. We spent one month discovering Lisbon, but Covid did not catch us. Here are our tips and faves! (Poems below: Ferninand Pessoa)
1. Be careful or it will get you!
Make sure you are fully vaccinated, wear a mask indoors and in a crowd and have a travel insurance that fully covers covid care.
2. Stay away from touristy areas and crowds
Live like a local. Escape the crowds and their germs by staying in an apartment or Airbnb. In Lisbon go for the quieter areas of Estrela, Restelo or Alcantara. Get a two bedroom place if you are on a longer stay and want to combine a workcation and invite family and friends to stay.
3. Visit curious small museums off the beaten path
- Educate yourself on the dark underbelly of the dictatorship and colonial time at the Museum of Activism and Resistance. Museo do Aljube.
- Visit Casa Fernando Pessoa in honour of the modernist poet who shrunk himself to a single ortonym and wrote through 30 heteronyms who were in dialogue with one another and even with himself.
- Visit Viera da Silva and Arpad Szenes foundation, museum and gallery. Nomadic contemporary artist couple in the time of the tumultuous world wars.
- Museum of the rebellious caricatyrist Bordalo Pinheiro turned into Cabbage potter.
- Follow the old aqueduct through the city. Walk the Museum route, fountain route or a 3 km route of underground galleries meandering underneath Lisbon. Visit the water Museum and get a brochure of the routes.
4. Wonder out in the parks, meet statues
Meet historical people and fairy tale creatures in the form of statues and sculptures. Here are some of our favourite parks with heaps of interesting outdoor art:
- Jardim da Estrela. Spot chickens sitting on the hedge, night dancers at the pavilion. Greet the keeper of the ducks Guardadora de Patos inspired by a fairy tail princess.
- Parque da Bela Vista. Huge park with excellent views. Many exits are locked so make sure you come in either from the South (Spinola Avenue) or East (Regio Avenue) side.
- Tapada das Necessidades. In the royal times a hunting ground and out of bounds for the disciples. Beautifully neglected park with peacocks and chickens. The last queen of Portugal used the Casa do Regalo Pavilion as her painting studio.
5. Favour small restaurants and outdoor seating
Quiosques are a Lisbon tradition since 1869 and you find them in almost every park and public space where you can enjoy a Pastel de Nata custard tart, Ginginha cherry liquor. We may also have downed a Caipirinha or two.
Our top restaurant favourites:
- Loco. 16-course tasting menu from seasonal, organic locally sourced ingredients. Almost impossible to get a reservation, but they kindly tend to the waiting list.
- Sala. Contemporary organic Portuguese cuisine with a wonderful service.
- Senhor Uva. Wonderful selection of natural wines and creative Vegan dishes.
- Terroir. Every course is a delightful treat of flavors highlighting Portuguese ingredients.
6. Walk along the endless coastline
- Amble from the Oeiras Praia da Torre along the Camino Maritimo boardwalk towards Lisbon. Watch roller skaters whizz by and surfers bob in the waves.
- Parque das Nações is a futuristic waterfront area with historical vessels, a Telecabine cable car and a spot for bird watching in the Estuary which is largest in Europe!
- The empty beaches are just a short Uber ride away. Cross the bridge and walk along the 30 km of perfect beaches from Charneca da Caparica to S. Joao da Caparica.
7. Watch movies about Portugal
- How Ferninand Pessoa Saved Portugal. The Short film is based on a true story of Pessoa writing an advertising slogan for Coca-Louca which puts the authoritarian government of the time into a panic in a country torn between the seduction of an American soft drink and catholicism. Rent for one euro on Vimeo.
- Captains of April and the Carnation Revolution. Capitaes de Abril (2000). Watch for free on Youtube.
- Learn about potter Bordalo Pinheiro and his comeback into hipster fashion.
- Night Train to Lisbon with Jeremy Irons and Lena Olin.
- The first Portuguese Netflix series Glória.
- Vidago Palace plunges head first into class conflict of the 1930’s. Find it on Prime.
- Listen to the Portuguese artist Paula Rego in a wonderful web of stories series on youtube.
8. Read and listen to stories about the country, its history and people
- Salazar: The Dictator Who Refused to Die by Tom Gallagher
- Conquerors: How Portugal Forged the First Global Empire by Roger Crowley
- Pessoa: A biography by Richard Zenith
- A Brief History of Portugal by Jeremy Black
- The Hight Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel (skip the boring parts)
- The Portuguese Inquisition: The History of the Portuguese Empire’s Religious Persecution by Charles River
- The Portuguese revolution Double Podcast by Working Class History.
Read my piece on the up and coming Portuguese Startup Culture in Helsingin Sanomat!