Lisbon is a city shaped by the river. The Tagus is wide here, pooling into what could easily be mistaken for a lake before spilling out into the Atlantic.
Lisbon is structured in a way that complements the water, sprawling the coast and up the hills overlooking the river. Some of the most historic parts are closest to the shore, including the famed Belém, with landmarks that feel particularly connected to the water.
After an abundant breakfast at Dear Breakfast, we took a bus out to Belém.
We started out at Torre de Belém, a medieval tower that sits in the water, its own tiny island.
From there, it’s a short walk along the waterfront over to Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a monument commemorating Henry the Navigator, shaped like the bow of a ship looking out into the sea.
Next was Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, another short walk away. This 16th century monastery is a breathtaking piece of architecture. I’m usually not much of a fan when it comes to Gothic architecture, but the grand and ornate limestone façade won me over.
Pastéis de Belém is impossible to miss. Just look for the hoards of tourists crowding outside. Thankfully the inside is spacious and the pastéis are a plenty. These namesake pastries more than lived up to the hype.
To balance out the touristy historic landmarks, the afternoon was spent in the cool kid spots, starting with LX Factory. Like many other similar places in different cities, LX Factory is a multipurpose complex filled with shops, eateries and galleries living in former industrial buildings. Nearby, Village Underground Lisboa is an eclectic amalgam of shipping containers and buses doused in colorful paint, like a happy version of
Then it was back into the city center, to spend the afternoon exploring Alfama, an absurdly photogenic (and incredibly hilly) neighborhood where every house looked picture perfect.
We’ll take our history lessons in street art comic book form from now on.
It’s the kind of place where you truly don’t even need to do anything. I felt content just walking. Sitting. Watching the laid back pace of life happen around me. Soaking in the views from the shade and marveling that such a beautiful place exists for some lucky people to call home.