Tiles and Smiles - My First Month in Lisbon, Portugal

Programs for this blog post

Language + Culture

Authored By:

Talia d.

Between tiles and smiles, I have fallen in love with this new city I get to call home for the next semester. Lisbon has welcomed me with open arms!

Although I have only been here for a couple of weeks, I fear that the windy cobblestone streets have already begun to take a toll on the soles of my shoes. Walking around the hilly neighborhoods has been my favorite pastime of mine thus far. 

I have particularly enjoyed exploring Alfama. It is home to some of Lisbon's most important historical buildings, including the Sé Cathedral and Castelo de São Jorge. Its name comes from the Arabic term al-hamma, or “hot fountains”. Despite its rich cultural significance, Alfama was a rather poor neighborhood under Moorish rule. Its labyrinth-like streets and seemingly incongruous layout mirror that of larger Islamic cities. 

Initially, I had a hard time peeling my eyes off my toes as they struggled to grip onto the steep slopes. However, it is imperative that you keep your head up or you will miss some of the best views. Small artisanal shops, charming cobblestone streets, and impressive landmarks. 

Alfama is also home to Lisbon’s Feira da Ladra, perhaps the biggest flea market I have ever been to. I thoroughly enjoyed combing through the vintage clothes, furniture, jewelry, toys, and art. My eyes were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of goods being sold! I recommend taking your time as you stroll through the stalls. My friends and I stumbled across some vintage postcards with letters that dated back to the 70s. 

Another one of my favorite things about Lisbon is the prevalence of Miradouros or lookout spots. They are usually accompanied by small parks, fountains, and statues, among other things. By far, my favorite one is Miradouro de Santa Luzia. It features a small pergola that is adorned with vines and flowers and is home to a collection of buskers who complement the fascinating views with their melodic strumming and soothing voices. 

I also enjoy spending a lot of time by the water. I have now made my way out to Cascais multiple times. Amongst squawking parrots, bossa nova tunes, and tacky t-shirts, I could not stop smiling at the simple beauties of the coastal city! The sun accentuates all of the colorful parasols and people who lounge on the shore, basking in the light and bathing in the warmth. The water is pretty cold but provides sweet relief from the scorching heat. 

Another beach I tend to frequent in my free time is Costa da Caparica. I cannot recommend taking surf lessons at Caparica more! The waves are beginner-friendly, and the instructors are unparalleled (Edu and Lucas are my idols!). I have convinced myself that with a few more lessons I will be ready to take on Nazaré in the fall. If the prospect of good surfing is not enough to convince you to make the trip, perhaps the sunsets will. Streaks of orange, pink, yellow, and blue soar across the sky as the sun dips behind the waves, peppered with the heads of surfers as they, too, stop to marvel at the beauty. 

I am excited to keep exploring the city of Lisbon and the country of Portugal as a whole! Every day has kept me on my toes, presenting new opportunities for learning.