Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is a haven of culture that weaves its way down the narrow alleyways of old Alfama, down the buzzing Barrio Alto, and everywhere in between. Of course, there are many tourist attractions to visit, from Belem and the Christ the King statue to a number of fascinating museums and churches, but if you really want to get under the skin of Lisbon’s culture, you have to do as the locals do and delve a little deeper than the popular hotspots.
Catch a film at Cinematica
Portuguese Cinemathque originated in 1948 and, since then, has become an institution for preserving and promoting local films. You can find Cinematica nestled in an impressive Art Noveau building near Liberdade Avenue, the perfect place for an evening of Portuguese films or a leisurely wander through the museum. In the latter, you can explore the story of Cinema through a selection of objects like Lumiere projectors and old film reels, books, and photographs which are laid out across three rooms. Afterwards, refuel with delicious coffee and a snack.
Browse Barrio Arte
Barrio Alto is notorious as being Lisbon’s place to party. After dark, the streets come alive with thumping beats, colourful lights, and friendly revellers, but there is more to this famous area than the prospect of a drink and dance. Take Barrio Arte, for instance, which is an art shop like no other in the area. Instead of presenting somewhat tacky gifts like other souvenir shops, it displays unique, handcrafted pieces against a backdrop of traditional Portuguese architecture. The other side of the building houses an art gallery that exhibits original pieces for you to browse.
Fully delving into a city’s culture is difficult when you are limited by language. If you take the time to learn a few phrases and more, then you will have further opportunities to discover the history, traditions, and lifestyle of Lisbon, either through talking to the locals or by deciphering some of the nuances of the language, which can tell us a lot about what is important to the city. You might wish to learn a bit before you go or alternatively, you can choose to take Portuguese classes, so you can practice as you learn.
Fun at Fado Bars
Alfama is the oldest district in Lisbon and boasts a labyrinth of cobblestone alleyways lined with houses popping with color. Within this area, you can discover the Lisbon Cathedral and the Museum of Decorative Arts as well as Fado, a sombre genre of music that originated in this part of the city. Here, you can check out one of the many Fado bars, before stepping back in time with a visit to the Fado and Guitar Museum where you can learn more about this fascinating style of music.
Hop on the Number 28
I know I said earlier that to really delve into the culture of a place you have to leave behind the tourist attractions, but we have to remember that these sites are famous for a reason; they tell us something about the history of Lisbon, offering a snippet into the past of this beautiful city. To do it a bit differently, you can chug through the streets on the antique tram system which, unusually, services the majority of Lisbon which is spread out over seven hills. Hop on the number 28 which travels from the Estrela Basilica to Barrio Alto and down into quirky Baixa, taking you past all the major sights in an old-fashioned style typical to the city.