Lisbon: a lovely European capital filled with charmingly peaceful people. It’s clean, lovely, and you will almost never hear a horn honking, or see anyone raise their voice. The city has been having a moment for a while now. The great recession of 2008 hit Portugal hard. In contrast to other places where the hardship turned to fear of anyone not native, Portugal took a more mature and reasonable route. The populist fever that is sweeping the globe post recovery seems not to be happening here. It is hard to imagine how it would with people this tolerant and low drama.
Most everyone in the capital speaks excellent English; much appreciated, as Portuguese is a tough language to learn. As it is summer, there are parts of the city that are more tourist hubs than local ‘hoods, which is a bit of a shame, but also an indication that this is a lovely place to visit. Although the tourist tsunami has raised havoc with the local property market, putting housing in the city out of reach of many average locals, there is no resentment one senses toward us visitors. Quite the opposite. The Lisboans seem absolutely thrilled visitors are here, and are relentlessly proud to show off their city. Paris and the Parisians this is not.
The euro has been beaten up lately, and all of Europe is getting better in price. But Portugal in particular is a tremendous deal. Think of it as 30% less vs prices in the USA. Lisbon is a geographically compact city — getting most anywhere in an Uber is $5.00. Which is nice, as the hills here can be a struggle depending on one’s fitness level.
Of note are the art museums. This is a relatively small city, 500,000 or so people, in a small country with less population than Los Angeles County, but the art museums are fantastic, and for the most part, empty. At the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, there is a super Hieronymus Bosch with no one in the room with it — in fact, no one was in that entire wing of the museum. If you find yourself there, make sure you check out the Chinese pottery on the second floor; you won’t be disappointed. Amazing.
The Museu Coleção Berardo is a great modern museum with a first-class collection, and is also starkly visited. Check out the Gerhard Richter there. MAAT is just down the road, also worth a visit.
The cathedrals are not bad either. For sheer number and spectacle it’s hard to beat Rome, but Lisbon holds its own with most other capitals. Remember that the Portuguese ruled the world for a while, and it shows.
The weather is a bit like California in the spring. While the rest of Europe is roasting with 100+ degree heat, Lisbon is a pleasant 75. It gets a bit chilly at night, something I am sure the residents of the Mediterranean countries would envy right about now.