Lisbon's Quirky Side
If you ask me about somewhere I’ve traveled, you likely won’t hear about the top attractions, most popular restaurants or where I stayed.
Don’t get me wrong – those aspects of being in a new place are extremely valuable to one’s experience. But, I don’t think you truly get to know a city until you find its quirks.
One of my goals for this year is to embrace parts of each city that are “off the beaten path,” and I’m off to a decent start after a few weeks in Lisbon.
Here's a few things that I've gotten into over the past couple weeks...
Hospital de Bonecas
Tucked among dozens of shops and cafés in the bustling city square of Praça da Figueira you can find Hospital de Bonecas, one of the world’s only doll hospitals. Since 1830, the doll hospital has existed as a place for people to bring dolls of all types for any sort of repair. Over the years, the hospital has acquired an amazingly creepy collection of antique dolls and doll pieces. Being the lover of weirdness, this place got a couple hours of my attention.
Cemitério Dos Prazeres
After seven long hours of hitting Sintra, Cascais and Cabo De Roca – some of Portugal’s top tourist sights – our We Hate Tourism guide made an unexpected stop at Cemitério Does Prazeres. The second largest cemetery in Lisbon, this place is home (literally) to some of Lisbon’s greatest dead people. Actors, singers, writers, artists and other really rich people have been laid to rest here in small monumental buildings that will hold their caskets for eternity. Walking through the cemetery in broad daylight with eight other people was OK, but something tells me I wouldn’t love being here at night.
Illegal Chinese isn’t one restaurant. It’s an umbrella term for the restaurants throughout Lisbon that are run “underground” by Chinese families. Often hidden in apartment buildings and alleys, a simple Google search isn’t going to get you there. I learned of the concept from a local whom I volunteered with, and went with Remote Year city managers the next day. So, why are they called “illegal?” Well, because they are. But any worry or concern you have over legality will go out the window after your first delicious bite. (P.s. for those of you who read my last blog – sorry for the repetitiveness. It didn’t feel right to leave this off of a list of things that are uniquely Lisbon.)
Feira da Ladra
If your shopping list includes historic photos of people and families you don’t know, random TV remotes, antique dishware and secondhand clothing, Feira da Ladra is the place for you. Each Tuesday and Saturday, the people of Lisbon use this organized flea market as a place to sell anything and everything. Most of what you’ll find is completely useless, but it’s also the perfect place to find a hidden gem. Purchases made among the remote year group include jewelry, art, trinkets and pants.
Alfama in the a.m.
One of several districts in Lisbon, Alfama is known for its historic vibes, medieval-maze structure and amazing views. With lots of museums and attractions to offer, Alfama is a popular place to visit during the days and evenings. But, I learned that the best time to absorb its beauty is at sunrise. During a 6 a.m. walk in Alfama with a group of fellow Remotes, the stillness of the beautiful neighborhood took my breath away. The solid Instagram shots were just a bonus.
Nightlife in Bairro Alto
While it’s not necessarily “off the beaten path,” I can’t go without mentioning the craziness that is nightlife in Bairro Alto. Going out for a drink in Bairro Alto means grabbing a caipirinha to-go from one of the many tiny walk-up bars lining the cobblestone streets, and wandering through the crowds of people until you find a spot suitable to stand with your friends and absorb the wildness. Done with your first drink? Pop into a bar on the next street over and repeat the process over again.