If you drive through Lisbon, you will quickly learn why the hotel concierge cautions you about its seven hills. The city is a bustling hillside maze that is quickly becoming popular among travelers looking for something new.
Portugal's capital definitely warrants all of those spots on "must see in 2011" lists, however, as it stands out from most other European capitals.
The compact city invades the senses with colorful facades and intricate balconies, blaring fado music, neighborhood tussles, and roller coaster tram rides.
As if the city needs any more reasons for visitors to come see what all of the fuss is about, here are five ways Lisbon will lift you up and knock you down at the same time.
Perhaps it was just my driver, but Tram 28 can feel more like a roller coaster ride than public transportation. Passing through most of historic Lisbon, tourists and pickpockets pack these cutesy yellow trams in order to cover some of the city's steepest and narrowest streets. A single ride costs under 2 euros, but combined deals with metro and bus passes in Lisbon can make the ride virtually free. It might be the "tourist" thing to do, but you can circle the city as your stomach jumps in excitement.
The Romanesque Cathedral in Lisbon was founded in 1150. Supposedly a mosque turned church, earthquakes could not take down the entire Cathedral. Tramlines cross in front, obstructing any sort of perfect view of the Cathedral's glowing facade. However, therein lies the appeal; it's a little rough around the edges yet still magnificent.
Tiles called "azulejos" cover the fronts of buildings all around the city. While you can find these tiles almost everywhere in Portugal, often portraying some sort of scene of history, the tile work in Lisbon extends to your feet. Mosaic marble plazas with snaking designs might make you go cross-eyed if you stare at them too long. At the same time, it is hard to look away from these intricate designs.
Drink specials are plentiful throughout the Bairro Alto neighborhood of Lisbon. One of the city's oldest quarters winds through streets that come alive at night with drinking and dancing. You can grab one of those drink specials at any number of bars and take to the streets like most of the crowds do. Park yourself on the sidewalk and enjoy some premium people-watching.
Lisbon's castle is hard to resist. While the entrance fee may seem a bit steep for a somewhat ruined castle, the views are more than worth it. The Visigoths, Moors, and Christians have all occupied this fortress at one point in time. Weave up and down towers to get the ultimate view of all of Lisbon's orange tiled roofs. From here you can see Ponte 25 de Abril, Lisbon's own Golden Gate Bridge, built by the same company that built San Francisco's most famous landmark.
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