Lisbon on a high: daring street art and hilltop lookouts in Portugal’s capital

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Exploring Lisbon

This feature has been brought to you by National Geographic Traveller (UK).

As the new day begins to unveil itself over the seven hills of Lisbon, light slowly permeates the Alfama district, one of the city’s oldest and most elevated quarters. The morning sun paints the azulejo tiles and terracotta roofs with a golden hue while the distant Tagus river gleams.

From the Largo das Portas do Sol, the original Moorish gateway to Alfama, the panorama of Lisbon’s historic core unfolds. Ivory-white domes and spires gradually sharpen into focus, followed by the colorful facades. This location rewards those who rise early with a breathtaking view.

The city, ever since the construction of a Moorish castle in the 11th century, has brilliantly taken advantage of its hilltop location. The city’s miradouros (lookouts) perched high on the hills, provide unique aerial perspectives. This is a city of climbs, where each step uphill offers a new reward for the eyes.

Despite the catastrophic earthquake of 1755, Alfama stood unyieldingly. Wandering deeper into its lanes, one encounters the timeless neighborhood of Graça, that is redefining itself as the hub for street artists, thereby enhancing Lisbon’s cultural landscape.

Véro Léon van Grieken, a Belgian expat and a guide with Lisbon Street Art Tours, advises me, “To understand this city, look at its walls.” As we amble uphill from Alfama to Graça, she draws my attention to the eye-catching works of local street artists, such as Bordalo II and Vhils, who use a combination of innovative techniques and traditional mediums.

Contrasting the audacious murals are the elegant Renaissance spires of Graça’s Monastery of São Vicente de Fora, which oversee the vast blue of the river and the dome of the baroque National Pantheon. André Saraiva’s elaborate azulejo panel at Campo de Santa Clara square is an intriguing sight that further solidifies the importance of street art in the city.

With each mural and artwork, Lisbon narrates its story, lending a voice to the voiceless and fostering cultural dialogues. OzeArv, a.k.a José Carvalho, a renowned local street artist, believes street art can be a catalyst for social change, infusing a sense of pride within communities.

In the quest for the ideal vantage points to capture Lisbon’s exquisite light, I explore the city’s distinct neighborhoods. In Bairro Alto, the city’s party district, I find The Lumiares Hotel & Spa, a beautifully restored 18th-century palace, which epitomizes the city’s magical luminosity.

Toward the end of the day, Lisboetas find respite in the city’s quiosques, gazebo-like kiosk cafes spread across parks, gardens, squares, and miradouros. There, over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, they enjoy the sublime cityscape from Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara and Miradouro de Santa Catarina.

To tackle Lisbon’s hilly terrain, the city offers a range of transportation options from vintage trams to funiculars, and even a modern fleet of tuk-tuks. Eduardo Carvalho of Tuk Tuk Tejo shows me around in his sky-blue tuk-tuk, reaching spots inaccessible by trams or taxis. It’s a joyride that takes us to Miradouro Senhora do Monte, the city’s highest viewpoint, and Miradouro de Santo Amaro, a hidden gem offering a splendid view of the Ponte.Response to the question: The article provides an engaging narrative about Portugal’s capital city, Lisbon. It starts off by describing the early morning view over the city from the Alfama district, which stands out due to its antiquity, the charm of its winding lanes, and the mesmerizing view it offers of the city.

The narrative then shifts to the higher Graça district, recognized for its vibrant street art scene. The guide in the story, Véro, shows off the work of local artists such as Bordalo II and Vhils, both of whom have made a name for themselves on an international level. Street art has transformed the face of this district and has propelled it into a major cultural hub.

The article then gives a rundown of the numerous breathtaking lookout points, or miradouros, scattered throughout the city, along with a description of the public transportation system which includes vintage trams and funiculars that scale the city’s steep slopes.

The piece wraps up with a brief review of hotels and the best time to visit Lisbon, as well as useful travel information. The writer clearly encourages travelers to visit and discover Lisbon’s rich history and vibrant culture for themselves.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Exploring Lisbon

What are some notable street art pieces to see in Lisbon?

The city of Lisbon is covered with vibrant street art, with some of the most notable pieces being Vhils’ carved portraits, Bordalo II’s ‘Trash Animals’, and the Panda mural in Mouraria.

Can I take a guided tour to explore street art in Lisbon?

Yes, there are several guided tours available in Lisbon that focus on street art. These tours are a great way to understand the stories behind the artworks and the cultural significance they hold.

What are miradouros and where can I find them in Lisbon?

Miradouros are viewpoints or lookouts that offer breathtaking views of the city. Some of the most popular ones in Lisbon include Miradouro da Senhora do Monte and Miradouro da Graca.

Why are the trams considered iconic in Lisbon?

The trams in Lisbon, particularly the vintage Tram 28, are considered iconic due to their history and the unique experience they provide. Riding these trams, you can explore the narrow, winding streets of the city and see its main attractions.

What’s the best time to visit Lisbon for street art and sightseeing?

Lisbon is a year-round destination, but spring (March to June) and fall (September to October) are particularly pleasant with mild temperatures. These seasons are ideal for outdoor activities like street art exploration and sightseeing.

More about Exploring Lisbon

  • [Lisbon’s Best Street Art]
  • [Guide to Lisbon’s Tram 28]
  • [Top Miradouros in Lisbon]
  • [Bordalo II’s ‘Trash Animals’ Series]
  • [Artworks of Vhils in Lisbon]
  • [Lisbon’s Street Art Tours]
  • [Travel Guide to Lisbon]

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MikeTheTraveler June 5, 2023 - 10:04 pm

Wow, this is so cool! I always wanted to go to Lisbon and this article just sold me on it. Can’t wait to see the street art and the lookouts in person. I gotta see that panda mural!

BeaExplorer June 5, 2023 - 10:04 pm

Loved this article, so detailed! As someone who’s been to Lisbon, it totally captures the magic of the city. Just wish there were more about the food scene, coz its awesome there too!

VibrantVoyager June 5, 2023 - 10:04 pm

I’m planning a trip to Portugal next year. Thanks for all the great info and tips. It’s very helpful. Never knew about the graffiti culture there…very interesting!

WanderlustWilly June 5, 2023 - 10:04 pm

Been to Lisbon last summer. It’s totally as beautiful and vibrant as this article says. You gotta ride on those vintage trams, and the miradouros are just breath-taking.

HistoryBuffBert June 5, 2023 - 10:04 pm

Impressed by the historical background you provided. So much rich history in Lisbon. I would like to see more of that in travel articles. Kudos to the author.


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