Lisboa viagemLisbon WanderlustExplosion of colour, one spring week in Lisbon...


We wanted to visit Lisbon for the longest time, so when the pieces finally fell into place, we decided to go there twice within 2 weeks. Because, why not? In this article, we wanted to conjure up at least a bit of this incredibly vibrant and intensly hued city to you through our lenses.
The adventure started in Zagreb — it was the very first day of the new airport terminal being operational and our flight was among the first to depart, so there was some nail biting to see if everything would go smoothly.
(It did, more or less.)

Bem vindo a Lisboa!

Baixa neighborhood

We love bold colours, which is pretty obvious from our style, so seeing what Lisbon does with colour was both inspirational and borderline overwhelming, even for us! Vivid colours everywhere, on everything and everyone, but most of on all the façades, the faces of the city.

yellow azujelo tiles whale statue bom dia in tiles alfama graffiti

Given the Portuguese preference for vibrant colours, it’s small wonder that the street art is omnipresent, in all it’s forms. You’ll find graffiti and murals everywhere, but street art can take many different forms, like a huge metallic whale in one of the side-streets, a house door turned into a wooden mosaic, stencils, stickers, posters, paintings and even a street artist turning beach stones into stone columns. (more on the latter below)

Portugal is also in love with tiles of all kinds. Small stone tiles make up much of the roads and sidewalks (above) which is endlessly charming, but also makes for a pretty bumpy ride. Much more notably, many buildings in the older parts of the city are covered in traditional azulejo tiles. They’re shiny, colourful, exotic and beautiful. I just couldn’t get enough, so along with buying a real, used azulejo to take home, I shot quite a few buildings featuring them. Here are some…

azul claro azujelos pattern azulejos reflection in azulejo tiled building alfama narrow steep alleys

Here are a few random scenes that caught my eye in Alfama and Bairro Alto neighbourhoods.

decorated streets pink church below the castle

The climb to the Castelo de São Jorge (castle of St. George) took us all morning. No, not because we’re so out of shape, and no, it isn’t 2000m above sea level. It was a just a simple matter of seeing too many quaint alleys and charming houses to just pass them by without snapping a few ‘quick’ shots.
I won’t bother you with the castle shots, but here’s a panorama of downtown Lisbon which was too good to pass up.

panorama of Lisbon from Castelo de São Jorge view of Lisboa centre from Castelo de São Jorge tile pavement in Lisbon

Praça Dom Pedro IV is an interesting square with an eternal reminder of the Portuguese seafaring exploits on its ground. The small black and white tiles form waves, a tribute to the oceans which brought Portugal unimaginable wealth and prosperity… for a time. Here’s how it looks from space.

Praça Dom Pedro IV


And now, the small matter of Lisboa trams. The trams that run in the old city core are small, vintage, yellow trams which are endlessly charming (and crowded). Being more than half a century old, we wondered how is it possible that such old trams still run?
It turns out that many of the streets and alleys with tram tracks are too steep and narrow to support larger, more modern trams. So they just modernised existing ones (mostly with better brakes) and let them run on!
They’re just one of the many ways of getting around the city — during our stay, we took a tram, bus, metro, tuk-tuk, taxi, train and raced a funicular (does that count?). The traffic is absolutely crazy in Lisbon, but we weren’t sure whether all the available modes of transportation were part of the problem or the attempt at addressing it. At any rate, don’t drive in Lisbon if you don’t have to.
Pictured here is the legendary eléctrico 28 line, which runs through most beautiful parts of Lisbon.
eléctrico número 28 em Alfama traditional barber shop in downtown Lisbon pebble artist at Praça do Comércio

The before mentioned rock-artist (not the kind you’d imagine). And yes, he takes offence to people asking whether he uses glue. In line with the artsy city reputation, even a juice-stand does it with style and will serve pitcher cocktails with fresh herbs, not lemonade vulgaris in a plastic cup.

Cais do Sodré buildings narrow street in Bairro Alto

There was no special cause for celebration (we checked), they just like their streets pretty. Besides, every day is a celebration, right?

Bairro Alto street decorations Ascensor da Bica in Bairro Alto Ascensor da Bica tracks


One of the famous funiculars, Ascensor da Bica, connecting Cais do Sodré with Bairro Alto. Yes, for lazy people. We decided to race it to the top, but then ran into a movie set. It was kind of intimidating, running into a bunch owing more cameras and lenses than we did.
Feelings of inadequacies abound…
You may notice that the tracks seem to overlap slightly. Well, they do overlap, and there’s room for just one funicular at a time on the lower half of the tracks. That’s reasonable, you’ll think, knowing how they operate.
And I would have agreed, but then I saw the same thing done with the tram tracks, in the middle of the city. Yikes!
Elevador da Bica going uphill Bonde turístico ride inside tram 28 eléctrico número 28 in Bairro Alto

One of those narrow streets I mentioned (above). The tram can just barely squeeze through, and you’d better watch out opening the front door if you live on this street. And just below, one of the places where two trams can’t go by each other because two tracks overlap.

narrow alleys with tram tracks star tiled pavement Museu Nacional do Azulejo quintal


We’re not really the museum-going types and much prefer to experience the city among its people, on the streets… but we do love a nice shot. And this is why we came here, to Museu Nacional do Azulejo, after seeing a photo of a garden we just couldn’t resist. We soon realised that we came to the wrong place and that the garden we were after was on the other side of the city. The story of how it came to that isn’t that interesting; let’s just say you should double check your addresses in foreign cities…
Nevertheless, it was interesting to see all kinds of centuries old azulejos used to tell stories instead of frescos, mosaics and paintings found elsewhere in Europe. We got to see the restoration process of old azulejos, but also some modern takes by modern artists (some more and some less successful, as it often is the case with modern art).

As for the garden we sought and missed, don’t worry — you’ll get to see it later in the article… and it’s spectacular!

Museu Nacional do Azulejo atrium stone pillars in Museu Nacional do Azulejo roof window in the Azulejo museum azulejos balcony history of Portugal

The infamous tuk-tuks. They’re a risky, expensive and fun way to get robbed blind while touring the city, all the while feeling like you’re back in Mumbai. And they’re everywhere.

tuk-tuks view from Alfama viewpoint Alfama tram eléctrico número 12 Elevador de Santa Justa in Baixa

Elevador de Santa Justa, a lift in the downtown Lisbon connecting Baixa with Bairro Alto (which is, well, much higher than Baixa, which warranted the lift). It was built by the Eiffel’s disciple; yes, Eiffel of Eiffel’s tower in Paris. We were curious what’s on the top, but so were around 200 tourists waiting in the queue, so we decided to let them find out and use that time for more magical things… like finally finding that garden we were after!

Palácio dos Marqueses da Fronteira Palácio dos Marqueses da Fronteira garden azujelos at Palácio dos Marqueses da Fronteira Palácio dos Marqueses da Fronteira garden

Welcome to Palácio dos Marqueses da Fronteira, a great answer to questions like “What in the world were the Portuguese doing with all that age-of-exploration riches?”
Well, they were building quaint little houses like these, with a bit of garden around it.
Hot tourist tip: this place is almost impossible to visit, featuring working hours of just 2h per day! The slightest glitch in traffic and you’ll get there late — and they won’t let you in. One has to wonder what they do with remaining 6h? Working on the bushes, I guess?
wisteria and azulejos in the background garden Palácio dos Marqueses da Fronteira well kept garden metro station at Cais do Sodré metro station at Cais do Sodré metro running

It’s time to get out of Lisbon. A quick train ride took us to Sintra, a confusingly historic place full of old palaces and villas. Why is it ‘confusingly historic’? It’s hard to explain, but the concentration of aforementioned castles and palaces is just off the charts! It’s like a really, really rich neighbourhood with few hundred years old buildings in all directions, but very small at the same time.
If that isn’t enough, there’s a Moorish castle on one hill above it and iconic and colourful Palácio da Pena on the other. Unfortunately you don’t get to see either because I don’t like tele-lenses and we didn’t have time to go up there, but you do get to see something arguably more interesting — Quinta da Regaleira palace.

Quinta da Regaleira palace initiatic well at Quinta da Regaleira

It was owned by a ridiculously rich Monteiro the Millionaire (cute nickname), who had a knack for architectural experiments, so the vast estate is criss-crossed with unusual “buildings”, tunnels, towers, wells, lakes and waterfalls. Here’s our favourite, Initiatic well, which was so enchanting that we spent all the time we had inside it and didn’t get to see almost anything else. It’s often described as an inverted tower, leading deep underground, with a mystical function known only to its creator. Underground tunnels lead away from it in all directions.

initiatic well pillars initiatic well at Quinta da Regaleira Cabo da Roca

We were out of time because we wanted to visit Cabo da Roca, a lighthouse that also happens to be the westernmost point of continental Europe — a fact not lost on all the Chinese tourists that happened to be in Portugal at the time. I may be exaggerating a bit; there were just a few hundred of them during the half hour we stayed there.
It was quite a spectacular sight! (The lighthouse and the rocks, not the Chinese…)

Cabo da Roca lighthouse panorama rocks and waves at Cabo da Roca Cabo da Roca vista

Our round trip continues through Cascais, a smallish town west of Lisbon. It’s vibe was much more relaxed, but it was still colourful and beautiful.

Cascais colorful house Café Galeria House Of Wonders in Cascais azulejo street sign for Rua do Farol de Santa Marta in Cascais Farol e Museu de Santa Marta in Cascais

Farol e Museu de Santa Marta (above) was a mystery lighthouse & museum which was unfortunately closed, so we never did get to find out what kind of exhibits you find in a lighthouse museum (except for, obviously, a huge lighthouse right next to the building).

Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães in Cascais houses on the beach of Cascais Torre de Belém

Completing the circle, we’re back in Lisbon, looking at Torre de Belém (Belem Tower) and a monument to the might and bravery of Portuguese explorers — Padrão dos Descobrimentos (lower down).

Belem tower Santa Maria de Belém, Torre de Belém detail Padrão dos Descobrimentos, Portugal Baixa alley Bairro Alto, Lisbon Elevador de Santa Justa Estação de Caminhos de Ferro do Rossio, Lisbon Ginginha bar alley in Cais do Sodré Timeout market at Cais do Sodré

I don’t usually shoot food or restaurants where we eat, but I’ll make an exception. This is the Timeout Market in Cais de Sodré, a combination of a fresh food market and a bunch of top-notch restaurants (probably more than 30). And when I say top-notch, I really mean it — we kept coming back there time after time and everything we ordered was beautiful, delicious and fresh. It’s a must-visit if you get a chance!

Timeout market at Cais do Sodré, Lisbon sushi in Timeout market Praça Dom Pedro IV at night in black and white people on Elevator de Glória tracks

Elevator de Glória, slowly working it’s way up the hill in the night. Along with us…

Elevator de Glória passing by each other Elevator de Glória at night Elevator de Glória stationed on the upper station

…and that’s it. As we’re boarding the plane for Paris, we’re counting all the planes we’ve flown on this crazy trip. Stay tuned for part 2, the Azores adventure!

Lisboa airport Paris airport