Lisbon: The Creative Heartbeat of Western Europe
Lisbon is a city that greets you with open arms. Its charm and warmth greet you immediately when you step out into the streets. When I think of Lisbon, the words that first come to mind are vibrant, bohemian, gritty, charming, and friendly. If Lisbon were an international stew, it would be one part San Francisco, one part Amsterdam, and one part Barcelona. There is an energy of friendliness and likability that oozes from this magnificent city.
Lisbon is about acceptance. It is known to be very open and welcoming to people regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or social status. The same is true whether you are a local or immigrant . . . and this acceptance has created a beautiful melting pot of cultures and people that all seem to blend beautifully and harmoniously.
Lisbon is considered the most English-speaking city in Southern Europe, with over 90% of the population speaking at least some English. Yet, if you show just a little effort to learn even a few Portuguese words, Lisboans are very appreciative. We have found that as we travel, we try to learn at least a few phrases so that, at a minimum, we can be polite and grateful. Extending this courtesy is a way of saying thank you and showing respect and reverence for the city and its people. And it’s fun having conversations (even if they are a bit rudimentary) in a different language . . . it’s part of the joy of traveling. Even if you think you are absolutely butchering the language every time you speak (as I often do), chances are you are still making a connection, and that’s what matters, and it will surely be very well received.
Lisbon is the oldest city in Western Europe, predating Rome by hundreds of years, and it is the second oldest capital in Europe after Athens. While it only occupies about 3% of Portugal’s land mass, more than 25% of the country’s population lives here. It has a population of 550,00 inhabitants, yet it feels much smaller than that. Its moderate Mediterranean climate with warm sunshine-filled summers and mild winters makes it very appealing. In recent years Lisbon has become a hotspot for Digital Nomads in Southern Europe. This has attracted lots of people under the age of 40, and this influx of youth keeps the city vibrant, progressive, and gives it a healthy counter-culture vibe.
Like Rome, Lisbon is also known as the City of Seven Hills. No doubt, as you walk the streets of Lisbon, you will be climbing some of those hills, but along the way you will encounter beautiful neighborhoods, the very scenic streets of Lisbon, and when you reach the summits (called miradouros) you are rewarded with beautiful views.
Lisbon is now considered one of the modern cultural capitals of Europe. The city is attracting many artists: musicians, sculptors, and writers . . . who together are creating a culture much like the artists in Paris did in the 1920s and 1930s, when it was the home and meeting place of some of the world's most prominent painters, sculptors, composers, dancers, poets, and writers. Today the artistic vibe in Lisbon is giving birth to a similar creative zeitgeist. Maybe it’s not on par yet with what was happening in Paris at that time. . . but it does show a lot of promise.
Lisbon is a place that touches your heart and soul, and we will always relish its vibrancy, beauty, and welcoming energy. It has also left us with the feeling that the spirit of creativity and imagination are alive and well.