The sky remains grey and closed, the pile of homework to be written doesn’t get any smaller… and yet there is a lack of energy to even open one of the books that have been borrowed and well looked after for three months? Then it’s actually time for a short trip – just a few days out of the frenzy, with friends or to meet new friends.
With its narrow, medieval alleys, the Portuguese capital at the mouth of the Tagus River is an idyll for those who love romantic old towns with a discreetly morbid charm of past centuries. The cityscape of this once splendid trading town is dominated by buildings from the late 18th century. The reason: In 1755, an earthquake destroyed the town. The earthquake, known as the “Lisbon earthquake”, has been a part of the annals of history – and has left its mark on the culture of the 18th century like no other natural disaster. Scholars throughout Europe, from Voltaire to Goethe, inspired it to reflect on divine justice. But not only historians and philosophers appreciate Portugal’s historic capital today. Located close to the sea and several national parks, with its countless museums, charming old town, lively music scene and lively nightlife, it is also popular for students as a tourist destination.
Historic centre with charm
The Old Town is, of course, the main attraction of Lisbon – with its winding alleys lined with historic facades, it has retained much of its original charm. The dilapidated building fabric is also one of the city’s main problems; at the same time, in contrast to many other historical town centres, it remains authentic and does not seem overloaded with souvenir shops. Although the historical tram is mainly used by tourists, it is definitely worth a ride. On a total distance of 25 km you can take the narrow-gauge railway for a reasonable price and you can easily pass the city and take nice photos at a comfortable pace.
Anyone who loves art and museums really does not have to suffer in Lisbon. For art lovers, a visit to the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, the Museum of Ancient Art, is recommended. In addition to the works of important European artists such as Dürer and Raphael, there is also a large collection of Portuguese art. More modern works of art can be found in the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian. Since Portugal was known to be a colonial power, the collection of ethnographic artifacts in the Museu de Etnologia is also diverse and worth seeing – especially for prospective ethnologists, of course. The Carriage Museum is something extraordinary: it shows carriages from the 16th century to the 20th century.
Music scene and nightlife
If you want to experience something else after a stroll through the old town or a day in the museum in the evening, there is a wide selection of nightclubs, discos and bars. Of course, it is especially interesting to get involved with the local music culture and to visit a fado restaurant. Fado, which in Portuguese means “destiny”, is a traditional music genre that probably originates from the songs of the sailors. The most tragic songs are accompanied by a Portuguese and a classical guitar. In Lisbon, in addition to a number of venues aimed at the tourist public, there are still more original restaurants and bars in which Fado is played. Both have their advantages: while in the more commercially oriented restaurants you can listen to selected local artists performing in a live concert, in one of the traditional venues it can happen that you can enjoy singing along with them. The performance there is more spontaneous and less “planned”. At least one fado evening is a must on a Lisbon trip with friends!
Exploring nature in the surrounding area
Not only the city itself, but also the surrounding countryside of Lisbon is extremely attractive. The Atlantic Ocean is just a stone’s throw away, as are the various nature parks such as the Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais. There you can hike, cycle and simply fill up with fresh air and relax on the beach. Forest trails, coastal paths and stretches through the open, hilly coastal landscape are alternating. Part of the almost 15,000 hectares of the Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais is also a vegetable garden where organic vegetables and fruit are cultivated. In the summer, visitors can buy this directly at a local market. The nearby Farol Museu de Santa Marta, a lighthouse museum, is also worth visiting. Visitors will not only learn everything about the history of the lighthouse, but also enjoy a wonderful view over the sea and the surrounding countryside.
In a nutshell: Good choice to recharge your batteries and take a deep breath
So anyone who simply has to get away from the stress of homework and exams, who simply wants to meet new people or experience something nice with friends, should definitely spend a few days in Lisbon. In Hostels or at Couchsurfing you can discover the city at a reasonable price – and you will quickly get to know interesting people. The perfect start for the semester break!