Lisbon: Coveted City by the Sea
By Cecilia Chard
“By day Lisbon has a naïve theatrical quality that enchants and captivates, but by night it is a fairy-tale city, descending over lighted terraces to the sea, like a woman in festive garments.” –Erich Maria Remarque, novelist
Originally named Ulissipo, meaning “enchanted port” by Ulysses, the city of Lisbon has an important and ancient history made even more spectacular by its bright street art, tiled facades, and sea food markets. Lisbon has been inhabited for 30 thousand years, and was originally one of the most coveted port cities of the old world. After Jean-Marc spent several days in Lisbon this summer, eating the fresh fish and visiting some of the city’s wonderful museums, we wanted to share some background on this stunning city by the sea.
Though ceramic, glazed tiles originate in Egypt, the Portuguese have used these tiles in incredibly imaginative and beautiful ways for centuries. Many large buildings in the Gothic period had large, flat plaster walls needing to be decorated. This resulted in the art of fresco in Italy, and the art of azulejo in Portugal.
The tiled facades of buildings continued through the centuries and can still be seen on many buildings today. Maria Antónia Pinto de Matos, director of the Museu Nacional do Azulejo, said that “many other countries have tile art… but in Portugal, it became a part of the building. The decorative tiles are a construction material as well as a decoration.” In more recent periods, the azulejo have even been modernized, with contemporary colors, designs, and uses. Now as street art, the subway stations of Lisbon are tiled with these stunning murals.
Fresh Seafood Markets
The relaxed atmosphere of Lisbon is wonderfully matched by the simple, seasonal cuisine. Traditional Portugeuse dishes are uncomplicated, instead relying on the fresh ingredients to provide the taste. These beautiful dishes are also heavily seafood based, with favorites such as moray eel, octopus, sardines, and salt cod. Beautiful restaurants can be found throughout the city serving this incredible food, while chefs and locals alike frequent the many food and fish markets.
Art of Lisbon
Though the city is filled with art and museums, one of Jean-Marc’s favorite stops on his trip was the Berardo Collection in Belém, Lisbon. This stunning museum focuses on the modern and contemporary art of Portugal and beyond. With a collection of works that is valued at 316 million euros, this stunning display covers major artist movements such as pop art, surrealism, and more. Named after José Berardo, a well-known Portugese art collector, this museum has only been open since 2007 and already established a name for itself in the art world. Make sure to stop by this fantastic location on a trip to Lisbon for an extensive permanent collection and a regularly changing temporary exhibition.
The colorful and historical streets, fresh local food, unique art scene, and laid-back atmosphere make Lisbon a wonderful destination. We at Jean-Marc Fray are always inspired by our travels and the incredible cultures we experience!