After the devastating earthquake of 1755, much of Lisbon was rebuilt with a more contemporary structure and facade. Today, you'll see streets and plazas laid in a symmetrical grid style with wide commercial streets that connect to each other up and down the hilly city.
Just four miles east of the historic center in Lisbon is the cute neighborhood of Belem. You could easily spend a full day here, but we only have 3 days in Lisbon. So here are the top cool things to choose from in Belem. First, you can't leave without at least walking up to the famous Tower of Belem. Second, walking through the Belem Cultural Center and consider popping into their Museum of Modern Contemporary Art. Third, check out the Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology (MAAT) and the Jeronimos Monastery (close to each other). Lastly, rent one of the many bikes laying around to ride down the Tagus River and visit the many nearby beautiful ports from Belem towards the city center.
No trip to Portugal is complete without a night of Fado. The traditional Portuguese music bursting with emotion and romanticism. Often sad but sometimes happy, listening to a performer sing fado live will surely pull your heartstrings. One of the best places in Lisbon to listen to local performers? Tasca do Chico. This is where some of the biggest stars began. Because this is a very cozy place, the hallway between the main entrance and the bar is where the musicians and singers will perform. So get there early to grab a booth seat and to order some delicious wine and tapas.
Despite its major role, much of Portugal doesn't fully acknowledge its history in the slave trade and global colonization beyond glorification. Even though some of its former colonies won their independence not so long ago (Mozambique 1975), many Portuguese will proudly speak about their "Age of Discovery" in a romantic way, almost reminiscing about the time when they were one of the biggest world powers ...by way of global plundering and enslavement. As a local Portuguese shared with me, instead of educating each other in schools about their full role in these atrocities, they often just point the finger to the English, Spanish, and/or French (who often also do the same with each other)... or they skew it in their favor somehow. Moreover, much of this history is taught by a Eurocentric perspective leaving out so many details to this day.
Located below the Ponte de 25 Abril Bridge in the Alcântara neighborhood, LX Factory is an abandoned fabric production plant turned art-nouveau complex sprawling with trendy stores, galleries, and cute restaurants/cafes. You can easily spend the entire afternoon here checking out the several places to pop into. On the weekends, more art spaces open up in one of the main buildings and the cobblestone street becomes an outdoor flea market.
This is not your typical European museum. Located within a beautiful garden complex is the art collection of a private collector by the name of Calouste Gulbenkian. The artworks exhibited come from different parts around the Middle East region such as Iran, Turkey, Syria. What makes this museum particularly outstanding, beyond the actual art is the presentation of the collection. It's explained in a way that questions Euro-centric categories and classifications while pointing the historic effects of colonization and imperial intervention in this region. Something I've never seen pointed out in any other museum. Upon walking out of the museum, I engaged in a long and critical discussion with a fellow solo traveler about the very topics that we both found outstanding.