Lisbon, (Lisboa in the native language) Portugal, is a vibrant and beautiful city located toward the bottom of the country. Known for its colorful buildings and seven hills, the total population of Lisbon, including areas surrounding the city, is 2,800,000 people. Throughout the city, there are many sites to explore that are close to one another. A devastating earthquake in 1755, followed by a tsunami and the city being engulfed in flames, Lisbon was completely leveled and only facades of ancient buildings remained. This is the case with many of the buildings in Lisbon.
The only flat area of Lisbon has a few town squares with many restaurants, shops, and sites to visit. If one goes to Rossio square they can go a couple of different ways to explore the city. Going up the street and past the fountain will lead to another square with the Hard Rock Cafe, a number of restaurants and shops. Go to the right of the fountain and you will reach more shops and see a church. Going to the direct south of the fountain will lead to the Proco do Comercio arch and plaza, the “entrance” to the city of Lisbon.
If one is Catholic or otherwise religious, the birthplace of St. Anthony would be a good place to visit. The 18th century Church of St. Anthony is situated over a grotto where he was said to have been born in 1195. Signs direct visitors into the crypt where there is a prayer bench and candles to light the area. Directly behind this small church is a larger church from the 12th century called the Lisbon Cathedral. The tall, fortress-like outer walls served to protect the monastery and cloister inside during times of war. Years of war and the three natural disasters in 1755 caused much of the original church to be destroyed, however parts remained. The rebuilding of parts and additions lends to the unique architectural styles throughout the church.
Since Portugal is a very Catholic country one doesn’t have to walk far to find a church. Not far from Rossio square is the Igreja de São Domingos. Igreja in Portuguese just means church. This church is unique because not only was it dedicated in 1241, but it has burned, twice. The church has endured two earthquakes, one of which that leveled the church but left foundations for a new one and the great earthquake in 1755. A fire in 1959 burned the wooden roof and changed the interior of the church forever. One might think that stone does not burn. It does. The pillars and walls of the church are now charred and the smell of burning still hangs in the air. Step inside and the church has an eerie feeling to it. The new bright orange roof doesn’t match the black walls. No other church in Lisbon or Portugal itself resembles this church so it is a unique site to visit.
While Portugal is a vacation spot far from chilly MN, it is worth your time to visit, even if you only spend a day in Lisbon. The best way to experience the country is to fly into Porto, a city towards the north of the country, or Lisbon and make your way south or north from the cities, hitting as many sites as possible.