Travel/Experiences  •  Dispatch

Dispatch: Letter from Lisbon, Portugal

2Magazine’s Numchok Kamwan travelled to Lisbon, Portugal on a whim and shares the captivating experience.

Text & Photography
April 05, 2017
I’m one of those people whose Internet browser always has one or two travel deal websites open—you know, just in case an interesting deal pops up. And it did. Before I knew it, my annual leave form was signed and my bag was packed for Portugal, a country I had never visited or heard much about before.
Café A Brasileira

Getting around
Arriving in Lisbon, the first thing you should do is get a Lisboa Card. Well, maybe that’s the second thing—you should definitely first get a cup of espresso at Escultura de Fernando Pessoa. Only they don’t call it “espresso” here—Lisbon locals call it “bica”. It’s quite a powerful drink and a great remedy for jetlag and travel fatigue.

Back to the Lisboa Card. This little card comes with unlimited free travel by bus, metro, tram, and elevadore, helping you save money (and time) at many popular attractions. It is basically three cards rolled into one: transport card, museum pass, and discount card.

MAAT is a spanking new museum opened to the public in October 2016. Designed by Amanda Levete Architects (who also designed Bangkok’s Central Embassy), this oval-shaped museum is located on the bank of the River Tagus, with a view of the 25 de Abril Bridge in the background.

At MAAT, I had a chance to view the exhibition Liquid Skin by Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Joaquim Sapinho. The exhibition showcased films by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, such as Blissfully Yours and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Palme d’Or 2010, Cannes), and by Joaquim Sapinho, including Haircut, The Policewoman, and This Side of Resurrection, in a different visual landscape. It’s an exhilarating experience to watch films in a non-traditional setting.

Next, I went to see Attempting Exhaustion at Galeria Vera Cortês. Artist Daniel Blaufuks photographed a table and a window in his kitchen in Lisbon between 2009 and 2016, and realized that nothing moves and yet everything moves—he simply would never be able to reproduce the entirety of that minuscule space.

Attempting Exhaustion, Galeria Vera Cortês Gallery

Gare do Oriente is a good start if you are in the mood for architecture appreciation. This futuristic station gives you the feeling of walking in outer space—or maybe starring in a Star Wars movie.

Miradouro do Parque Eduardo VII provides an unobstructed view of Lisbon, and is a perfect picnic spot. The highlight of the park is the Estufa Fria, an eight-hectare greenhouse garden.

A Vida Portuguesa is among the most beautiful shops in Lisbon—known for its elaborate hand-painted façade. You can buy soaps, chocolates, and other souvenirs here, or just take selfie with the retro packagings.

Praca do Comercio Square is a riverfront square of historical importance. It is a favorite spot for tourists but, that said, it is also a favorite spot for scammers and thieves. Be extra cautious when approached by roaming vendors in this area.

Three bus stops from MAAT, there’s the art community LX Factory, which is a historical industrial complex that houses an array of art retailers, cool restaurants, and bars. It is like an outdoor art gallery for artists who wish to express themselves. Some of the works are serious, while some warrant laugh-out-loud reactions.

Praca do Comercio Square & LX Factory

Lisbon is famous for seafood, wine, and desserts. Being a seaside country, Portugal has fresh and delicious seafood. Thai travelers will find solace in the fact that the Portuguese love rice as much as we do, but their rice tastes a bit different from what we’re used to back home.

Portugal’s most renowned pastry is egg custard tart (pastel de nata), which can be found anywhere. Save your calorie quota for something worth sacrificing your health for. Among the best places to enjoy authentic Portuguese pastel de nata are Pastéis de Belém. A good egg custard tart is crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside. Sprinkle cinnamon on it and you will find yourself in a state of pure bliss.

For a fuss-free lunch, check out
Time Out Market, a food court that brings together the best dishes from every corner of the city. I decided on roast beef at Marlene Vieira, which is served with Portuguese pudding and a drink. The prices won’t make you weep either.

The Mill Cafe
The Mill and Hello, Kristof are both perfect places for coffee aficionados. They both serve excellent coffee, contemporary Portuguese food, and great wine. 

PARK Bar offers a spectacular view of the city, which is best enjoyed with a cocktail in your hand.

For an authentic Portuguese experience, try Fado music, which is powerful, energetic, and exciting. The best place to listen to it is Tasca do Chico, one of the best bars in Bairro Alto.
Casa de Sezim Hotel

Casa de Sezim was built in 1379 and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is actually a few hours away from Lisbon, but its grandeur makes it worth the trip. This warm and inviting manor belonged to the De Mesquita family. There are some marvellous paintings here, each more than a century old. Don’t forget to acquaint yourself with Guri the lovely dog.

Solar Do Castelo is a small boutique hotel within the walls of St Jorge Castle. This building from the 18th century is simple but elegant and gives a homey, contemporary vibe.

Another spectacle you should not miss while in Lisbon is watching the sunset. Lisbon is a sunny city (although you might not be too excited about it if you’re from Bangkok), and is nicknamed the City of Light. There are many places where you can watch the great ball of fire sink into the horizon, such as at Miradouro de Santa Catarina, Belém Tower or the Discoveries Monument. If you’re after a majestic view, head to the neo-classical Elevador Santa Justa in central Lisbon or the National Pantheon.