Please, DON’T Do This in Lisbon

Please, DON’T Do This in Lisbon

“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.”
— Clifton Fadiman

Lisbon and I have had a rather bumpy relationship, but these days we’re more like two old gals reminiscing about how things change.

She is part of my fondest memories.

She’s seen me fall. Literally, I have the inclination to trip on stone stairs and slip on oily tram rails. Lisbon has plenty of both, just as many as my clumsy stories.

When I write about this city (or any other one), I have to entertain and inform my readers and respect the locals’ right to privacy.

The message has to be, above all, accurate. I don’t care about gushing over a picture-perfect image. A city is not a museum. Paying a ticket to get here does not give anyone the right to treat a place (and its people) like crap.

With all my heart, this blog post is a request that you, dear visitor, please, don’t do this in Lisbon.

Social media influencing your way through Lisbon with false information

I love a well-written post about my adoptive city. I love to see her portrayed in a different light, and I love when the writer falls in love with the same things that I do for the same reasons.

My pet peeve?

Social media influencers with a significant following, sharing their findings, who claim to have found hidden gems of the authentic Lisbon when they haven’t left Baixa or Chiado.

If you’re roaming around where thousands of people have roamed before, you’re not finding anything new or hidden (or a gem). Be humble.

Also, get the spelling of Bairro Alto right, please.

Using trams and funiculars like tours

I know those yellow-mustard old trams and the three funiculars of Lavra, Bica, and Glória are part of Lisbon’s identity.

I love them too.

But here’s something that I’m not sure your travel guidebook tells you: they’re public transports.

There’s a public transport etiquette like queuing and giving your seat to the sick and old that tourists simply don’t follow. They either ignore passengers or genuinely don’t know it’s public transportation.

Well, we could argue that Carris could increase the number of vehicles available. But, until then, can you please give priority to people who have to use it every day?

It's not a less authentic experience if you don't buy tiles at Feira da Ladra

I remember the first time I visited Feira da Ladra. I wasn’t really looking to buy something. I just wanted to do some people watching, photographing, or maybe coming up with a new character or two. 

I know how you can get caught in the moment and feel tempted to buy one of those ancient tiles. But those tiles are often chipped off historical buildings, illegally, in Lisbon, and the more people want to buy, the more they will sell them.

If you can’t see yourself leaving Lisbon without buying a tile, go to one of these tile shops in Lisbon instead. Get some hand-painted tiles and a guided tour. 

Those shops in Baixa don't sell authentic souvenirs

I don’t know the appeal of those souvenir shops in Baixa or if people gravitate towards those stores because they’re short and don’t care what kind of cheap souvenir they bring home.

These shops are a ripoff! Authentic (pun intended) tourist traps! I can’t think of a nicer way to say this because there isn’t one.

Don't complain about Lisbon being under construction

Cities grow, like people.

During the recession of the early 2000s, tourists complained about how half the city was boarded up and crumbling. When I read this in some blog posts, how overrated Lisbon was, it really hurt. How dare you spend less than a week here and judge the book by the cover?

Here’s a note to the people who think cities should be kept pristine clean to make their visit more comfortable: come back after 2017. Cais do Sodré and Saldanha are two of the areas I most look forward to seeing (and showing you).

Sure, Campo das Cebolas looks pretty chaotic and abandoned right now. Do you know why they are taking so long? No, it’s not because the Portuguese are lazy (I stopped counting how many times I heard this gem).

Construction workers found important archeological remains from the 15th and 16th centuries. Therefore all construction has to be done at a different pace, with City Council’s on-call archeologists making sure all findings are preserved.

Read more things you need to know about Lisbon:

8 thoughts on “Please, DON’T Do This in Lisbon

    • We’ll be traveling to Portugal in a couple of months and I really appreciate an honest post like this one. We’ll only have one day for the city itself. Do you have the best tips and musts to see in just one day?

      • The best way to enjoy the city is to take a food tour or a bike tour with local experts who will show you around and tell you all the little secrets. I recommend Lazy Flavors for food tours (which they can customize to your preferences) and Lisbon Cycle Tours for biking. I know both well 🙂 If you’re more of an independent traveler, spend the morning in Belem (go early to dodge the lines and the crowds) to visit the UNESCO world heritage sites, come back to the city center and have lunch in Alfama or Mouraria (there’s this very busy but very typical “tasca” called Ze dos Cornos which is a whole experience) and then spend the afternoon roaming around to visit Sé (the old Cathedral), all the viewpoints (Santa Luzia, Portas do Sol, Graça), and of course the Castle at the top. In the evening, check out the cafes and bars in Chiado and Bairro Alto. And promise me you’ll come back one day with a little more time 🙂 This quick itinerary will give you an interesting overview of the city’s cultural diversity and amazing food!

    • I found a hidden gem in Lisbon!

      A Little Free Library out in Conchas. And a charming librarian.

      Wish I’d had more time in Lisbon. So many things I didn’t do or see. Must come back one day.

    • LOVE this piece!! I can totally understand. I’ve heard those ridiculous complaints about scaffolding interrupting their perfect photos. For me the souvenirs I take home with me from my travels can’t be bought in stores, they are the memories of my time, or from local vendors selling their own crafts. And when I heard about the tiles being ripped off these beautiful buildings I cringed. No, I don’t need a tile for my souvenir pile, I relished instead in taking endless photos of the beautiful tiles buildings and panels.

    • It makes me *insane* when people think that a city should be kept pristine for their visit. I work in hospotality in a downtown area that has an ebb/flow problem with drug use. The commentary I’ve overheard by guests about panhandling and the “unsavory” people that hang around downtown make me want to scream. And you’re right- cities are not museums and some people do feel entitled to act as they would at home just because they bough a ticket to visit and are spending their consumer dollar towards tourism blahblah. Really well articulated post!!

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