Kolby Did Lisbon: It’s Old-Fashioned and It’s Perfect That Way

Lisbon is dirty.

Calm down, because I mean that in a good way. It’s dirty like a sliding, safe ballplayer is dirty. It’s dirty in the way anything authentic has to be. Because you’ll walk around Lisbon and you’ll be amazed, truly, at just how perfectly untouched and un-fuc*ked up it is. They haven’t ruined themselves – and all cities ruin themselves.

That’s why I cry a little every time I see some list naming Portugal the top country to visit for 2014, or every time I read something about just how terrific Lisbon is – even articles like this one, that say the same things I say with as much pride as I say them. I love to inform everyone I know about Lisbon, about how excellent and cheap and romantically old world it is.

But I also know that with more foot traffic, with more tourist dollars, someone will screw Lisbon up. They’ll pay for something modern to replace something old, not realizing that Lisbon has to stay old.

Lisbon is luxurious in an unintentional, incredible way.

Every wall is tiled and tiled beautifully, even the crummiest buildings in the poorest parts of town. The views in Lisbon are free, and the Castle costs on $5 to enter. The food costs less than a Hollywood intern and you can pay under 20 Euros to get wasted when you’re out and about. Where you come from – somewhere in North America, somewhere with a terrible transit system and reflective skyscrapers – you’d be lucky to get two cocktails for that price.

I worry about Lisbon because I don’t live there. I want it to stay weird and wonderful, but I supposed I’ll have to leave its fate to the Portuguese. They’re the ones building a life there. And surely, after a while, they’ll turn the whole place into one big mini mall like we snowbirds did to Las Vegas.

That’s just the way the world works.

But if you have the time, get yourself to Portugal while you can. Because the only thing you’ll regret about a trip there is that you didn’t leave yesterday.

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The south end of Rossio Square, in the downtown core of Lisbon. (Photo by Kolby Solinsky)
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The beautiful archway leading through the Baixa Avenida to the Praca do Comercio, in the downtown core of Lisbon. (Photo by Kolby Solinsky)
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The grand Praca do Comercio, near the Tagus River in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Kolby Solinsky)
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The theatrically colourful decorations of the Bairro Alto, the nightlife hub of Lisbon. (Photo by Kolby Solinsky)
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Tiles line each and every wall of the Alfama, the old quarter of Lisbon that was nearly lost during the Earthquake of 1755. (Photo by Kolby Solinsky)
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Tram #28 is the most famous of all Lisbon’s lines, and slices through the city’s downtown to the heart of the Alfama. (Photo by Kolby Solinsky)
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A memorial dedicated to those who died in the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. (Photo by Kolby Solinsky)
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Graffiti is legal in parts of the Alfama, Lisbon’s old quarter that has embraced the art like it has embraced Fado – one of Portugal’s great contributions to the world of music. (Photo by Kolby Solinsky)
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Lisbon’s Bairro Alto pulses after 11 p.m., where thousands of revellers flock to drink and be merry every weekend. (Photo by Kolby Solinsky)
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A Brasileira, the most famous cafe in Lisbon, is located in the heart of Chiado, the bohemian center of the city. (Photo by Kolby Solinsky)
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This statue of poet Fernando Pessoa sits outside A Brasileira cafe in Lisbon’s Chiado neighbourhood. (Photo by Kolby Solinsky)
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A silver bird of prey and the phrase ‘E Plurubus Unum’ don the entrance to Estadio da Luz, the home of S.L. Benfica. (Photo by Kolby Solinsky)
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The downtown grid of Lisbon slices north, south, east, and west, leading through the arch and to the Praca do Comercio. (Photo by Kolby Solinsky)
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