We will be living in Lisbon, Portugal for the next 28 days.
I don’t know how to speak any Portuguese and I know nothing about Portuguese culture, customs, or food.
I feel uneasy living in a foreign country that I know so little about. But, this is exactly the type of immersive experience I’ve been looking forward to.
Twenty-eight days seems like an eternity but I know it will be gone before I know it.
We are staying in the Graça district – a more residential area of Lisbon. Graça is one of the highest areas in Lisbon. Its streets are hilly and steep.
The cobblestoned sidewalks are slippery – smoothed down by years of wear – so it’s best to wear shoes with good grip. Our first few days in Lisbon, we walked in sandals and nearly fell on our butts.
One perk of staying in such a high area is the remarkable views. Esplanada da Graça overlooks much of the city and has gorgeous views of Castelo de São Jorge and the Ponte 25 de Abril Bridge.
The best way to get from Graça to others neighborhoods is via tram or bus. Tram 28 is the most popular and easily recognizable. They are the vintage yellow cable car style trams you see cutting across many of the popular areas of Lisbon.
A single tram ticket costs €2.85 when purchased directly from the driver. The cheaper (and better) option is to purchase a reloadable Viva Viagem card at any train station. The card itself costs €0.50 but each ride thereafter costs €1.40. It’s definitely worth getting.
Tram 28 comes every 15 minutes and it can become extremely packed during peak hours. When tram 28 is too full, you can take bus lines 734 (Martim Moniz to Santa Apolónia) or 735 (Cais de Sodré to Hospital de Santa Maria) instead. Both have stops along the main street of Graça.
As you explore Lisbon, you can’t help but notice the Moorish influence that remains in Portugal to this day. Many of the buildings – churches, palaces, houses, shops, restaurants, subway stations – are decorated with ornate ceramic tiles called azulejos. Azulejos come in a variety of designs and motifs that can be seen all over the city.
You might be able to spot some cool, random street art too.
Graça is further away from many of the touristy areas so you get a better sense of what it’s like to live like a local here. You can imagine what real daily life is like living in Lisbon just by observing other peoples’ homes.
Everything can be found on or near Rua da Graça – cafes, grocery stores, butcher shops, and eateries. We go to nearby mercados almost daily to pick up necessities like bread, fruit, vegetables, and water.
Evenings are a great time to explore other areas of Lisbon. This is when the heat has subsided, when the hustle and bustle has died down, and when many of the tourists have retired to their homes to rest.
Most tourists do not stay in Graça so we probably stand out to many of the locals here.
That’s ok though.
I’ve already exchanged jokes with a few of the market owners in our neighborhood. And I’ve been learning how to order meat in Portuguese from the local butcher up the street.
I may be living like a local but I have a long way to go before becoming one.
If you’d like to follow along with us on our journey, you can: