- Articles by Expatriate Employees - World Report

Lisbon / Portugal

The history, architecture and music of Lisbon

Keisuke Moriyama / Power Projects & Infrastructure Division

Historically speaking, Portugal is the European country with the oldest connection with Japan. Many people in Japan associate Portugal with soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo, but as there are many loan words in Japanese (indicated here in square brackets) which are derived from Portuguese such as “organ” [orugan], “Castella” [kasutera] (a kind of sponge cake), “cup” [koppu], “Conpeito” [konpeito] (a kind of sweet), “bread” (pão in Portuguese) [pan], and “button” [botan], we actually have both a distant and intimate relationship with the country.

In this edition of World Report, I would like to introduce the capital city of Lisbon, which is the political, economic, and cultural heart of Portugal. For those with an interest in history and architecture, let me begin by recommending Belém, the southwesternmost civil parish of Lisbon. In this area you can enjoy Manueline, Portugal’s late Gothic architectural style, while exploring stunning relics which date back to the Age of Discovery.

Of these, the Jerónimos Monastery, which was constructed with the money obtained from taxes (Vintena da Pimenta), as well as the monument featuring sculptures of Vasco da Gama, Francis Xavier and Ferdinand Magellan, are must-sees. It is a well-known fact that Portuguese sweets are made using many eggs, and near the Jerónimos Monastery you can eat freshly baked tarts from a shop that has the best egg tarts in the country.

Next, for those who are into music, I would like to recommend the old town of Alfama in Lisbon’s east. Since this district escaped the devastation of the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake, its narrow streets, small squares, and old buildings have remained intact, and Alfama is often cited as representing the face of Lisbon. At night there are various live performances of traditional Portuguese folk songs called “fado”. Here you can be intoxicated by Portuguese soul music while dining on bacalao (cod fish).

Apart from these places you can enjoy downtown Baixa, the panoramic views of Lisbon from Castelo de São Jorge, and the São Pedro de Alcântara viewpoint. These attractions are all located within walking distance so you can enjoy visiting them under the clear blue sky.

Lastly I would like to introduce two Lisbon souvenirs. The first is canned fish. With an extensive selection to choose from and retailing at an average price of around three euros, many customers are said to bulk-buy.

The second is Vinho Verde (green wine). This is a low-alcohol wine with a light sparkle. It has a refreshing taste and would also be enjoyed by people with a low tolerance for alcohol. You can find it in any supermarket, but if you visit the wine aisles at shopping centers, you might be able to find your own special brand from their vast selection.

Marubeni Group communication site “MS+ (MS Plus)” (December 15, 2014)

  • Jerónimos Monastery
  • Padrão dos Descobrimentos
  • Egg tarts
  • Downtown Baixa
  • The view of Lisbon from Castelo de São Jorge
  • The view of Lisbon from the São Pedro de Alcântara viewpoint

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