Destination: Lisbon, Portugal

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If the quantity and quality of a city’s graffiti is evidence of a populace with plenty of restless energy, and a fiery imagination, then Lisbon is in the midst of a creative explosion.

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Unlike other cities, where vandalism hints at crime and hooliganism, the vibrant wall art in Lisbon seem to actually compliment both the urban and historical architecture of the city, and many of the murals are skillful works of art, or witty social commentary.

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If you’re into cultural monuments, Lisbon certainly has no shortage of those (there’s Castelo de Sao Jorge, Torres de Belem, Palace of Mafra, and many more), but if you want to avoid the ugly side of tourism in this town, I’d suggest you stay away from these overcrowded spots.

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What I found more pleasurable was exploring the quieter hilly streets, alleys, and winding stairways, and checking out the residential sections of the city beyond the downtown area.

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The streets around Rossio (where the main train station is located), Bairro Alto, and Castelo de Sao Jorge are the most congested, and somewhat overwhelmed with tuk tuk drivers and groups of tourists. I much preferred the hilltop neighbourhood of Graca, which is much more peaceful (though not entirely devoid of tourist activity), and the residential sections beyond Jardim de Estrela. Alfama, with its labyrinth-like streets is also thoroughly hypnotic.

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Most of the Lisbonites I met were very warm, friendly, and easy to converse with, and despite the mass tourism in certain areas, Lisbon is a city that really grows on you, and draws you in.

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Cuisine: Seafood and pork dishes are popular here, and sardines, cured meats and sausages are items that you’ll find in most restaurants and tabernas. Also addictive are the beef and bacalhau croquettes, and shrimp risoles that you’ll find at most pastelarias.

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To sample dishes from some of the biggest names in the local culinary scene, head to the Time Out Market, where you can enjoy chef designed dishes, food market style. Though the Time Out Market can seem like a bit of a tourist trap, it is still worth visiting at least once. For a more local market experience, try Mercado de Campo de Ourique, which has been around a little longer. And if you’re looking for a to-die-for chocolate cake, head to Landeau Chocolate for a slice of heaven.
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