Image of a stylised map of central Lisbon; Source unknown

In my previous 2 blog posts on Lisbon, I introduced migration in relation to tourism, and in relation to colonialism. In this post, I will introduce you to Lisbon as a city as I undertake the ethnographic fieldwork as part of this research project, TRANSITS. Being new to the city and indeed the country, having moved here late last year, I offer the personal impressions of a migrant.

Lisbon is the capital of Portugal, though perhaps not as busy as many capitals around the world. In fact, life here moves at a slow pace, a pace at which having a coffee is perhaps more important than being on time for a scheduled meeting. This can be beautiful, while simultaneously baffling for an outsider. One gets used to it, and learns to appreciate these mundane aspects of everyday life in this growing city.

The city itself is part of a broader region or district, and appears to grow out from a small ‘downtown’ area as the River Tagus kinks inward. This downtown area is replete with leg-aching slopes and beautiful views from which one can appreciate the cityscape. This area itself is hardly lived-in, save for the tourists replacing each other in drones, and the numerous new upmarket (‘hipster’) cafes and eateries. Here, there is much shopping to do, and many pictures to take.

  

Images by author (Sinead D’Silva)

Along the coast, inward, the officescapes of ‘Expo’, or Parque de Nações, reflects a different commercial area of Lisbon – it is not as dedicated to tourism, but reflects some amount of the hustle and bustle expected of a capital city. As the city sprawls outward to the Atlantic Ocean, residential buildings become more commonplace. A mix of purposeful houses built during the Estado Novo and new developments greet you, a shift from downtown’s quaint old iconic buildings.

Further out on the train within ‘Greater Lisbon’, residential landscapes become more visible, sometimes in need of upkeep; and the hustle and bustle of the city fades away. Further on still, you notice a change in landscape telling of class differences. If you go North from here you are greeted by quintas (farms) and mountains. You are in Sintra. If you continue along the coast, you find yourself in Cascais, a trendy seaside location. From my perspective, you also spot a hint more money in the air, sometimes observable through attire and accents. It is also interesting to note how ethnically diverse the city as a whole appears to be, which for European cities does seem surprising. Though when the city rests, the different places people call home hint at a class-race disparity.

Images by author (Sinead D’Silva)

This is the cityscape of Lisbon, and already I have found that others have navigated it differently.