Although we know just a few facts about the life of this famous Portuguese writer, his workpieces speak for their author, and Lisbon, his hometown, plays a central role in them.
Fernando Pessoa is one of the most important artists in Portugal, and a true symbol of Lisbon. He was a man of many talents – not only a renowned poet and writer, but also a translator, a philosopher, and a representative of modernism. Pessoa was born on June 13, 1888 in Lisbon. When he was just a few years old, he was forced to leave the city, as after his father’s death, his mother got married to a Portuguese consul and the whole family moved to South Africa. Nevertheless, after turning seventeen, Fernando came back to Lisbon where he spent the rest of life until his death in 1935.
The first meeting
Some of the most famous books of this penman are “The Book of Disquiet” and “Lisbon: What the Tourist Should See”. Where then should you start your visit to the city? For tourists coming by ship, Pessoa recommended visiting the fortified tower Torre de Belém, located in the western suburbs of the district Belém. The port watchtower, is 35 meters high and has 4 floors.
It was built between 1515-1520 by the order of King Manuel I, and therefore it is characterized by the so-called Manueline style combining Gothic elements with orient and nautical motifs. Moreover, there is an observation deck on its top. Torre de Belém is considered one of the 7 wonders of Portugal, and was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“Casa” means “house”
We will come back to the Belém district at the end of our trip. Meanwhile, let’s go by tram to Campo de Ourique, where Fernando Pessoa lived between 1920 and 1935. There, at Rua Coelho da Rocha 16, you can find Fernando Pessoa’s casa, that is, the author’s house now transformed into a place for meetings and cultural events.
A few meters further, at number 18, you can satisfy your hunger in the popular Flagrante Delitro restaurant. The district Campo de Ourique itself is located in the city centre and has rich trading traditions. Today it is described as quiet, calm and welcoming to tourists.
Coffee with a hundred years of tradition
When in Lisbon, you cannot miss the famous Cafe A Brasileira café (Rua Garrett 120). Built in 1905, it was a favourite place of the Lisbon intellectual elite. Every day it was visited by numerous artists, including Fernando Pessoa. A proof of that is a sculpture erected in front of the café in 1988 depicting the writer.
Cafe A Brasileira is located in the Chiado district, full of exclusive stores of well-known brands, but also small, atmospheric antique shops. Following the books trail we will find probably the oldest bookstore in the world – Livraria Bertrand (Rua Garrett 73-75), in business since 1732! It is also worth noting that the building the café is located whose walls are covered in beautiful, blue mosaic.
Alfama – the heart of Lisbon
Chiado is connected with the Baixa district. In order to get there, you just have to get into an attractive, vertically moving elevator Elevador Santa Justa. Then we move to the Alfama district adjacent to Baixa. According to Fernando Pessoa no other place will give the idea of how Lisbon of old looked like.
The place was full of noise, buzz, music, and, unfortunately, poverty. We can enjoy Alfama from the famous yellow tram No. 28 or experience its magic when walking along narrow, winding, cobbled streets. It was here in Alfama that fado music was born. It is therefore worth visiting the Fado Museum to learn about and understand the history and culture of this unique musical genre.
Once again in Belém
We have finally returned to Belém, where fans of the writer can visit the tomb of Fernando Pessoa, located in The Jerónimos Monastery in the northern part of the cloisters. The initiator of the impressive monastery was King Manuel I, who asked the Order of St. Jerome to look after it. Church of Santa Maria is a part of this monastery that can be visited for free.
When in the vicinity of the monastery, at Rua Belém 84-92, you can try the most famous cookies in Lisbon, that is cupcakes with blancmange Pasteis de Belém. They’re worth making the effort to try them, as you will not be able to reproduce their flavour upon return from your journey – their recipe is kept strictly secret.
See in Lisbon
São Jorge Castle
Built during the ruling of the Moors, and located in the Alfama district. From its hillside, you can admire the breath-taking panorama of the city.
The Monument of the Discoveries
Commemorating the Portuguese sailors and explorers who embarked on the conquest of the New World. It is 52 meters in height and depicts 33 figures.
The Lisbon Oceanarium
The largest in Europe, presenting the flora and fauna of the four oceans. It is located in the Park of the Nations, at the site of former Expo'98 exhibitions.
The Vasco da Gama Tower
145 meters high, it gained its name from Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese discoverer of the sea route to India. One of the most characteristic buildings in the city.