Lisbon’s Bouncing Back and the Streets are Packed

Along the Targus River, tourists and locals enjoy a sunny day in Lisbon.
Along the Targus River, tourists and locals enjoy a sunny day in Lisbon.

If someone approaches you in Lisbon, Portugal with an open map and a plaintive look, be suspicious, warned Tanya Galdas, of BikeIberia, a company that rents out bicycles in the capital.  They are very likely to be trying to snatch your wallet and cellphone that will be hidden beneath the map as you try to help them.

We learned that here in Lisbon, pickpockets and petty theft is pretty common, but violent crime is not.  It helps that decades ago, the country legalized all forms of drugs, so junkies and coke addicts aren’t trying to steal to support their habits.

The city's famous trams are a popular subject for photos, the city's tourism numbers have risen steadily as their economy has improved, locals told us.
The city’s famous trams are a popular subject for photos, the city’s tourism numbers have risen steadily as their economy has improved, locals told us.

We were happy to catch up with Tanya as we walked to her shop near the river Targus in Lisbon. Last time we were here in 2014, we took a bike ride with her and the shop owner Didier, along the river on a bike path. We asked how things were going and she, like others, said that the economy is much better than back then.  “Many new buildings are going up, and there are more tourists here than ever before,” Tanya said.

It’s certainly true that in the packed pedestrian areas, it’s beginning to resemble Barcelona in terms of sheer volume. But people are friendly, like the group of Canadian tourists we chatted with who said that their only complaint was that their tour company constantly baited and switched them to substandard hotels and that they had delays trying to get places due to traffic.

Low paid calceteiros are the men who create the works of art on Lisbon's sidewalks.
Low paid calceteiros are the men who create the works of art on Lisbon’s sidewalks.

This is one of the prettiest cities in Europe, one of the things I always am impressed with are the sidewalks made of Portuguese pavement, smoothed over after being walked on over hundreds of years. The calceteiros who create these works of public art are low paid and so it’s hard to find apprentices to take up this skill. So very few new sidewalks are being built with Portuguese paving.

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