Seeing Lisbon with Museum Guides Leading Walking Tours

Until October, four themed walking tours will help people discover how Lisbon was built and experienced over different periods of the city’s history. David Felismino of the Museu de Lisboa shares his thoughts with Atlas.

There are many hidden elements within each medium of art so it’s always helpful to have an expert with you to point things out that you would otherwise miss. Even the tiniest stroke on a canvas can reveal an incredible story — and like a canvas, every city has its own tells that can speak volumes.

Time itself leaves hidden indicators of yesteryear on the face of a city, but how do you find them and how do you know what you’re looking at?

Having an expert along would help.

The Museum of Lisbon and its expert historians have offered around 20 different tours over the past four years, like the Chimney Tour, Lisboa LGBT, The Invisible Places of Slavery, Women in the City, and more in Portuguese through their Percorrer Lisboa program — and now English speakers can also understand the implications of hidden historical strokes made on Lisbon’s old town by booking one of these walking tours offered by the Museum itself.

From May to October, four themed walking tours will help people discover how Lisbon was during different periods of the city’s history: the Roman, the Islamic, and the medieval eras, as well as the 18th century after the infamous earthquake of 1755.

David Felismino, Deputy Director of the Museum of Lisbon, told Atlas, “As more foreigners and travelers are coming to Lisbon, we at the museum decided to try this small program of our more classic tours, if you like. If it goes well, next year we will be adding more tours like the Slave Trade and the Africa Lisboa tours to the roster.”

As one of Europe’s oldest cities, Lisbon has been inhabited and profoundly shaped by different communities and cultures throughout its rich history. The tours have been meticulously curated to show Lisbon as an exhibit worthy of the city itself.

According to Marina Marques, Communications Coordinator at the Museu de Lisboa, “Each tour location has its own resources and specific goals, but they all share the same identity and mission: To unveil Lisbon’s cultural, social, economic, and territorial identity, and to reflect its history and the lives of the people who have shaped it.”

As Lisbon undergoes its current transition period due to intense globalization and accelerating modernization, the Museum of Lisbon aims to look back on the past, when dramatic events, newcomers, and changes in customs drastically transformed the city.

Felismino said, “The idea is to reveal and alert people to aspects they don’t see in their daily lives. The presence of certain communities can help you uncover the city in an incredibly rich way. For example, Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived here in peace until the 15th century, so in the Medieval tour, the friendship between these three major religions is uncovered.”

On each tour, the Museum’s cultural mediators will guide participants through iconic places and monuments such as the Sé Cathedral, Martim Moniz, the labyrinth of Alfama and Mouraria, São Cristovão’s Church, and Terreiro do Paço.

Felismino added, “These are not traditional tours in the sense that the guide walks ahead and goes on talking for ages. These tours are small with a 25-person limit so that they can create a dialogue about the past and present, and learn how best to build Lisbon’s future. It’s about asking questions, sharing opinions, and seeing the true history of the city under your feet.”

Want to discover more? The Museum of Lisbon is comprised of five locations dedicated to uncovering the city and its stories: Pimenta Palace, The Roman Theater, Saint Anthony Museum, The West Tower at Praça do Comércio, and Casa dos Bicos Jose Saramago Foundation. A visit to any or all can truly give you insight into the city and allow you to explore the streets of Lisbon with open eyes and an open mind.

Add to these a walking tour or two, and you’ll be an expert at all things Lisboa.

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