Lisbon and Istanbul: the Princesses Fabio Paulos
The striking similarities between Lisbon and Istanbul
Lisbon and Istanbul are two different cities, at the opposite ends of Europe. Lisbon is as cosmopolite as Istanbul, but smaller and calmer. Both cities were once the capitals of big empires. If you think about these two cities, you might think that they have nothing in common, but when you've actually visited and explored them, you can't help but feel some similarities. As a person who has had the opportunity to live in both cities, I can assure you that Lisbon and Istanbul have a lot more in common than it might seem.


The former President of Turkey, Abdullah Gül, also shares this opinion. When he visited Lisbon in 2013, he said “Camões (a Portuguese poet) described Lisbon as the princess of the cities”, and said that “Istanbul is another princess, sharing with Lisbon the fact that “both have seven hills, are open to the sea, and are historic cities that were capitals of empires, with a patrimonial heritage that includes cultural diversity.” To finish the speech , Gül said that Lisbon and Istanbul “are both princesses and twin sisters”.


With this article, I want to show you the similarities between Lisbon and Istanbul, so that when you visit one of the cities, you will be reminded of the other one.


The water
Lisbon has the Tagus River (Rio Tejo) that forms the largest estuary of Portugal, with unique characteristics. The Tagus empties into the Atlantic Ocean near Lisbon. Praça do Comércio, one of the main squares in Lisbon, is unique because it opens onto the river. Istanbul has the Bosphorus Strait (İstanbul Boğazı) which connects the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea. Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish author and Nobel Prize Winner, wrote in his memories of Istanbul “Life cannot be all that bad, ‘I would think from time to time.’ Whatever happens, I can always take a long walk along the Bosphorus.”. The same can be said for the Tagus: whatever happens a long walk in Belém along the river is always good. Also a stop at The Pier of Columns (Cais das Colunas), which is located on Praça do Comércio, is good for thinking.


The 'other side'
The south side (Margem Sul) of Lisbon is actually another city; it is not even part of Lisbon's district. There are not that many things to do there, as it is more of a residential area. But the view from the Christ the King (Cristo Rei) is a good enough reason to cross and see Lisbon from the other side. In Cacilhas, you can also make a stop at the renovated street of Cândido dos Reis. On the Asian side of Istanbul, you feel like it is a different city. Just the fact that you are going to another continent only by boat is enough of a reason to cross it. Everything is cheaper on the Asian side; while you are discovering Adalar, Moda, Kadıköy and Üsküdar, you will feel the differences compared to the European side of Istanbul. On the Asian side, you have a great view from Çamlıca hill (Çamlıca Tepesi) that you cannot miss.


The bridges
In Lisbon the 25 April bridge (Ponte 25 de Abril), named after the Carnation Revolution (Revolução dos Cravos) connects Lisbon with the south side, Almada. The bridge is a mix of the Golden Gate and the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, but it is impossible not to compare it to the Bosphorus Bridge (Boğaziçi Köprüsü) in Istanbul. The Bosphorus Bridge connects two continents, the two sides of Istanbul.
The Bridges.jpg

The boats
To cross the river in Lisbon you have the famous Cacilheiro, but recently new boats arrived to Tagus. In Istanbul, you also have a lot of boats that not only connect the two sides, but also those that go to other Turkish cities. Just like Istanbul, Lisbon is also well known for their cruise stops.

The light and the colors
Everyone that has been to Lisbon knows that the city has a special light; when I arrived in Istanbul my first thought was the same. The yellow buildings in Lisbon are the most common, but you can find other colors in the old neighborhoods. It is the same in Istanbul; if you walk through Tarlabaşı, you can see a colorful neighborhood.


360º view
Recently open, the Rua Augusta Arch (Arco da Rua Augusta) allows their visitors a 360º view over the downtown of Lisbon. The Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi) in Istanbul has one of the best 360º views of the old Constantinople.


Seven hills
As Lisbon and Istanbul are growing, they now certainly have more than seven hills; but much like Rome and Prague, they are still known by their seven hills. The views that the hills provide are the best places to see the city, and enjoy the sunset or sunrise.


Saint Anthony
Lisbon is the birthplace of St Anthony, mostly known as St Anthony of Padua, the place where he died, in Italy. In the place where the saint was born in Lisbon there is now a church dedicated to him. The current building is from the 18th century; in the same century, the Italian community in Istanbul built a St Anthony Church (St Antuan Katolik Kilisesi). Nowadays the new building of the St Anthony Church is the largest Roman Catholic Church in Istanbul.


The flea market
Lisbon has the Feira da Ladra every Tuesday and Saturday around the National Pantheon. It is a big market, bigger than the one in Dolapdere in Istanbul. Probably the only thing in Lisbon that is bigger than in Istanbul. Close to the Dolapdere street, you will find a flea market every Sunday.


The tram
Lisbon has the famous tram 28 that every tourist wants to ride; it goes trough the old part of the city, and has a few stops close to amazing views and the castle. Lisbon has more trams, but all are yellow (except for the ones for tourists); in Istanbul, however, the tram that crosses the Istiklal Avenue is red. The route is shorter, but it can take time to do it all; the avenue is always full of people and the tram driver needs to be very careful.
The Tram.jpg


If you have ever been to Lisbon and Istanbul you will probably find a few more similarities, so you can use the comments to share them with me and other OneEurope readers.