Lisbon vs. San Francisco

I spent the last week in a small seaside city that seemed eerily reminiscent of home. Everywhere I looked, there were these little moments of deja vu. Here’s a list of some (surprising) similarities between the two cities, with a few differences thrown in for good measure.


25 of April Bridge

Both cities have a red/orange painted suspension bridge.

Belém Tower

Near the bridge, there’s a fort with cannons inside in both cities.

Super Mario

Restaurants close too early, so you have to go to a bar to hang out late.

Column of Pedro IV, Rossio Square

San Francisco is known for its hippie beliefs and open spirit — but we have nothing on Portugal. In the 70’s Portugal had a goddamn hippie revolution that toppled a dictator and instated democracy, and it involved flowers.

Elevator tram

Lisbon has steep hills, so they gouge tourists to ride streetcars. Sound familiar?

A Brasileira

Both cities have charmingly historic poet cafes that now serve mediocre coffee to tourists.

View from Elevador de Santa Justa

An earthquake and fire leveled Lisbon in 1755. San Francisco’s big quake was 151 years later. Pretty much everything you see now in both cities was built post-quake.

Watch out for thieves!

Instead of being normal and installing an air conditioner, the folks in Lisbon and San Francisco prefer to pretend that we’re not affected by heat. The only option for cooling down is to visit a chain store or mall that doesn’t adhere to the local HVAC customs.

Outdoor stairwell in Alfama

Small alleys throughout the cities contain a treasure trove of various types of street art.

Pena National Palace in Sintra

A tasteless, impractical mansion built by a looney heir exist not far outside both cities.


Lisbon cobblestone

I didn’t see much biking and skateboarding in or around Lisbon, for an obvious reason: cobblestone.

Festa Avante!

In spite of what Fox News would have you believe, there are no more communists in San Francisco than you’d find in any other American college town. In Lisbon they’re also a fringe element, but have a visible presence.


San Francisco’s local drink of choice is intended to put hair on your chest. Lisbon’s favorite shot of liquor, ginjinha, features a sweet syrupy flavor — and follows with a fierce headache.

Lisbon Metro

While cars drive on the right side in both cities, the Metro and commuter trains in Lisbon drive on the left. This really messed with my head, particularly after a few shots of ginjinha.

Bull fight

I haven’t seen any bulls getting tackled head-on in San Francisco.

Castle of the Moors in Sintra

Portugal’s long, fascinating history is still visible, particularly in the form of castles. In fact, it’s the most castley place I’ve ever been.