Getting Charmed by the Magic Hour in Lisbon

Jonathan Duder looks back at how a sunset walk along the streets of Lisbon led him to savor the city’s most potent magic.

When magic hour approaches in Lisbon, when the searing, nearly sub-tropical sun crests above the Atlantic coast, large swathes of people, both citizens and visitors, appear suddenly on the city’s vistas to watch the dramatic flush of the skies. Lisbon, with its seven hills and miradouros — viewpoint plazas and resting spots, where wine and coffee flows freely from nearby kiosks — is well-suited for sky gazing.  There are also the hidden vistas that you come upon at the end of steep cobblestone schleps, after getting lost in the maze-like corridors of Alfama, the city’s oldest and most photogenic neighborhood. 

After a long walk along the waterfront on my last night in Lisbon, I was enticed by the gold ribbons appearing on the Tagus, the shoreline wine bars, and the serenade of nearby musicians. Instead, I chose to stay close to the river to watch the sunset.  Whether you’re perched on the ancient stone turrets of Castelo de São Jorge, with the full sprawl of the city in sight, or far below, sitting atop a break wall watching the water flow through to the Pacific, the Portuguese capital is breath-taking. While the same could be said for many other cities, there is an effortlessness to Lisbon’s charm, a demureness to its majesty, but there’s also another entirely unique quality that permeates the city’s atmosphere.

The Portuguese might call it saudade, others might name it wistfulness and whimsy, but, for most part, the exact definition is allusive.  The easiest way to describe it is to say it exists at the intersection of contentment and nostalgia.  It’s the sensation you get watching the apartment laundry lines in Graça ripple in the dusk, or the reflection of street lights on the mosaic sidewalks in Baixa-Chiado. It’s the smell of roasted chestnuts, and the sound of Fado music echoing out from beneath the rumble of the 28 tram. You’ll know it when you feel it. Among Lisbon’s versatile seduction tactics, it may be the city’s most potent aphrodisiac. Once this sentiment takes hold of you, it seems impossible to exorcise. But why would you ever want to?

With a good part of the world still homebound and unable to travel, we thought about reliving some of our most unforgettable trips captured on film through the Travel Throwback series. Share your travel stories and film photos with us through with the subject “Travel Throwback.”

Jonathan Duder
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Jonathan is a photographer, filmmaker, and writer currently based in Toronto, Ontario. His work has been shown at a number of galleries and festivals, including Gallery 44 and the Portland Film Festival. He's an avid cyclist, an enthusiastic sun-chaser, and is happiest when he is outdoors and exploring new places with a camera in hand. Visit and

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