So much so that one recent estimate showed that tourism will account for just over 21% of the country’s GDP this year, something which the country’s rail operators, and those in Spain, France and elsewhere, might usefully consider the next time they trot out the lame excuses for not offering any direct trains between Portugal and the rest of Europe (more or less, folks).
But, as the late Clive James might have said, I digress. You should still visit the country, and especially Lisbon, just not next week, because the visitor event to end all visitor events is upon us. Hotels, Air B+Bs, campsites, forget it. There will be Very Little Accommodation anywhere in the Greater Lisbon Metropolitan Area until after next weekend. Because of JMJ. Or WYD.
What that? Jornada Mundial da Juventude, or in English, World Youth Day, is a Catholic festival which will attract pilgrims in their hundreds of thousands. Estimates put the total attending the final event, hosted by Pope Francis, at as many as one million. Yes, as Chief Inspector Clouseau of the Sureté might have observed, even the Purp will be there. He flies in next Wednesday.
Some of the numbers are mind-boggling: events begin on August 1st and end on the 6th. On Thursday 2nd, “The afternoon will see the ‘major meeting’ - at 5.45pm in Parque Eduardo VII, baptised the Colina do Encontro (Hill of Encounter) for the event, to which at least 400,000 if not more pilgrims are expected”. Four hundred thousand. And the next day will bring more.
“750,000 pilgrims are expected to arrive, throughout the day, to Parque Eduardo VII for what is called the Via Sacra. This is a moment where pilgrims will be received by the Pope from 6pm … from the arrival of the Pope, this holy communion will begin, with processions arriving and many Catholics lining up for the reported million communion wafers made for the event”.
Small wonder that so many residents have decided to decamp to the Algarve, the Alentejo, the Silver Coast, the Douro Valley, anywhere that gets them away from what is going to be one heck of a crush in central Lisbon (the Parque Eduardo VII, named for the British Edward VII, overlooks the Avenida de Liberdade, and from there the old downtown).
So to the weekend. “Saturday is billed as being ‘the longest day, with most journeys for the Pope’ He is due to give two speeches, one in the morning in Fátima - to which he will travel in a military helicopter, and where he is due to pray with young people who are ill and some who are prisoners. It is here too that His Holiness is expected to say a prayer for peace in Ukraine”.
After that? “Then it will be back to Lisbon, first for a private meeting with members of the Companhia de Jesus, and finally to the Parque Tejo-Trancão - the slice of riverside shared by Lisbon and Loures municipalities where as many as one million pilgrims could be waiting for him”. Do go on.
“This is where the ‘inscribed pilgrims’ will benefit over those that simply decided to turn up without informing organisers: inscribed pilgrims will have a place in the park (dubbed Field of Grace, for World Youth Day) closer to the spectacular altar-stage than the non-inscribed. There will be gigantic screens erected over the 100 hectares, for everyone to at least get a view of what is happening, even if they are a long way away from where it is going on”.
Any more? Sure is. “Finally, on the Sunday (August 6), the Pope’s final public appearance will come at 4.30pm, after the official closure of World Youth Day, where he is expected to give a speech of thanks in Algés, Oeiras, to the 30,000 volunteers who contributed to the event (even paying for the privilege)”. The volunteers, in their yellow T-Shirts, have been a presence for some days now around the city. Now will come all those pilgrims.
For those saying “Yeah, but what about what went on in Portugal’s Catholic church for so many years?” there is this coda: “there will be a lot of ‘spare time’ in the pontiff’s schedule, but that it is almost certain that some of this will be spent in meetings with victims of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church”.
There is also this upmarket thought: “If all goes according to plan, this will be an exceptional PR event for Lisbon, which is already one of the most popular European destinations on many scores. Mayor Carlos Moedas has stressed the return for the capital in terms of revenue from visitors will be worth every cêntimo spent on the planning and infrastructures, most of which will remain in place for use by local people”. It’ll just be heaving busy, that’s all.
Visit Lisbon - but wait until after the big event has run its course.
Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by becoming a Patron on Patreon at