Archive for August, 2007

Lisbon Tourism Survey: Portugal’s capital is a surprising and recommended destination

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

The results of a Lisbon tourism survey conducted last April were released last week. When asked how they’d describe the Portuguese capital, Inside Belem Tower most tourists used the adjectives “beautiful,” “attractive,” and “interesting,” followed by “relaxing,” “pleasant,” and “romantic.”

About half said the city exceeded their expectations, and for about one quarter of them it was “a magnificent surprise.” About 99% of those surveyed would recommend a visit to others, and more than half claimed it’s very likely they’ll return.

The most visited attraction was the Jeronimos Monastery, followed by Belem Tower and Saint George’s Castle. These were followed by the Discoveries Monument, the Cathedral, the Ancient Art Museum, the Oceanarium, the Coaches Museum, and the Belem Cultural Center (which at the time of the survey didn’t yet house the Berardo Museum). The district where most spent the majority of their time was Baixa, followed by Alfama, Bairro Alto, and Belem. Their favorite activity was walking around the city, followed by visiting the individual attractions, and sampling the restaurants.

Most stated the main reason for their decision to visit Lisbon was “recommendation by friends or family,” while about a third said this was a destination they’ve always wanted to visit.

Outside the city, the most popular daytrips continued to be Sintra, Cascais, and Estoril, with the Pena Palace as the most-visited attraction.

These were the top choices of the tourists, but for the very best of Lisbon, see GoLisbon’s Top 10 – The Best of Lisbon page. It includes a list of Top 10 sights, ranked based on their singularity or global significance, and should therefore not be missed.

A Lisbon Secret: Necessidades Palace and Park

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

I have been living in Lisbon for four years, and during that period of time I have lived in three different areas of the city. Necessidades Palace terrace overlooking the river I first lived uptown by the Gulbenkian Museum (in whose gardens I spent much of my free time reading), and later moved by the Chiado district. While I loved living in the center of the city (with the sound of the trams passing by, Bairro Alto‘s restaurants and bars as substitutes for my kitchen or living room…), I recently moved to the Lapa district, right behind the Basilica of Estrela. As I wandered around this mostly residential neighborhood a few days ago, I ended up in the neighboring district of Alcantara and the 18th century Necessidades Palace. This former royal residence was also once a convent, but is now Portugal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It may not be visited inside, and with the surroundings being residencial buildings, there seems to be no reason for tourists (or locals) to pass by. Necessidades Palace It is therefore never mentioned on any guidebook, but I discovered that it is in fact worth taking a detour to this overlooked hill of Lisbon.
The terrace in front of the palace is yet another of the city’s unofficial viewpoints, standing right above 25 de Abril Bridge. The view over the river and its bridge is nice, but the biggest attraction stands across the street, to the left of the palace, behind a gate. That is the Necessidades Park (or more like a small forest), that is one of Lisbon’s best-kept secrets.Necessidades Park This is such a little-known place (even for many locals), that I was the only person there on a weekday afternoon visit. I found exotic trees, some of the oldest cacti in Europe, a green water pond, a deserted tennis court, abundant vegetation, a view of the river and the bridge, and a nice green lawn that is ideal for a picnic — in fact, the entire park was originally created as a place for the royals to picnic.

Since this is such an unknown and little-visited park, there are some neglected areas with drying/dying plants, but overall, it is a beautiful and pleasant green space in which to relax.
I do have Estrela Gardens just about a 5-minute walk away from home, but Necessidades Park will now be my own private oasis or retreat in Lisbon. I could keep it all for me, but this is a place that is worth recommending and sharing. Pass by if you wish to go way off the beaten path.

Cristo Rei

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

Last weekend I visited the Cristo Rei statue which overlooks the city from the Almada district on the south bank of the Tagus river.

Cristo Rei

Standing at a height of 110 metres, this monument to Christ was completed in 1959 and was of course inspired by the Christ the Redeemer monument in Rio de Janeiro. The original idea was formulated after a visit to Rio by the then Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon in 1934, and confirmed by Portugal’s bishops in a meeting in 1940 where they promised to erect the statue should Portugal be forgiven the horrors of the Second World War currently raging in other parts. Cristo Rei The dictator Salazar gave the project the impulse it needed when deciding not to enter the war in order not to offend England, an old ally of Portugal, and he gave it his official blessing.

As expected of a religious monument, at the base there is a place of prayer, a small chapel which includes an image of the Virgin of Fatima. And as expected of Portugal, by the side of the carpark there is a crowded cafeteria for those much-needed drinks and refreshments!

Most visitors to the monument, however, come for the magnificent views to be had from the platform constructed at the top of the pedestal, at the feet of the statue. Accessible via a lift and a short walk up some steps (which do in fact leave many people a little breathless), from here you can look out upon the spectacular 25th of April bridge, Cristo Rei west across the river towards Belém and the Torre de Belém, east across the river towards the Parque das Nações and the Vasco da Gama bridge, or south over the Setúbal peninsula.

Unfortunately I only had a small digital camera with me, so the photos I took of the views across the river aren’t of sufficient quality to post here, but I hope our visitors enjoy the shots of the statue itself, together with Lisbon’s own Golden Gate, the 25 de Abril bridge.

Cost of entrance to the monument is currently €5 and opening hours are from 9am to 6pm.


25th April bridge, Lisbon