Archive for December, 2007

Walking through Lisbon’s five centuries of tiles

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

Tile MuseumA few days ago I joined a tour of the Tile (Azulejos) Museum with a guide from Walks On The Art Side. We went through five centuries of tilemaking, from the early techniques, to the evolution in designs.
The very enthusiastic guide shared her passion for the art form, placing the different styles in a historical perspective and explaining the international influences in tile decoration, from the Moorish origins, to the Spanish and Dutch mastery, to Portugal’s variety of imaginative uses. 

This is a very unique museum, since there is no other in the world completely dedicated to this ancient art form. Lisbon is a very fitting place for it, since there probably is no other city with so much tile decoration, that covers everything from church interiors, to simple house façades, to street signs.

Tile Museum The space chosen for this tile gallery was a former convent, which itself would be worth a visit. The Madre de Deus Convent is also an extraordinary example of another art greatly developed and found extensively in Portugal, the baroque gilt decoration. The chapel of Saint Anthony is completely covered from ceiling to floor with gilt carvings, with their gold shining around the blue and white tile panels on the walls.

On the second floor is a 23m-long (75ft) 18th century panel showing Lisbon as it was before the devastating 1755 earthquake and tsunami. This is an outstanding work of art, as the artist observed the city from the Tagus River and later assembled his views on the tiles. Be sure to look for the monuments that are still standing in the city, and imagine it with the ones that are no longer part of its skyline.

Tile Museum A Walks On The Art Side tour is recommended for anyone interested in the world of ceramic tiles, in the history of Lisbon, or simply those who enjoy art. The guide brings those tile panels to life, as they no longer simply look like tile compositions, but turn into historic documents.

For more about the history of tilemaking, see Go Lisbon’s azulejos page, or that of the Tile Museum. For information on Walks On The Art Side, see its website.

A Chique de Belém

Monday, December 17th, 2007

A Chique de Belém

When recommending one of the most typical examples of Portuguese food, the custard tarts known everywhere as “pasteis de nata”, one would quite rightly think immediately of the Antiga Confeiteria de Belém, where in fact they are called pasteis de Belém, since here they make the tarts using what is believed to be the original recipe created by Catholic Sisters in the nearby Monastery.

Indeed one should never visit Belém without sampling these delicious cakes. But this weekend, we were taken to another cafeteria in the same area by a local Lisboan with the promise that the tarts would be “even better” than the originals!

“A Chique de Belém” is a typical Lisbon cafeteria on the corner of Rua da Junqueira and Calçada da Ajuda, just across the road from the Monastery. Much less crowded than the Antiga Confeiteria, it has a pleasant outside terrace area and tables inside where you can order the famous tarts. I must admit, although they were delicious as always, I couldn’t really tell the difference between the original and its less well known cousin. Perhaps if I had tasted one after the other I would have been able to better compare, but our guide insisted on the difference and who am I to argue with such passion?

The only thing I can recommend is that you try them yourselves to see which you think is the better in this unofficial custard tart contest. Sample the original and then go back to Belém to the “A Chique de Belém”, order more “pasteis de nata” and let us know what you think. And ask the waiter to tell the owner that GoLisbon sent you – we had a brief chat with this very pleasant man and it’ll make his day!

A Chique de Belem

Pasteleria “A Chique de Belém”
Rua da Junqueira 524
Belém, 1300-341 Lisbon
Tel: 213 637 995

Two (re)new(ed) places to stay in Lisbon

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

Jeronimos 8 GoLisbon.com offers a wide range of accommodation in Lisbon for all tastes and budgets, from basic guesthouses, to stylish hostels, to the standard hotels, to the most luxurious palaces.And recently it has added a few other options such as the Sheraton and Jeronimos 8. Both are great news, especially Jeronimos 8 –- it is the only hotel in Belem, Lisbon’s most monumental district, and it is no ordinary hotel. It just recently reopened as a design hotel, with modern minimalist décor found everywhere, from its stylish bar, to the elegant bedrooms.

With a 4-star rating, it is ideal for the more sophisticated travellers who don’t even have to break the bank to indulge in exclusive service. Its comfortable and tranquil atmosphere, along with its location make it one of Lisbon’s most special choices of accommodation (click here for more hotel information, price, and availability).

The Sheraton is Lisbon’s tallest skyscraper in the city’s business district uptown, and just 15 minutes from the airport. Having been renovated not so long ago, it now offers an ultra-modern spa, with facilities including a heated outdoor swimming pool, jacuzzi, and sauna. On the top floor is a renowned gourmet restaurant affording fantastic views over the city.

If you’re interested in experiencing Lisbon’s Sheraton but don’t want to pay the full regular price, book through GoLisbon.com by clickig here.

For other special places to stay in the Portuguese capital, see GoLisbon’s hotels page.