Archive for March, 2008

Lisbon: One of Europe’s safest cities

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Lisbon trams While a more tabloid-style news media is implemented in Portugal, there has been a recent tendency to dramatize every sensationalist story and crime that occurs in the country. For that reason, there seems to be a general feeling among the Portuguese that their country is no longer the crime-free heaven that it used to be, especially in its two largest cities. However, a report from Eurostat (the European Union statistics agency) released last week showed that the Portuguese capital has the second-lowest murder rate in Europe.

The only capital with a better rate is Valetta, the capital of Malta. Also, the murders in Portugal tend to always result from either domestic disputes, crimes of passion, drug-related or so-called “revenge-killings.” And violent crime in general has been down in Portugal in the past two years.

So what does that mean to you, the visitor? It means that you should not worry about becoming a victim of random crime during your Lisbon stay, and should simply be as alert as you’d be anywhere else. It means that you’re more likely to be a victim of a violent crime in London, Paris, Madrid, or pretty much anywhere else. And while certain parts of Lisbon may give you a false sense of insecurity (in deserted streets at night, with rundown buildings, beggars or seedier characters walking around), you can relax because chances are, nothing will happen to you.

Having said that, you should definitely be extra alert during your rides on tram 28 and 15. They’re notorious for pickpocketing, where someone distracts you while another takes your wallet. Use a money belt, keep your hand in your wallet’s pocket if standing, and look alert and aware of your surroundings –- if you look them in the eye, they most likely won’t target you.

So in addition to the rich cultural heritage, mild climate, and moderate prices, you can certainly add safety as yet another of Lisbon’s inviting attractions.

A charming Lisbon corner: Flor de Sal

Friday, March 21st, 2008

UPDATE: This restaurant has closed. It is now NOVA MESA.

Flor de Sal, Lisbon Spring is here, daylight saving time brings even more hours under the sunny skies, and an outdoor café becomes even more inviting. While Lisbon has plenty of those to choose from, the young Flor de Sal (it will have its first birthday in July) is already among the best in the city. Located in the charming Praça das Flores (a garden-square in the Principe Real neighborhood), it is also a restaurant serving Mediterranean-inspired dishes. The salads score the most points, and they come very nicely presented (and in decent portions) on the plate.

While this may sound like a better option for the daytime, it is actually just as pleasant in the evening. Once again, the outdoor tables in spring and summer will be the first ones to be filled, but there is also space inside. While that interior dining space has no views to the green Praça das Flores, there is a wall with a photo reproducing what you have just seen outside.
The clientele is mostly young locals with a few tourists happy to have stumbled across this peaceful little square slightly off the tourist path and such a pleasant café/restaurant.
The prices, while not the cheapest you’ll find in Lisbon, are quite reasonable when considering the service and the privileged location.
So mark Praça das Flores on your map for Flor de Sal and to also admire some quite charming tiled houses that surround the square. And just down the street, São Bento Palace
Discover other outdoor cafes in GoLisbon’s cafes page, and also consider our suggestions for restaurants.

Lisbon’s Newest 5-Star

Monday, March 17th, 2008

VIP Grand Lisboa Hotel The ever-increasing number of visitors to Lisbon now have yet another outstanding option to consider when looking for accommodation. VIP Grand Lisboa, a new 5-star hotel, has just opened uptown within walking distance of the Gulbenkian Museum and just minutes from downtown by metro.

If you think a 5-star hotel means prices out of your budget and stuffy treatment, think again. By booking online you pay what you would normally pay for a 4 or even 3-star hotel. This is also a young and modern hotel, meaning that staff knows that today’s traveller simply expects efficient and professional service, with none of the extra pompous attitudes.

Located in a 20th century building that once served as the headquarters of the national broadcaster RTP, it has been fully renovated and includes a spa.

Although the uptown location in the middle of the business district may indicate you’ll be surrounded by business travellers, this hotel’s amenities were placed with all types of guests in mind. Everyone will feel welcome and Go Lisbon recommends it to anyone wishing to stay a little away from the downtown bustle, but close enough to it for sightseeing.

Click here to check availability and further hotel details. For other hotel options and recommendations, see our Lisbon Hotels page.

Lisbon’s Top 10 Underrated Attractions

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

Municipal Square

When you think of a European destination, the first places that come to mind are Paris, London, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Rome, and maybe Venice. But Europe is a vast, spectacular continent filled with special cities to visit, and Lisbon is one of them. Although growing as a major city-break destination, Lisbon remains quite underrated in the European itinerary, and once travellers arrive in the Portuguese capital, they don’t know where to head first. That’s where comes in. It’s established itself as the primary online source for the grand city by the Tagus, directing visitors to the most noteworthy sights, restaurants, hotels, and much more. 

But even within Lisbon there are sights that are often overlooked and underrated. After deciding whether you visit the Gulbenkian, Berardo, or the Ancient Art Museum, and crossing Belem Tower, Jeronimos Monastery, and St. George’s Castle off your list, what other places remain hidden around Lisbon’s seven hills and are often overlooked? Here are ten of them:

1. A museum with works by Tiepolo, Rubens or Brueghel, priceless Chinese porcelain, and historical pieces used by Napoleon would top the list of any art lover’s itinerary, but the MEDEIROS E ALMEIDA MUSEUM is still completely unknown to visitors – as well as locals!

2. The PORTUGAL PAVILION by Pritzker Award-winning architect Siza Vieira instantly grabs your attention with a gravity-defying concrete roof. Although everyone is usually running to the Oceanarium nearby and miss it…

3. An exotic TROPICAL GARDEN with rare vegetation from all corners of the globe is not found in many other big cities – but it is in Lisbon, and right next to the famous Jeronimos!

4. Lisbon’s cathedral is special for its fortress-like appearance, São Roque Church has outstanding baroque chapels, and São Vicente de Fora offers city views and some amazing tile panels –- but the prettiest and most monumental church in the city is ESTRELA BASILICA. Most tourists pass by during their tram 28 voyage, but don’t venture inside –- you should, if only to admire the beautiful large-scale nativity scene.

5. For a dose of royal extravagance in Portugal, everyone knows they should go to Sintra. In fact, its spectacular fairytale palaces may induce such regal overdose, that you may end up forgetting about AJUDA PALACE in Lisbon! Strange clocks, a charming interior Winter Garden, and grand decorated-to-impress rooms await you.

6. Mention EDWARD VII PARK to any local and they’ll surely tell you about the days when it was known for late-night young male prostitution… Forget that! Lisbon’s “Central Park” is safe, beautiful, and provides a postcard-worthy view of the city descending towards the river. If that wasn’t reason enough to come, there are some quite memorable jungle-like greenhouses and hothouses that make you forget you’re in the middle of a city.

7. Too bad it crosses major roads located right on the border with unattractive suburbs or you’d rank the FREE WATERS AQUEDUCT as one of your top sights to see in Lisbon. It’s a 1755 Earthquake survivor, and its architecture and engineering are quite impressive when you remember when it was built. The good news is that you may go on an organized tour that will provide you with all of the fascinating details.

8. You cool down by one of Rossio Square’s fountains, stop to take a photo by Comercio Square’s triumphal arch, and wait for tram 15 in Figueira Square as you watch skaters speed by the equestrian monument in the middle… But you don’t see anyone loitering around MUNICIPAL SQUARE! However, sit on one of the steps descending from the central pillory, and you’ll get Lisbon in a nutshell –- the trademark pavement with cobblestone patterns, old trams clanking on their way to Belem, pastel-colored buildings around you, and an elegant white 18th century palace (the City Hall) radiating sunshine… In short, you sense the serene atmosphere that defines Lisbon.

9. One of Milan’s great attractions is its La Scala opera house. Naples’ San Carlo Theater is also one of its must-sees. Then there’s Paris’ famous Opera, or New York’s great concert halls. Every city places great pride in its theatres, and Lisbon has great reason to be proud of its SÃO CARLOS THEATER. The neoclassical Dona Maria II Theater in Rossio Square may be the best-known classic theatre in the city, but to experience São Carlos is recalling European cultural excellence over the centuries. And to top it all off, there’s a very pleasant restaurant with outdoor tables on the terrace. So stop by and take it all in, in true Lisbon fashion.

10. For a daytrip from Lisbon you’ll be torn between a day by the sea in Cascais and Estoril, or climbing the magical hills of Sintra for its Disney-like palaces. Perhaps you’ll feel a little more adventurous and may go on a tour that includes Obidos or even go as far as Evora. So you forget there is MAFRA and its superlative palace. If you have read Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago’s novel Baltasar & Blimunda, you have read about the construction of this palace… You’ll surely want to see it in person.