Archive for August, 2008

Imaginário’s imaginative Lisbon

Monday, August 18th, 2008


Lisbon graffiti
As you walk around Lisbon you’ll come across plenty of eye-catching graffiti, but none will grab your attention as instantly as the colorful cakes and ice creams painted on many of the city’s most decayed buildings.That’s the work of one artist, and her name is Maria Imaginário. Yes, it’s a female artist (not so common in the world of street art), and she brings some joy and life to otherwise sad and dead walls. 

One of her “delicious” ice creams is seen in one of GoLisbon’s photo galleries, but for a collection of her work visit her page on Flickr.

Imaginário has taken her imagination outside Portugal, and was recently responsible for a mural in Bethlehem depicting a bulldozer destroying a heart.  It symbolizes the destruction of houses by the Israeli army in Palestinian territories, and no matter on which side of that Bethlehem wall your politics stand on, you can’t help but stop to process that message in your mind.

What made Imaginário do it? She’s in that divided region collaborating with the ICAHD (Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions), helping to rebuild demolished homes.

But you don’t have to travel that far to see Imaginário’s imaginative statements –- just keep your eyes open as you walk around Lisbon.

Magic Kubo

Friday, August 15th, 2008

Kubo bar, Lisbon
In a previous post we told you where to go for a drink under the Lisbon summer sun. But for a drink at sunset there is another hotspot you can’t miss. That’s Kubo which for the second year is only open from three months, from July to September. It’s part of Grupo K, the team behind the well-established Lisbon clubs Kremlin and Kapital. At Kubo however, there is no dancing, but drinking and dining in one of the city’s most attractive settings. 

You’ll feel like you’re stepping into the river Tagus (and the sheets of water throughout the space add to that effect) as you enter this terrace when it opens at 5PM. It then only closes at 4AM, making it also a possible destination for a night of socializing, drinking, and/or dining at the adjoining restaurant.

The best time to go is from 6PM to 9PM when the seemingly-magical late afternoon glow of the setting sun floods the river and the city. That’s also when a large slice of the crowd begins to arrive, consisting mostly of 30-something professionals for a post-work drink.

You may also start with a drink (at higher-than-average prices; the cheapest is water at 4 euros) and if your stomach is calling for it, order a sandwich or a salad (average priced). If you decide to stay for dinner, you have the choice of fondue, steak, pizzas, or pastas which may be more expensive than elsewhere in the city, but remember that here you’re also paying for the view.

But even if you don’t stay for dinner, relax on the white sofas and chairs as you listen to a soundtrack of well-known tunes mixed with some chill-out sounds. And if you do plan to stay through the night, be sure to take a light jacket or a thicker shirt, as the current August nights have become rather windy and chilly as a result, which is felt even more by the river.

To get there walk west along the river from Cais do Sodré Station, and after a 5-minute walk you’ll see the all-white space facing the river.

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Lisbon Ice Cream

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

Lisbon ice scream No, Lisbon is not Rome or any other Italian city where a stop for a gelato is a must at any time of the year. But Lisbon does have plenty of over-30 degrees (over 85F) weather days, so an ice-cold creamy delight is something you’ll probably be craving in the Portuguese capital too.

You may go to the familiar Häagen-Dazs or Ben & Jerry’s, located just around the corner from each other in the Chiado district, or you could try something different, and arguably even better.

You’ll find such a place right in the heart of downtown. At number 74 of Rua da Prata in the Baixa district you’ll find FRAGOLETO, which uses seasonal fruits to create what seems like an infinite number of flavor combinations when you look at all the colors on display. For those of you who are vegan or lactose-intolerant, soy replaces milk in the confection, further guaranteeing that anyone will find their ideal scoop here.

But a competitor for the perfect ice scream in Lisbon is found right outside the city in its beach town of Cascais. Under such blue summer skies you’ll surely be going there, so as soon as you step off the train, take Avenida Valbom and go inside SANTINI. It’s been serving mmmm-mmmmm-good ice cream for six decades now, and you’ll find people lining up to enjoy it on a daily basis. Made with all natural ingredients and flavors, your mouth will be watering as soon as you step into the door and see all the colorful choices in front of you. After your first lick you’ll agree that this shop is reason enough for anyone to go to Cascais.

Whether your favorite shop ends up being Fragoleto or Santini is up to your taste buds, but whatever it will be, you’ll end up knowing that a Lisbon gelado is just as tempting and satisfying as the most authentic Italian gelato.

Beauty and the Beach

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

August is the month when Lisbon gets its largest number of tourists, and that’s also when they stay for a longer period of time. It’s a fact that doesn’t allow for excuses for not visiting Sintra, something that should be done even with only 3 or 4 days in the city.

Sintra is the stunning World Heritage town right outside Lisbon. It’s Portugal’s most beautiful, and undoubtedly also one of Europe’s. Visit its fairytale palaces (even Disney couldn’t have come up with one as fantastic as Pena), and then escape to its beaches. Adraga has been ranked among the most beautiful in Europe, and you probably won’t disagree. And if you’re in town on a family holiday, Praia das Maçãs should be your sandy destination.

But if it’s in fact sand and the sea you’re after (and understandably so considering the warm August weather), get on the train in Lisbon, and within minutes you can have your feet in the Atlantic. Cascais and Estoril were the secret resort destinations for European nobility and royalty in the early 20th century, but they’re now open to anyone looking for a beautiful setting in which to relax and catch some sun.

Check out GoLisbon’s guides to Sintra, Cascais, and Estoril, for beauty and the beach right outside Lisbon, to follow the city’s cultural and cosmopolitan attractions.

Ireland says YES to Lisbon

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

Irish pub in Lisbon Ireland may have said NO to Lisbon the European Union treaty, but it’s saying yes to Lisbon the city. There was a time not too long ago when there were no direct flights between Dublin and Lisbon, but now Aer Lingus connects the two cities daily. Naturally, the number of Irish tourists to the Portuguese capital has increased dramatically as a result.

The question is, what took so long? After all, Lisbon is the closest European capital to Dublin after London, and being in the same time zone, that means no jet lag and a quick weekend getaway to a sunnier city.

Those who need their Guinness daily will find two Irish pubs in the Portuguese capital just for that. They’re located in Cais do Sodré, by one of the city’s main transportation hubs.

At Hennessy’s Irish Pub you can sit outside (see picture on the right) or at the dark wooden tables inside, in a lively atmosphere that often includes live Irish music.

Down the street is O’Gillins Irish Bar, also with live music on weekends, and serving light meals for those wanting to fill their stomach with more than just black beer.

In the end though, you may not even need to step into these pubs –- a good Portuguese ginginha, a Sagres, or a caipirinha in Bairro Alto will do just fine.

The proximity, the inexpensiveness, the friendly welcome, and the same time zone make Lisbon a possible home away from home for Irishmen who’ve come to say YES to Lisbon.

The Worst Restaurant Names in Lisbon

Monday, August 11th, 2008

Bica do Sapato Restaurant, Lisbon There are some mouth-watering restaurant names in Lisbon such as “Viagem de Sabores” (“Voyage of Flavors”) or “Tentações de Goa” (“Goa Temptations”), but then there are others that make you think twice before you book your table. These are our favorite least favorite restaurant names in Lisbon:

SOFISTICATORua São João da Mata, 27
A restaurant that calls itself sofisticato is anything but. It’s simply trying too hard. And that’s a turn off. Still, the place does look quite nice. It’s aiming for a cosmopolitan clientele and what you’ll see served on your plate will be quite refined. There is a little of New York in the décor but it’s the Mediterranean that is found all over the menu. You won’t be disappointed with anything you choose from on the list on the chalkboard, and this is in fact a cool place. Just never mind the name.

BICA DO SAPATOAv. Infante Don Henrique, Armazém (Warehouse) 8
Bica do Sapato (literally “the shoe tap”) is the name of the street behind this riverfront warehouse that was turned into a restaurant. Apparently when thinking of a name for it, the owners (actor John Malkovich being one of them) must have thought it was an interesting name, and that’s what they baptized it with. Today the restaurant is Lisbon’s trendiest, and you really won’t care about the name when you’re savoring its fine cuisine.

ZÉ DOS CORNOS – Beco dos Surradores, 5
This one could very well have been included in one of the previous “Weird Lisbon” posts.  Zé dos Cornos means “Joe of the Horns.” It’s a very informal place serving traditional home-style Portuguese food to an almost 100% Portuguese clientele. Expect big portions and a good hearty lunch, and don’t even bother asking how they came up with that name.

CLUBE DOS JORNALISTAS – R. das Trinas, 129
The food is good, and the decor and ambience quite nice (especially if you sit in the charming garden). But with a name like that (The Journalists’ or The Press Club), it feels like we’re invading a restricted space for card-carrying members-only clients. Despite the not very inviting name, this is a welcoming place open to all.

See all of GoLisbon’s restaurant recommendations here.

Wallpaper Lisbon

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

Wallpaper Lisbon If you want to know what’s happening in Lisbon while you’re visiting the city, all you need to do is look at the walls around Bairro Alto’s bars. They’re wallpapered with posters advertising the city’s upcoming concerts, festivals, and special events, and if you want ticket information, a friendly local will help you out with that…

Of course they’re always GoLisbon’s Calendar of Events as well, which lists the city’s upcoming attractions and provides ticket information. At the moment for example, tickets for Madonna’s concert in Lisbon are sold out everywhere, but not if you follow the link in our Calendar of Events… Do you love a good football (soccer) match? We got ticket information for the upcoming season there too. Enjoy the shows!

Sunbathing (and drinking) in Lisbon

Saturday, August 9th, 2008

Lisbon cafe terrace

It’s August. That means Europe has packed its sunscreens, shorts and bikinis, and gone down the shore. You will find many shops in Rome, Paris, and here in Lisbon with a sign “Closed for Vacation,” and Lisbon is even more fortunate than those other cities because not only does it usually have better weather, but the beaches are closer (see our Lisbon Beaches guide).But for those wishing to stay in the city, there are places where you can still get that tan and have a refreshing drink while you’re at it. First, we suggest you go lay on the terrace: “O Terraço” (The Terrace) is the name of a café on a street not far from the Castle of St. George overlooking all of downtown Lisbon (Calçada do Marquês de Tancos, 3). Order your drink at the counter, then choose one of its sofas or lounge chairs and wait for your waitress to bring it to you. Then enjoy the view over the city’s cathedral and Comercio Square as the sun hits your face. That’s the closer you’ll get to the beach experience in the city, although with no ocean included.

But if you still like to see water as you catch some rays, head to Meninos do Rio (Rua da Cintura do Porto de Lisboa by Cais do Sodré Station). You won’t have the Atlantic in front of you, but the Tagus River looks just as nice. It serves light meals (and there’s a separate sushi bar too), as you sit on long chairs facing the river. As far as summer cafes in Lisbon go, this has been a favorite every year. It’s also open throughout the year, so even when you catch good sunny weather during the colder months, this is always an option.

Our final suggestion is closer to the center of the city, somewhere between Bairro Alto and Principe Real. That’s Fabrico Infinito (Rua Dom Pedro V, 74), an interior design shop with a café in its backyard. You can recline on a chair by the perfectly cut lawn or sit at a stylish table while you drink or have one of its delicious cakes. There’s no more peaceful café in which to end your afternoon in the city and breathe in some fresh air. Too bad it closes at 7PM, or else it would also be a great spot at night.

Yes, there are many other outdoor cafes in Lisbon. But these are arguably the most relaxing and with enough space to allow an experience closer to beach sunbathing –- and you don’t even have to put up with screaming children throwing sand around you!

Portugal: It’s Greener on This Side

Friday, August 8th, 2008

Portugal's Arrabida Natural Park Portugal ranks 18th worldwide in the EPI (Environmental Performance Index). It’s the highest ranking country in Southern Europe (Spain is 30, Italy 24, and Greece 44 for example), with the best performers being Switzerland at number one, followed by Sweden, Norway, and Finland. The United States’ high oil consumption brought it down to number 39, while in very last place, at number 149 is Niger due to its low water and sanitation quality. (Source: Newsweek).

But Portugal could do much better. Downtown Lisbon for example often seems more friendly to the automobile than to the pedestrian, and unlike many other European cities, there is still no limit or tolls for cars entering the very center of the capital. As a result, your eyes will see plenty of trees emitting O2 in Avenida da Liberdade, but your nose will most likely be receiving CO2 from the cars speeding down the avenue as they would down a highway. Yesterday a plan was announced that would soon charge a higher toll to cars carrying only one person entering Lisbon from the highways.  That would not solve the problem, but it’s a sign of a good start.

Then if you decide to go on a daytrip to the Arrabida Natural Park, try to overlook one of Portugal’s biggest environmental crimes, a cement factory in the middle of the vegetation of that beautiful park.

Despite that, the country seems to be on the right track, and if you happen to go up North through the A8 highway you’ll see plenty of power being produced by the wind on the hills surrounding it. Add the huge solar energy power station being created in the Alentejo province (the world’s biggest, said to be seen from space, covering about 250 hectares and capable of sustaining 130,000 households), and it seems Portugal’s got a very green future ahead of it.

Weird Lisbon – Part II

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

Yes, just like in all cities, you’ll find plenty of unusual and strange things and characters in Lisbon, as seen in part one of our Weird Lisbon report. Here are some more:

Mr. Hello
Pass by Saldanha Square in uptown Lisbon at around 11PM and you’ll likely see a well-dressed gentleman with grey hair waving at everyone found inside the cars speeding by. That’s Mr. João Paulo Serra, who says hello and good-bye with his hands in an attempt to brighten people’s night or end of day. He’s been doing it for years, and he says it brings him joy. Call him crazy and weird, but you’ll certainly feel the same when you wave back at him.

The Doll Hospital
If your favorite doll suffers any damage or is broken when you’re in Lisbon (surely there have to be a few tourists out there who carry dolls with them whenever they travel, so let’s not judge), take it to the doll hospital in Figueira Square. It’s been taking care of dolls since 1830, complete with emergency and operating rooms. It seems business is still going strong, but one day when that’s no longer the case, the dolls with no cure, those abandoned, or their forgotten accessories will be turned into a museum collection.

Reading Between the Walls
For some reason the most rebellious Lisbon youth seems to think every building in the city is their canvas. So you’ll find graffiti everywhere in the city’s oldest central districts, especially in Bairro Alto and Alfama. That’s apparently going to come to an end (or so says City Hall), when a clean-up starts this upcoming September. But in the meantime, read the amusing propaganda found on the walls of the city center. You’ll be reminded that “Living kills” or that “advertising makes us stupid,” among some thought-provoking questions such as “Do you believe in everything you see on TV?” For other examples of Lisbon’s amusing graffiti, see our Photo Gallery – Street Art(?).