Archive for January, 2009

“K” Marks Lisbon’s Newest Nightspots

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Kuta Bar, LisbonSure there’s no “K” in the Portuguese language, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at Lisbon’s top bars and clubs — about half a dozen of them start with that letter. For most of them, that’s because they belong to “Grupo K,” the company behind some of the city’s most sophisticated hotspots, from Kubo (already recommended here on GoLisbon Blog) to the Kais restaurant — but the most recent opening in the city is another story.

Kuta is an Indonesian-inspired lounge and cocktail bar in the Alfama district, opened by two Parisians who wanted to create in Lisbon a special place similar in ambience to those they worked at in Paris. The name is that of a town in Bali known for its exotic beach, and it was from there that many of the furnishings came from. You’ll be surrounded by its huge statues as you sip cocktails at between €6.50 and 8 euros each, while on Sundays you have the option of a special brunch between 11AM and 6PM. Its location is in one of the most pleasant areas in the city, found just steps from the city’s cathedral and around the corner from Rua São João da Praça, home to a couple of Lisbon’s most special cafes and restaurants.

Another “K” that’s not new but renovated is the legendary “Kapital.” Now 16 years old and with a reputation for fashionable crowds and exclusive parties, it was closed for two years, but just reopened a few weeks ago. I only went there once, and that was a few years ago when I had just moved to Lisbon, after receiving invitations for its private party of the “Cats” production that was passing by the city that year. The space was attractive, but the ambience not so much (made up of mostly pretentious yuppie thirty-somethings and wannabes looking to see and be seen and not so much to enjoy themselves). I didn’t return, and haven’t seen its recent incarnation, but apparently it’s more high-tech and with a brand new décor. The music and the space remains the same, though — pop, house, techno, and funk in different floors and a popular terrace where you can chill out and smoke. Be prepared for a very selective door staff.

For all of Lisbon’s best bars and clubs, see GoLisbon’s nightlife guide.

Young Portuguese-Americans in Hollywood

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Young Portuguese-Americans in HollywoodToday the movie “Milk” premieres in theaters here in Lisbon. Winner of 8 Oscar nominations last week, that movie stars Sean Penn, with James Franco in a major secondary role. If Franco sounds Portuguese to you, you’re right. He’s just one of the now several young Hollywood faces with a Portuguese background. Of about the same age as Franco is Al Santos, a former model turned actor who’s made appearances on the “CSI: NY” series and on movies like “Jeepers Creepers II.” He was born in New York, but his last name originates in his relatives in the city of Aveiro in Portugal.

Another rising star is Lyndsy Fonseca, last seen on last season’s “Desperate Housewives,” although she was also part of the cast of “The Young and the Restless.”
Yet another Portuguese-American actress with a start in soap operas was Vanessa Marcil (the real last name is “Barrigas”), who went from “General Hospital” to star in “Beverly Hills 90210” and “Las Vegas.“

Perabo is an unusual Portuguese name, but it is Portuguese. Actress Piper Perabo was born in Texas, but grew up in New Jersey, home to a large Portuguese community. Her major role was as the star of the “Coyote Ugly” movie, and she’s also appeared in other films such as “Cheaper by the Dozen” and “The Prestige.”

You wouldn’t tell by her last name, but Brooke Burke is also partially Portuguese. She was last seen as the winner of season 7 of the American series “Dancing with the Stars,” but became known as the host of the “Wild On…” program on the E! network.

For more famous Portuguese-American faces in the world of entertainment, see GoLisbon’s Portuguese People page.

Lisbon in San Francisco

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Lisbon in San Francisco

They’re both built over a series of hills, are crossed by turn-of-the-century trams, have a big suspension bridge built by the same company as one of their icons, share a history of earthquakes, and offer a mild climate year-round. If there is such a thing as twin cities, they are Lisbon and San Francisco.

Another link to Lisbon in San Francisco is its most famous skyscraper, the Transamerica Pyramid. It was designed by the Portuguese-American architect William Pereira who also designed other projects around the world, and especially in Los Angeles (CBS Television City, Hollywood Motion Picture and Television Museum, Los Angeles Zoo, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and IBM headquarters).

There is no Portuguese community in San Francisco, but there is a significant Portuguese population outside the city and around California. In fact, it was a Portuguese explorer who discovered California. His name was João Rodrigues Cabrilho, although he is mostly known under the Spanish version of his name Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo since he was working for Portugal’s rival at the time. You’ll find the Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego, and there is also Cabrillo College in Aptos, the Cabrillo Bridge, and the Cabrillo Freeway traveling through San Diego’s famous Balboa Park.

Although a New World version of Lisbon somehow emerged in California as San Francisco, the only taste of the Portuguese capital found in that American city is at Grubstake Restaurant. It offers a menu called “The Portuguese Corner”, listing the most famous of all Portuguese soups, “Caldo Verde,” in addition to (you guessed it) a couple of codfish dishes.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the Portuguese in California, visit the website of California’s Portuguese Museum.

Also see:
Lisbon in Paris
Lisbon in New York

Lisbon in Paris

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Lisbon's Berardo Museum in Paris

The city with the most Portuguese people outside of Portugal is Paris. Portuguese immigration to the French capital in the early to mid-20th century has given that city two generations of Portuguese residents, with successful second-generation Franco-Portuguese now found in all sectors of French society. A more recent example was Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota who is the current director of the Theatre de la Ville, but even prominent Portuguese artists of the past found a second home in what is the world’s capital of the arts. Painters like Mario Cesariny and Vieira da Silva were greatly influenced by Paris, and lived in the city for some time. It was also through Paris that Fado diva Amalia Rodrigues or designer Fatima Lopes went on to achieve international fame. Portuguese architect and designer Miguel Câncio Martins has also worked on international projects in large part thanks to his work on Paris’ famous Buddha Bar. To celebrate and promote Portuguese culture in France today, there’s Lisbon’s Gulbenkian Foundation’s home in Paris.

Gulbenkian Paris offers a library specializing in Portuguese culture, and also hosts exhibitions and concerts. The Gulbenkian headquarters in Lisbon is also home to a world-class calendar of events from classical music to international conferences, although it is mostly famous for its museum of both Eastern and Western treasures.

Until the 22nd of February, another of Lisbon’s major cultural institutions will be present in the French capital. The Berardo Museum has lent part of its modern art collection to the Luxembourg Museum for a temporary exhibition called “From Miró to Warhol – The Berardo Collection in Paris”. It’s attracted almost half a million visitors since its opening in October, and if you are from Paris or will be there before your visit to Lisbon, it’s a must-see not just for the exhibition itself, but also as a preview of what you’ll find in Lisbon.

If you want to try the Portuguese gastronomy there, there are several Portuguese restaurants in the city, with Restaurant Saudade and Chez Dina being two easily accessible options.

(If you’re not in Paris but in New York, see our previous “Lisbon in New York” post)

Staying at an Apartment in Lisbon

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Lisbon Apartments

After having told you which hotels and hostels got the most bookings through GoLisbon.com last year, we must also tell you that almost as many visitors book apartments as they do hotels. Although the majority of Lisbon’s hotels are located uptown in the business districts, most of the apartments rented to tourists are found in the very center of the city. GoLisbon.com offers a variety of apartments in the downtown (Baixa) and Chiado districts, but also in the picturesque Alfama neighborhood just a short walk or tram ride away.
They accommodate between 2 and 8 people, and are the ideal choice for families, groups of friends, or simply someone wishing to stay in a cosier, more private space.

The neighborhood you choose to stay in depends on what you’re looking to do in the city. Young travelers wishing to be close to Lisbon’s nightlife should look for an apartment in Bairro Alto or Chiado. Those looking to experience the city as a local, often choose Alfama. For easy access to sightseeing, the choice is any of the apartments in Baixa.

With many of the city’s decaying buildings in these areas finally being renovated and often bought by foreigners, there’s an increasing number of modern, fully-furnished apartments being rented to tourists in Lisbon. And everyone wins with this situation — the city has its buildings cleaned up, people make money out of their investments, and tourists can have the advantage of having a home away from home at a lower price than they’d pay at a standard hotel.

For all the apartments available for bookings, see our Lisbon apartments section.

Go Lisbon’s Top 5 Hostels in 2008

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

Lisbon HostelsYesterday we told you which were the top 5 hotels booked through GoLisbon.com in 2008. Today we can tell you which 5 hostels were the favorites among GoLisbon clients last year.

Young independent travelers and backpackers may have heard that Lisbon’s Travellers House has been distinguished as one of the best hostels in the world, and perhaps for that reason it’s become the most popular choice on this website.

In second place was a relative newcomer, Lisbon Story Guesthouse, probably due to its excellent location by Rossio Square and its rooms telling the story of Lisbon.

Coming in third was the Lisbon Poets Hostel, perhaps because of its average 93.3% rating from past guests or its location just steps away from Chiado.

Not too far away is the Oasis Backpackers Mansion, and that was the fourth most popular choice among GoLisbon visitors. Its current 96.8% rating, not to mention its wonderful atmosphere, will surely continue to attract more bookings throughout this new year.

Oasis Backpackers was closely followed by Black and White Hostel, the fifth best-selling choice. Featuring one of the most attractive and colorful interiors in Lisbon, it also has a 90.5% average rating to convince potential guests to go ahead with their bookings.

Tying it with the exact same number of bookings to also make it the 5th most popular hostel was Lisbon Vintage, located uptown but with very easy access from the airport and to the center of the city.

See all of GoLisbon’s hostels, or perhaps you’d rather stay in the privacy of your own apartment. You may also prefer a hotel, and as you may have seen by now, GoLisbon.com offers all types of accommodation in Lisbon and all of Portugal, including the romantic pousadas.

Rick Steves Recommends Go Lisbon

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

The American/Texan newspaper Dallas Daily News has published an article about Lisbon written by the famous travel writer Rick Steves. Famous for his TV series “Rick Steves’ Europe” and his guidebooks, Steves returns to Europe every year looking for all that’s changed, all that’s new, and all that remains the same in the Old Continent.

On his most recent trip to Lisbon, he decided to experience Fado as the locals do. Although that’s nearly impossible (Fado these days is more of a tourist trap than an authentic experience), and the article itself is a little romanticized, GoLisbon recommends it because Rick Steves also recommends GoLisbon.com at the end of the article 😉

If you’re interested in knowing more about Fado and where to hear it in Lisbon, see our fado section.

To read the full Rick Steves article, click here.

Go Lisbon’s Top 5 Hotels in 2008

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Radisson SAS Lisbon HotelBased on the top hotels booked through GoLisbon.com, it seems that most Lisbon visitors (or at least GoLisbon clients) choose value for money first, followed by location, and easy access from and to the airport. By far the most booked hotel through the website was Golden Tulip Altis, located not far from downtown by public transportation, and with a 4-star service at very reasonable (even cheap) prices. Another factor that may lead to so many bookings is its average rating of previous guests, at 8.3 out of 10 at this moment. That’s exactly the same rating as the second most-popular choice, Radisson SAS Lisboa Hotel. It is another inexpensive 4-star hotel, and although located farther from the center of the city, it offers an airport shuttle service.

Coming in third was the Olissipo Castelo Hotel, a more romantic place around the corner from the castle. This was obviously the choice for those on a more romantic trip, looking for a cosy atmosphere in a central but quiet area. The current 9.2 rating after 206 reviews of past guests and the great price may also contribute to convincing visitors to book it.

The fourth most-booked hotel in 2008 was Hotel Veneza, located in a 19th century building in Avenida da Liberdade. This was a smart choice of those travelers who’ve done their homework and know that its location in the city’s main avenue will give them easy access to most of Lisbon’s attractions.

Concluding the top 5 is Hotel Botanico, also not far from Avenida da Liberdade and named after the city’s botanical garden nearby. It is an incredibly good value, with almost 200 reviews of guests giving it a rating of 8.6.

GoLisbon.com offers the most Lisbon accommodation choices on the web, listing not only hotels but also hostels, apartments, and pousadas.

Lisbon Cleaning Up in 2009

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Graça Viewpoint, LisbonAs such an old, decaying city, Lisbon is begging for rejuvenating works in almost every corner. While there’s some romantic charm in some of the dilapidation, much of it is sad evidence of decades of neglect after a large chunk of the city’s population moved away from the center and the river to the suburbs and uptown.

With this being an election year and with the center of the city finally going through a (very) slow renaissance, Lisbon will be under construction in several areas in 2009. The most important is in Comercio Square, whose entire center around its equestrian monument will be closed for a few months due to works on the city’s sewage system. You can still stand by its triumphal arch and go under its arched galleries, but you won’t have access to the benches in the center of the square to stop and rest a while.

Many of the city’s viewpoints will also be cleaned up. Last year it was the São Pedro de Alcantara viewpoint, this year will be half a dozen more, including the emblematic Santa Luzia, Graça, and Senhora do Monte.  Also promised is the continued effort to remove the graffiti from the walls of Bairro Alto, something that has already started in Rua do Norte, the city’s trendiest and most alternative shopping street. The young crowds that shop there for their clubwear and brand-name sneakers and backpacks, have already seen it graffiti-free since late 2008, and hopefully the entire neighborhood will see the same by the end of this year.

Lisbon Video

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Lisbon VideoPicture San Francisco with a blend of Paris — hills, avenues, stunning views, Old World charm and New World ambition“, see Lisbon in an 8-minute video.

It suggests that you take a ride around the city on tram 28, stay at the Fontana Park Design Hotel, dine at Bica do Sapato, listen to Fado at Clube de Fado, chill out with a cocktail at Cinco Lounge, and take a daytrip to Cascais.

“Once a great maritime power, sending explorers throughout the globe, Lisbon retains its sights to the past: monuments, castles, lovely old neighborhoods, and turn-of-the-century trams, but at the same time, this city is transforming itself with a surging economy and modern spirit  (…) Lisbon might not rule the world these days, but it’s back definitely as a place to be.”