Archive for March, 2009

The Fado Museum Restaurant – A Contemporary Space for Lisbon’s Traditional Sound

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Fado Museum restaurant, Lisbon

If you need any further proof that Fado is no longer just a thing of the past, all you need to do is go to the restaurant of Lisbon’s Fado Museum. While for many people that music genre is associated to the country’s 20th century dictatorship, sung by old folks at restaurants that are nothing but tourist traps, new singers that have attracted the spotlight on the World Music stage are changing that image of Fado.  Mariza is the most famous example, but other young singers are also helping reinvent Lisbon’s soulful music.

When the Fado Museum reopened last October, it not only included new multimedia exhibitions, but also a new restaurant. Those expecting to find old guitars hanging on the walls, black shawls, or the typical tiled and candle-lit space were mistaken. Instead, this restaurant has a minimalist, almost all-white and black interior filled with modern furnishings, including Philippe Starck chairs. You can still hear Fado from Tuesday to Sunday, but here you’ll be reminded that this is a contemporary sound, as much as it is of a nostalgic past.

Doors stays open until 2AM and the hope is that it will attract younger fans of Fado and curious young tourists. Don’t expect a revolutionary new sound however, as the music you’ll hear is pure classic Fado.
On the menu you’ll obviously find Portuguese dishes, although with a contemporary twist. Without wine included, expect to pay anywhere between 20 and 25 euros.

Lisbon’s Latest Public Art

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Public art in Lisbon

As you walk around Lisbon you’ll find countless buildings covered in scaffolding, as most of the city’s properties in the old historical center are in desperate need of renovation. On a couple of those works are curious pieces that at first you’re not sure what to think of. They’re art installations by contemporary artists, and the latest one is found on Rua do Alecrim, a street going from the Cais do Sodré riverfront up to the Chiado district. It’s the creation of one of Portugal’s top young artists Joana Vasconcelos and it’s supposed to be a tapeworm. Yes, a tapeworm made of raffia climbing the building.

The group behind these projects is called “Art Building” and its goal is to bring some life, art, and color to construction sites. Once Vasconcelos’ tapeworm is removed at the end of this year, that building will be a hotel.

Vasconcelos’ first major eye-catching piece was a much talked-about chandelier completely made of tampons which she called “The Bride.” She represented Portugal with that work at the Venice Biennale in 2005, and it was also hung in Lisbon’s Lux club.

That club, known for its irreverence and cutting-edge space, currently presents another curious object. This time it was placed outside its doors for its 10th anniversary party a few months ago. It’s the image of a woman’s open legs welcoming you at the entrance, through which you’ll have to enter in order to access the club and its unbeatable nights.

These are just two of the current examples, but expect to have your eyes drawn to other curious objects at a construction site or well-known buildings in Lisbon in the future.

“Bubbly”: Lisbon’s Sparkling New Restaurant

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

UPDATE: This restaurant has closed.

Bubbly Restaurant, LisbonDespite the apparent economic crisis that you hear about on the news all the time, new businesses keep trying their luck. In Lisbon, the Bairro Alto district is still the place for that, and recently there was a new restaurant opening offering something special to make you relax and forget your troubles: in addition to being an attractive eatery, “Bubbly” is also a sparkling wine bar. You can have champagne or sparkling wine on your glass, but you’ll also see it listed as part of the sauce in a couple of the main dishes.

The space is small with an intimate atmosphere enhanced by low lighting and red tones, and because there are only about two dozen seats, it is recommended that you book a table in advance if you go on a weekend (phone: +351   21 155 6042).

If you choose to order some starters, note that they are a little expensive at € 8,60 to 13,80 each, while the entrees go from average to above-average-priced. There are pastas and risottos (from 10 to about 17 euros each), fish and seafood (from 14 to 19 euros) and meat dishes (from 15 to 19 euros) to choose from, and about a handful of pleasing desserts, with a couple of them including a few drops of champagne or sparkling wine, of course. Almost everything is Mediterranean-inspired, and the wine list will offer those “espumantes” (sparkling wines) to go along with it.

If you’re looking for a place to unwind in the afternoon, it also serves Spanish-style tapas starting at 5PM until 7:30PM, while for dinner you can stay until 2AM.
(For more restaurant options in the city, see GoLisbon’s Lisbon restaurant guide.)

Address: Rua da Barroca, 106 (Bairro Alto)
Closed on Sundays

Colcci Cafe – The Latest Fashionable Cafe in Chiado

Monday, March 16th, 2009

UPDATE: This café now opens for breakfast and closes after lunch.

Colcci Cafe, Lisbon

One of Lisbon’s newest and most fashionable cafes (quite literally) is Colcci Café. It’s found up a flight of steps inside the Colcci shop which sells the Brazilian brand’s men’s and women’s wear known for its colorful and contemporary designs in jeans, sportswear, accessories, and footwear. Supermodel Gisele Bündchen has been the official face of the brand since 2005 and you’ll see her strutting down the runway on a plasma screen in the café showing the latest collections.

Of all the international branches, the Lisbon shop is the first one to include a café, and its location in the shopping district of Chiado make it a perfect stop in between your Lisbon shopping spree. The comfortable sofas are also especially inviting for the 5 o’clock tea to those who work in Lisbon or find themselves in the Portuguese capital on a business trip and need somewhere to unwind after a busy day (you’re even allowed to light up a cigarette here, as it has a smoker’s dining area). The entire space’s décor and menu match the elegance and contemporary spirit of the fashions downstairs, and you can have a full meal or a light snack at any time of the day. At the moment it closes at 7PM but may eventually extend that to later.

The excellent hot chocolates or the teas, scones, and cakes are the obvious choices for those after-work hours, but for lunch there’s a varied choice of salads, pastas, and daily specials, and some excellent desserts that I’ve become a particular fan of. There are also some good vegetarian options and freshly-squeezed juices.

For more cafes in the city, see GoLisbon’s Lisbon cafes section.

Fabulous “Fabulas” – Lisbon’s New Favorite Cafe

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Fabulas Cafe, LisbonPronounced in English it sounds like “fabulous,” and that was exactly the idea for “Fábulas” (it means “fables” in Portuguese), the new favorite café in Lisbon’s Chiado district. It’s the creation of a Polish-Portuguese couple, using old furnishings to create a cosy ambience where you’ll want to stay for hours. It’s used as a meeting point for friends, while others take their laptops during the day and stay reading for a while (old books and periodicals are scattered around).

Old sewing machines and radios are used as tables, candelabras are centered on others, and couches invite you to stay a while in two separate low-lit rooms.

The space also works as a gallery with a few pieces of art on display and as a wireless internet café, although some also see it as a wine bar for a drink in the post-work hours (try the warm wine on colder days or the Electric Choc — a chocolaty alcoholic beverage).

Although there are many places in Lisbon offering mouth-watering pieces of cake and one actually claims to make the best chocolate cake in the world, I must say that the slices I’ve had at Fabulas are strong contenders for first prize in the city. I can’t leave without having one, and I’ve heard many others do the same. There are also salads, crepes, and toasted sandwiches, as well as daily specials with more complete dishes for lunch and dinner.

The café has two entrances — either through a courtyard seen to the right as you go up the always-busy Rua Garrett, or through steps ascending from Rua Nova do Almada in the Chiado district.

Address: Rua Garrett, 19 or Calçada Nova de São Francisco, 14
Mon.-Sat.: 9AM-Midnight

“Personable Portugal” and its Design Hotels are Special Destinations for Discerning Travelers this Spring

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Fontana Park Design Hotel, LisbonDesignHotels.comTM has just redesigned its website and is now highlighting a special Portugal promotion. This comes as Go Lisbon Blog just told you about this country’s newest design hotel attracting the attention of a couple of major publications. In addition to the recommended The Vine in Madeira, Portugal’s other official design hotels include the Choupana Hills Resort and Estalagem da Ponta do Sol in the same island, Fontana Park Hotel and Jeronimos 8 in Lisbon, the Farol Design Hotel in nearby Cascais, and Memmo Baleeira by the beaches of Algarve.

As this Design Hotels TM promotion points out, distinguishing travelers can see Portugal’s cultural marvels and beautiful coastline this spring as they stay at unique hotels. You can take advantage of Portugal’s better weather and cheaper prices this season and check out its most stylish accommodation. You can book them here at at affordable prices:

Simply The Vine Design: Portugal’s Coolest New Hotel is in Madeira

Monday, March 9th, 2009

The Vine Hotel, in Funchal, Madeira

This month’s Wallpaper* magazine highlights the design of THE VINE, Madeira’s newest hotel. GoLisbon had already recommended it as a top choice to stay on a visit to that Portuguese island during the holiday season soon after it opened, and this month it really seems to have caught the attention of the international media. In addition to Wallpaper*, the hotel was also featured in The Independent, in an article about how Madeira (and especially its capital city Funchal) is attempting to attract younger travelers with hip hotels and chic eateries. You can read that entire article here, and if you’re interested in staying at the hotel, you can book it here.

You’ll find that its name comes from the island’s wine tradition, but that it sounds like a description of the cutting-edge décor and service. You’ll have the option of limousine service, a welcome massage, an exclusive Jacuzzi and luxurious spa, or a swim in the heated rooftop pool before a gourmet meal at the restaurant with panoramic views serving food by a 3-Michelin star chef. You can have something else to eat later at the lounge, which also serves drinks to the young crowds that show up knowing that this place puts the fun in Funchal.

A Visit to Europe’s Sweetest Village

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

Obidos Chocolate FestivalA couple of months ago it was the Christmas Village, but right now the medieval village of Obidos north of Lisbon is Europe’s sweetest destination thanks to its annual Chocolate Festival. This is the seventh edition of its famous international festival, and until the 15th of this month you’ll be able to see chocolate sculptures around the village, chocolate-inspired fashion shows, and recipe contents accompanied by lots of music.

Of all the regular events that take place in this storybook village every year, this one is the most popular, so do avoid going on a weekend to escape the massive crowds. It’s a perfect family trip (there is a special Children’s Chocolate House), but anyone of any age will enjoy the fascinating displays and sampling the dark, milky, white, or any kind of chocolate.

For complete information about visiting Obidos, see GoLisbon’s Obidos guide, and for photos of the event see this Flickr gallery.