Archive for April, 2009

The New Palace Pousada

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Pousada Palacio Estoi

It’s the second Pousada to open this year, and it’s the most palatial ever. For those who aren’t yet familiar with Portugal’s Pousadas, they’re special hotels in renovated historical buildings (castles, palaces, monasteries, mansions, etc.), and offer a unique experience that adds to a memorable trip to Portugal. In a pousada, guests get a real taste of Portugal, in the refined traditional gastronomy of their restaurants, and in the buildings themselves, in their furnishings or locations of cultural interest. The latest one is found in Estoi, a small town outside the city of Faro that is so close to that capital of the sunny Algarve province, that the hotel is called Pousada de Faro Palácio Estoi.

The Palácio is an elegant 18th century rococco building, a sort of tiny Versailles also surrounded by formal gardens that served as the private residence of nobility for decades. It’s very close to Faro’s international airport, and its location also allows you to see some fascinating Roman ruins nearby, while the famous beaches of Portugal’s southern coastline are also not too far away. If you prefer to spend a day in the confort of your hotel, it offers fifty rooms, a restaurant, a deluxe spa, and both an indoor and outdoor pool. While the building may be historic, the furnishings are mostly contemporary and offer the high-speed internet and LCD flat screen TVs that modern travelers expect to find.

This new pousada opened just in time for the late-spring and early-summer season, when Algarve is already flooded with sun and warm temperatures but not yet invaded with tourists. You can find more information about Pousada de Faro Palácio Estoi, including prices on specific dates here: Pousada de Faro Palácio Estoi.

Pousada Palacio Estoi
Pousada de Faro Palacio Estoi

“Sommer” and the other attractive Rua da Moeda restaurants

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Sommer Restaurant, Lisbon
Rua da Moeda is just another ordinary street in the unremarkable Cais do Sodré/São Paulo neighborhoods, but perhaps due to its proximity to the Santos Design District it’s become one of Lisbon’s most attractive addresses for dining out. That’s thanks to the trendy Yasmin and La Moneda restaurants, and more recently, Sommer. These three restaurants are literally next door to each other, and each one is more attractive than the next. Which one you choose really only depends on where you can find a table or what you’re in the mood for when you look at the menus.

Yasmin is the most expensive of the three, and also the hippest, with its stylish contemporary design interior. La Moneda is perhaps the most informal (and least expensive) but no less attractive, and includes a good bar for post-dinner drinks. Sommer opened only a few months ago in late 2008 and also features an attractive bar, although you’ll really want to grab a table for the full meal experience. I went there for the first time last Saturday night, but this was actually my second attempt, as I had gone there the week before only to find it completely booked for the night. So this time I made sure I made a reservation and was able to see that its immediate popularity is justified, thanks to a welcoming staff and well thought-out menu.

We were three at the table and tried the tuna steak with vegetables, an eggplant-pumpkin-tomato risotto, and the codfish taco over potatoes and asparagus. This last one is not a taco in the Mexican tortilla sense, but a solid piece of fresh cod, something quite different from the traditionally dried and salted cod dishes found all over Portugal. Someone had to be the designated driver, so instead of a bottle we ordered wine by the glass, and for dessert we had the passion fruit cheesecake and the chocolate coulant with peanuts and lemon sorbet. In total it was 61 euros, which we all found to be quite reasonable.

The space is mostly white and orange tones from the lighting to the chairs, and although it is of a relatively large size booking is a must on weekends if you want to guarantee a spot — although if you can’t get a reservation there you can always wait for some other time and try the two other excellent options next door.

La Moneda Restaurant, Lisbon
Yasmin Restaurant, Lisbon

Saving or Splurging in Lisbon

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

Lisbon - Budget and Luxury

This weekend’s New York Times travel section has a special report about visiting Europe on both a low and high budget. Entitled “Europe for Every Budget,” it tells you where to save or splurge in ten European capitals, including Lisbon.

According to the article, a good reasonably-priced option when it comes to hotels is Hotel Florida, while those looking for an extra-special place should check Fontana Park Hotel and its award-winning interior design.

For eating and drinking, it suggests the very traditional O Cantinho do Bem Estar for seafood lovers, while admirers of haute cuisine should choose Olivier Avenida.

When looking to buy something from Lisbon, it suggests visitors get some chocolates at the inexpensive Claudio Corallo Cacau & Café chocolate shop or world-class wines found at Garrafeira Nacional.

Those who enjoy a good night out don’t have to spend a lot to dance at Music Box, but those who must sip a good Moët & Chandon Champagne after dinner should chill out at Silk.

The article also recommends visiting Lisbon’s main sights on Sunday morning when they’re free, and those who still have some money left in their wallet can spend it at the sleek LA Spa.

You can read the entire article here.

Go Lisbon is on Twitter!

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Now you can follow Go Lisbon’s Lisbon (and Portugal) updates on Twitter!
Find us at twitter.com/golisbon!

Go Lisbon on Twitter

IndieLisboa – The 6th Lisbon Independent Film Festival

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Indielisboa - Lisbon Independent Film Festival

One of Lisbon’s top annual cultural events is back. From today until May 3rd, the city’s independent film festival will screen over 200 movies, most of them international productions from the past year but also some of the best of Portuguese cinema. In addition to the screenings, the IndieLisboa festival also organizes parties, concerts, and debates, bringing together more than 600 guests, with this year including German director Werner Herzog and Jacques Nolot from France.

Judging the competition which will select the best film and other awards will be the directors of the Venice Film Festival and Berlin International Film Festival, and you can see all of the films in the São Jorge Cinema on Avenida da Liberdade or Cinema Londres on Avenida de Roma uptown. Each ticket costs €3,50 and you can check the schedule on the official website www.indielisboa.com (click on “EN” at the top left corner of the screen for the English version).

More Portuguese Faces in Hollywood

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Freida Pinto, Go Lisbon has just told you about young Portuguese-Americans in Hollywood, and now you can add a few more recently-famous names to the list. Katy Perry, the voice of the recent pop hits “I Kissed a Girl” and “Hot N Cold” is really Katy Pereira. On her birth certificate she’s Katherine Hudson because that’s her father’s last name, but so that she wouldn’t be confused with actress Kate Hudson, she used her Portuguese-American mother’s name instead. Perry is a common “translation” of Pereira, and she’s not the only one — Aerosmith’s Joe Perry and 4 Non Blonde’s Linda Perry are really also Pereiras. They’re descendants of early 20th century Portuguese immigrants who had their names “Americanized” on their arrival in the United States, and other examples include “Rogers” from “Rosa” or “Lazarus” from “Lázaro.”

Another new famous face with a Portuguese last name is Freida Pinto, the actress of this year’s Best Picture Oscar “Slumdog Millionaire.” In an interview published in the February/March issue of the Asian-American lifestyle magazine “Audrey,” Pinto says she’s “completely pure Indian,” but acknowledges that her ancestors were most likely Portuguese: “my forefathers’ forefathers’ forefathers were probably Portuguese and Pinto is brought down from those generations.” The Indian state of Goa was a Portuguese colony for over four centuries until 1961 and last names like Sousa and Fernandes are among the most common in the region today.

See more famous Portuguese people here.

Lisbon for Lisbon Lovers

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

São Pedro de Alcântara viewpoint overlooking Lisbon
If you become one of those travelers who fall in love with Lisbon on their first visit, or are returning to the city to explore it further, there are a few places you should not miss. To understand the city’s history and culture, start your day with a visit to the CITY MUSEUM. Located uptown by the Campo Grande park, it presents archaeological finds that tell the story of Roman, Visigothic, and Moorish Lisbon, and shows the evolution of the city through models, paintings, and tile murals. Most interesting of all is the huge model of Lisbon showing the city before the 1755 earthquake that destroyed the grand imperial city, including the royal palace and opera house by the river.

After that, head to the oldest neighborhood in the city, and visit FABULA URBIS, a book shop entirely dedicated to Lisbon. Located not far from the cathedral in Alfama, it offers books about Lisbon’s art, history, architecture, literature, gastronomy, and all kinds of subjects related to the city. An upper floor often holds temporary exhibitions, book presentations, and recitals.

Continue in Alfama but head in the direction of the riverfront. That’s where you’ll find the FADO MUSEUM, renovated last year to better present the city’s soulful sounds. You’ll get a sense of the cultural and social impact of that special music genre in Lisbon and Portugal, and also get to hear a good selection of recordings.

From there move on to Belem, and visit the DISCOVERIES MONUMENT. Located on the waterfront that served as the departure point for many of the world’s voyages of discovery, it also has an auditorium screening a film presenting the history and culture of Lisbon. It’s available in several languages and helps you understand how Lisbon came to be what it is today, and from there you can take an elevator to the top of the monument to admire the city’s main landmarks from a bird’s-eye perspective.

Finally, at the end of the day head to the SÃO PEDRO DE ALCÂNTARA VIEWPOINT, from where you can look straight into the castle crowning the city. Admire the view over all of ancient Lisbon as you have a drink at the kiosk cafe added last year after a clean-up of the garden, and before you leave the city get a quirky souvenir from THE WRONG SHOP not too far away in the Chiado district. (UPDATE: This shop has closed.)

Go Lisbon’s 5 Newest Hostels

Friday, April 17th, 2009

Shiado Hostel, Lisbon

If you’ve been searching for a hostel in Lisbon, you probably have already read that the city has the world’s best hostels. The Lisbon hostel phenomenon started a couple of years ago and doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon, judging from the number of new choices opening practically every couple of months. Below are the five latest ones to be added to the GoLisbon.com list:

1. SHIADO HOSTEL
Not only is this the best one of the five new choices, but also one of the best in the city. The location alone (in the middle of Chiado) makes it one of the best options, but then there are the excellent facilities and services. It’s been furnished in a simple, comfortable, modern style, and offers free internet, breakfast, and a kitchen. In case you’re wondering, yes, that’s Shiado with “S.”

2. KITSCH HOSTEL
You’ll understand the name when you step inside. You’ll see a fun, colorful kitsch décor at this hostel facing Restauradores Square, meaning a unique place in an excellent location. You’ll be in a cool, relaxed space within walking distance to most of the city’s attractions and public transport, and can take advantage of the hostel’s internet and laundry services.

3. BAIRRO ALTO TRAVELLERS
Young travelers who do their research before they arrive in Lisbon, know that the place to be in Lisbon at night is Bairro Alto. If you don’t want to have to worry about how to get back to your hotel after a night of drinking, the choice is Bairro Alto Travellers, a hostel located in quiet(er) Rua da Rosa. And here’s a special offer: You won’t find this hostel cheaper at any other hostel booking service online.

4. RITUALS BACKPACKERS
The interior of a 17th century building has been renovated to become this hostel decorated in a style that combines contemporary furnishings and classic details, supposedly to create the “ambiance of the modern Fado movement.” It’s an attractive place to lounge after a day of sight-seeing, with internet and laundry service.

5. LISBON DREAMS GUESTHOUSE
Located uptown but in an excellent location with easy access to the center down Avenida da Liberdade, this guesthouse is for those budget travelers who still demand some level of quality service. So here they find a bright, tastefully-decorated space, a fully equipped kitchen, a TV lounge, and two cozy patios to start your day with a refreshing breakfast. And of course, there is free internet and wireless service.

SEARCH FOR YOUR LISBON HOSTEL HERE.

Lisbon’s Best Beach Bars

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Metro Newspaper Canada
The Portuguese capital has been quite a popular destination for North America’s daily Metro newspapers. Last week the American edition featured a 2 Minute Guide to Lisbon, and yesterday the Canadian edition recommended the city’s beaches and beach bars.
It does in fact highlight the best ones, including my personal favorite, Borda D’Agua in Praia Morena.
Another recommendation was Bar do Guincho, a Cascais hotspot at any time of the year, and the two other choices were Bafureira in Estoril, and Delmare Café in Costa da Caparica.

If you think it’s too soon to be talking about Lisbon’s beaches and its bars, you must remember that summer essentially starts in May in this central-southern part of Portugal. While we may be getting the usual April showers this week, we can expect plenty of beach-worthy days next month. The water will still be cold, but it will already be pleasant enough for sports on the sand and catching some sun at a beach bar — and those recommended by Canada’s Metro are in fact the ones to be at.

You can read the entire article here.

Lisbon Shopping: The 10 Newest Shops in Bairro Alto

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Zeppelin Vintage shop in Bairro Alto, LisbonGo Lisbon Blog has recently told you about Bairro Alto’s new Bubbly and 100 Maneiras restaurants, but that neighborhood has been receiving a number of other new residents in the last few months. As Lisbon’s alternative to the shopping malls and chain stores downtown, Bairro Alto is the place for the quirkiest, most unique shops in the city. The fact that many of them stay open until midnight further helps make the neighborhood an increasingly popular shopping area. Now, joining the streetwear boutiques, the music stores, and the interior design shops are a number of new businesses worth checking out. Here are ten of them:

1. PorConceito
UPDATE: THIS SHOP HAS CLOSED
Travessa da Espera,18
Three of Portugal’s top fashion designers have gotten together to open a shop entirely dedicated to Portuguese creations. The idea is to promote and expand Portuguese fashion, and at this new Bairro Alto boutique you’ll find accessories such as sunglasses, belts, and purses, as well as perfumes, ceramics, and other products at reasonable prices to reach a market that can’t always afford designer items.

2. GDE Galeria de Exclusivos – Matéria Prima
Rua da Rosa, 195/197
This is really a space shared by two shops. It’s a fashion and accessories boutique offering pieces by Portuguese designers, but also a music, books, and magazine shop. On the boutique section you’ll find designer pieces using recycled materials, meaning everything you see is unique, special, and of a limited edition. As for the music shop, the books, DVD, and magazines you find next to the musical selections are also mostly music-related, much of it about electronic sounds.

3. Onitsuka Tiger – Sneakers Delight
Rua do Norte, 32
The Japanese brand’s first shop in Portugal opened in Bairro Alto so that it could better reach the market that wears its slightly alternative clothing and footwear. Although it’s been in existence for six decades now, this brand’s styles are very much contemporary and youthful, which is just what the typical Bairro Alto shopper looks for.

4. The Hood
Rua do Norte, 65
Exclusive and limited editions of Nike footwear is all that you’ll find at this new shop. When you get a pair of sneakers here, chances are very few other people you meet will be wearing the same, as everything sold here will not be found at any other shop in the country.

5. A Fabrica dos Chapeus
Rua da Rosa, 118
Except for baseball caps, hats have pretty much gone out of style since the 1950s. Maybe they’ll make a comeback with shops like Bairro Alto’s new A Fabrica dos Chapeus (“The Hat Factory”) which offers more than 300 styles. There’s one for every personality and wallet, as they can cost as little as 5 to as much as 50 euros.

6. Antes e Depois
Travessa da Espera, 47
The name of the shop means “Before and After,” and what you’ll find in it is really a trip to the past and back to the present. There are vintage toys that used to bring much joy to children before the era of the video games, most of them traditional Portuguese toys. They’re recreations of 1950s to 90s originals, so don’t expect to find children at the shop. This is really for adults looking to relive their childhood through their kids, or really for the child in all of us.

7. Cineccitá
Rua de O Século, 19
It used to be located uptown, but it moved to Bairro Alto because that’s where its typical customer usually hangs out at. That’s someone who’s a movie buff or pop culture geek, who enjoys collecting movie posters, postcards, t-shirts, and pretty much anything related to the world of cinema.

8. Zeppelin Vintage
UPDATE: THIS SHOP HAS CLOSED
Rua da Rosa, 40
As you can tell by the name, this is a vintage shop. It offers original furniture, mostly from the Netherlands, Scandinavia, and the United States, dating from the 1950s to 80s. And they’re no ordinary pieces – these are designer creations.

9. Pérola das Gaveas
Rua das Gáveas 44-46
Opened last December, this is a modern gourmet shop with a traditional/retro look (it used to be a neighborhood grocery shop). It offers Portuguese wines, jams, olive oils, cheeses, teas, and regional specialties from around Portugal.

10. Bairru’s Bodega
Rua da Barroca, 3
It’s not a shop, but it’s new. OK, so it’s been open for a few months now, but many still don’t know that this is one of the best daytime bars in the city, the perfect place for a glass of Portuguese wine at the end of the work day. There isn’t much room inside, but that’s actually perfect, since that may force you to stand outside and watch the Bairro Alto day get started (meaning night in this neighborhood). To be soaked up by the alcohol there are cheeses and hams, and everything is accompanied by an all-Portuguese soundtrack playing in the background.