Archive for May, 2009

Portugal’s first capital has been named European Capital of Culture

Friday, May 15th, 2009

Guimaraes, PortugalLisbon hasn’t always been Portugal’s capital. The first city to have that role was Guimarães in the north of the country, followed by Coimbra, and finally Lisbon in the 13th century. Today Guimarães has one of the country’s most perfectly preserved medieval centers and has been declared a World Heritage Site. This week it has been honored with yet another title, that of Europe’s Culture Capital in 2012. The European Union decided that the candidacy Guimarães has presented for the past two years was a strong one, and has awarded it the right to host a number of cultural events that will finally put the city on the tourist map. Because it is located so far up north, it is often overlooked in the Portuguese tourist itinerary despite having one of the country’s most iconic castles and other cultural treasures. That has been changing in the last few years, and will certainly become one of Portugal’s main cultural attractions at least in 2012 when
Europe discovers it as a major capital of culture.
See GoLisbon’s Guimarães guide.

Lisbon Celebrates World Museum Day

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Gulbenkian Museum, LisbonWorld Museum Day is this Monday, the 18th, and throughout the world you can get free admission to several great collections and special events, many of them taking place at night. On this day many museums stay open until late in the evening, and the same will happen in Lisbon. This is your chance to discover some of Lisbon’s most interesting collections besides the big three (Gulbenkian, Berardo, and Ancient Art Museum), and you can take advantage of free guided tours and opening times until midnight. An especially interesting event is taking place in Ajuda Palace, the former royal residence that now stands as a museum of ostentatious decorative art. On Museum Day you’ll see an exhibition of 19th century photographs showing the royal family on several trips, and may also catch classical music and jazz concerts in addition to baroque dance. Another special event with royal connections is the opportunity to ride a fairytale coach from the Coaches Museum to Belem Palace on the 18th.
The late events in all museums will take place on the night of Saturday the 16th, while everyone will get a chance to see the permanent collections for free on the following Monday, the official World Museum Day.

The Next Portuguese International Pop Stars?

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

Sarah Borges and Mia RoseMove over Nelly Furtado — there are two other girls looking for your title of top-selling Portuguese pop artist on the international stage.
One of them is a descendant of Portuguese immigrants from the Azores just like Furtado although she was born in the United States, while the other’s birthplace was the UK with Lisbon now as a second home. They are Sarah Borges and Mia Rose.

Borges is a 30-year-old singer from Taunton, Massachusetts, who has just released an album through Sugar Hill Records called “The Stars are Out.” It has been given favorable reviews by Rolling Stone magazine and the New York Times, and has a pop-rock sound. This is actually her third album, but the first one to get the attention of the major publications. Her grandparents are all from the Azores (from the island of Terceira on the mother’s side and Faial on the father’s), and the singer claims to have grown up eating mostly Portuguese food and surrounded by Portuguese traditions. Her Portuguese roots also helped her with her college education when she received a Portuguese-American scholarship. This month she starts a nationwide tour to promote her album and has already shot a video for the first single “Do it for Free” (watch it below). She admits she’d love to be the next Nelly Furtado and would like to make it to Portugal soon.

As for Mia Rose, she’s actually already performed in Lisbon (at the Alcantara Cafe). She was born in London and became the most-subscribed musician on YouTube ever, with 3 million viewers a month. Her popularity led to articles in Rolling Stone and The Sun, and has released two singles. There’s no complete album yet, but that should only be a matter of time, as she tries to attract even more fans. You can follow her on her website

Lisbon’s Monument to Christ is Celebrating 50 Years

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Lisbon's Monument to Christ (This weekend, Lisbon’s Monument to Christ (known as “Cristo Rei” or “Christ the King”) will celebrate 50 years. The cousin of Rio de Janeiro’s famous landmark was built in thanks for peace in Portugal during WWII, and overlooks the capital from the south bank of the Tagus. To celebrate the milestone, an image of the Virgin will be brought from the shrine of Fatima, repeating an event that took place on the 17th of May 1959 for the monument’s inauguration. It is estimated that about 200,000 people will follow it, although some are expecting a number closer to half a million.

A procession will start in Comercio Square on the 16th, when the Virgin will be taken across the river in a ship from the Portuguese navy escorted by a number of smaller boats. It will then remain by the Monument to Christ until the following day, when the official ceremony and mass will take place.

If you won’t be in Lisbon this weekend, the monument is open throughout the year, and is mostly visited for the view of Lisbon from the top. Many people are actually not fans of the structure itself, a dull concrete pedestal raising an ordinary concrete statue. Still, visiting the monument is worth the trip across the river because although Lisbon offers a number of breathtaking viewpoints, nowhere else will you get the most complete view of the city’s skyline from a bird’s-eye perspective.

Lisbon in the Future: The New Coaches Museum

Monday, May 11th, 2009

Museu dos Coches, Lisbon

A much controversial new Coaches Museum is coming to Lisbon. Due to lack of space, what is currently Lisbon’s most visited national museum needs a new home, and it has been found right in front of its present location. Pritzker Award-winning architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha was called to come up with a design for the new building, and the result is what you can see above, a massive (and some say not that attractive) structure standing 4.5 meters above the ground. Inside it will include space for maintenance and repairs of the coaches, restaurants, and an auditorium for special events, as the building will be quite large (and some argue disproportionate to its surroundings).

There are many reasons for all the controversy. In addition to spending (critics say “wasting”) millions of euros on something that’s not broken and therefore doesn’t need to be fixed (when many other cultural projects lack financing), many believe the current historical building is the ideal place for the collection, and that the bare modern white walls of the future home will take away much of the charm. This is a unique collection not just for its originality when it opened to the public but also for its number of fairytale vehicles which reportedly is the world’s largest and most valuable.

After a cost of 31.5 million euros (already available thanks to taxes paid by the Lisbon Casino), it is hoped that everything will be complete in October of next year, when everyone will finally be able to see if in fact those timeless coaches will shine brighter in a grand new modern building.

The Titanic Resurfaces in Lisbon

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

The Titanic in LisbonStarting today, the special exhibition space of Lisbon’s Rossio Station will display more than 230 personal objects taken from the the bottom of the ocean. They were found inside the world’s most famous sunken ship in the middle of the Atlantic, and consist of jewels, coins, perfume flasks, dishes, and even the bell used to signal that an iceberg was right ahead and ended up causing the 1912 tragedy. You’ll also be able to see reconstructions of the first and third class cabins, as well as know about the story of the three Portuguese who were on the ship immigrating to the United States but who ended up being one of the 1523 victims in the disaster.

Everything on display was recuperated during underwater expeditions in 1985 which inspired the top-grossing film of all time, and on this exhibition you can see Molly Brown’s room, the real-life character played by Kathy Bates in the movie who was traveling in first class and was one of the lucky ones to survive.

Tickets cost 12.50 euros on weekdays and 14.50 on weekends, which is not exactly cheap, but it took one million euros and two years to put together this exhibition in Lisbon and it’s quite worth it for those fascinated by one of the 20th century’s most famous stories.

Segwaying through Lisbon’s Alfama

Friday, May 8th, 2009

Segway Tours, Lisbon

The good old tram 28, GoCars, and now, Segways. There are numerous fun ways to go around Lisbon, and the latest one is using the two-wheeled electric vehicles that have taken over the world’s streets in the last few years. Now you can experience Lisbon’s most charming and steepest neighborhood in that unique and fun way, going down the area’s hills and narrowest streets while saving your legs. For about one hour you’ll have easy access to the National Pantheon, the cathedral, and the city views from the miradouros, while stopping in between it all for a drink at a neighborhood cafe.
If you want to try it out, GoLisbon offers its readers a special deal: Booking through our site will give you a cheaper price not found anywhere else.
See our Segway Tours page for additional tour information or to submit a booking request.

Lisbon’s Most Graphic Photos: From a Peep Show to a Public Urinal

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

Walk around downtown Lisbon and you’ll see a rich variety of old topography in public and commercial signage. Many of those signs indicate businesses that no longer exist, but the new shops that took their place decided to preserve the charming graphics. Some examples are illustrated below, and the first one you see is the “Animatógrafo do Rossio,” a movie theater from 1907 with a beautiful art-nouveau façade. Today it offers a different kind of entertainment — it’s now the city’s only peep show house and a place for old men to stock up on porn in addition to getting some quick cheap thrills.
Walk towards Restauradores Square and you’ll find a building advertising shotguns, pistols, revolvers, and all the stuff a “hunter” needs. That service no longer exists, but it recalls a time when ammunition was acquired openly in the center of the city and not in a back alley of a poor neighborhood in the capital’s outskirts.
What remains in service is a public urinal just outside the gate of St. George’s Castle. The views from the castle’s battlements are quite breathtaking, but if for some reason they also make you want to urinate, now you know where to go.
Other examples below recall a time when Paris established itself as the world’s fashion capital, exporting trends and styles all over Europe, and obviously including Lisbon. Also seen below are a couple of cafes born during the grand old days when they were essentially cultural institutions where authors and artists used to meet.
These are just some close-ups of Lisbon’s fascinating details, and you can see more of the city in our Lisbon photo galleries.

Graphic photos of Lisbon - From a peep show to a public urinal

Lisbon’s Chiado is in Fashion

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Chiado na ModaStarting this weekend, and for about a week, Lisbon’s Chiado district will literally be in fashion. It’s the second annual edition of “Chiado na Moda” (“Chiado in Fashion”), an event that brings fashion, markets, and special performances to the streets, much of it organized by local businesses. So if you’ll be in Lisbon between the 9th and 17th of this month you may end up catching everything from a fashion show in front of São Carlos Theater (on the 16th) to seeing cute pets waiting to be adopted on Camões Square. Other curious surprises will be antique cars down Rua Garrett (on the 15th), and seniors sharing space with professional models on the runways. The idea is to bring some fun and therefore people to the streets of Chiado, the neighborhood that’s traditionally been the meeting point and favorite hangout in the city for centuries.

Because Chiado is also known for its literary connections, you’ll also be able to see an old books market throughout the week on Rua Anchieta. Other street corners, the metro station, and even shop windows in the neighborhood will be the unexpected stages of dance performances, while at the ruins of Carmo Convent you’ll be able to catch live music.

To remember how Chiado came to be what it is today, there will be photo exhibitions, with one about the neighborhood’s renovation following the devastating 1988 fire (on display at the Sousa Pedro Foundation on Rua Serpa Pinto), and another in the FNAC shop inside the Armazens do Chiado mall showing the 19th and 20th century Chiado.

Lisbon in the Future: The Sana Torre Vasco da Gama Royal Hotel

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

Sana Torre Vasco da Gama Royal HotelLisbon’s Vasco da Gama Tower is being turned into a Dubai-like landmark. It was built as a viewing tower for the World Expo that took place in the city in 1998 but is now becoming a luxury hotel. When it was first being planned there was a rather nouveau riche idea of it being marketed as a 6-star service much like Dubai’s famous Burj Al Arab which it somewhat resembles, but the group behind it seems to have settled for a “traditional” 5-star rating. That group is Sana, and the hotel will be called Sana Torre Vasco da Gama Royal Hotel, opening in 2010 with 178 rooms (10 of them being suites) on 20 floors. The original observation deck will be maintained, and it will continue to offer a panoramic restaurant. Its base is being rebuilt and at the moment we can already see some of the floors going up. The final design is pictured on the right and was created by Portuguese architect Nuno Leónidas.  It looks a little less like a sailing ship as it was originally projected, and will be a “green hotel” making as much use of natural lighting and natural materials as possible.

For other projects planned for Lisbon in the future, come back to Go Lisbon Blog throughout the upcoming weeks.