Tonight at midnight marks the start of this year’s Oceans Festival. It’s an event that takes place every year in the summer in Lisbon, with a number of special shows and activities lasting for a couple of weeks. Since 2009 is the International Year of Astronomy, this year’s festival will also focus on that field, as the exploration of the oceans centuries ago would not have been possible without the aid of the stars. So tonight Rua do Ouro downtown will be lit up in what look like Christmas lights during the day, but that in the darkness of night will have the effect of a planetarium.
Most of the events will take place by the waterfront districts of the city, and will include free visits to museums, hot air balloon rides, conferences, exhibitions, and music concerts. Those concerts will be by Portuguese artists and international guest James Morrison.
On the 9th of August an extra-special event will be the creation of the world’s largest painting, taking up five kilometers in total, with the theme being the stars, the oceans, and space. You may check out the entire program at the official website www.festivaldosoceanos.com
Last summer we told you where to find Lisbon’s best ice cream (see I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Lisbon Ice Cream).
Soon after we published last year’s recommendations, Finzi Contini opened next to Rossio Station in the center of the city, offering an extra variety of flavors, along with smoothies and other creamy pleasures. It does not have the look of a typical ice cream shop, but more of a sophisticated cafÃ©, with elegant furnishings in its interior and outdoor terrace. It’s open throughout the year, so if you’re in the city in winter, you can still enjoy an ice cream or go for one of the warmer pastries.
An even more recent opening is Artisani, an ice scream stand with tables facing 25 de Abril Bridge in Docas. It will remain open throughout the summer, but will then close at its present location to open elsewhere in the center of the city. In the meantime, you may enjoy the most surprising and often unusual flavors in Lisbon, served in a cup or as an iced beverage. That can mean a cup of caipirinha ice cream, or a glass of mint tea with lemon sorbet, and using mostly natural ingredients.
Natural flavors and no preservatives is also promised at a corner of Restauradores Square. The charming A Veneziana ice cream shop is one of Lisbon’s oldest, a tiny space that’s so easy to miss but that you’ll return to every time you crave something cool and sweet. It all started in 1933 when an Italian decided to immigrate to the United States through the port of Lisbon, but ended up staying in the Portuguese capital. His traditional Italian recipes are still used at the ice cream shop he ended up opening in the city, and remains a success over seven decades later.
Yesterday we told you about Lisbon’s renovated and rebaptized GraÃ§a viewpoint, and today we can tell you that another green space has also been cleaned up and reopened not too far from that viewpoint. That’s the Botto Machado Garden, found next to the National Pantheon where the city’s flea market takes place twice a week. Now you have a new space where you can sit, relax, and admire the river after browsing the market or visiting the monuments nearby (SÃ£o Vicente de Fora Monastery and the National Pantheon), and if you have children with you, they now have a small playground available surrounded by the fresh air of newly-planted flowers and trees. There is also a new kiosk serving refreshments and offering chairs for visitors to relax for a while.
One of Lisbon’s most popular viewpoints has been given a makeover and a new official name. Miradouro da GraÃ§a is a terrace in front of a church that has been a favorite hangout in the last few years thanks to its kiosk cafe that stays open until very late, and above all, its fantastic city views. One of its most famous fans was Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, a local poet who died in 2004 but who spent many of her days admiring the city from this viewpoint. To honor the writer, Lisbon has now placed her bust on the terrace looking out to the city, and renamed the site “Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen.” Of course everyone will continue to call it “Miradouro da GraÃ§a” (or “GraÃ§a Viewpoint”), but this will now also be Sophia’s eternal home, with one of her poems dedicated to Lisbon having been placed on a wall next to her bust.
Lisbon’s Comercio Square will remain closed for renovation over the next few months, but you may still snap a few photos of its triumphal arch, and enjoy its waterfront side. A total of 45 colorful seats have been placed by the river, all with an olive tree standing behind them. It’s the creation of Leonel Moura, a Portuguese artist who’d presented this “Portable Garden” project at the Valencia Biennial before Lisbon’s city hall requested that he place it in the city’s largest square. Alone or in a group, you can now also admire the restored waterfront, which again features historical columns that were removed years ago. You will also get a view of 25 de Abril Bridge as you relax and watch commuters from the city’s suburbs rush to or from the ferries connecting to the south bank of the Tagus.
UPDATE: SINCE THIS REPORT, THE “GARDEN” HAS MOVED. IT’S NOW LOCATED ON THE RIVERFRONT BEHIND CAIS DO SODRÃ‰ STATION.