Archive for September, 2009

Lisbon’s Street Art Gallery

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

The graffiti you see on the photos below are not acts of vandalism (well, with the exception of that on the funicular). The graffiti on five large panels down Calçada da Gloria which descends the hill from Bairro Alto to Restauradores Square is all legal, and are works of street art that make up Lisbon’s Street Art Gallery. They’re creations of local graffiti artists and change from time to time to new colorful and often amusing images. The first works were created last October and this outdoor “gallery” will remain on display until the end of 2010.

Lisbon Street Art Gallery

Lisbon Street Art Gallery

Lisbon Street Art Gallery

Queer Lisboa: Lisbon’s Gay and Lesbian Film Festival Returns with 95 Films This Year

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Queer Lisboa - Lisbon Gay and Lesbian Film FestivalWhen we recently told you about Lisbon’s International Horror Film Festival we said it was the first of several film festivals in Lisbon until the end of 2009. The second is Queer Lisboa, the city’s gay and lesbian film festival which is in its 13th edition this year. It has become one of the largest gay film festivals in Europe, screening a total of 95 films this year. Eight of those will be Portuguese productions, while everything else will come from all corners of the globe. That includes “Pedro,” a film about a famous resident of MTV’s “The Real World,” while the first screening will be of “Morrer Como Um Homem” which has already premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.  That’s a Portuguese film by João Pedro Rodrigues, a director who achieved international acclaim with his 2000 film “O Fantasma.”
In addition to the films, the organization says it is also “celebrating seven icons of queer culture” through poetry readings, concerts, and debates with various personalities.
The festival takes place between the 18th and 26th of this month in Cinema São Jorge in Avenida de Liberdade, and there are prizes for Best Feature, Best Documentary, and Best Short Feature. Tickets cost 3.50, but there’s a 20% discount if you buy tickets for five films. You may consult the entire program on the festival’s website

A Trip to the Azores

Saturday, September 12th, 2009


More than a guide to Lisbon, is a guide to all of Portugal, so that also includes the country’s Atlantic islands, and we’ve just updated our Azores guide after a recent trip this past week.

The Azores does not cater to mass tourism, and that’s what makes it such a special destination. There are only a few direct flights from a few European countries (Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, and the UK), while every one else must first connect with a flight from Lisbon. The nine islands that make up the Azorean archipelago attract an alternative type of tourist, those travelers interested in eco-tourism and who wish to go off the beaten path in Europe.

In the case of the Azores, tourism brochures or photo galleries are not worth a thousand words. They’re actually worthless, incapable of capturing the sensation of standing with the clouds above volcanic craters, the exuberance of the scenery, or the beauty of the lakes, waterfalls, and landscapes. The capital city is Ponta Delgada in the biggest island of all, São Miguel, with elegant streets lined with buildings very similar to those of Lisbon, while throughout the island the vernacular architecture is reminiscent of the Alentejo in the mainland. The main monuments are beautiful baroque churches with very unique white and black basalt façades, while the most popular activity is whale-watching.

Ponta Delgada, Açores

There are a few black sand beaches but these are no beach resort islands. Although the Atlantic is all around, the real attraction lies in the interior of each island, with natural wonders such as the Sete Cidades twin lakes, although my personal favorite is the majestic Lagoa do Fogo, a crater lake created by a volcanic eruption in the 16th century. Also of note is Europe’s only tea plantation which you may visit during a free tour of a traditional factory, where you may also sample and buy some local tea.

Praia dos Moinhos, São Miguel, Açores

Another memorable experience is swimming in a hot water pool in the center of the Terra Nostra Garden which is faced by a highly-recommended hotel (Terra Nostra Garden Hotel), especially for couples. The setting is quite romantic, although it may also be a good choice for families. I didn’t find the yellowish color of the water particularly inviting at first, but once inside the pool, it was very difficult to leave.

Hot water is a common feature of the Azores, with several spots featuring natural boiling water which locals of the town of Furnas often use to cook their traditional dishes. It’s quite an impressive sight seeing the steam rise up from the ground and feeling the heat emanating from it.

Furnas, São Miguel, Açores

When it comes to eating and drinking, by far the best restaurants are A Lota (facing the port of Lagoa; pictured below), and A Colmeia in the center of Ponta Delgada. They both offer refined cuisine, mixing local specialties with international dishes. Their interiors are very contemporary and the service is excellent.

Restaurante A Lota, São Miguel, Açores

It is a cliché to say that all four seasons pass by the Azores in one single day, but that may not be far from the truth. All the greenery is explained by the abundant rain, and you’ll likely encounter a shower or a drizzle at any time of the year. That’s actually not that bad because somewhere else on the very same island or just a couple of hours later, the sun will shine, and that’s why rainbows are so commonly seen. That’s just one more enchanting feature of the Azores, a destination to be discovered but not to be shared, as its essence and pristine beauty should be kept unchanged and as perfect as it is.


Lisbon Cleans Up Its Public Spaces

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Lisbon has been cleaning up some of its long-neglected public spaces. It’s an election year so many see this as the current mayor’s hope to the be re-elected this October, but truth is, many of these places were desperate for a paint job. The most visible due to its central location is Largo Trindade Coelho, a small square faced by the recently reopened São Roque Museum and the city’s plainest church that hides an incredibly rich interior. Cars are no longer allowed to park around the square, and its kiosk cafe has become more attractive, although we rather go for the courtyard cafe of the São Roque Museum, especially for a weekend brunch.

Largo Trindade Coelho, Lisbon

Not far down the hill is Praça da Alegria, a square which is essentially a garden with a fountain in the center. It leads to Lisbon’s main avenue, Avenida da Liberdade, and you’ll pass by if you choose to dine at what in our opinion is the city’s best vegetarian restaurant nearby, Jardim dos Sentidos.

Praça da Alegria, Lisbon

Farther away from the beaten path are the viewpoints of Monte Agudo and Penha de França. These two are very-little known spots found up such a steep hill, that we’re not even going to recommend you look for them when there are so many more beautiful viewpoints of easier access to discover. Still, if you live in Lisbon and in the neighborhood, you may want to take a look. That of Penha de Fraça is basically just a couple of seats looking over the rooftops of uptown’s office and apartment blocks, while at Monte Agudo you get a broader view that goes all the way to the river. Behind the benches available for contemplation is a bunch of pine trees, giving off a fresh smell that would make you feel you were not in a major city if you didn’t have the view below you.

Miradouro de Monte Agudo, Lisbon

Miradouro de Penha de França

What Lisbon Tourists Shop For

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

Lisbon shoppingAccording to a study reported by Lisbon Tourism, what most tourists look for when shopping in Lisbon are crafts.  That’s the choice of nearly 70% of tourists, while close to 55% of them chose to take some of the city’s famous pastries.  Those are followed by postcards, which is a curious choice in the age of email, Facebook, and Flickr galleries.
Just over 40% purchase wines, while the distant fifth most popular choice is clothing at about 7%.  Books are bought by about 4% of tourists in the city, while about 2% like the shoes.  Everything else you can think of comes at less than 1%.
If you’re one of those 70% who look for crafts, here are a few suggestions at our Lisbon shopping guideHandicrafts and Textiles — and since almost everyone seems to love the pastries, take a look at our cafés section which also lists the best pastry shops. We recommend the most famous of all, of course, Antiga Confeitaria de Belém, but you should also check out Confeitaria Nacional downtown.

Lisbon’s Metro Has Expanded

Monday, September 7th, 2009

Lisbon MetroLisbon’s Metro has expanded. Its four lines are now all connected, allowing better access to the city’s eastern districts. Until last week you often had to hop off and on at a couple of stations in order to connect to the red line that leads to Parque das Nações, but now that red line also connects with the yellow and blue lines at stations uptown. It is therefore much faster and easier to go from the Gulbenkian Museum to the Oceanarium for example, by getting on the train at the São Sebastião station around the corner from the museum, and ending at Oriente Station without having to reconnect to another line anywhere. We’ve updated the metro diagram on our Transport section, and it is a good idea to become familiar with it before you arrive in Lisbon, as it saves you some time in between sightseeing, allowing you to know exactly how you can reach your favorite attractions.

Portugal’s Most Famous Product You’ve Never Heard Of

Friday, September 4th, 2009

Claus Porto Soaps

Famous names such as Nicholas Cage, Kate Moss, and Oprah Winfrey have been reported to be fans of one of Portugal’s most famous products. If you’ve guessed Port Wine, you’re wrong. They all love CLAUS PORTO soaps, a natural, creamy, luxury soap that’s been made in the city of Porto since 1887. They’re now sold at luxury shops around the world, in a colorful Art Deco-design packaging. In Lisbon you may get them at special gift shops such as Meio da Praça which we just told you about, as well as at a couple of museum shops such as that of the Berardo Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. In Paris you may find them at the Galeries Lafayette department store, in London you may look for them at Harrods, and in New York you may see them available at Saks Fifth Avenue.
These soaps have become more popular than ever in the last couple of years since Oprah Winfrey named them one of her favorite things on her program. She was introduced to the Portuguese soaps by Lafco, a shop in New York that had been sending her products to try over time. She never really responded until one day when the shop got a call from one of her show’s producers requesting more samples of the Claus Porto soap. As soon as Oprah mentioned the product on her show, the shop’s phones started to ring off the hook, and even now, a couple of years later, they still get calls asking for “Oprah’s soap.”
In reality these soaps have been a favorite luxury item of European elites for some time, with fashion names such as Chanel having requested custom-crested versions.
The main quality of the soaps that make them so unique and special is that they’re all traditionally made, using manual milling and drying processes. They’re therefore much more expensive than the typical supermarket soap, going for as much as 15 euros.

Spend the Last Days of Summer in Cascais

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Furnas do Guincho Restaurant, Cascais

The weather forecast shows that it will be quite warm and sunny this weekend in Lisbon, and will continue to be so throughout the following week. Those of you who can still take a few days off to enjoy the good weather should consider a stay in Cascais. That oceanfront village just outside Lisbon allows you to experience the best of the capital just a few minutes away, while also providing plenty of opportunities to relax by the sea. And there are a few new or renovated spaces to check out right now. The first one is Furnas do Guincho, a restaurant standing over the Atlantic known for serving the freshest fish and seafood, in a very contemporary, just-remodeled interior. There are three different terraces or dining areas overlooking the sea, and those views are the only things that haven’t changed in the fifty years of the restaurant. Everything else has been given a 21st century makeover, although the menu remains faithful to the flavors of the Atlantic. It’s definitely a place to check out in the warmer months but it’s equally attractive in the winter.
Another recent renovation was that of the Vila Galé Hotel. The rooms now have a much more modern look, and there is a fantastic outdoor pool for adults and children. This is a great option for families, with a special children’s playground, and sauna and massages for the grown-ups.
For budget, independent travelers there’s the new Cascais Beach Hostel, located in a wonderful beach house. The beach which is especially popular for surfing is just a few steps away, but guests can always choose to stay in the hostel’s own swimming pool. There is also a large lounge area, laundry and internet services, a complete kitchen, and BBQ area.

Furnas do Guincho Restaurant, Cascais

Experimenta Design – Lisbon’s Design Biennial 2009

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

Experimenta Design, Lisbon

Lisbon’s biggest event this fall is its design biennial, Experimenta Design. It’s been taking place in the city since 1999 and was expanded to Amsterdam in 2008, focusing on design, architecture, and creativity. The event has a different theme for every edition, and this year it’s called “It’s About Time.” It starts on the 9th of this month and will continue until the 8th of November, with special exhibitions around the city looking at time as material, resource and challenge. Some of the venues include the Orient Museum, the Berardo Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, and Camões Theater in Parque das Nações. You may get the complete information about the event and find out how, where and when you can check out the exhibitions and conferences at the official website: