Archive for November, 2009

Lisbon’s “African Soul” Exhibition

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Lisbon was the first European city to create trade and cultural ties with Africa and Asia, bringing the art and culture of different civilizations to the Old Continent. To see how the European (and specifically the Portuguese) culture influenced Asian art and vice versa, you may visit Lisbon’s Orient Museum, but for African art and culture, there isn’t yet any one museum or cultural center for that in the city (it’s in the planning stages). This means that those curious about the art and culture of Africa in Lisbon will want to know that there is currently a great opportunity to feel the “African Soul” in a special exhibition until February 7, 2010.
The “Alma Africana” (“African Soul”) exhibition can be seen in Páteo da Galé, a space in Comercio Square accessed through the arches next to the city’s main tourism office. It’s open every day except on Mondays from 11AM to 7PM and offers free entries on Sundays and Wednesdays.
The art on display belongs to the Berardo Collection, and are pieces that are not part of the Berardo Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. There are more than 1000 of them in total, divided into archaeological, ethnographic, and modern art displays, with some of the pieces dating back to the 3rd century and from different places such as Niger, Angola, and Zimbabwe. Among the statues, masks, musical instruments, and jewelry, interesting objects include crucifixes showing the Catholic Portuguese influence, as well as readapted versions of chairs given by the Portuguese explorers to local tribal chiefs.

“Clara Chiado” – Lisbon’s Newest Gourmet Restaurant

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Clara Chiado Restaurant, Lisbon

Lisbon’s newest restaurant is also a gourmet shop. It’s called “Clara Chiado” and is located in Chiado, on Largo Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro, a square surrounded by restaurants and cafés. This one is entered through a “gourmet space,” an area selling gourmet products which includes a large selection of wines, as well as serving some finger food and light meals to nibble on. At the restaurant, the ambience is a little more formal and serves a mostly contemporary Portuguese menu with international influences.
The gourmet area opens early, at 10AM for a late breakfast or light meal, while the restaurant is open for lunch from Monday to Friday from 12PM to 3PM, and once again for dinner between 7:30PM and 11:30PM. On Saturdays it’s only open for dinner and is closed on Sundays.

Lisbon Was Reborn Ten Years Ago Today: The 10th Anniversary of the New “Armazéns do Chiado”

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Armazens do Chiado, Lisbon

Today is the 10th anniversary of the opening of the new “Armazéns do Chiado.” In a previous incarnation it was Lisbon’s version of the grand Parisian department stores such as Galeries Lafayette and Printemps, featuring a grand palatial interior (see photo below) and advertising itself in 1894 as the largest store in Portugal and with the best prices. That all came to an end in the great fire of 1988 that devastated much of the Chiado district, and the only thing left standing of “Armazéns” was its façade. The building had to be completely rebuilt and reopened eleven years later not as a department store, but as a shopping mall. Those who knew how it once was, were saddened to see an ordinary-looking modern mall interior take over such a legendary space of the city, but the truth is that this mall is responsible for the renovation of all of Chiado which is today Lisbon’s most vibrant and dynamic neighborhood of the whole historical center.
Its big draw is FNAC, the French megastore that’s the Portuguese favorite for music, books, and electronics. Because it also occasionally hosts cultural events, FNAC has also become a meeting place, and brought much-needed young blood to the center of the city.
What the new “Armazéns” has not lost from the past are the views from its top floor (now a food court), from where visitors can see directly towards the castle on one side, and up the popular Rua Garrett shopping street from the other.
In another part of the building (designed by world-renowned architect Siza Vieira) is Hotel do Chiado, one of the most recommended in the city, if only for its breathtaking views and terrace bar.

Armazens do Chiado, Lisbon

Where to Go Next: Portugal’s Alentejo, Says the New York Times

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Portugal's Alentejo on the New York Times

Next Sunday’s travel section of the New York Times will feature an article about Portugal’s Alentejo entitled Next Stop: Alto Alentejo, Unsung but Not for Long. It concentrates on the northern part of the province, the Alto Alentejo, known for its hilltop castles and stopped-in-medieval-times atmosphere.
The main photo of the article shows the castle of Marvão, the spectacularly-sited walled town which GoLisbon recommends as one of Portugal’s Top 10 destinations, but also features other must-see towns such as Estremoz and Crato. These last two are mostly recommended for their Pousadas which I have personally experienced and shared here on this blog: Portugal’s Pousadas.
The article goes on to highlight the region’s cuisine and ends with the conclusion that this part of Portugal is the Tuscany of 30 years ago, and that it’s on its way to being discovered after the planned high-speed train linking Lisbon and Madrid starts stopping nearby in 2012.

Lisbon’s Newest, Coolest Viewpoint Café: “Portas do Sol”

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

Café Portas do Sol

Dark skies and colder temperatures don’t have to prevent you from enjoying the views from Lisbon’s beautiful miradouros (viewpoints). After all, thermometers never reach the freezing point in this city, so you can sit at a café table or cushy seat enjoying a drink and the views at any time of the year. A new place for that is called “Portas do Sol,” and as the name indicates, it’s found on a terrace by the Miradouro das Portas do Sol. The backdrop are the twin towers of the São Vicente Monastery, the dome of the National Pantheon, and the roofs of Alfama‘s colorful houses down to the river.
It’s open day and night (until midnight except on Fridays and Saturdays when closing time is only at 2AM), and also includes an indoor area with glass walls so that you can still admire the view if rain starts to pour during the winter months. But because Lisbon is the least rainy capital in Europe, you’ll probably find yourself sitting on the black terrace couches or at one of the outdoor tables enjoying the special menu. It’s special because unlike the usual toasted sandwiches offered at most viewpoint cafés, at “Portas do Sol” you can choose soup, some quite original sandwiches, and salads. Everything is average-priced (ranging between 5 and 10 euros) and served to the sound of chill-out music.

Portugal is One of the World’s Top 10 Countries to Visit in 2010, According to Lonely Planet

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Roman Temple in Evora, PortugalThe well-known travel publication Lonely Planet released its annual “Best in Travel” list yesterday, and among the top 10 countries to visit in 2010 is Portugal. This list chooses destinations that no matter what your personal style is, you’re guaranteed to find something inspiring geographically and culturally.
The ten countries are not ranked, but rather listed alphabetically, meaning no destination is more recommended than the other. What it does mean is that in 2010, these countries will offer what all kinds of travelers are looking for, whether it’s something familiar or exotic. Some of these countries have been popular tourist destinations for quite some time, while others are way off the beaten path.
In addition to Portugal, the other countries to visit in 2010 according to Lonely Planet are El Salvador, Germany, Greece, Malaysia, Morocco, Nepal, New Zeland, Suriname, and the United States.
For the most complete guide to Portugal and Portuguese culture on the web, see our Portugal Travel Guide.

Just Opened: Lisbon’s First Raw Food Restaurant – “Stephens Cru Bar”

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

UPDATE: This restaurant has closed.

There has been a new kind of restaurant opening around the world in the last few years, and it’s just arrived in Lisbon. That type of restaurant is one where only raw food is served and Lisbon’s first is called “Stephens Cru Bar.” It’s found in the Chiado district, in a building formerly occupied by a shop, with 18th-century stone walls and arches. Those are the only things of the past, as the décor and the menu were created for modern palates. The space also includes a bar area, while the restaurant dining area is divided between two levels.
The hoped ambiance is that of a lounge-restaurant for groups to meet for drinks and/or share a few dishes to the sound of background music (there is a live DJ on weekends).
On the menu you’ll find anything that can be eaten raw (the exception being the rice that completes the sushi). So there are carpaccios, salads, and of course the sushi, as well as cocktails for those who just want to chill out with a drink.
However, those who prefer their food straight out of the oven have the “Alecrim Às Flores” restaurant next door which belongs to the same team, and serves a mixture of Mediterranean and traditional Portuguese cuisine.

Address: Rua das Flores, 8
Phone: 21 324 0224
Hours: 7:30PM-1:30AM Monday to Saturday (closed Sundays)