Archive for February, 2010

Downtown Lisbon’s Newest Hotel – Altis Avenida

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Altis Avenida Hotel

Downtown Lisbon has a new hotel. It’s the third to open in the past year, after Vincci Baixa and Gat Rossio. This one is called Altis Avenida and is also a 4-star boutique-style hotel. It has one of the best locations in the city, facing Restauradores Square and therefore also just around the corner from the bustling Rossio, with most of the rooms offering beautiful views. Some of them face Restauradores, while others look over Rossio all the way to the river.
The building was built in the 1940s and has been fully renovated. While the interior is contemporary, it is slightly inspired by 1940s glamour when Lisbon was a neutral safe haven for exiled nobility during WWII.
In total there are 72 rooms, with the top floor reserved for a restaurant and a terrace bar overlooking all of downtown.
The hotel is perfect for both leisure and business travelers, with a meeting room, business center, and free wifi throughout the building.
You may get more information and book it here: Altis Avenida Hotel

10 Romantic Restaurants for Valentine’s Day in Lisbon

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Valentine’s Day is here again. Among the many marriage proposals, weddings, and countless romantic dinner dates, there will be a lot of traveling, and Lisbon is the perfect destination. It’s much warmer than pretty much everywhere else in Europe, it’s reasonably-priced, and best of all, it’s wonderfully romantic. If looking for a good restaurant for two on that special day in Lisbon, here are 10 to consider and book now:

Restaurante Bubbly, Lisbon

AFREUDITE
This restaurant claims to offer aphrodisiacal food, so naturally it’s prepared a special menu for the international day of love.

ALMA
Take your soulmate to “Alma” (“soul”), an all-white restaurant for a dreamy in-the-clouds dinner for two. The chef is one of Lisbon’s most renowned and the menu is contemporary Portuguese.

AS SALGADEIRAS
This restaurant used to be a bakery, and much of its interior has been preserved. That includes an old brick oven and the stone vaulted ceiling, all dimly lit. It creates a romantic atmosphere for a dinner for two, with the menu listing Portuguese cuisine, much of it inspired by northern Portugal.

BUBBLY
It’s usually closed on Sundays, but this Valentine’s Sunday it’s open for a special dinner. Feel your relationship sparkle with the help of the sparkling wine used in most of the dishes or poured into your glass.

CRAVO E CANELA
Enjoy a candlelit dinner of fusion cuisine accompanied by light sounds of background music. Before you head back home, stop at the bar for just one more drink.

IMPÉRIO DOS SENTIDOS
This Bairro Alto restaurant has lots of tables for two, art on the walls, and dimmed lighting — perfect for couples. The menu is international with strong Italian/Mediterranean influences. It’s also gay-friendly.

NOVA MESA
This new softly-colored restaurant in one of the city’s most romantic and tranquil squares serves a menu of a fusion of flavors. Enjoy your dinner, then go for a moonlit walk through the charming Principe Real neighborhood.

SOFISTICATO
With a décor made up of silver and golden tones mixed with velvet furnishings, Sofisticato certainly has one of Lisbon’s most sophisticated restaurant interiors. The menu is also refined, and the atmosphere perfect for a special dinner.

SPIANATA
The large outdoor terrace at this restaurant is a great setting for a romantic meal, but sitting at the interior glassed dining area is just as pleasant, with good food and service to match.

VALLE FLOR
Pestana Palace Hotel has a palatial restaurant to go with the grandeur of the rest of the building. It is in that grand setting that you can make your special someone feel like a king or queen, enjoying a refined menu and views of the magnificent garden.

Alfama’s “O Chá” – Tea and a Taste of Macau in Lisbon

Friday, February 5th, 2010

O Cha Tea Room, Lisbon

UPDATE: THIS CAFÉ HAS CLOSED

It first opened in the residential neighborhood of Alvalade, but it later added a second home in the old, historical center of the city, Alfama. Both “O Chá Tea Room” offer over 70 kinds of tea, mostly from Asia (Japan and China), but also from Africa, Latin America, and Portugal’s Azores. China, or more specifically the former Portuguese colony of Macau is the inspiration for the entire space, reflected on the hot colors of the decor. At Alvalade you may also buy some Asian furnishings while in Alfama it’s strictly a tea house. In addition to the teas it also serves a soup of the day, cakes, scones, crepes, and toasted sandwiches. That together with the chilled-out background music makes this a great place to meet friends or to take a break from sightseeing in Alfama. Sit on the dark-wood chairs, the colorful couches, or the cushy bean bags surrounded by Asian decorative items (from Tibet, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, China…), and feel yourself be transported to the exotic lands discovered by Portuguese explorers (the owners lived in Macau until 2001). On some evenings there is live music, poetry-related events, and there are planned tea-related workshops in the future.
To find it, take tram 28 or follow its tracks from the Portas do Sol viewpoint in the direction of São Vicente Monastery. It’s on number 7C of Rua das Escolas Gerais, with tram 28 passing right by the door. It’s open on weekends, but closes on Mondays and Tuesdays. The opening times on weekdays are 4PM to 11 PM, on Saturdays it’s from 1PM to midnight, while on Sundays it’s 1PM to 8PM.

O Cha Tea Room, Lisbon

O Cha Tea Room, Lisbon

Technology of the Future Made in Portugal

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Technology made in Portugal

Media reports have been buzzing about Apple’s latest gadget, the iPad. Among the mixed reactions (“it’s brilliant!” “where’s the novelty?”), there is also much excitement over flat devices where you can carry your entire life around with you. What we’re seeing is just the beginning of an upcoming technological revolution, and Portugal is set to become a big contributor. The country is actually a quiet technology leader, from wind and solar-powered energy to computer software. If you ever use the ATM in Portugal, you’ll see that it seems that Portugal is using Windows 7 while the rest of the world’s ATMs are still running MsDOS. The Portuguese do everything at the ATM (the “Multibanco“), from paying their monthly bills, to pre-paying their cell phone service, to even ordering concert tickets (there are currently 60 different functionalities possible at Portuguese ATMs). That also means that for many bank services you don’t have to wait to get back home or the office to use online banking, and you don’t have to stand in line at the bank, since you can do that right away, around the corner at the ATM. Having been living in Lisbon for half a dozen years, I have taken these conveniences for granted until I return to the United States and see lines of people at the bank still cashing their salary’s check on Fridays, or using the obsolete-looking ATMs. I also remember passing through New York’s EZ Pass, only to discover later that it is actually a technology developed in Portugal known as “Via Verde” where you don’t have to stop to pay your toll.
Then there are Portuguese companies like Displax which are embracing and innovating technological advances by turning virtually any surface into a touch screen. The company’s polymer film is thinner than paper, therefore allowing pretty much anything to become a touch-screen display. The interactive displays can measure anywhere from 20cm to up to 3 meters diagonally, meaning that one day you just may see entire shop windows turned into interactive displays with multiple users at any time.

ATM in Portugal
Options screen at an ATM in Portugal

Discovering Portugal’s Madeira Wine in Virtuoso Life Magazine

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Madeira Wine

The current issue of luxury travel magazine Virtuoso Life is its annual edition entirely devoted to Europe, and it includes a 3-page article about Portugal’s Madeira wine (last year’s issue had Lisbon on the cover). Madeira is a centuries-old wine from the Portuguese island of the same name, made internationally famous through British importers, having even been the wine used by America’s founding fathers to toast the Declaration of Independence. The article recommends six “Madeiras,” but if you can’t find those where you live, you can always look for them on a trip to Portugal. This is a wine that the most dedicated oenophiles know well, but if you’re just discovering it, this article is a great introduction.
The magazine also makes a hotel recommendation for a trip to Madeira, the legendary Reid’s Palace Hotel, where Winston Churchill was known to write his war memoirs. You can read the article and the entire issue of the magazine here: Virtuoso Life magazine – Madeira Wine

Lisbon Is the Inspiration For the New “J. Crew” Catalogue

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

J Crew Catalogue in Lisbon

J. Crew’s latest catalogue showing its newest collection has been shot in Lisbon and the company is sharing its “behind the scenes” experience on its website. It starts with a “love letter to Lisbon” where it remembers the city’s “understated beauty” and “easygoing elegance,” and goes on to describe the five days spent in it. Crew’s crew worked on the catalogue’s cover shot under the triumphal arch of Comércio Square, on the Rua Augusta side by the Design and Fashion Museum, then moved on to the charming Principe Real neighborhood where almost every building is covered in colorful tiles and flower-filled balconies. They then left the city and moved up north, to about one hour away, to the medieval village of Obidos and finished their project at the beach of Adraga by Sintra for their swimwear shoot.
On the website the J.Crew team also shares some of the Portuguese words they learned, such as “bica” (Lisbon’s famous strong coffee), “calçada portuguesa” (the trademark cobblestone designs), and “miradouro” (the unmissable viewpoints of the city).
The report concludes with the word “obrigado” (meaning “thank you”), because they “had a lot to be thankful for in a country with such exceptional charm, good food, and gracious people.”
Check out the entire report on the J. Crew website throughout this month: J. Crew website

J Crew Catalogue in Lisbon

J Crew Catalogue in Lisbon

Lisbon’s Elevador da Bica Gets An Extreme Makeover

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Elevador da Bica, Lisbon

Lisbon’s yellow trams and funiculars are some of its most iconic images, and some of its most photographed monuments. They’re classified as national monuments and remain popular rides for tourists and locals to go up and down the city’s steep hills. The most photographed of all is perhaps that of Bica, the funicular right outside Bairro Alto that goes down one of the city’s most colorfully picturesque streets. If you’ve been to Lisbon before or are doing your research before you visit, you’ve already seen it — it looks like one huge yellow box going downhill. But it’s yellow no more, at least until June. It’s been covered in mirrors, so now its color is whatever is reflected on it during its journeys. This makeover is part of a special event promoted by the local transportation company Carris that runs these trams and funiculars, called “Arte em Movimento” (“Art in Movement”). Contemporary Portuguese artists have been invited to create a special project for the city’s four funiculars (“elevadores”), and while that of Bica is the most visible, the others (Gloria, Santa Justa, and Lavra) will also offers a few surprises during their short but charming rides…