Archive for January, 2011

Lisbon’s Secret Gardens

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Tapada das Necessidades, Lisbon

Not only is this garden (which is more like a park) a secret to even most locals, it is also found by one of the least-known viewpoints in the city. That’s the terrace in front of the Necessidades Palace (now the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) which has the most photogenic view of 25 de Abril Bridge. After taking your photos there, enter this secret garden next to the palace. There are more views of the bridge from there, but this time framed by greenery. It is known for its large collection of cacti which are said to be the oldest in Europe. You’ll likely find it deserted and have the green water pond, lawns, and the exotic trees all for yourself.

Jardim Botanico, Lisbon

Years of neglect have turned this botanical garden into an enchanted forest. Once one of Europe’s most important botanical collections, it’s still a noteworthy attraction in the city and does come recommended in some guidebooks, yet it doesn’t receive that many visitors. There are plans for a major renovation, so see it as a forest before it’s turned into an immaculate garden (which will certainly raise its profile in the city’s tourist itinerary).

Jardim Tropical, Lisbon

Beautiful and romantic, this garden is usually overlooked by the thousands of tourists who walk past its gate every year. Found between the popular Coaches Museum and the must-see Jeronimos Monastery, it still manages to be a secret and a place that’s perhaps better left undiscovered. That’s so that the flock of peacocks and geese are not disturbed as they travel around their ponds surrounded by towering palm trees.

5 Romantic Hotels for Valentine’s Day in Lisbon

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

After suggesting 10 romantic spots for romance in Lisbon, we can now recommend five romantic places to stay in the city if you choose it as your destination for Valentine’s Day or honeymoon:

Pestana Palace Hotel, Lisbon

The favorite celebrity hotel in Lisbon is found halfway between the district of Belém where the main landmarks and museums are found and downtown‘s shopping and restaurants. However, you’ll likely end up staying in the hotel for a large part of the day, thanks to its beautiful gardens, fantastic spa and swimming pool (there’s also a heated indoor pool for the winter).

York House Hotel, Lisbon

This hotel’s restaurant is one of the city’s favorite thanks to its fine cuisine and lovely garden, and it offers a special menu for Valentine’s Day. It’s just one more excuse to also book a stay in the hotel, whether in the more contemporary or more classic rooms.

Solar do Castelo, Lisbon

Sleep surrounded by thousand-year-old walls at this hotel inside Lisbon’s ancient castle. The building itself dates from the 18th century and has a beautiful tiled terrace, often visited by peacocks from the castle. The rooms offer old-world elegance and the city’s most romantic viewpoints are just a very short walk away.

As Janelas Verdes Hotel, Lisbon

The location is ideal for a romantic stay: in a central but tranquil neighborhood, and just a few feet away from one of the city’s biggest cultural attractions, the Ancient Art Museum. It’s the former home of acclaimed Portuguese novelist Eça de Queiroz, offering intimate rooms and a romantic patio garden.

Lapa Palace Hotel, Lisbon

It’s perhaps the most popular honeymoon hotel in Lisbon, thanks to its romantic rooms, and especially the suite with its own private terrace with spectacular views of the city and river. The restaurant serves excellent international cuisine in a palatial dining room.

“Lisb’On”: Lisbon’s Newest Hostel is Quite Possibly Its Most Beautiful

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Lisb'On Hostel, Lisbon

Found in a 19th century building in the Chiado district, Lisb’On is Lisbon’s newest hostel and at least judging from its living room, it’s quite possibly the most beautiful in the city. That spacious room has a beautiful stucco ceiling with an enormous chandelier, and is tastefully decorated. At the center is a pool table and against one of the walls are four computers offering internet access.
The rest of the interior is divided into multiple-guest dormitories, double rooms, and a suite, as well as a kitchen and terrace offering views of the river and 25 de Abril Bridge.
The rooms are air-conditioned (quite rare in low-budget accommodation in the city) and are named after local icons and personalities.
There is also laundry service available.
For full details and booking information see here: Lisb’On Hostel

Lisb'On Hostel, Lisbon

Lisb'On Hostel, Lisbon

10 Spots for Romance in Lisbon

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Romantic Lisbon

If you choose Lisbon as your destination for the most romantic day of the year (Valentine’s Day), or if you find yourself in the city with your loved one at any other time of the year, there are several spots you should not miss. Here are ten of them:

Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara
Forget the long name, and just remember that this is the garden-terrace also known as Bairro Alto’s viewpoint. The castle can be seen right ahead, as well as the river and a perfect backdrop for a photo of the two of you.

Miradouro das Portas do Sol
No one can resist stopping here to take pictures and admire the view. There are several viewpoints in the Alfama district but this one is perhaps the most breathtaking and arguably the city’s most beautiful.

Santa Justa Elevator
It’s one of the city’s main landmarks but this early-20th-century elevator is worth riding not just for the experience but also for the view from the top. You’ll both feel high in the clouds.

Belém Riverfront
Belém Tower is the city’s most-photographed monument and a reminder of the great voyages of Discovery when it served as a beacon to many of Portugal’s famous explorers. Now let it be the starting point of a romantic walk along the riverfront, past another city landmark, the Discoveries Monument, perhaps all the way to Docas de Santo Amaro below the monumental 25 de Abril Bridge.

Belem, Lisbon

Tropical Garden
Very few people visit this lovely garden and that makes a couple of hours here even more worthwhile. You’ll have it almost all for yourself, with just the variety of trees and a few swans for company.

St. George’s Castle
The city’s oldest monument is where you’ll both feel at the top of the world or the king and queen of the castle, admiring Lisbon from a bird’s-eye perspective on the ramparts.

Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte
The city’s youth prefers to hang out at the café of Miradouro da Graça nearby, but walk up the hill a little further and you’ll arrive at this viewpoint with a breathtaking view of the city. Even if you’re not religious, you’ll both feel blessed by the image of the Virgin on the site, and will want to sit and relax in each other’s company (and in that of other couples too).

Pena Palace
One of Europe’s first and most important romantic constructions, this must-see fairytale is found right outside Lisbon in one of Europe’s most enchantic towns, Sintra.

Tram 25
You’ll see tram 28 recommended in every guidebook, but it’s usually so packed with tourists, that a charming experience is often irritating. So skip the 28 and hop on the 25. Its route is not as long or picturesque, but you’ll likely have more space and be able to better enjoy the romantic ride on these vintage wood-paneled vehicles.

Parque das Nações Promenade
The walk along the riverfront in Belém is romantic enough, but do the same here on the opposite side of town, in the Parque das Nações district. This 21st century neighborhood offers cable car rides for panoramic views, but you may also follow the boardwalk, past futuristic architecture, gardens and lawns, all the way to Europe’s longest bridge.

From Algarve to Lisbon: The New “Faz Gostos” Restaurant

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Faz Gostos Restaurant, Lisbon

Born in Algarve a few years ago, the Faz Gostos restaurant has moved up to the capital. The new Lisbon space has a beautiful vaulted interior that’s part of a former convent, and features a simple but very elegant décor which includes a wall covered in randomly-arranged 18th-century tiles.
The menu lists traditional Portuguese cuisine given a personal touch and contemporary refinement by the chef, and perhaps best of all is the wine list with over 200 labels (Portuguese and international).
For a pre- or post-dinner drink, there’s the bar which mixes cocktails by the team of Cinco Lounge, one of the city’s best cocktail bars.
It’s open for lunch and dinner, and closes on Sundays and Mondays.

Address: Rua Nova da Trindade, 11 (Chiado)
Telephone: 21 347 22 49

“Sea Me”: A Different Kind of Seafood Restaurant in Lisbon

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Sea Me, Lisbon

Lisbon has a new seafood restaurant. One that is also a “modern fish market” and sushi bar.
Found in Chiado, it has a contemporary interior where it’s possible to buy fish to prepare at home or have it right there in the dining area.
Everything sold or served is the fresh “catch of the day” from various locations of the Portuguese coast. At the restaurant it is cooked in various ways, but essentially in a traditionally Portuguese style. It is also available uncooked, in the form of sushi.
From Thursday to Saturday, it stays open until 2AM and is also a nightlife destination, allowing you to stay until late with a glass of wine. DJs provide the accompanying sounds on those nights, usually jazz.

Address: Rua do Loreto, 21

The Art of the Early Days of the First Global Empire Now on Display in Lisbon

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Orient Museum, LisbonThe early days of the world’s first truly global empire are currently being brought to life in Lisbon’s Orient Museum. The Portuguese were the first Europeans in Japan, the last ones to leave China, and controlled a large part of India for centuries, and it is that European-Asian exchange of cultures, art, and traditions that can be seen in this new exhibition.
The Portuguese introduced Christianity and Western weapons and styles to the East, while the Asians provided spices and silks to Europe through Portugal.
The Japanese were particularly fascinated by the Portuguese, especially by their Western facial features and fashions (including never-before-seen buttons), but they considered them to be culturally inferior. The Portuguese (or Europeans in general) were nicknamed “Namban,” meaning “Barbarians of the South” (although they were actually from the West and Northern Hemisphere), and “Namban art” is any artistic expression from Japan and China in the 16th and 17th centuries, relating to their contact with Europeans.
This exhibition in the Orient Museum is called “Namban Commissions: The Portuguese in Modern-Age Japan,” and presents close to 60 rare pieces from various collections, including extraordinarily-illustrated screens and military masks.
You can see them all until May 31st.