Archive for April, 2011

5 Infamous Portuguese Royal Weddings

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Queen Catherine of Bragança, Lisbon

As the world’s eyes are turned to London’s Westminster Abbey for the most famous wedding of the new millennium, we remember some notorious unions involving the Portuguese royal families. Of course Portugal is no longer ruled by kings and queens, as the country stopped being a monarchy exactly 100 years ago, but there are still many fairytale stories to tell that happened once upon a time, although the main characters didn’t always live happily ever after.

King Afonso V and Queen Isabel
He was only six years old when he was declared king and it was only some time later that that he was forced to marry his first cousin Isabel. They did so in Obidos‘ Santa Maria Church in a scene that most likely looked more like a First Holy Communion than a holy matrimony.

Catherine of Braganza and King Charles II
A Portuguese princess was sent to England to marry Charles II and solidify the political relationship between Portugal and England, at the time the two major superpowers of the world. Part of her dowry were the cities of Bombay (now Mumbai) and Tangier which had been under Portuguese control and then became part of the British empire.
Poor Catherine had a very unhappy marriage, as she spoke no English and was of the Catholic faith in a Protestant country. Nonetheless, she had a major cultural impact in her new land by introducing the tradition of the 5 o’clock tea. Her husband was also nice enough to dedicate part of his new territory in the New World to her. That’s Queens, New York.

King João I and Philippa of Lancaster
This political marriage of convenience was the result of the Anglo-Portuguese alliance. Their wedding took place in Porto’s cathedral, also the site of the baptism of their most famous son — Prince Henry the Navigator.

King Pedro I and Inês de Castro
Even more tragic than the story of Romeo and Juliet is the story of Pedro and Inês, especially because this one actually happened. Prince Pedro and Inês fell in love, but this was a forbidden love, as Inês was Spanish and there was no way Portugal was going to have a Spanish queen. So they eloped at a time when there was no such thing, especially among members of a royal family. Pedro’s father, King Afonso IV heard the rumors of the secret marriage, and decided to have Inês murdered. Years later Pedro did become king and in order to have a happy end with the love of his life, ordered that his tomb be placed by Inês’ upon his death. Two monumental gothic tombs were built, and they now stand facing each other in the abbey of Alcobaça. Pedro believed they’d meet once again at the end of the world, so the words “Até ao fim do mundo…” (“Until the end of the world…”) are inscribed in the marble of the tombs.
Before that, Pedro also had Inês’ body exhumed, placed on a throne, dressed in royal fashion, and had his courtiers kiss her decomposed hand as a queen.

King Pedro II and Queen Maria Francisca de Saboia
In the 17th century when kings were essentially dictators, there wasn’t much a king couldn’t do and not much a country’s people could disagree with. But apparently stealing your brother’s wife met with great disapproval among the Portuguese population. King Pedro II was therefore an unpopular king ever since he married his former sister-in-law and took over the throne from his brother, King Afonso VI, by having him declared insane.

The New and Bigger Lisbon Oceanarium

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Lisbon Aquarium

It’s one of Lisbon’s most-visited attractions and one of the world’s biggest aquariums — and it just got bigger. A recently-inaugurated 4.8-million-euro extension added space for temporary exhibitions (at the moment you can see sea turtles), a new auditorium and a new restaurant.
It reinforces the mega-aquarium‘s mission to alert its nearly 1-million visitors each year to near-extinct species and a cleaner environment, while also providing other services such as family-friendly programs in the auditorium and extra space to relax with a meal.
The new all-white restaurant is open from 10AM to 7PM and serves a kid-friendly menu: pastas, hamburgers, soups, salads, snacks.
The Oceanarium is one of only a couple of attractions in the city that never close. It’s open throughout the year, even on Christmas day. It’s an especially good destination to include in your itinerary if you’re in the city on a Monday when most of the museums and monuments are closed. It’s also perhaps the attraction most enjoyed by all age groups, and the Lisboa Card gives you reduced admission.

Lisbon from 3 Monumental Rooftops

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Basilica da Estrela, Lisbon

One of Lisbon’s most monumental churches never really opened itself to tourists. Its doors were only open for mass and prayer, with tourists just taking a quick look inside. But it’s now finally decided to open its terrace and dome for tourist visits, on guided tours taking place every half hour.
Many will find it overpriced (it’s 5 euros per person with no discounts available with the Lisboa Card), but anyone will enjoy the views from the top. You reach it through a dizzying spiral staircase, and may enter the dome to see the interior of the church from above.
The views from the terrace by the twin towers include the river, 25 de Abril Bridge and the castle in the distance.

Mosteiro de São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon

It’s one of the city’s main landmarks but it’s often overlooked among so many other attractions. The interior includes a fascinating series of tile panels telling La Fontaine’s fables, while the terrace offers a magnificent view of the city, including of the dome of the National Pantheon right below.

National Pantheon, Lisbon

You can see the dome of the National Pantheon from several parts of the city, and you can also lean against it as you admire a view of the city. You can do it for free on Sundays until 2PM or at any time with the Lisboa Card. Those views include the towers of St. Vincent Monastery and the river.

Coming Soon to Lisbon: A New Cultural Center and Architectural Icon

Monday, April 11th, 2011

EDP Building, Lisbon

It’s just been announced that the neighborhood with the most cultural attractions in Lisbon will have yet another one by the end of 2013. That’s a new cultural center next to and managed by the Electricity Museum which will mostly present temporary exhibitions of contemporary art and also have an auditorium, a café and shop.
The 19-million-euro project will be designed by British architect Amanda Levete (who’s recently also been chosen for the expansion of London’s Victoria & Albert Museum), and will literally be on the river, with the water rising over the steps of the façade.
The top of the building will also be used as a big open space which you’ll be able to walk through and admire the views of the surroundings, further making this a future icon of contemporary architecture in the city.

Who’s Coming to Lisbon: Rihanna, Coldplay, Foo Fighters and More

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Lisbon Concerts

Rihanna, Within Temptation, Guano Apes

Lisbon’s Calendar of Events has just been updated with a list of concerts scheduled until the end December. Others will be announced throughout the year, but so far the names sure to attract the largest crowds are Bon Jovi and Rihanna. Other acts have also been announced to be part of the annual Optimus Alive Festival, which this year will have Coldplay, Foo Fighters, 30 Seconds to Mars and others on stage.
After the summer festivals the concerts continue, and there are already a few scheduled, including that of Within Temptation and Guano Apes.
For the list of all of Lisbon’s events (and ticket information) click here: Lisbon Events and Concerts.