Archive for July, 2011

Alternative Accommodation in Lisbon During the High Seasons

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Lisbon Apartments

If not booked early enough, it may be hard to find a hotel room in Lisbon during the high seasons or whenever there’s a major festival or conference in town. If you find yourself looking for reasonably-priced accommodation in the city when there are no more hotel rooms available, you shouldn’t give up on your trip and instead consider other options — and Lisbon offers plenty of them. The city’s central districts are still home to literally hundreds of decaying buildings, but many of them have now been renovated, others were completely rebuilt, and several are now rented out to tourists. With so many hotels found in the soulless business districts, these apartments really offer the best central and charming locations and, needless to say, much more space and privacy.
Another option is to consider staying in a hostel. In Lisbon a hostel doesn’t necessarily mean shared rooms and loud 20-somethings. The city has repeatedly been recognized as having the world’s best hostels, and many of them offer private rooms and welcome all age groups. Two of them just opened recently, and both are in excellent locations. Rossio Patio is housed in the landmark Rossio Station (meaning you can go straight from your bed to the train to Sintra), and The Independente faces one of the city’s most romantic sites, the viewpoint São Pedro de Alcântara.

But the best alternative to a hotel really is an apartment, and the ones rented out to tourists in Lisbon are all conformably-furnished and fully equipped. The difference between each one is therefore just the number of guests they can accommodate and the location. The neighborhood you choose will depend on the experience you’d like to have. Apartments in Chiado are perfect for those who want to stay in the center of the action, in the city’s liveliest neighborhood, for shopping and cafés. The apartments in Bairro Alto are best for night owls, or young people who don’t get much sleep at night, preferring to stay in bed until later in the morning after a night of drinking in the many neighborhood bars.
Those who choose one of the apartments in Alfama will be experiencing life as a local, in a neighborhood where life goes on as it has for centuries, where neighbors all greet each other in the morning, in a medieval atmosphere now gone from most other big cities in Europe.
The apartments in Baixa will probably be perfect for those who need complete silence at night, as although this is the city’s downtown, it becomes deserted at night when all the businesses close.
Finally, the apartments in Parque das Nações probably offer the most modern spaces, although guests will have to take the metro to reach most of the attractions downtown. Still, Parque das Nações itself offers a number of sights to see, including the Oceanarium.
So whether you choose a hostel or an apartment, you can be sure to find the perfect roof over your head for your nights in Lisbon at any time of the year.

Thailand Celebrates 500 Years of the Arrival of the Portuguese with a New Attraction in Lisbon

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Belem, LisbonMost people remember that the Portuguese were the first Europeans to reach Japan and have colonies in China and India, but what’s often forgotten is that they were also the first ones to reach another Asian location — Thailand. That happened exactly 500 years ago this month and until late 2011 there will be a permanent reminder of that in Lisbon’s Belém district.
That will be a Thai pavilion made of teak (hard timber), built in Bangkok to be shipped and assembled in Lisbon. The exact location will be the gardens by the Jeronimos Monastery, it will be 22 feet high (close to seven meters), and will have Portuguese and Thai motifs. It will present exhibitions and musical shows throughout the year, and may also include a tea room. The name of the monument will be “Sala Thai,” using a word that arrived in Thailand with the Portuguese (in both countries “sala” is a living space within a building).
It will be open to the public before the end of this year but the official inauguration will be in early 2012. Although the king of Thailand apparently won’t be able to attend, he’ll send one of his daughters. The princess will therefore be the guest of honor for an event that will not only unveil a new attraction in Lisbon but also remember the first contact Thailand made with Westerners. Among the interesting results of this cultural exchange was the introduction of sweets, pastries and desserts in Thai cuisine, using eggs for the first time and incorporating sugary traditions from Portugal.
In the meantime, those interested in the Europe-meets-Asia art and culture can visit the Orient Museum in Lisbon.

5 Reasons to Go to Porto this Summer

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

When in Lisbon, many travelers choose to then move on to the beaches of Algarve while others head north to the country’s second city, Porto. This summer you should go for the second option, as it also offers beaches nearby together with a major cultural renaissance. Here are the five main reasons to go now.

Café Astoria, Porto
Café Astória

WINING AND DINING
There’s a new “wine hotel” that’s not only one of Porto’s top accommodation choices but also one of Portugal’s best. Facing the city’s majestic skyline on the other side of the river, The Yeatman‘s inspiration is the famous wine that Porto is famous for. In addition to the luxury of the rooms, it also offers a wonderful spa and restaurant. Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, you may experience its refined gastronomic choices at the Yeatman Restaurant. Outside, you’ll find countless centuries-old wineries offering free guided tours and wine tastings.

A NEW HEART
Downtown Porto (including the monumental Avenida dos Aliados) has undergone a major renovation over the past few years and is now a vibrant area at any time of the day. A new InterContinental hotel just opened a few days ago in a palace facing the city’s main avenue, and several café terraces and bars have given downtown a lively ambience. The new hotel also brought back to life an old café in the same building (Café Astória), and other hotspots to check out on the renovated avenue include Casal Lounge and the always-popular Guarany café.

SHOPPING
The fact that a new Marc Jacobs shop just opened in the center of the city is the latest indication that the major labels have also begun to discover Porto. But the reason to shop here is for the local products and to admire some beautiful storefronts. Many of them maintain charming turn-of-the-century façades and inside you’ll find attractive classic products or surprisingly modern and alternative pieces. One example of the classic-meets-contemporary is the Taken Urban Culture Store which recently took over one of the city’s most iconic shops. More surprises are found at Lobo Taste, home to contemporary crafts. Also worth a look is the Porto home of one of Lisbon’s most famous shops, A Vida Portuguesa, right in the center of the city. More shopping options here: Porto Shops

SEASIDE LOUNGING
Head to the upscale district of Foz where the Douro meets the Atlantic and enjoy the fresh air of the sea. The brand-new Deck Foz is just one option but there are also the already-classic Praia da Luz and Homem do Leme.

NIGHTLIFE
End your day (or night) at the latest hotspot in the city, the rooftop terrace Zenith Lounge. It offers moonlit views of Porto and its river together with cocktails and DJ sounds. Closer to downtown, the latest buzz points to Vila Porto, a club hosting the hottest weekend parties in town.

COMPLETE PORTO GUIDE: GO OPORTO

Deck Foz, Porto
Deck Foz

Lisbon’s Avenida da Liberdade Invites You for a Stroll

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Avenida da Liberdade, LisbonIt recently added half a dozen kiosk-cafés which together with the always-increasing number of sophisticated shops makes it one of Lisbon’s most attractive addresses. Now it’s introducing a number of activities and special events throughout the year, and especially during the summer. That’s Avenida da Liberdade, the grand central boulevard of the city, also home to many top hotels.
This is the result of a private organization made up of the local business owners, planning fashion shows, antique fairs, flower shows, and expanded opening times of the shops, especially on weekends.
Once a busy avenue where most of Lisbon went for a stroll, Avenida da Liberdade has been in decline in the past two decades, as everyone began to prefer the shopping malls. Now there is an evident rebirth of the area and these activities will help bring it back to its centuries-old place as the main meeting point of the city.
It all begins this Thursday with live music, then this weekend will bring an antiques and crafts fair which is to be repeated every second weekend of the month.
The following Thursday will be a night of Fado and the shops will remain open until 10PM, with some of them displaying precious pieces of art belonging to the collection of the Medeiros e Almeida Museum found nearby.
Also planned for the near future are classical music concerts, contemporary dance shows, photo exhibitions in the shops, and movie screenings in the open air on Mondays this August.
When the colder temperatures and the rain comes this winter the activities won’t end, meaning there is always a good reason to go down the avenue.