Archive for February, 2012

The 5 Bars to Go Right Now in Bairro Alto

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Bairro Alto, LisbonWhen Bairro Alto became Lisbon’s nightlife neighborhood in the 80s and 90s, it had a variety of bars playing varied sounds (from rock to synthpop to Fado) and attracting diverse groups (from goths to punks to gays). Over the last decade most bars have become almost indistinguishable from each other, focusing on cheap beer, caipirinhas and mojitos. The neighborhood still attracts all kinds of under-40 crowds, gay and straight, but the more alternative bars have moved down the hill towards Bica and the former red light district Cais do Sodré on the riverfront. Nights in Bairro Alto are now essentially a street party, and which bar you end up getting a drink to enjoy outside really only depends on where you’re standing. However, if you’re looking for something different, a place where you can actually sit indoors, or perhaps where you can find more unusual drinks, there are a few places worth looking for. We’ve selected five:

ARTIS
Rua do Diário de Notícias, 95
One of the best bars in town to have a glass of wine, it also serves “petiscos” which is described to the non-Portuguese as “Portuguese tapas.” The wine list is huge, focusing on national wines, which are usually accompanied by a flaming chouriço (sausage) or a plate of cheeses.

TASCA DO CHICO
Rua do Diário de Notícias, 39
This is a Lisbon classic, as traditional as a bar can be, attracting groups of all ages, locals and tourists. The main attraction is Fado, often sung by amateurs in spontaneous performances. You can sit and enjoy a drink in a very informal, upbeat atmosphere, and join others in getting the “chouriço assado,” the roasted sausage.

PONCHA DO BAIRRO
Rua da Barroca, 75
Those looking for an alternative to beer and caipirinhas should try poncha. That’s a traditional drink from the Portuguese island of Madeira, made with brandy, lemon juice and honey. It’s this bar’s specialty, and here it combines other fruits to create close to a dozen varieties.

MARIA CAXUXA
Rua da Barroca, 6-12
As one of the bigger bars in the neighborhood, you’ll find plenty of people sitting inside this bar once you go past the huge crowds by the door. Decorated with retro pieces, it attracts everyone from struggling artists to thirty-something singles.

FRIENDS B.A.
Rua da Rosa, 99
This is one of the few bars open in the afternoon. Its pop hits (thing Gaga and Spears) attract younger groups, many of them gay boys often accompanied by female friends. However, you’ll find all kinds of people sitting with a drink and chatting, despite the blaring music. Setting this place apart from the competition (besides the spacious interior) is the number of books on the walls which give it a more relaxed vibe as a hangout in the early evening.

Lisbon’s New Walking Tours

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Lisbon walking toursVisitors looking to get a greater insight into Lisbon’s culture and history will want to consider one of these recently-launched walking tours. Meant for small groups, both take you through the city’s oldest neighborhoods, pointing out the buildings, the views and the easily-overlooked details. The “Old Town Walking Tour” concentrates in Alfama and the castle hill, taking you places even many locals don’t know about. You go through the maze of twisting streets in a trip that lasts just over three hours and takes place in the morning.
The other tour, the “Lisbon Guided Walking Tour” starts downtown in the heart of the city, Rossio Square. From there it goes up the hill to Chiado, one of the most elegant and pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods, followed by a short ride on a tram to the Alfama district to visit the medieval cathedral. In that neighborhood you’ll also learn about the city’s Fado music before ending up on the riverfront in Comercio Square.
Both these tours are perfect for first-time visitors, allowing you to explore places you’d otherwise miss, and introducing neighborhoods you may then explore on your own, focusing on your more specific interests.
If walking is not for you, you may always consider other types of tours, including those that take you on daytrips to Sintra, Cascais or all the way to Fatima: Lisbon Tours

New Places to See in Lisbon Before You Die

Monday, February 6th, 2012

1000 Places to See Before You DieThe best-selling book “1000 Places to See Before You Die” by author Patricia Schultz inspired countless other copycat “…before you…” publications but it is still the original ultimate “traveler’s life list.” It was first published in 2003 and has recently been updated. A major update is for Portugal and especially Lisbon (“one of Europe’s most alluring capitals”), which now has three “must see” museums. The first book only listed the Gulbenkian but it now highlights “great museums of three collectors.” Those are the Gulbenkian, the Berardo Museum (opened in 2007) and MuDe (design and fashion museum opened in 2009). All three showcase “awe-inspiring gifts” from different collectors (Calouste Gulbenkian, Joe Berardo and Francisco Capelo) who “enriched the city with magnificent museums.”

Another Lisbon addition is Alfama, the “ancient neighborhood where history and Fado live,” and back on the list are Sintra (“the summer resort of palaces and castles”) and Obidos, “the town that belonged to the queens of Portugal.” Other places to see in Portugal “before you die” are the “hilltop castles” in the “ancient border towns” of Estremoz and Marvão, the “open-air museum of Portuguese architecture” that is the city of Evora, the “pleasure palace” of the Buçaco forest, and Madeira, “the pearl of the Atlantic.” New on the list is Porto and the Douro Valley, where “there’s magic in the air.”

After Portugal, you have other 991 places left to see around the world, and many of them are Portuguese-built, from “one of the world’s greatest enclaves of Baroque architecture” that is Brazil’s Ouro Preto to long-forgotten constructions like Ghana’s Elmina Castle.
Perhaps in a future edition the author will also discover Portugal’s Azores, the Coa Valley or the promontory of Sagres, all with a must-feel/must-see mystical atmosphere.