Archive for January, 2014

10 Things to Do in Lisbon’s Avenidas Novas District

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Although it’s home to a large number of hotels, Lisbon’s Avenidas Novas district is the least touristy in the city. Mostly dating from the the early-to-mid-20th-century, it’s mostly a business and residential area, but there are a couple of museums that top the list of must-see attractions for many tourists. If you’re staying in this part of town, or are simply passing by, consider these often-overlooked recommendations:

Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon

CALOUSTE GULBENKIAN MUSEUM
It’s the must-see museum in town, so many do end up here. But even those who don’t particularly enjoy museums will want to check it out, even if just to enjoy its wonderful gardens. Take advantage of Lisbon’s mostly-sunny weather throughout the spring, summer, and autumn months, and catch some sun or have a picnic on the lawns by the duck ponds. Once inside the museum, you’ll find a treasure trove of masterpieces from the East and West.

MODERN ART CENTER
Those who enjoy modern art will want to discover Portugal’s modern artists. Their work is on display in temporary and permanent collections at this museum on the grounds of the Gulbenkian museum and park. Managed by the same foundation, it also has a good collection of British works.

Versailles Cafe, Lisbon

VERSAILLES CAFÉ
This is the classic European café, with a mirrored interior that could very well be part of a royal palace. Admire the architecture as you enjoy a huge selection of sugary pastries that the café and Lisbon are famous for.

Medeiros e Almeida Museum, Lisbon

MEDEIROS E ALMEIDA MUSEUM
It doesn’t even come listed in many guidebooks so it just may be one of Lisbon’s most wonderfully surprising attractions. It’s the former private residence of a wealthy businessman from the late 1800s, who lived among the works of art he collected. Highlights of a visit include not just those precious pieces, but also the rooms themselves. There’s a Rembrandt portrait, paintings by Rubens and Tiepolo, and the beautiful “Lake Room” covered in tile panels from the 1700s and with a fountain that used to be at the gardens of Versailles.

Museu da Cidade, Lisbon

MUSEU DA CIDADE
Get to know Lisbon a little more by touring this museum that tells the story of its different periods in history. Housed in a palace built by the king for his mistress, it includes a pleasant garden with real peacocks roaming around other ceramic creatures.

Eleven restaurant, Lisbon

ELEVEN RESTAURANT
This Michelin-starred restaurant not only offers fine dining, but also views towards Edward VII Park and beyond. The food is mostly Mediterranean, and is a good choice for a dinner for two or for a larger group.

DeCastro Elias restaurant, Lisbon

DECASTRO ELIAS RESTAURANT
One of the top local chefs that concentrates on traditional Portuguese cuisine for modern tastes is Miguel Castro Silva. He’s behind a trio of restaurants in town, and at this one not far from the Gulbenkian, he specializes in “petiscos”, the tapas-like Portuguese dishes based on classic recipes.

El Corte Ingles, Lisbon

EL CORTE INGLÉS
Lisbon’s two big department stores in Chiado burned down in a major fire in 1988, so this Spanish giant is currently the only one in the city. Skip the malls and head here instead on a rainy day, and you’ll find everything you expect from a department store, but will also find a good food court on the lower level.

VARANDA RESTAURANT
It’s worth a splurge at one of the city’s most refined restaurants. It’s on the top floor of the Ritz Four Seasons Hotel, and offers buffet lunches and a la carte dinners with city views. The food mixes Portuguese and international flavors.

Panorama bar, Sheraton Hotel, Lisbon

PANORAMA BAR
End your day above Lisbon, at the top of the Sheraton Hotel. Have a drink in an elegant, relaxed space overlooking the city below.

What’s Happening in Lisbon in 2014

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Ribeira das Naus, Lisbon

NEW GREEN SPACES
Two projects that were supposed to have been completed in 2013 will only be ready in 2014. The creation of a big hilltop garden overlooking the city by the Graça viewpoint was stalled when skeletons of around 50 people were found. Believed to date back to the 1755 earthquake, they caused the archaeologists to head to the site, and the garden should now only be ready by the summer. That’s also when the final phase of the Ribeira das Naus waterfront promenade shall finally come to an end. While the steps leading down to the water is already a “beach” for many locals and tourists, the green space behind it is taking much longer than anticipated due to various issues, from unfavorable weather to archaeological finds.

MUSIC
Names like Michael Bublé (in February) and Beyoncé (in March) will make Lisbon part of their tour this year, and 2014 is also a year of Rock in Rio-Lisboa which happens every two years. Already announced for the festival (taking place from May 23rd to June 1st) are Justin Timberlake, Arcade Fire and Robbie Williams.
Another regular festival is Optimus Alive which so far has announced Arctic Monkeys, The Black Keys and Imagine Dragons (on June 10, 11 and 12).

SHOPPING
Avenida da Liberdade will see the opening of even more luxury stores, with the next one said to be Chanel. For something more local, look for the shoes of Portuguese designer Luis Onofre later this year on the same avenue.
For local flavor, you will find a rejuvenated Ribeira Market on the waterfront this summer. In addition to the fresh produce and fish already available, it will add new shops, a restaurant and bar, as well as around 20 kiosks for meals and drinks.

REGULAR EVENTS
The half marathon which crosses 25 de Abril Bridge is taking place on March 16th, the popular independent film festival IndieLisboa from April 24th to May 4th, the fish-themed gastronomic festival Peixe em Lisboa also in April, the Out Jazz festival which takes over several of the city’s gardens on weekends over the summer will be back, the international documentary film festival returns in October, as does the Lisbon & Estoril Film Festival in November. The biggest parties of the year happen, as always, in June, culminating on the night of the 12th with the street feasts.

NEW HOTELS
For the last couple of decades, most hotels in Lisbon opened in the more modern and soulless parts of the city, but the trend is now to renovate old buildings in the old town and downtown. Opening in 2014 are three around Avenida da Liberdade, and two in the Baixa district. We’ll have more details when they open, but in the meantime you may look for a room in Lisbon here: Hotels, apartments or hostels.