Posts About 'Lisbon General'

The World Heritage Fado and Other Sounds of Lisbon

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Portuguese music

Fado has just been given World Heritage status by UNESCO, meaning it’s protected as “intangible cultural heritage of humanity,” joining other unique cultural expressions such as the tango and flamenco. This musical style (which is actually more like a poetic recital) is strongly connected to the streets of Lisbon where it was born and has come to be symbolic of the Portuguese soul. Those interested in listening to Fado should look for the greatest Fado diva of all time, Amalia Rodrigues. She defined the style of the genre and has influenced an entire generation of young singers. The album to get is “The Art of Amalia Rodrigues” which should be available wherever World Music is sold. The queen of the new generation of “fadistas” is Grammy-nominated Mariza, and her album “Fado em Mim” is a great introduction to the singer and Fado music itself.

Not Fado but greatly representative of the sound of Lisbon is Madredeus, a band that received great acclaim and worldwide success in the 1990s. Their “Best Of” collection is called “Antologia” where you’ll hear their now-classic hits mixing the influences of Fado and modern folk. A former member has gone solo to great success, with his album “Cinema” having been considered one of the albums of the year by Billboard magazine in 2004. That’s Rodrigo Leão, a musician/composer with an obvious passion for Lisbon reflected in his music.
Also mixing Lisbon’s Fado with folk and pop is Dulce Pontes, a well-known name in World Music. Her biggest hit is “Canção do Mar,” first performed by Amália Rodrigues. You’ve heard that song if you watched the movie “Primal Fear” (starring Richard Gere) or the NBC/TNT drama “Southland” (it’s the theme song). Pontes’ “Best Of” CD is one of the top-selling Portuguese albums of all time.

To understand the relevance of Fado in Lisbon and on Portuguese culture in general, visit the Fado Museum whenever you’re in the city.

Lisbon’s 10 Most-Visited Attractions

Monday, September 5th, 2011

Based on official reports and semi-official numbers, these are Lisbon’s 10-most visited attractions. Some are understandably so, others less worthy of a visit than a few sites missing from the list.

Jeronimos Monastery, Lisbon

This World Heritage Site is Lisbon’s most important monument and naturally receives the most visitors. The church is free and is extraordinarily ornate, but the real attraction are the cloisters.

Attracting over one million visitors every year, this is one of the world’s largest aquariums and it just got bigger with a new extension this year, guaranteeing even more people through its doors for temporary exhibitions.

Locals and tourists (close to a million of them) flock to this ancient hilltop monument every year. It’s seen from almost anywhere in the city, so it constantly invites you to its ramparts.

Apparently everyone thinks “It’s free, so why not go inside?” The reward is one of Europe’s most important modern art collections and it’s now visited more than other famous European museums such as Bilbao’s Guggenheim.

Leaving Lisbon without seeing Belém Tower is like going to Paris and not seeing Eiffel’s. The city icon is on the riverfront almost by the Atlantic, but it’s a pilgrimage everyone must make.

This one is almost inevitable: It’s found halfway between the Tower of Belém and the monastery and is featured on almost every postcard and guidebook of the city. The colossal images of Portugal’s famous explorers also make it a must-stop for photos.

The ride only lasts a few seconds, but the real attraction are the views at the top of this towering elevator with an Eiffel Tower-like structure.

This is Portugal’s most-visited national museum and the reason is that everyone is told that it has the world’s largest and best collection of royal carriages. It’s like entering a Cinderella world that attracts visitors of all ages, making it a perfect family attraction.

The number of visitors has risen every year and that is due to a few important temporary exhibitions that have led many to discover its noteworthy permanent collection, in large part related to Portugal’s Age of Discovery.

Everyone who visits Lisbon will at least pass by on their way to the castle on tram 28. Many end up going inside, and although it’s far from being one of Lisbon’s most beautiful churches, it is its oldest and it is the cathedral.

Discoveries Monument, Lisbon

Now Playing at a Theater Near You: “The Mysteries of Lisbon”

Monday, August 8th, 2011

Mysteries of Lisbon
Now playing at theaters around the world: “The Mysteries of Lisbon.” In the United States it’s already playing in New York and will reach other cities soon (such as San Francisco on September 23rd at the Embarcadero Center Cinema). Apparently it’s already a box office success in Paris which has led to the novel of the same name to become a best seller at the FNAC store in the French capital.
This is a 19th century epic drama written by one of Portugal’s greatest authors, Camilo Castelo Branco, and takes place mostly in Lisbon. There are a few other scenes set in other European capitals such as Paris and Rome, but they were mostly filmed in Lisbon.
Directed by Raul Ruiz, this is a multiple-award winner at film festivals and awards shows, and has received only positive reviews by most critics, including those of The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly.

Filming locations in Lisbon included Foz Palace in Restauradores Square, used for ballroom dancing scenes. Other formerly grand spaces that are now mostly forgotten such as Palácio da Mitra and Quinta da Francelha doubled as other grand residences of the time. Palácio Quintela in Chiado is supposed to be a palatial home in Rome, and Quinta da Ribafria in Sintra served as a home in Portugal when filmed from the front, while the back was supposed to be a house in France. The scene of a duel supposedly set in Portugal’s Buçaco forest, was actually filmed in Lisbon’s own forest-park Monsanto.

You can admire these locations together with the acclaimed cinematography of the entire feature in theaters now (or soon, depending on where you are), and for a preview, here’s the trailer:

Pirates in 1924 Lisbon by Author Laurie R. King

Friday, August 5th, 2011

Laurie R. King is the bestselling author of 21 crime novels, including a historical series featuring young Mary Russell and her somewhat more famous husband, Sherlock Holmes.  King lives in California, but her upcoming novel Pirate King is set partly in Lisbon.

It is the unfortunate habit of crime writers to stumble across dead bodies wherever they go.

It began when my daughter’s husband arranged to spend his sabbatical year with Lisbon’s Instituto Superior Técnico, and I thought, Why can’t I go, too? Not to the Technical Institute — I’m a novelist, not a robotics engineer — but to Lisbon. After all, writing equipment is portable, basically a laptop and a chair.

The laptop I could bring with me. The chair was in a short-hire apartment two floors up from theirs, on Rua Santo António da Glória, a brief climb away from the São Pedro de Alcântara mirador. In the mornings, I would write; in the afternoons, I would explore the city with my daughter.

And since the series I was working on takes place in the 1920s all over the world, there was no reason why my fictional companions couldn’t join me.

In the story, my character, Mary Russell, gets dragged into a motion picture production about pirates — hence the name Pirate King — which for various reasons (this is not a solemn book, by the way) heads off to Lisbon and later, Morocco. Which meant that as I was shopping for fruit at Pingo Doce, riding the #28 tram, buying a printer at FNAC, having a bica and pastel de nata at Café A Brasileira, I was also seeing potential settings for action.

I brought with me a 1923 guide to Portugal, so that I would know what was around for my characters to see. I also brought a Lisbon guidebook by a gentleman named Fernando Pessoa.

Now, I like to use real characters in my novels—Lawrence of Arabia and General Allenby appear in O Jerusalem, Locked Rooms has Dashiell Hammett, and The Game is built around Kipling’s Kim. (Well, more or less real characters.) So I thought, why not a poet?

This being a post about Lisbon rather than Fernando Pessoa, all I will say is, if you haven’t been to the Casa Fernando Pessoa, put it at the top of your list. Only two or three of Pessoa’s 72 “heteronyms” — poetical multiple personalities — appear in the novel, but it was a battle to keep him from taking it over entirely.

Fortunately, as I said, this particular book would be a comic novel. (Thus, the riots and military coups taking place throughout Portugal during that time receive little place in the story.) But it was also a book about the silent film industry, and my crew needed a place to rehearse, so I borrowed the Teatro Maria Vitória. In 1924, the theater was new and dignified, although now it has a rather different personality.

When the picture crew later decides to practice some scenes out of doors, Sr. Pessoa suggests that they move to the adjacent Botanical Gardens, where a certain amount of blood is shed.

But things don’t really heat up until thirteen blond actresses, the makeup woman, the cameraman, and the male lead pile onto a charabanc (there’s too much equipment for the train) and head to Sintra.

In Sintra, I found an embarrassment of choices when it came to setting scenes in a novel (or a silent film, for that matter.) In the end, because the book is also about pirates (whom Sr. Pessoa adored) I decided that the Castelo de Mouros would do best for the purpose. As I left the top of the hill where that Moorish Castle broods, I saw a thing that confirmed that I was indeed making the right choices: a stone in which is carved a skull and crossbones.

So as you walk through the streets of Lisbon, as you survey the harbor and glance at the castle and think about hopping on the train for a day in Sintra, remember: You are walking in the footsteps of Mary Russell, Sherlock Holmes, and the cast of that great film of the silent era, Pirate King.

Pirate King by Laurie R. King

The Pirate King book page includes an excerpt concerning Fernando Pessoa:

The VFM Awards — The Best City in Europe: Lisbon

Monday, May 16th, 2011

The Sunday Times Travel magazineThe June 2011 issue of The Sunday Times Travel magazine features its annual list of what it calls the “VFM Awards.” That’s where it highlights the most affordable places in the world that are also quite rewarding travel experiences (VFM stands for “Value For Money”). In the European category, the “best city” was Lisbon. Described as a “sexy-sultry” destination, this is the second year in a row that it’s been singled out in this category, and 2011’s biggest competitor was second-place Berlin.
Accompanied by a photo of the Bica elevator, the article also highlights the must-see Jeronimos Monastery and the obligatory stop just a few feet away, the Antiga Confeitaria de Belém, better known as the Pastéis de Belém (custard tarts) shop.

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.

The Top 5 Mistakes Tourists Make in Lisbon

Monday, March 21st, 2011

From cultural faux pas to falling into tourist traps, there are always several mistakes tourists make when visiting a new place. Here are the top 5 in Lisbon:
Tourist in Lisbon
Not Buying the Lisboa Card
Most of the biggest tourist cities around the world have a tourist card that allows free or reduced admission to the main attractions and pubic transportation. Sometimes these cards are not worth the investment, but in most cases, it’s a must. In Lisbon it’s perhaps the first thing you should consider when planning your trip, as it ends up paying for itself. Not only do you save time since you don’t have to worry about metro, tram, or bus tickets, but you also end up saving a lot of euros when sightseeing. Here’s what you need to know about the Lisboa Card: Lisboa Card.

Speaking Spanish
TouristsRemember that Lisbon is in Portugal and the official language is Portuguese. You don’t have to speak the language when you visit the city, and you’ll do fine communicating in English. Unless you’re Spanish, Hispanic, or a fluent Spanish speaker, don’t speak Spanish (often bad Spanish) in order to avoid offending cultural pride. Although most Portuguese are able to decipher Spanish (apparently Spaniards have a harder time understanding the guttural sounds of Portuguese), having a tourist thanking with “gracias” instead of “obrigado” can offend the biggest nationalists who’ll remind you that Portugal has its own Iberian language, and that it’s one of Europe’s oldest cultures and nations, founded over three centuries before Spain. Also remember that it’s the castle of “São Jorge” and not “San Jorge” and the nightlife neighborhood is “Bairro Alto” and not “Barrio Alto.”

Eating at Touristy Restaurants
Most of the restaurants from Rossio Square to the riverfront Comercio Square cater to tourists. There are of course a few exceptions, but these restaurants serve mediocre food, the service is often poor, and they prevent you from exploring the city’s real cuisine. The restaurants to avoid are the ones with waiters standing by the door trying to persuade you into going inside, and the ones with illustrated menus (usually of tourist-friendly pastas and burgers) by the entrance.

It’s the Tagus, Not the Atlantic or the Mediterranean
TouristsLisbon stands where the Tagus River meets the Atlantic Ocean. It’s such a wide river, that many people think they’re looking at the sea. If you take the train to Cascais, you’ll see that it does become the Atlantic after you pass the Belem Tower, but in the center of the city, it’s still a river. With Portugal being a Southern European country, many tourists have also reportedly thought they’re standing by the Mediterranean. Other curious mistakes is thinking that the southern bank of the river is Algarve or the island of Madeira. It’s actually Almada, another city.

Not Respecting the Queues
When waiting for a tram or bus, the Portuguese line up and enter the vehicle by order of arrival. Apparently this is not common practice in other countries, and many tourists often just run inside in front of everyone else, leaving the typical old local ladies complaining about your bad manners. This is a tip that doesn’t come in most guidebooks, but it should.

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.

Changes in Lisbon’s Public Transportation in 2011

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Lisbon Metro

The prices of bus or tram tickets in Lisbon have always been the same, but that will change in the new year.
Buses will have an increase of five cents (to €1.50), while riding one of the city’s famous trams will now cost you €2.50.
The landmark funiculars (Santa Justa, Glória, Bica, and Lavra) will cost 3 euros, but those tickets will allow you to go on two rides (even if you just ride once, it will still be €3 euros).
This is yet another reason to acquire the Lisboa Card during a visit to the city, since you’ll be able to ride all public transportation (with the exception of the airport bus) for free.
Lisbon’s metro will also increase the price of its tickets to 90 cents, but it is also free with the Lisboa Card.
Better news was the recent announcement by Carris (the local bus company) that several of its buses will offer free Wi-Fi internet service. Right now it’s only available in buses number 36 and 745, but it will expand to other routes.
To use this service, simply select “CARRIS-TMN” on your computer or smartphone.
However, most tourists never ride the city’s buses, as the metro and the trams take you to all of the city’s attractions.

2010 in Review: A Great Year For Lisbon

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010


The Best Food Year Ever
The year 2010 will stand out in Lisbon for the quality of the city’s new restaurants and promising new chefs. The year started with the New York Times highlighting those chefs, and a number of notable restaurants opened throughout the months that followed.
The first one was Largo, with its beautiful interior and refined cuisine, and later came a trio that already rank among the best in the city: Assinatura, Pedro e o Lobo, and Bistro 100 Maneiras.
Also making news was the opening of two restaurants related to the local fashion world, Opaq and Unique which surprised by paying as much attention to the quality of the menu as they did to the décor and ambience.
Another trendy new restaurant opened later in the year, D’Oliva, which arrived from Porto.
Lisbon’s rise as a gastronomic destination also led to a major article focusing on the city’s best restaurants in Bell’Europa magazine.

The Discovery of Americans
Although the travel industry around the world is complaining of a not-so-positive year, Lisbon can’t really do that because it had at least one emerging market: Americans. The city reportedly received 12.6% more travelers from the United States, perhaps helped by its recent exposure in American media: First it was its selection as the backdrop for the new J. Crew catalogue, and days later as a featured destination in the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. Later came an exhibition of Portuguese design at the MoMA in New York, and over the summer, ABC’s “The Bachelorette” found romance in the city.
Throughout the year Portugal was also featured in several articles in the New York Times’ travel sections, from its “Great Plains”, to the wine country in the north, to advice on spending Christmas in Lisbon, in an article with the collaboration of
Finally, a slice of Lisbon (literraly) is now also available every day in New York, via the best chocolate cake in the world.

More Tourist Satisfaction
2010 also confirmed that Lisbon is a rewarding place to visit. A tourist survey showed strong tourist satisfaction, and the city won “Best Destination” at the European Consumers Choice Awards — and for the second consecutive year, Europe’s Leading City Break Destination at the World Travel Awards.

Cheers with a Glass of Wine
Lisbon has many reasons to celebrate 2010 and to look forward to an even more positive 2011 (despite all the pessimistic reports of economic crisis on the news), and for that it may celebrate with a glass of wine. This year the bars that opened in the city seemed to all focus on local wines, from the renovated Artis to the recent Grapes & Bites, and new restaurants serving traditional Portuguese food accompanied by wine by the glass such as Taberna Tosca.