What’s New to Experience in Lisbon this Fall

If you prefer to avoid summer’s crowds and high temperatures when you travel but still wish sunny and pleasant weather, you may want to visit Lisbon this fall. There are brand new spots and events to experience at that time, in addition to all of the city’s regular attractions. Here are the highlights of what’s happening in Lisbon after the summer.

Triumphal Arch, Lisbon

The triumphal arch that links the pedestrian shopping street Rua Augusta to the large Comercio Square will open its rooftop terrace for tourist visits by late August. An elevator is currently being installed inside the monument, and once operational, it will offer visitors the opportunity to see all of downtown Lisbon from above, including the square and an up-close view of the sculptures that top the arch.

Graça Park, Lisbon

It will be the biggest park in the old town but it’s not size that makes this a major new attraction — it’s the view. A large green area next to the popular Graça viewpoint which had always been closed to visitors is currently being cleaned up and will open as a public park in September. It will have 178 different species of plants, a large central lawn and children’s playgrounds. Plus the view of almost the entire city.

A Moorish-style mansion from the 1800s in the Principe Real neighborhood has been converted into a new shopping complex. Said to be a “modern souk,” it was inspired by the architecture of the building, but instead of a traditional bazaar it focuses on contemporary lifestyle products. It will offer fashion, design and art, as well as a restaurant starting in September.

Ribeira das Naus, Lisbon

A new waterfront promenade opened last March and has become the “beach” of central Lisbon this summer. The large area behind it, which used to be closed as private property of the buildings around it, will become a new park by October. This is the site of the shipbuilding and docking during the Age of Discovery which is why it’s called “Ribeira das Naus” (Ships’ Riverfront). Although it will be crossed by a two-way road, it will be mostly a tree-filled pedestrianized area, and will incorporate the historic dock that had been buried over the last couple of centuries.

2013 is a year of the city’s design biennial and it will occupy different spaces of the neighborhoods of Chiado and Belém. It will have four major design-related exhibitions, starting on November 7th and lasting until late December. You may consult all the activities here: www.experimentadesign.pt

The architecture triennale coincides with the design biennial this year, so the end of 2013 will be big on the arts. Taking place from September 12th to December 15th, it will present architecture exhibitions, debates and special events throughout the city. More info here: www.trienaldelisboa.com

Amadeo de Souza Cardoso was one of Portugal’s top artists of all time, and the Modern Art Center is presenting a special exhibition with all of his works in the museum’s collection together with others of his contemporaries (from around 1910 to 1920) until January.

10 Things to Do in Lisbon in the Summer of 2013

Joana Vasconcelos at Ajuda Palace, Lisbon

The most visited exhibition of the Palace of Versailles comes to Lisbon. The Ajuda Palace will show the works by Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos that were seen in France (including the famous shoes made of pans) and will add a few new pieces. You can see them from March 23rd to August 25th.

Lisbon waterfront

After several delays, Lisbon’s renovated waterfront next to Comercio Square is promised to be ready by the summer. Known as “Ribeira das Naus” (“Ships Riverfront”), this was where Lisbon’s explorers had their ships made. It will now be a public space to relax, to sit in the sun and enjoy the scenery.

The main event is on the night of June 12 and on June 13th, but the “Festas de Lisboa” (“Lisbon Feasts”) really happen throughout the summer. You’ll find several outdoor events throughout the city from June to September, from free jazz concerts to street performances, especially downtown and in the squares of Chiado.

Lisbon’s summers are always big on music festivals and 2013 will be no exception. While this year there is no Rock in Rio-Lisboa, there will be the Optimus Alive festival with names like Green Day, Depeche Mode, Kings of Leon, and Editors, and the Super Bock Super Rock festival with Arctic Monkeys, The Killers, Queens of the Stone Age, among others. Best of all is that these festivals take place by the coast, allowing you to get some beach days in between. Among other concerts happening in the city this summer are those of Bon Jovi and Alicia Keys.

One of Lisbon’s best-but-overlooked museums is the Chiado Museum, the national museum of contemporary art. It’s a great place to discover the art of Portugal’s best contemporary artists and it just unveiled its new permanent collection. You’ll see works from between 1850 to 1975 and the names to look for are Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso, Almada Negreiros and Paula Rego.

Myriad Hotel, Lisbon

2013 has so far been huge on new hotel openings. This is the result of Lisbon being one of the rising stars of European travel and because it’s no longer just a seasonal low-cost destination, there are increasingly more upscale (yet still affordable) hotels. Recently-opened or about to be (and all centrally-located), there are new boutique and design hotels you’ll want to be among the first to experience. Check out the new Lisboa Carmo Hotel, Mercy Hotel, Myriad Hotel, Teatro Hotel, Beautique Hotel Figueira, Epic Sana Hotel and Memmo Alfama. Alternatively, you may choose one of the many new or renovated centrally-located apartments.

Lisbon is currently going through a gastronomic revolution that will keep on growing. The New York Times called it the city’s “Culinary Golden Age,” with creative young chefs investing in new restaurant projects since 2010. This year is no different, with new star-chef restaurants opening in the center of the city. The new Honra by Olivier serves traditional Portuguese cuisine with a personal twist on Figueira Square, Michelin-star chef Jose Avillez is adding a pizzeria to Chiado which gives him a trio of restaurants in the neighborhood, and other spots are reinventing themselves with new menus like the beautiful Tacho à Mesa by Faz Gostos.

Comercio Square is one of Europe’s largest public squares, and the second biggest royal square after St. Petersburg’s Palace Square. The statue of king José I placed at the center in 1779 is currently being restored and will be unveiled like new in August. Also being cleaned up is the same square is the triumphal arch which should be completed by then as well.
In the meantime you may always enjoy the terraces of the new cafes and restaurants placed under the arches of the eastern and western wings.

Avenida da Liberdade, Lisbon

Lisbon’s Avenida da Liberdade has become a true luxury shopping destination, reinforced by new shops of international brands like Miu Miu and Officine Panerai, and a renewed Emporio Armani. Joining them this summer is a major new Cartier store and the less-luxurious-but-very-popular Guess.

Castelo dos Mouros, Sintra

Also given a new life is the 1300-year-old Moorish Castle in Sintra. Thanks to ticket sales from a growing number of tourists to the region, this ancient landmark has now added new facilities to accommodate visitors and restored parts of the monument in the process. While the fairytale Pena Palace nearby gets all the attention, the Moorish Castle should also be part of your itinerary in 2013 and beyond.

The Best Sunrises and Sunsets in Lisbon

Lisbon is known as a sunny city and one of the things that most make it unique is not just being the European capital with the most sunshine hours per year but also the fact that’s it’s the only one where the sun sets in the ocean.
So more than a place where you can get a tan in an urban or cultural capital environment, Lisbon is also a place for romantic moments watching the sun rise and set.

Sunrise, Lisbon

The best spot to see the first glimpse of the Earth’s closest star in Lisbon is the Portas do Sol (“Gateway of the Sun”) terrace. Depending on the time of the year, you’ll either see it rise from behind the dome of the National Pantheon or further to the right reflecting on the water. You’ll obviously have to wake up early for that and although this part of the city only has a couple of hotels, there are plenty of apartments. This terrace is right outside the castle, so you may also consider staying at Solar do Castelo which is within its walls.

Lisbon Sunset

For the sunset you have more options. You may either choose the ramparts of the castle for the sight of the last rays flooding the city, or you may sit at the wharf Cais das Colunas which is the river side of Comercio Square. There you’ll see the sun set behind the 25 de Abril Bridge, but to see it plunge onto the horizon you have to head to the district of Belem. The perfect sunset spot is the river’s edge behind the Tower of Belem, which is seen in silhouette (pictured below) on the eastern side, and with a golden hue on the other side during the last minutes of sunlight. Although you won’t get city views on this spot, this is as close as you get to seeing the sun hide on the Atlantic.
Those who want to see it from their bedroom should consider a stay at the Altis Belem Hotel just a few feet from the tower.
A spot for a drink as the sun goes down in this part of town is the “À Margem” café, found between the tower and the Discoveries Monument.

Sunset, Lisbon

10 Monuments and Attractions in Lisbon That Tourists Never See

Fonte Luminosa, Lisbon

Everyone passes underneath it on the metro (it’s where two lines meet, one of them connecting the city center to the airport), but no one imagines what’s above ground. This is Alameda, one of the main open spaces of the Avenidas Novas district and its main attraction is this monumental fountain. Built in 1940 during WWII when Lisbon was a neutral safe haven, it was named “fonte luminosa” (luminous fountain) because of its light displays at night. Recently the water disappeared for some time as the monument was cleaned up, but the beloved waterfall was back and running by late 2012. The water shows take place in early-afternoon at lunchtime and again after the sun goes down. In daylight or lit up in the darkness of the night, the effect is quite impressive.

Parque de Santana, Lisbon

Ask most people in Lisbon where you can see these charming windmills, and they won’t be able to tell you. If locals don’t know about them, it’s only natural that tourists never see them either. They’re found in a neighborhood park in the Ajuda district above Belém, and date from the 18th century. At that time this was farmland and while others were destroyed in order to build the apartment buildings that now surround them, these two survived at the top of the park. The entrance is through Rua Tristão Vaz and you can enter until 6PM in winter and 8PM in spring and summer.

Mãe D'Água, Lisbon

Lisbon’s huge 18th-century aqueduct had several reservoirs around the city and this is one of them. Found by the Rato metro station, it’s part of the Water Museum and includes a beautiful underground waterfall, but the best part is perhaps going up on the terrace for city views that very few get to see.

Capela de São Jeronimo, Lisbon

It was completed in 1514 by the same architect as the Jeronimos Monastery found down the hill, but this is one of the most overlooked monuments in the city. The reason is that the interior can only be visited by appointment, but the main attraction is not really what’s inside. The real reason to head up here from Belém (directly up the avenue across from Belém Tower) is the view of the river and of the city’s most monumental district.

Monsanto, Lisbon

It’s the largest urban forest in Europe but you won’t find any tourists there. It’s mostly frequented by picnicking families on weekends but you’ll also see groups playing soccer, basketball, skating or jogging in the several special sports areas. Best of all is the natural amphitheater overlooking the 25 de Abril Bridge. There is no metro station nearby but you may reach it on bus 711 from downtown.

Igreja da Pena, Lisbon

Lisbon’s least-known funicular (the “Elevador do Lavra”) leads to the small garden viewpoint of Torel up the hill which locals head to for a relaxing break at the kiosk café. What few know about it that a small church nearby hides one of the first golden baroque interiors in Portugal. Dating from 1705, this was the first monument in Lisbon covered in gilt which came to be one of the city’s main architectural features.

Capela Bemposta, Lisbon

When the former queen of England (Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza) returned to Portugal in 1693, she needed a new home fit for the queen that she was. She had a palace built at the top of one of Lisbon’s hills (on a street now called “Paço da Rainha” or “Queen’s Palace”) which is now occupied by the Military Academy and therefore not open to visitors, but the chapel at the center of the building is open to all for church services. You may see it on Sunday mornings, past marble statues at the entrance, with a baroque interior that includes a beautifully-painted ceiling and portraits of members of the royal family by Irish artist Thomas Hickey.

Monte Agudo, Lisbon

Lisbon is known for its beautifully scenic hilltop terrace viewpoints and there are so many of them that the less central ones are completely forgotten. This one is found close to but outside the tourist center (Rua Heliodoro Salgado) and was renovated in 2009, now attracting many locals, especially for its more recent café terrace. Here you can overlook the rooftops of Lisbon’s older and more modern districts all the way to the river, always with the scent of the pine trees behind you.

Igreja de São Sebastião, Lisbon

A short walk from the Spanish El Corte Ingles department store uptown (on Largo de São Sebastião da Pedreira) is this small church that’s completely unremarkable outside, but quite impressive inside. Mixing gold leaf and blue ceramic tiles, it creates an unexpected show of Baroque architecture from floor to ceiling. It’s one of the rare survivors of the 1755 earthquake and is dedicated to St. Sebastian whose life is illustrated on the ceiling.

Mouraria, Lisbon

Known as Lisbon’s most rundown neighborhood, Mouraria has been renovated over the last couple of years and locals are discovering the charm of one of the city’s oldest districts that’s now its most multiethnic. It’s a curious mix of Chinese and Indian businesses with authentic Lisbon soul, as this is the recognized birthplace of the city’s Fado music. There are many picturesque alleys, little squares, and architectural details, with the most noteworthy being a gothic home behind the church of São Cristovão, one of the oldest buildings still standing in Lisbon and such a rare survivor in a European capital.

5 Alternatives to the Beach in Lisbon

If you’re looking to catch some sun in Lisbon but prefer to stay in the center of the city instead of heading to the coast, here are a few spots to get your Lisbon tan:

Cais das Colunas

The wharf that the monumental Comercio Square opens into once welcomed travelers to the city when they arrived by boat. Now it’s a magnet for everyone to rest as they go around the city admiring its scenic beauty. Some tourists even get their feet wet, others take photos with 25 de Abril Bridge as the backdrop, and others end up spending a couple of hours just sitting enjoying the serenity of Lisbon’s refreshing Atlantic location.

Docas de Santo Amaro

These tourist-friendly docks offer more than postcard views and several places to eat. They’re also the place to relax on the waterfront, watching the cruise ships go by, admiring the boats and doing some sun worshipping.

Jardins de Belem, Lisbon

Lisbon’s most visited neighborhood is known for its monuments, but Belém is also a place to relax between sightseeing on the lawns between all the landmarks. Whether closer to Belem Tower or already by the shadow of 25 de Abril Bridge, you’ll see tourists and locals laying in the sun and being cooled off by the ocean breeze.

Portas do Sol

Not only is it one of Lisbon’s most beautiful viewpoints with one of its most inviting terrace cafes, it’s also a great spot to stand in the sun. Instead of the Atlantic you have the river Tagus in front of you, but with the loungy music of the café playing in the background you can imagine yourself relaxing at a summer resort.

Tapada das Necessidades

Once the private picnic park of Portugal’s kings, this green oasis is now hidden in the center of the city and largely deserted despite being open to all. It’s found behind a gate next to a palace that is now the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and when the sun is shining you’ll often see couples or small groups of people in their beachwear working on their tans. There are many other parks in the city where you can do that but this is where you’ll feel like you’re in your own private garden.