Lisbon’s comin’ at ya!

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Lisbon’s comin’ at ya!

In Lisbon, a new creative economy is emerging from Portugal’s economic disaster. Smart policy is partly to thank, but then again, Lisbon has few other options.

Lisbon’s Thriving Creative Economy

Will Dyer came to Portugal for the waves but ended up staying for the art. “I was expecting a poor country with a good surf scene, but Lisbon has blown my mind. There is so much cultural stuff happening here,” the 28-year-old from Melbourne, Australia, tells OZY.

He’s decided to stay a month to explore places like the LX Factory, the beating heart of Lisbon’s new creative scene. This once derelict industrial complex in Alcântara, near the port, now looks like a cross between a Western movie set and a trendy East London market, with long, dusty roads and warehouses buzzing with hip restaurants, shops, bookstores and galleries created by ingenious locals and frequented by design-savvy tourists. LX Factory is just one of the many artistic spaces popping up in Lisbon. Like the graffiti that grows on the city’s rundown buildings, a new creative industry is taking over Portugal’s capital.

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“I really do not know any other place with this atmosphere. It’s like a village, but our clients are from all over the world,” says Margarida Eusébio, owner of local interior design firm and concept store Wish.

This creative renaissance, it turns out, is not spontaneous, but rather the product of opportunistic public policy. In times of crisis, most governments take the knife to spending aimed at promoting art, design or publishing. But continental Europe’s westernmost capital decided instead to concentrate scarce resources on its “creative economy.”

There may not be much choice, given the sad state of Portugal’s economy. Still, investing in creativity seems to be paying off. “Lisbon is going through the same process that Barcelona or Berlin went through in the ’90s. It attracts creativity because it unites modernity to a rich cultural past and conveys a captivating liveliness”, says Bruno Gomes from the incubator Startup Lisboa. Creative types now account for some 20 percent of Berlin’s GDP.

And Lisbon’s has perks that established creative hubs just can’t touch. Unlike Barcelona, tourists haven’t completely overrun it. The cost of living is laughably cheap compared to London: $1800 for a small apartment and a $5 for beer, while in Lisbon it’s $470 and $1.50 respectively. And Berlin’s dreary skies can’t begin to compete with Lisbon’s 200 days of sunshine every year. Being a crisis-born agency allows us to adapt better to the market.

To be sure, Portugal’s economy is in the tank, and Lisbon’s creative scene is a lonely bright spot. Unemployment is still at 15.2 percent, GDP is expected to grow this year by just 1.4 percent, and the fragility of Portugal’s banks continues to scare markets and investors.

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The decline of local demand is also clipping the wings of these new companies. That’s why the majority of people roaming the dusty alleys of the LX Factory are foreigners, and many creative startups work mostly with clients from places like the U.K., France, Brazil and even Angola.

Still, creatives say the economic downturn has been good for them. “We wouldn’t have a business if it weren’t for the crisis,” says Nuno Cruces, an energetic 30-year-old who last year co-founded BeeInsight, a software development agency. “When you don’t have anything to lose and no jobs to apply for, you get the courage to create your own thing.”

“Being a crisis-born agency allows us to adapt better to the market,” says Lisboner Pedro Lago de Freitas from branding agency Brandworkers, which has designed PR campaigns for small companies since 2011. “People have lower budgets, meaning they are less interested in working with big, expensive agencies. So we created a small company but packed with talent.”

There are 22,000 ‘creative companies,’ which can now access Lisbon’s more than 20 co-working spaces, four fab labs and 13 startup incubators.

Many young Portuguese are seeking work abroad, but Lisbon might soon attract talent. “It’s the best city in the world to be a creative,” says Natacha Duarte, a busy 34-year-old freelance textile designer who spent seven years working in Spain and creates patterns for labels like Zara. “Lisbon is a great place to live and is not yet saturated like London or Berlin are. New ideas and creative business are always welcome.”

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Lisbon’s City Council is going all out to support it. “The ultimate goal is to create jobs,” says Paulo Soeiro de Carvalho, general director for economy and innovation. “We hope new companies will generate employment, bring investment and help economic recovery.” The Lisbon region already generates about 30 percent of creative employment and almost half the industry’s gross value in the country.

With money short, government strategy is to bring creative players together and nurture a supporting infrastructure. There are 22,000 “creative companies” — from fashion to architecture — and all of them can now access Lisbon’s more than 20 co-working spaces, four fab labs and 13 startup incubators, paid for by funds from private companies, foundations and the City Council, whose flagship project, Startup Lisboa, is downtown.

The growing industry has helped to rehabilitate historic buildings, reuse obsolete infrastructure and turn abandoned areas into ‘creative districts.’

The efforts have earned the city the title of Entrepreneurial Region 2015 from the European Commission.

The council has also packed the city’s calendar with cultural events like the Lisbon Architecture TriennaleLisbon’s Fashion Weekand the Lisbon & Estoril Film Festival. In August, Lisbon hosted the International Street Art Festival and will be home to the Global Shapers2015 in September, Coworking Europe Conference in November and European Creative Hubs Forum in January.

The growing industry has  helped to rehabilitate historic buildings, reuse obsolete infrastructure and turn abandoned areas into what the council calls “creative districts.”

Pensão Amor in Cais do Sodré is a renovated 18th-century house for prostitutes now with a bookstore and spaces for concerts and ateliers; the old Braço de Prata Factoryis now a legal artistic squat, in Poço do Bispo; the area of Santos is branding itself as Santos Design District; and even Intendente, a neighborhood notorious for drugs and prostitution, is getting a face-lift thanks to spaces like Casa Independente, a beautiful 19th-century palace.

The council is designing several microfinance projects to fund ventures and next year will launch the city’s own crowdfunding platform, in partnership with the philanthropic Foundation Calouste Gulbenkian, the bank Montepio and several universities.

Of course this creative renaissance could eventually boost prices, gentrify the city and price young creatives out of the market. That, however, looks like success and is unlikely to happen soon. Meanwhile, wake up, Barcelona. Watch out, Berlin. Lisbon’s comin’ at ya!

artigo de Laura Secorun Palet publicado no Fast Forward OZY

Source: A Cidade na Ponta dos Dedos

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Stunning village built into gigantic stone

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Stunning village built into gigantic stone

Living beneath a roof that weighs more than the average cruise ship may make some people a little nervous. 

But it is commonplace for the residents in the Portuguese village of Monsanto, who adapted their homes around the environment filled with gigantic granite stones.

In the mountaintop village, homes are sandwiched between, under and even in the 200-tonne rocks. 

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Watch your head! The enormous rocks have been utilised as walls, floors, and most astoundingly, as roofs for houses that date back to the 16th century.

In 1938, Monsanto was named 'the most Portuguese village in Portugal', though its jaw-dropping land forms make it anything but regular.

Located in the municipality of Idanha-a-Nova, in eastern Portugal near the Spanish border, Monsanto sits at 2,486 feet above sea level and has spectacular views.

Donkey is the preferred form of transport for Monsanto's 800 residents, who have managed to maintain the village's medieval character.

The lush green land with homes built into the landscape looks like something out of Lord of the Rings

The lush green land with homes built into the landscape looks like something out of Lord of the Rings

Villagers have formed their homes around the existing rocks, rather than attempt to move them

Villagers have formed their homes around the existing rocks, rather than attempt to move them

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The cliffs surrounding the village are strewn with enormous rocks

The cliffs surrounding the village are strewn with enormous rocks

Monsanto is perched at 2,486 feet above sea level

Monsanto is perched at 2,486 feet above sea level

Source: Dailymail

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Is Portugal the Most Exciting Wine Place?

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Is Portugal the Most Exciting Wine Place?

Matt Kramer is putting down roots in what he considers the world's most exciting wine region at the moment: Portugal.

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PORTO, Portugal—If you’ve read my stuff over the years, you may recall that I like to dive into places that grip my wine imagination. So in the past I, and my wife, Karen, have lived in Buenos Aires, Melbourne, Venice and Piedmont for varying lengths of time, our minimum residence three months. If there’s a privilege to being a wine writer, this is it.

Deciding where to go is not an entirely rational thing. Although all sorts of places appeal, the decision to set up house elsewhere is fundamentally emotional. Something about the culture, the landscape, the people and, not least, the wine, has to exert a siren call, an irresistible pull.

That, in the proverbial nutshell, is what happened with Portugal. For all the time I’ve spent in Europe over the decades—we’ve bicycled for months at a time in France alone, never mind living for long stretches in Italy—I have to confess that we never bothered with Portugal. The wines, apart from Port, for so long seemed lackluster. You could taste the lack of ambition.

But in the course of tasting, I began to receive different messages in the bottle, as it were. Something seemed to be stirring, or so the wines suggested. So in the past year or so, we visited Portugal twice. I loved what we saw, who we met, what we ate and, above all, what I tasted.

So I began to investigate Portuguese wines more closely. What at first appeared promising—and extremely enjoyable—turned out to be nothing less than revolutionary. I came to what I freely confess is an emotional conclusion: Portugal is arguably the most exciting wine place on the planet today.

Now, whether that’s demonstrably, provably so is beside the point. It’s how I as a wine lover, a wine taster, a wine drinker, felt. And that’s all that matters for any of us, isn’t it?

“Let’s live in Portugal for a few months,” I proposed to my wife.

“Why not?” she agreeably replied.

So now, as I write this, we’re newly settled into pretty nice digs in the Ribeira district of Porto. (And, yes, everything about this jaunt is on my own dime, just in case you were wondering.)

Much as we enjoyed Lisbon, there was no question that for us Porto would be “home.” It’s just the right size (1.3 million people in the larger urban area); it’s an ancient city that has retained much of its architecture intact (the Ribeira zone where we live is a UNESCO World Heritage site); and not least, it’s the closest city to the great Douro wine region.

That last fact is not insignificant. In the same way that you’ve really got to see the Grand Canyon sometime before you die, the same—for wine lovers, anyway—applies to the Douro wine zone. It is, in a word, boggling. Really, I’ve never seen anything quite like it: more vast than I had imagined, more forbidding in its endless stone vineyard terraces, and just plain more improbable than any other wine area I’ve seen. I mean, what kind of a wine area has growers using dynamite just to create a hole in which to plant a grapevine? It’s scary beautiful.

And now it’s changing. The Douro has famously been consecrated for more than three centuries to just one wine: Port. But the past few decades have not been kind to the Port business. The modern mass palate turned away from it, although there’s still a sizable number of drinkers who enjoy at least a sip from time to time. Make no mistake: Port is hardly about to disappear.

That noted, there’s no question that the Douro zone is changing. One (rough) fact tells all: In the past 15 years or so, about half of the wine production from the larger Douro zone—an area that extends beyond the boundaries designated for Port production—is now table wine. That’s really incredible. I know of no other historically significant wine zone that has transformed to anywhere near that degree.

So I wanted to be close to the Douro action. The table wines emerging from the Douro can be thrilling. Many—most even—are still works in progress. After all, nobody knew how to make table wine in the Douro. But they’re learning mighty fast. The best wines are stunners, truly world-class in their originality, flavor distinction, character, depth and finesse.

The dry white Douro wines can be surprisingly compelling. It’s surprising because the place is take-your-breath-away hot in the summer. (One winegrower said to me: “The Douro is eight months of paradise and four months of hell.”) So how can the white wines be so crisply good? Elevation. The best whites come from old vines grown in elevations upwards of 2,000 feet.

So the Douro is mighty interesting. But it’s not the real reason why I’ve chosen to take time to live in Portugal. It’s because of the grapes. Portugal is home to a dazzling number of indigenous grape varieties that create wines of supreme originality. You’re looking at red grapes such as Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinto Roriz, Baga and hundreds of others, and white grapes such as Arinto, Viosinho, Rabigato, Códega do Larinho and Gouveio, among many others.

Until very recently, the Portuguese did a pretty poor job with this patrimony. Too often the wines were dirty-tasting, from old, unclean barrels. The winemaking was crude, the ambition for greatness non-existent.

No more. Portugal is now gushing with stunning wines—and yes, stunning deals. Call me a value hound, but except for a tiny handful of reach-for-the-sky wines (and every wine nation needs those, too), Portugal very likely now offers some of the greatest wine values on the market today. The reason is easily grasped: Portugal’s achievement is still recent, and the word hasn’t quite made the rounds.

That’s why I’m here. And that’s why you’ll be hearing yet more. (And no, we don’t have a guest room.)

Source: Winespectator

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10 Best Wine Region to Visit

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10 Best Wine Region to Visit

The corks are pulled, the votes are in, and readers of USA TODAY and 10Best have passionately voted Portugal's Alentejo the #1 'Best Wine Region to Visit,' from among 20 worthy nominees.  

Our well-travelled expert nomination panel - a wine educator and a wine buyer - made the original selections and then readers voted daily during the contest's four-week run.  While British Columbia's Okananagan Valley enjoyed an early lead, fans of Portugal's appealing Alentejo region eventually assured it took top honors.

Photo of Ronald Isarin

Photo of Ronald Isarin

"When most people think of Portugal, they immediately think of Douro," says Kerry, "but head a little further south to Alentejo and you won’t be disappointed. Boutique wineries, full service hotels, great restaurants and of course terrific wines (mostly known for hardy red wines) make for a great wine travel experience."

The vast Alentejo, stretching to Portugal's southwestern coast, is still off the radar for many travelers.  This intriguing rural region is like a trip back in time.  The diverse terrain holds olive groves and vineyards, quaint villages, flower-filled meadows and forests. 

"The Alentejo is best known for its hardy red wines made from a unique combination of indigenous varietals," says Kerry Woolard, who served on the expert panel.  "Now, more familiar vinifera such as Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot are being produced there too."

The food in Alentejo is rustic and authentic, taking full advantage of the agrarian lifestyle in the area.  You won't find a developed coastline of hotels;  instead Alentejo's beaches - considered some of the most dramatic and beautiful in Europe - require visitors to seek out lodging in independent guest houses.  The Alentejo is like a trip back in time for wine lovers.  The Faro and Lisbon airports are each less than two hours away.  

The full list of winners in the USA TODAY 10Best Readers' Choice contest for 'Best Wine Region to Visit' contest category is as follows:

  1. Alentejo, Portugal
  2. Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
  3. Maipo, Chile
  4. Marlborough, New Zealand
  5. Croatia
  6. Napa Valley, Calif.
  7. Tuscany, Italy
  8. Oregon
  9. Hunter Valley, Australia
  10. Virginia

Source: 10 best

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Best European country to visit

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Best European country to visit

Portugal won first place at the USA Today “10Best Readers’ Choice” contest for ‘Best European Country” to travel.

According to the editors, “Portugal is less iconic than other well-known countries, but it offers a wealth of opportunities to travelers: charming villages, great food, fascinating regional music, cultural opportunities, a beautiful coastline and even world-class surfing.”

They also wrote, “Much underrated Portugal has all the trappings of a pretty European country: cobbled villages beneath the shadows of medieval castles, sun-kissed beaches, a delectable culinary tradition and plenty of history to explore. Whether swimming in the turquoise waters of the Algarve, sipping a glass of port at a Porto cafe or listening to the melancholy lament of a fadista in Lisbon, Portugal’s understated beauty becomes obvious.”

The other countries that made the top 10 list include Italy, Austria, Germany, United Kingdom, Spain, Ireland, France, Iceland and Switzerland. All nominees were chosen by experts in the Travel Industry.

The USA Today “10Best” provides its users with original, unbiased, and experiential travel content on top attractions, things to do, and restaurants for top destinations in the US and around the world.

Source: Portuguese American Journal

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TOP 10 LISBON RESTAURANTS

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TOP 10 LISBON RESTAURANTS

BELCANTO

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Many have traveled to Lisbon just to dine at this restaurant. It opened in 1958, and was awarded a Michelin star in 2013, recognizing the talent of chef José Avillez, who revived the space in 2012. Avillez has other restaurants in town, but it's here that he presents his signature cutting-edge Portuguese cuisine.

FEITORIA

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Being located at the starting point of many of the Portuguese explorers' voyages, this restaurant distinguished with a Michelin star adds a touch of the exotic to Portuguese cuisine. The East is everywhere, starting with the décor, which includes an image of the Portuguese arriving in Japan. The menu changes twice a year so that only seasonal ingredients are used, and there's a wide selection of wines.

ELEVEN

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This restaurant with panoramic city views at the top of Edward VII Park is another of Lisbon's Michelin stars. It presents Mediterranean cuisine by the talented chef Joachim Koerper in an elegant dining room.

100 MANEIRAS

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Chef Ljubomir Stanisic mixes innovation and humor in his tasting menus, using products found at the Ribeira Market. That's how he guarantees freshness and surprise in every dish, without forgetting his signature creation, the "Estendal do Bairro," -- cod hanging by clothespins.

TAVARES

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Times change and so do the chefs, but what always remains is one of the grandest dining spaces in the city, and excellence in the kitchen. It's the oldest restaurant in Lisbon (and one of the oldest in the world), having opened, closed and reopened several times since 1784. Contemporary Portuguese cuisine is served surrounded by mirrors in a gilded room.

VARANDA

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This is probably the most expensive restaurant in town. It's the restaurant of the Ritz Four Seasons Hotel, with a Parisian touch in the décor and cuisine. Lunches are served in a varied buffet, while dinner is a la carte, offering international dishes with a strong French influence.

BICA DO SAPATO

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It's one of the trendiest spots in the city, and not just because it's actor John Malkovich's restaurant. It has been a "school" for many young chefs, some of whom are now some of the most promising talents in the city. It serves contemporary Portuguese cuisine at tables facing the waterfront in a stylish space.

ASSINATURA

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This restaurant follows the traditions of Portuguese cuisine, but updates them to modern tastes, and reinvents them with the chef's signature. It has maintained the excellence after the departure of the original chef, and the dining room keeps the mixture of the classic and the modern, which is also reflected in the kitchen.

ALMA

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Henrique Sá Pessoa is one of the best-known chefs in the country, and it's here that he presents his interpretations of Portuguese cuisine. Traditional dishes such as cod or suckling pig are transformed into original creations by mixing ingredients and seasonal products.

PANORAMA

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It's at the top of one of Lisbon's tallest buildings (theSheraton Hotel), so it offers a panoramic view over the city. The regularly-changing menu offers creative cuisine and a good wine selection.

Source: Lisbon Lux

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The most picturesque towns in the world

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The most picturesque towns in the world

There is a Portuguese town among the most picturesque towns in the world.

Ericeira, located about 35 kilometers away from Lisbon, is on the list and is therefore a place for you to visit. The portuguese Meca of Surf stands out, for example, for the houses perched over the sea. 

This list prepared by the San Francisco Globe, elected the most beautiful local photos. See, below, which towns are part of this same list.

Annecy: France

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Colmar: France

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Sidi Bou Said: Tunisia

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Garmisch-Partenkirchen: Germany

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Dinan: France

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Himalayas: Tibet

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Reine: Norway

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Gasadalur: Faroe Islands

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Camden: EUA

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Tenby: Wales

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Tasiilaq: Greenland

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Shirakawa: Japan

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Hallstatt: Austria

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Estrunfes (Smurfs): Spain

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Albarracin: Spain

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Chefchaouen: Marroco

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Ericeira: Portugal

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You want to visit this beautiful town? We have a holiday rental in Ericeira.

Ha Long Bay: Vietnam

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Leavenworth: EUA

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Burano: Italy

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Bled: Slovenia

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Putre: Chile

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Bibury: England

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Source: Idealista

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The 7 wonders of Lisbon

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The 7 wonders of Lisbon

A few yers ago there was a worldwide internet vote to select the new seven wonders of the worls.The results were announced in Lisbon and that apparently inspired Portugal to conduct a popular vote for its own seven man-made wonders followed by another for the natural wonders.

In 2011 it was the “gastronomic wonders” vote, and one has to wonder which wonders are coming up next.

So we’ve made the list of Lisbon’s own marvels, a selection of what’s truly remarkable, outstanding or unique in the city.

1. BAIXA POMBALINA

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After the earthquake of 1755 destroyed all of central Lisbon, the city’s downtown was rebuilt following unprecedented state-of-the-art urban planning. This was before Haussmann’s redesign of Paris, using a neoclassical style (which became known as “Pombaline”) in a grid of streets. The structures of the buildings were built as a “cage” to make them earthquake-proof and each one was given modern sanitation — something quite rare throughout 18th-century Europe. It was the first time that anti-seismic design and prefabricated building methods were used in such a large scale in the world, and the strikingly modern, broad streets and squares were intended to serve as something of an 18th century shopping mall, each dedicated to a different craft (gold, silver, saddlery…)

Lisbon’s downtown is now recognized as Europe’s first great example of neoclassical design and urban planning, although an advanced state of decay has prevented it from being classified as a World Heritage Site.

2. MOSTEIRO DOS JERÓNIMOS

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With carvings inspired by India and other then-exotic lands, this World Heritage monument was built in the 16th century thanks to the riches pouring into Portugal from the East. Its extraordinary architecture is in the Manueline style unique to Portugal, and most magnificent of all is the stonework of the cloisters.

3. TORRE DE BELÉM

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This was just one of three towers that protected Lisbon’s harbor in the 16th century, including an almost-identical one across the river. This one survived the centuries, and although it looks more like a small fantasy castle for a princess, it was always used as a beacon for the city’s famous explorers. Its magnificent architectural details are reminders of the Age of Discovery and it’s protected as a World Heritage Site.

4. CAPELA S. JOÃO BAPTISTA - IGREJA DE SÃO ROQUE

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Built in the 16th century, this was one of the world’s first Jesuit churches, deceiving with a very plain façade but with a number of extraordinarily gilded and painted chapels inside. One of them (St. John the Baptist) is a unique masterpiece of European art which has become known as “the world’s most expensive chapel,” paid for with the gold discovered in Brazil (at the time a Portuguese colony). Built in Rome in 1742 using only the most precious gems (ivory, lapis lazulli, gold, silver, marble, gilt bronze, agate, porphyry…), the chapel was shipped to Lisbon to be assembled in this church where it can now be seen together with other seven side-chapels equally rich in ornamentation. Its most extraordinary feature is that its “paintings” are not paintings but actually very detailed mosaics!

5. COCHE DOS OCEANOS & COCHE DE LISBOA - MUSEU DOS COCHES

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While most royal carriages were destroyed over time in most European capitals (especially in Paris after the French Revolution), Portugal’s Queen Amélia had the visionary idea of preserving the ones in Portugal in a museum. Lisbon’s Carriages Museum is therefore now a unique collection in the world, and although there are a few carriages displayed in a couple of other cities such as Vienna, Lisbon’s stands out for assembling ceremonial and promenade vehicles from the 17th to the 19th centuries. It’s the world’s biggest collection, with most being the private property of the royal family.

The museum allows visitors to see the technical and artistic evolution of vehicles before the motor car, and the biggest wonders are the two magnificent ones used in an embassy to France’s Louis XIV and Pope Clement XI. They’re monumentally sculpted and represent the oceans and the glory of Lisbon.

6. MUSEU DO AZULEJO - CONVENTO DA MADRE DE DEUS

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Ceramic tile art is found all over the Mediterranean, but nowhere else in the world did it evolve as much or as imaginatively as in Portugal. Here, tiles became more than just geometric figures decorating walls, they also depicted historical and cultural images to cover palaces, street signs, and shops. There is only one place in the world where you can follow the history and evolution of this art form, and that’s Lisbon’s Tile Museum. Set in a magnificent 16th-century convent, this beautiful and unique gallery has a collection of tilework from as far back as Moorish times, and also presents modern examples by contemporary artists.

7. AQUEDUTO DAS ÁGUAS LIVRES

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The 1755 earthquake was able to destroy almost an entire city, but it was incapable of knocking down this monumental aqueduct. It stands today as it did in 1746 when it was completed and Lisbon finally able to have drinking water in practically every neighborhood, with reservoirs distributed through different parts of the city. These reservoirs are now used as exhibition spaces, especially the ones in Amoreiras and Principe Real, both part of the Water Museum.

With 109 arches (most in the Gothic style, and the tallest at a record-breaking 65m/213ft high) across a valley, Lisbon’s aqueduct is considered one of the world’s masterpieces of engineering of the Baroque period and one of the most remarkable hydraulic constructions of all time.

Source: Lisbon Lux

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THE 10 GREAT SUMMER ATTRACTIONS IN LISBON

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THE 10 GREAT SUMMER ATTRACTIONS IN LISBON

Visiting Lisbon in the warmer months should not be just another city break to see the cultural attractions of another European capital. It’s a truly unique and diverse destination, with countless spots to enjoy the sun and the higher temperatures on the beautiful, westernmost coast of Europe.

1. GUINCHO BEACH

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The largest and sandiest beach on the Lisbon riviera is windy but beautiful and never crowded. It also has some of Portugal’s best restaurants such as the Michelin-starred Fortaleza do Guincho and Porto de Santa Maria which has attracted celebrities like Brad Pitt and Bill Clinton. They all face the ocean, as do a couple of luxury hotels: Fortaleza do Guincho and the Quinta da Marinha resort.

2. PENA PARK

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When temperatures rise, cool down in the magical Pena Park in Sintra, home to Portugal’s most spectacular palace and to the haunting ruins of a Moorish castle. In between those two monuments are mansions and refreshing vegetation overlooking Europe’s westernmost coastline.

3. TAMARIZ BEACH

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Perhaps Portugal’s most famous beach in the 1950s when its castle illustrated countless postcards, it now suffers from overcrowding from tourists and suburban teenagers. The fact that it’s so easy to reach (with the train station right behind it, across from Europe’s biggest casino) doesn’t help, but it should still be your starting point for a search for a calm spot by the Atlantic. Walking west past the bars you’ll eventually find plenty of sand and calmer waters all for yourself, and just may end up following the pleasant boardwalk all the way to Cascais.

4. COSTA DA CAPARICA

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It’s not easy to reach by public transportation and in order to get to the best beaches on this 30-km coast south of the capital you’ll need a car. It’s Europe’s largest unbroken expanse of sand and you should avoid the overcrowded area around the town of Caparica, following the dunes to the beautiful and wild Fonte da Telha or Praia da Morena instead.

5. COMERCIO SQUARE

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Years of renovation gave Lisbon’s biggest square more pedestrian areas and new café terraces. Opening to the river and a wharf, it’s also where tourists sit to admire the estuary and 25 de Abril Bridge, with some even getting their feet wet. For refreshments and prolonged meals in the sun there are the cafés and restaurants.

6. THE WATERFRONT

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You could walk for about 45 minutes from Comércio Square, past Cais do Sodré to Belém along the waterfront, and find several cafés, restaurants and spots to sit in the sun. In between you’ll find the "beach" of Ribeira das Naus, and Docas de Santo Amaro, the docks with warehouses-turned-restaurants under 25 de Abril Bridge. Those who don’t feel like going to the beach but still want some time in the sun should simply follow the water.

7. THE TERRACES

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The top of Lisbon’s seven hills offer postcard-worthy views of the city and allow you to catch some sun. See this list of the best spots:The 10 Best Rooftop Bars and Terraces in Lisbon

8. PARQUE DO TEJO

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Created between 1995 and 1999 as a leisure area by Europe’s longest bridge, this waterfront park has the shade of over 15,000 trees and a large area for sitting in the sun. Perfect for a picnic or to rest after a walk along the waterfront past the city’s best contemporary architecture, it’s also used for working out, soccer games and open-air yoga

9. THE BIG PARKS

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Even locals don’t know about most of the green paradises in their city. Just above the main avenue is Edward VII Park which is much bigger than it looks at first sight, hiding a wonderful greenhouse by a lake. Then there are the secret gardens of Necessidades Park, usually mostly deserted with lots of space to lay in the sun. Even better is Europe’s largest urban forest on the edge of town, Monsanto. See the best green spots in the city here: 10 Beautiful Parks and Gardens

10. THE LONG NIGHTS

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Because the sun doesn’t set until just before 9PM in the summer, dinners in Lisbon often start at 10PM and drinks at way past midnight. The traditional nightlife neighborhood has been Bairro Alto but it now has serious competition down the hill in the seedy-cool Cais do Sodré district. Once the place for sailors to meet ladies of the night, it’s now where Lisbon meets for alternative music and lots of drinking on the street. The starting point for it all is Camões Square.

Source: Lisbon Lux

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What do I love about Portugal?

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What do I love about Portugal?

By Nelson Carvalheiro

“What do I love about Portugal?” is a question that I get asked over and over again, and to which I give a different answer over and over again. As a Travel and Food Blogger, who spends his time visiting foreign countries, tasting all kinds of different cuisine and listening to people saying what makes their own country the greatest, I need to be very creative when it is my turn to say what I love about Portugal.  What I have written bellow is the answer I gave, when asked this very question at a recent Travel conference. 

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So, I was asked to speak about “What do I love about Portugal ?” …Well…This is what I could come up with…

I love to dream that I was once a great Portuguese Discover and that the whole world was under my command, to think that my sail ship is still outside waiting for me, to know that Portugal is not Spain neither a province of Spain, to wake up to 300 days of bright sunlight and think that I will have an espresso and a Nata for breakfast, to come out of bed and put my comfy slippers on (the ones that my grandmother handmade for me), to come to the window and say hello to the baker who has just delivered a bag fresh bread to the neighbour, to play some Amália on the radio and sing out loud “É uma casa Portuguesa com certeza”, to look at an Azulejo panel and think that Fernão Mendes Pinto was the first European to make contact with the Japan, to read a poem of Pessoa and think that “normal” is such an overrated word, to walk down the wooden stairs of a XVIII century building in Lisbon knowing that once upon a time Marquis and Dukes made the same journey every morning, to admire the unique patterns of the Portuguese Calçada boardwalks, to meet the old-timers for a quick Ginginha, to read the football newspaper and argue with the old-timers over a couple more Ginginhas, to think which fish am I going to eat for lunch, to discard that thought and recon that I will have Bacalhau instead, to walk the streets of Alfama and realizing that this is where real Lisboners live, to think that it was the Portuguese who introduced chillies to India, thus enabling the Indians to invent curry, to look at the red corrugated roof tops of the inland Portuguese villages and think that they resemble the waves the Atlantic Ocean, to know that half of the Europeans wears shoes made in Portugal,  to say hello to the Mayor and tell him that the needs to fix the leaking fire hydrant in my street, to know that the Portuguese are known for being able to resolve any complicated situation using the simplest and cheapest of methods possible, to hear the sounds of the bell tools and the screeching yellow trams, to kiss the sunshine of the southern planes every time I drink red wine of the Alentejo, to know that we are the only country in the world that catches bulls by their face and by their horns, to remind myself how cheap and cheerful Green Wine (Vinho Verde) really is, to explain to a Englishman that it was a Portuguese Queen by the name of Catherine of Braganza that introduced the noble art of tea drinking to the British, to know that Portugal has more seashore then inland borders with Spain, to go for dinner at a Tasca and have a seafood dinner with wine for under 10 Euros, to speak Insha’Allah as did the Moorish or to use Latin just to make my case stronger, that onion, garlic and olive oil are present in almost every Portuguese dish, to cry when I hear the melancholic tunes of late night Fado and think that there is no translation for the word “Saudade”,   to open a bottle of the finest Irish or Scottish whiskeys and knowing that the cork on the cap is Portuguese, to know that in the summer I can eat street  in charcoal every day, to go to bed knowing that I can do all this tomorrow again…And again…

Source: nelsoncarvalheiro.com

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Insider's Guide to Lisbon

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Insider's Guide to Lisbon

Palacio Fronteira Pedro Guimarães

Palacio Fronteira Pedro Guimarães

This city is often overlooked as a destination, considered an also-ran to Paris, Rome and other European capitals, with their iconic attractions and masses of tourists. But there's something to be said for Lisbon's subtler charms.

Lilac-hued jacaranda blossoms carpeting the stone benches in Largo do Carmo Square, for instance. Or melancholic fado music wafting from cafes in the twisting streets of Alfama. Or the perfume of sea spray along the waterfront in Belém, close to where the Rio Tejo joins the Atlantic Ocean.

Lisbon peaked as a global powerhouse in the 15th and 16th centuries, when Portuguese explorers sailed from its shores, returning with treasures from India and the coast of Africa. A devastating earthquake and tsunami in the 1700s humbled the city. The current economic crisis has put Portugal in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. An upside of centuries out of the spotlight is that Lisbon's gems weren't razed in the name of progress.

There are also advantages to the capital's lack of notoriety on the cultural front. Visitors can enjoy Lisbon's museums—the trendy (the Museu Coleção Berardo and the Museu do Design e da Moda) and the traditional (the fado and tile museums)—without crowds.

Yet the city isn't stuck in the past. Santiago Calatrava designed the futuristic Oriente metro station in Parque das Nacões. The new Beautique Hotels Figueira were created by acclaimed Portuguese designer Nini Andrade e Silva. And British architect Amanda Levete is creating a spaceshiplike EDP Foundation Arts and Technology Centre in Belém.

Back home, regale your friends with your discoveries. Better yet, don't.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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As 40 fotos de Lisboa para ser feliz

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As 40 fotos de Lisboa para ser feliz

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A edição espanhola da prestigiada revista de viagens Condé Nast Traveler acaba de apresentar ao mundo aquelas que considera serem as mais bonitas fotografias de Lisboa.

As imagens "para sermos felizes" foram, todas elas, captadas por turistas e partilhadas na aplicação móvel Instagram.

"Lisboa sabe a mar, a cultura, a bacalhau e a bons vinhos", introduz Almudena Martín, autora do artigo publicado na Condé Nast, que acrescenta que a cidade, berço do Fado, "é fascinante" com os seus "bairros pitorescos, ruas íngremes, miradouros dignos de um filme e eléctricos históricos".

A publicação propôs-se, no entanto, ir mais longe, e descobriu 40 "recantos" de toda a região de Lisboa destinados a convencer os leitores a fazer imediatamente as malas e a rumar a Portugal para umas férias.

O conjunto de fotografias compiladas pela revista e acompanhadas do nome de utilizador dos seus autores é muito diverso, mas não faltam registos de ícones da capital, como a Sé de Lisboa, a Torre de Belém, o Elevador de Santa Justa, o Castelo de São Jorge, o Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, o Cristo Rei ou a Ponte 25 de Abril.

Entre as imagens escolhidas há também espaço para a gastronomia, com uma das fotografias a retratar um prato de bacalhau à Brás e uma outra a dar destaque aos incontornáveis pastéis de nata, símbolo maior dos sabores tradicionais lisboetas.

O típico bairro de Alfama parece ser um dos preferidos dos turistas, aparecendo em várias fotografias publicadas, à semelhança de locais que não podem faltar em qualquer guia, como o Rossio, a Rua Augusta ou o Parque das Nações, com a sua moderna Estação do Oriente.

Destaque ainda para o facto de a Condé Nast não esquecer as imediações de Lisboa, em particular as praias de Cascais ou do Estoril, muito apreciadas pelos viajantes, e os encantos de Sintra, representados na lista pelo Palácio da Pena. 

Veja aqui as 40 fotos >>>

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BEST ROOFTOP BARS IN LISBON

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BEST ROOFTOP BARS IN LISBON

SILK CLUB

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This club at the top of a building in the Chiado district is one of the most exclusive addresses in Lisbon since it opened in 2008. It offers a nearly-360º view of the city’s historic center, and has a minimalist decor and a sophisticated-yet-chilled-out ambience. It serves Mediterranean dinners from Tuesday to Saturday from 7:00PM to 11:30PM, and after that it’s time for music by the resident DJ, and cocktails late into the night.

SKY BAR

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Found at the top of the Tivoli Hotel, this is a lounge area with sofas where you may gaze out to the river, to the castle and downtown. It offers a good list of cocktails (including non-alcoholic) and there is also a choice of snacks. It opens late in the afternoon, but only in the warmer months, usually between May and September.

MEMMO ALFAMA TERRACE

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This bar is on the first floor and not on the rooftop of the building of the Memmo Alfama Hotel, but it is at the top of an entire neighborhood -- picturesque Alfama. It has some of the best views of the Tagus and of Lisbon’s oldest district, and a contemporary décor. It’s by the hotel’s outdoor pool, offering a selection of Portuguese wines and tapas, to be enjoyed along with the magnificent views. It opens every day, from 6PM to 11PM.

TERRACE

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It's not spacious but it's already been considered one of the most beautiful terraces in the world. The reason is the view that goes over the rooftops to 25 de Abril Bridge, and a comfortable, cozy atmosphere. Relax amid cushions and wicker chairs, and enjoy a glass of wine or a refreshing drink.

ROOFTOP BAR

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Be blown away by the view from this terrace on the 9th floor of Mundial Hotel. The castle is so close you can almost touch it, and you can see almost all of downtown and Chiado. It opens for pre-dinner drinks but also invites you to end the night with a cocktail to the sound of jazz.

ENTRETANTO

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The terrace on the 7th floor of Hotel do Chiado offers a breathtaking view of Lisbon. You may admire the old city and the Tagus, while enjoying a tea in the afternoon or a cocktail at night.

PARK

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The top of a car park at the doorstep of Bairro Alto instantly became an afternoon and night hotspot when it opened in the summer of 2013. Wooden tables and small potted trees facing 25 de Abril Bridge create the feeling of a garden suspended above the city, serving a variety of drinks and burgers into the night, to the sounds selected by a DJ.

LOST IN

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This colorful terrace faces east, also through its exotic décor inspired by India and zen ambiences. A Hindu goddess is illustrated on a wall, observing the service that includes light meals and drinks for a relaxed afternoon or evening.

VARANDA DO CASTELO

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The rooftop bar of the Vintage Lisboa Hotel opens during the spring and summer months for evenings of views over Lisbon to the sound of music. It serves tapas and a variety of cocktails every day, from 5PM to midnight.

UPSCALE

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While most other rooftop bars are in the historic center of town, this one is in the modern city, at the top of a luxury hotel. It's essentially a summer destination, with an infinity pool and fruity cocktails. While there's a charge for the use of the pool, anyone is welcome to sit on the lounge chairs and try the variety of cocktails together with snacks as they overlook the city. In the background there is always a mix of pop hits for a chill-out atmosphere.

Source: Lisbon Lux

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Wines award winners

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Wines award winners

The Douro and the Alentejo regions were home to the biggest award winners at the recent Wines of Portugal 2014 competition award ceremony, said Jorge Monteiro of the ViniPortugal wine association.

Monteiro said that the Douro had picked up 67 medals and the Alentejo 59 but that the event had above all shown the quality of Portuguese wines currently in production.

The ViniPortugal competition had attracted some 1,070 wines from across mainland and archipelago Portugal with Monteiro adding that 80 percent of the wines gained the kind of classification worthy of medals even if only 25 percent or 280 wines of that total received any official recognition.

The wine specialist explained that due to the high quality levels, the competition had done away with bronze medals to hand out more silver medals.

The Dão region Quinta das Marias Touriga Nacional Reserva, produced by Peter Eckert, was the outright winner in the single caste wine section with the Rozés Porto Tawny 40 years winning the fortified wine category. 

Meanwhile, the Alentejo produced Terras d’Alter Reserva won the 2014 award in the mixed cast wine category.

The wines, representing a sector that generated €725 million in exports last year, were judged by 100 specialists including 25 international judges.

Source: Portugal News

Why Portugal is high on a wine lover’s list

People often ask me to name my favorite wine countries. I like to surprise them by putting Portugal high on the list.

I love Portugal because it offers tremendous value and variety, with wines that you won’t find anywhere else. And the Douro Valley, the region famous for those fortified ports and its stunningly beautiful landscape, leads the way.

Continue reading...

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Cutting-edge Lisbon

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Cutting-edge Lisbon

New York, London, Paris, Milan? Move over funky fashion capitals of the world, Lisbon is the place to be. The city's cutting-edge fashion and design haunts are luring visitors who are after more than a souvenir magnet of a custard tart and a vintage tram.

While Lisbon has been known for its music (fado) and arts scene (think local artist Joana Vasconcelos, who has exhibited her quirky sculptures at the likes of France's Versailles), it's the city's fashion scene that's hitting more than local catwalks. Each year, as new designers enter the market, international fashion buyers come knocking on doors, while overseas visitors leave with suitcases stuffed with local purchases. Present up-and-coming designers include White Tent, Vitor, Ricardo Andrez and Marques Almeida.

Lidja Kolovrat's boutique in Principe Real. Image by Kate Armstrong / Lonely Planet

Lidja Kolovrat's boutique in Principe Real. Image by Kate Armstrong / Lonely Planet

Why the upsurge in interest and creativity? Eduarda Abbondanza, Director of ModaLisboa (Lisbon Fashion Week) says, "Lisbon has the freshness and creative energy of a Mediterranean European capital, mixed with a very easy going and culturally solid ambiance. Nice weather, low prices (compared to other European capitals) and a friendly and safe environment attracts a lot of positive creativity."

To experience a contemporary take on the city you don't have to venture further than a tight two kilometre radius. The pretty, tree-lined or cobblestoned streets of Principe Real, Chiado, Bairro Alto and Baixa (literally, 'downtown') are home to fashion shops, contemporary galleries and design ateliers.  

Príncipe Real

Principe Real is Lisbon's current hip strip. It oozes a contemporary-Berlin-meets-Barcelona-in-the-nineties kind of cool. The area is jammed with interior design shops, concept stores, and fashion designers: Ricardo Preto's 21pr Concept.Store (www.facebook.com/21prConceptStore), Nuno Gama (facebook.com/GamaNuno), Alexandra Moura (www.alexandramoura.com), and Lidja Kolovrat (www.lidijakolovrat.org), originally from Bosnia, but now established in Lisbon. 

Nuno Gama shop exterior in Principe Real. Image by Kate Armstrong / Lonely Planet 

Nuno Gama shop exterior in Principe Real. Image by Kate Armstrong / Lonely Planet 

The new kid on the block here is Embaixada (Praça do Príncipe Real 26; www.facebook.com/Embaixada), surely the world’s most unusual and beautiful ‘shopping centre’. This extraordinary Moorish-style mansion has been restored and its grand entrance leads to a stunning courtyard. From here, shoppers enter unique shops that showcase Portuguese designers and local products, from shoes to babywear.

Portuguese shoes in Shoe Closet at Embaixada, Principe Real. Image by Kate Armstrong / Lonely Planet

Portuguese shoes in Shoe Closet at Embaixada, Principe Real. Image by Kate Armstrong / Lonely Planet

According to Abbondanza, these individual brand names are contributing to Lisbon's current fashion landscape: "A few years ago Portuguese designers didn’t have their own stores, now the panorama is changing. In the last two years they have opened their own brand stores in Lisboa, many in Principe Real." 

Chiado and around

The elegant Rua do Carmo, in the heart of the trendy district of Chiado, has been the traditional home of Lisbon's wealthier patrons. These days, a more modern element prevails.

Clients yearning for exclusive garb can make appointments for bespoke day and evening fashions at Alves/Goncalves (Rua das Flores 105, 1st floor; www.alvesgoncalves.com) a prêt-à-porter studio. Elsewhere in the district, Filipe Faísca (Calçada do Combro 99; www.filipefaisca.com) woos buyers with demi-couture collections in beautiful fabrics, from leather and raffia to flowing silk. 

The interior of Story Tailors, Chiado. Image by Kate Armstrong / Lonely Planet

The interior of Story Tailors, Chiado. Image by Kate Armstrong / Lonely Planet

Meanwhile, the quirky collections from Story Tailors (Calçada do Ferragial 8; www.storytailors.pt) appeal to a youthful, adventurous crowd. The designer duo reinvents iconic pieces with quirky touches – skirts that button into themselves, reversible coats and, true to their name, fairytale dresses. Think Alice in Wonderland's Mad-Hatter (Johnny Depp) meets Les Miserables' Madame Thénardier (Helena Bonham-Carter).

Nostalgic products at A Vida Portuguesa, Chiado. Image by Kate Armstrong / Lonely Planet

Nostalgic products at A Vida Portuguesa, Chiado. Image by Kate Armstrong / Lonely Planet

But Lisbon's creations extend way beyond garments. Enter proud Lisboeta, Catarina Portas. Determined to bring the country's past into the 21st century, Portas is reviving many of Lisbon's former traditional products and services with a funky retro take. Her high profile projects include A Vida Portuguesa (Rua Anchieta 11, Chiado and Pina Manique 23, Largo do Intendente; www.avidaportuguesa.com), beautiful shops offering a taste of nostalgia. Stock includes everyday items that were once household names: tins of Tricana sardines, Ach. Brito and Claus Porto soaps, Pinheiro ornamental swallows.

Portas, too, is responsible for rejuvenating Lisbon's Quiosques de Refresco (www.quiosquederefresco.pt). These beautiful refreshment kiosks are dotted around the city centre - at Largo Camoes, Jardim do Principe Real and Praça das Flores. During the 19th century, these were an important part of Lisbon but were gradually abandoned and had fallen into disrepair. That is, until Portas decided to revitalise them. These days, the spruced-up kiosks serve up old-time refreshments including leite perfumado (perfumed milk), iced tea, horchata (almond milk) and traditional lemonade.

Bairro Alto

The trendy district of Bairro Alto – wedged between Chiado and Principe Real– comprises a series of charming lanes and backstreets, formerly the city's poorer and least desirable area. These days it's another story– the area is crammed with alternative shops, hip hairdressers and boozy (if fashionably so) bars. By day, streets here have a slight grunge factor but in the afternoon, when party animals emerge from the night before and the shops and drinking dens open, it's the cool place to hang out. 

DJ by night, hair-stylist by day, Antony at Facto Cabeleireiro. Image by Kate Armstrong / Lonely Planet

DJ by night, hair-stylist by day, Antony at Facto Cabeleireiro. Image by Kate Armstrong / Lonely Planet

For those after a fashionable 'do', not local brew, Bairro Alto is home to Facto Cabeleireiro (Rua do Norte 40-42; www.factohair.com), one of the country's most celebrated hair salons. Charismatic owner, Antony, who hails from Britain, is an occasional DJ by night and permanent hair-stylist by day and, according to coiffed locals and visitors, is the scissor-wielding stylist to head to. For alternative head treatments, A Fabrica dos Chapeus (Rua da Rosa 118;www.afabricadoschapeus.com) is the spot for hats – it sells everything from pork-pie designs to casual flat caps. The designer of choice here is Serbian-born Aleksandar Protic (Rua da Rosa 112; aleksandarprotic.eu).

Alternative creative concepts

In nearby Alcantara, and accessible by tram or on foot from the city centre, is the LX Factory (Rua Rodrigues Faria 103, Alcantara; www.lxfactory.com). It's a must-visit for any artistic guru – more for the design and concept than the shopping; there are no shops, but a couple of atmospheric eateries serve up excellent meals. This former factory is pumping with hundreds of advertising companies, communications teams, artists, and temporary exhibitors who've pushed the creative boundaries – they designed their own innovative offices.

An exhibit at MUDE, Baixa. Image by Kate Armstrong / Lonely Planet

An exhibit at MUDE, Baixa. Image by Kate Armstrong / Lonely Planet

Baixa gallery

Whatever you do, don't miss MUDE – Museu do Design e Da Moda (Rua Augusta; www.mude.pt), a great last stop back in Baixa (downtown). This magnificent colonial building, a former bank, has been converted into an extraordinary space that's an encyclopaedia of high end fashion and interior design. It exhibits everything from Christian Dior's 1940s New Look Collection to a 1970s wiggle chair by Frank Gehry. The museum's interiors – including wires and concrete – remain exposed to reflect its role as, in the words of the gallery's director Ms Coutinho, a 'living organism'. True to its name (mude means change), the exhibition changes every three months or so.

That's not Lisbon's only revelation. Despite Portugal's much-publicised economic woes, the country's creative culture is stronger than ever. "Lisbon is becoming a hub of Mediterranean creativity, spreading Portuguese and Lisbon's soul – and easygoing way of life – all over the fashion world," says Abbondanza.

Source: Lonely Planet by Kate Armstrong 

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Portugal voted top destination once again

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Portugal voted top destination once again

For the second consecutive year Portugal has been chosen as the best country in the world to visit by one of the world’s most prestigious travel magazines, Condé Nast Traveller. 

Online voters of the luxury travel publication chose Portugal for its winning combination of culture, gastronomy, excellent wines, beaches, history, golf courses, and for its friendly, open and very sincere people. Readers also described Portugal as having an impressive variety of landscapes.

This distinction comes a month after Portugal’s capital city scooped another accolade when the Post Office City Costs Barometer 2014 revealed a trip to Lisbon is the best for value in the Eurozone, being half the price of a visit to Paris, Amsterdam or Rome.

While a three-course evening meal for two with a bottle of wine in Lisbon would set visitors back £34.48, a similar meal would cost twice the price in Paris, at £68.97, £89.35 in Stockholm (Sweden), or £99.06 in Copenhagen, Denmark, it said.

Thirsty travellers can expect to pay an average of £1.12 for a bottle of beer in Lisbon, with the same costing £3.80 in Belfast, £4.31 in Dublin, and £6.73 in Moscow, Russia.

These latest reports and awards serve to substantiate Portugal’s excellent showing at the most recent World Travel Awards. The Algarve was chosen as Europe’s best beach destination and also scooped the top prize for best boutique resort (Vila Joya, Albufeira), best luxury resort (Conrad Hotel), best golf resort (Hotel Quinta do Lago), and best villa resort (Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel, Sagres).

On a national level, a further six awards were given to the Algarve. The Ria Park Hotel & Spa took the title of Portugal’s best business hotel and best hotel for conferences; the Martinhal was voted Portugal’s best family resort, while the best golf resort in the country went to the Hilton Vilamoura.

Hotel Quinta do Lago emerged as Portugal’s best overall resort, while the Blue&Green Vilalara Thalassa Resort took best spa resort.

The rest of the country also made a good impression, with Lisbon taking the title of Europe’s Leading City Break Destination and Madeira taking the title of Europe’s Leading Island Destination.

The Vine Hotel, also in Madeira, was voted Europe’s Leading Design Hotel, while the country as a whole was chosen as Europe’s leading golf destination.

Source: The Portugal News

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Braga, the loveliest city in Portugal

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Braga, the loveliest city in Portugal

It's a sleepy, ancient city, but also brimming with a modern, youthful energy. Check out Braga, the loveliest city in Portugal you've never heard of

Morning at the Cathedral in Braga. Photograph: Alamy

Morning at the Cathedral in Braga. Photograph: Alamy

Given that Braga has almost four dozen places of worship, it's easy to see why the Baroque city, one of Portugal's oldest, has a reputation as a staid, ecclesiastical destination. Each Easter, pious throngs flock here for the city's Semana Santa, and most visitors who end up in a place that barely registers on the global radar are here to tour the churches on a day trip from Porto, an hour away.

I made the journey because I was intrigued to discover why this ancient city – a former stronghold of the Roman empire – was selected as the 2012 European Capital of Youth. Clearly something was going on beyond the obvious. And it wasn't long before I realised that there is another side to this unassuming city in the country's northiwest corner.

Thanks to a large student population and a steady influx of young Portuguese, Braga has some lively cultural offerings, an eclectic vibe, a mellow – mostly underground – bar scene, and the bonus of outdoor adventure on the doorstep thanks to its close proximity to Peneda-Gerês national park.

The small-town warmth of the place is immediately apparent at the Braga Pop Hostel where owner Helena Gomes likes her guests to feel like friends rather than tourists. Her idiosyncratic touches start with a wink in the form of a sign on the second floor stairwell bearing the words: "We're sorry... but you still have one more floor to climb", and on the third-floor: "Hard stairs, aren't they? But, on the other hand, you're welcome."

Modern design at the Chapel Tree of Life, Braga, Portugal. Photograph: Nelson Garrido

Modern design at the Chapel Tree of Life, Braga, Portugal. Photograph: Nelson Garrido

There's contemporary photography in the Museu da Imagem, which spans two historic buildings: one from the 19th century and a tower from the 14th that was part of the original city wall, and innovative design at the Chapel Tree of Life (open to the public Fridays at 5pm) within the centuries-old seminary of São Pedro and São Paulo. This slatted structure, constructed solely of wood (with no nails or hinges), is suffused with light and evokes the serenity of the nearby forests while providing a singular example of the power of modern architecture.

Another hub of art and cultural activities is Livraria Centésima Página, a popular bookshop behind an 18th-century facade, with a lush garden that seems to have attracted most of the pushchair-wielding mothers of the city. Like many venues in Braga, it multi-tasks – as a coffee bar, exhibition space, workshop and art gallery. I'd expected to hear readings from authors but not to be able to fill my bags with Portuguese wines, jams and other gourmet goodies.

In fact, it was hard to keep my focus on Braga's cultural offerings when my taste buds were constantly being tempted. A lovely old mansion with iron and stone balconies is home to Spirito, a popular cafe serving Oreo and Guylian chocolate cupcakes on an outdoor patio strewn with oversized lamps, comfy day beds, couches and throw pillows.

The lingering clientele are mostly young, but there are some perky over-4os sipping icy mango-passionfruit frappés, though they are all missing out on the main event. "People go mad for our gelato," says co-owner Nuno Freitas. "Recently a group of Americans and Canadians ordered 34 ounces of ice-cream daily."

Centésima Página

Centésima Página

Braga's noticeably unhurried pace of life accelerates after dark, especially in the downtown area. The city's sense of intimacy and compact size make it easy to bar hop – and it offers a more inviting prospect than trying to negotiate Porto's vast urban sprawl.

Even here, among the modish Braga haunts, history is everywhere. At Restaurante Brac, you can sip crafted cocktails beneath contemporary paintings with a view of medieval ruins. The menu focuses on classic Portuguese ingredients, but nudges them into the 21st century with dishes such as octopus carpaccio with olive-caper vinaigrette.

A 10-minute stroll away, Quatorze transforms from a daytime, by-appointment art gallery into a night-time bar and music venue, often with themed events fusing music, food and film from a specific destination. In many towns this would be the preserve of the millenials but here people of all ages, from twentysomethings to over-50s, mingle easily. Like many university towns, Braga has a creative energy that that brings together all sorts of people, transcending age, class and lifestyle. Rather than being stuck in the past, it continues to adapt and thrive, looking to the future with a new-found sense of optimism.

Spirito, Braga

Spirito, Braga

Source: The Guardian by Jeanine Barone

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Tourism technology: How to enjoy a roaming holiday

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Tourism technology: How to enjoy a roaming holiday

This summer, data charges get cheaper for travellers within the the EU – and that means a chance to discover just how far tourism technology has come. Simon Usborne explores Lisbon with a smartphone as his guide

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You are probably familiar with the sense of foreboding that arrives with a post-holiday phone bill. If, like me, you have the pleasure of forwarding a significant portion of your salary to O2, you may also be able to picture the string of texts you fire from your smartphone while emailing or sharing not very good photos abroad, repeatedly shouting the request for "MOREDATA".

No more! Or at least, not so much. Our friends in Brussels have responded to growing disquiet about the prohibitive cost of data while travelling – or "roaming", as it's known in telecoms circles – by demanding a change to the law. In July, just in time for the summer holiday rush, charges for being online in the EU will drop by more than half. From December next year, mobile data use should cost you no more than it does at home.

Great news for tourists. According to a European Commission survey, a quarter of us go so far as to switch off our phones entirely when leaving Britain, such is our fear of being done for data. The rest of us tend to dive straight into our settings to disable roaming, effectively taking the smart out of our smartphones. Those who dare can expect to be told, as I have been, that our "daily" data allowance has run out after half an hour. "MOREDATA," you text – again.

Europe's mobile-phone companies seem to do pretty well, financially, but warn that they might increase all our bills to cover the cost of obeying the new law. Competition may keep any such hikes to a minimum. In the meantime, cheap data is a boon for the tech companies, who would like us to keep our phones on, so that they can carry on with the lucrative business of organising our lives.

Step forward Google, which earlier this month invited 50 journalists from across Europe to experience a digital life without fear, where connected tourists roam free. Each would be equipped with a Google Nexus 5 smartphone stocked with Google apps and (because the law hasn't changed yet) a bottomless SIM card. We would be joined in almost equal number by an army of chipper Googlers, as the company's 50,000 employees are known.

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The laboratory for this experiment: Lisbon, a city I had never visited. I had no idea what to do, how to get around, or how to speak a word of Portuguese; I would need all the assistance I could get. Google gives me a head start by booking flights and a hotel (the sleek and central Figueira, on the square of the same name). Emails confirming both reservations arrive in my Gmail inbox. This is where things got clever.

Google Now is the company's newish digital personal assistant. It draws on your inbox, your use of maps and your search habits to tell you what it thinks you need to know, when you need to know it. It can be a bit alarming at first. So, for example, on the day of my flight to Lisbon, an alert pops up telling me to go to the airport and how to get there, with regular updates of the flight's status. I never told Google I was going to Lisbon, but it found those relevant emails and extracted the relevant details.

When I land two hours later, my phone knows I'm in Lisbon. But it also knows where I'm staying (from the email, again) and tells me how to get there. I click on the Now "card" that has flashed up with the journey information, and switch from driving directions to public transport. And on I go down to the Metro. Nine stops on the red line to Alameda, then nine stops on the green line to Rossio for a three-minute, guided walk to my hotel. Transfers were never this easy.

If you don't mind looking and sounding a bit silly in public, you use your voice to search for anything you might otherwise type, but Google is also multilingual. At the Cervejaria Trindade restaurant, which I find very easily using Maps, I use my phone to take a picture of the menu via its translate app. I then stroke my finger over the screen, across the words I don't understand – torta de cenoura – and immediately get a translation – "carrot pie" (I guess it means cake).

I skip the carrot course and go it alone, in search of an ice-cream shop, where I test a different translate function. Still using the translate app, I employ my phone as translator and tell it, "I would like a cone, please, with chocolate and coffee ice cream." Immediately my phone speaks to the man behind the counter in his language: "Eu gostaria que o cone satisfeito com chocolate e sorvete de cafe." I still have no idea whether this is good Portuguese, although Google, translated the other way later, suggests I have said: "I would like the cone satisfied with chocolate and ice-cream café." Close enough? He could reply in Portuguese, but instead, having heard my initial, English request, he fixes my ice cream with a third scoop of bemusement and packs me on my way.

What's striking about all this is the refreshing absence of paper. No telltale Lonely Planet, no tatty hotel city map – just me and a phone, like at home. To take this approach further, Google is trying to digitise and educate the guidebook. Its Field Trip app draws on material from publishers to tell me where to go and what I'm looking at. As I walk through the delightful Carmo Square to the top of the lift, I feel a buzz in my pocket. My phone wants to tell me about Carmo Convent, a ruined church on the corner. A note pops up from a very enthusiastic man called Claudio, who contributes to a website called Spotted by Locals, telling me, among other things, that, "Once you enter, you will be enchanted by the view of the nave of the church. I always am!"

I also don't hold back in using my phone to capture Lisbon on a beautiful day. With the device set to back up my photos to my Google+ account, each image goes straight to my own little cloud as I snap, which means I could lose the phone without losing my photos. I later discover that the "auto awesome" function has stitched pictures I took of the city's skyline into a panorama. Clever (don't tell the Googlers, but I'm still working out how to share the images on Facebook, as I don't know anyone who uses Google+).

I could go on, such is the daunting breadth of Google's offerings. I'm ultimately impressed, but there are things to consider, even for technophiles who welcome the new freedom to roam. Smartphones should make it easier for us to look up on holiday rather than at a screen, which I certainly do enough of at home. Also, battery life only seems to get worse (I had to rely on charging packs to keep things going). My advice: embrace the new laws, but don't ditch your guidebook just yet.

Source: The Independent by Simon Usborne

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