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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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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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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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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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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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Lisbon: top of your Euro-bucket list

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Lisbon: top of your Euro-bucket list

With it’s sexy slow-paced rhythm, winding white-and-black tiled streets, gentle sea breezes, and unbelievably sunny afternoons, how could a girl not fall in love?!

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I went to Portugal with no expectations. Of course I assumed I would like it, but I hadn’t done much research so I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d find.

To summarize: Lisbon is a laid-back city with an extremely rich history, it has great food for very low prices, world-renown hostels, and a strong music culture. 

I kept finding myself comparing it to Madrid (where I’ve been living for the past 6th months), and I found it to be cheaper, have better food, and to be a much more beautiful city in general. I might be biased since I love cities that are close to water, but there was something so charming about Lisbon.

Also, nearly everyone I met spoke or understood English, much more-so than in Madrid or Paris. It’s always a good idea to learn a few basic sentences to be polite, but don’t think for a second that you’ll have a difficult time in Portugal if you don’t speak Portuguese!

WHAT TO DO

FREE WALKING TOUR

I highly recommend starting off your stay in Lisbon with a free walking tour from Wild Walkers. It’s about 2 hours long, so bring your walking shoes and a camera because there will be tons of great photo ops. Lucky for you, Lisbon is a very photogenic city!

The tour guide was probably the best I’ve ever had due to his honest, quirky & interesting presentation of Lisbon. He was so good that we decided to also take his fado Tour…

The tours are offered every day, and assuming you enjoy it, it is customary to pay a small donation/tip at the end.

FADO TOUR

If you do a Google search on Portugal, the musical genre of fado is sure to come up.

Fado generally has a melancholic tone, and was traditionally sung by the poor & the outlaws to express their sorrows, but it has experienced a resurgence in recent years. I don’t want to give away too many details about the history of it, because it’s much more fun to learn from the local tour guide, but I can promise that it is fascinating.

Of course you could find an expensive touristy dinner & fado show package on your own, or even dig up a few free fado bars to check out, but chances are you won’t know what you’re listening to, you won’t understand the lyrics, and you’ll end up with a very superficial appreciation for the music.

The fado tour from Wild Walkers costs 15 euros & includes: a local guide who is extremely passionate and knowledgeable about fado & its history, free local ginjinha cherry liquor in a traditional chocolate cup, tapas & wine at a fado restaurant during the show, translations from the guide and discussions about the meaning of each song, plus a behind-the-scenes tour of the restaurant. We even got to meet and talk with the performers!

I was so thrilled by this tour, I would do it again in a heartbeat. To be honest, I looked up a fado video on Youtube before my trip, and wasn’t blown away. This tour completely changed my perception of the music, and was the most memorable part of my time in Lisbon.

As you might know, I obsessively seek out live music when I’m travelling, but I truly believe this is an activity that everyone would enjoy.

The fado tours are not offered every day, so contact the company beforehand to find out when they are.

PEOPLE WATCH IN PRAÇA DO COMÉRCIO

People watching is a great activity that can be done in any cafe or plaza anywhere in the world. But doing it in Praça do Comércio, despite its popularity with the tourists, is definitely worthy of a few hours in your schedule.

I recommend going in the mid-afternoon to soak up the last of the sun and relax with a cup of coffee or wine. Make sure to grab a seat at one of the restaurants on the left, then turning your chair outward to face the center of the square.

The food served at the restaurants here is good but definitely on the pricey side, so it’s best to plan on just having a drink and grabbing lunch/dinner elsewhere.

BUDGET SAVING TIP: If you’re trying to save money, grab some snacks from a market and head across the street from the Praça do Comércio. You can sit right by the water for as long as you want, & take in the river and the plaza at the same time. You might even catch some free live music…

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CATCH A SUNSET FROM ZAMBEZE ROOFTOP RESTAURANT

You’ll be taken to the ZamBeZe rooftop during the day on the free walking tour for the great views of the city, but it’s definitely worth going back in the evening to catch a sunset.

If you’re on a budget, you can order just a glass of water or wine while taking in the scenery. I even saw some people sitting on the edge of the rooftop who did not appear to be paying customers, so you could make this a free activity.

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EXPERIENCE LISBON NIGHTLIFE

Lisbon is known around Europe for its amazing nightlife. Having spent the past 6 months in Madrid where the nightlife doesn’t end until 9am (or later), I wasn’t totally blown away by the nightlife, but found it to be pretty on-par with Madrid.Americans read: you will most likely be blown away. 

If you’re staying at Home Lisbon Hostel, and  feeling like a big night out, just hop on the Pub Crawl that stops by the hostel every night.

The best neighborhood for a mix of eclectic bars with something for everyone is the Bairro Alto area that I mentioned earlier. The bars here close at 2 or 3am, so if you’re in the mood to dance or keep drinking, you’ll probably want to head to a club.

There are no clubs in Bairro Alto, but a local recommended Lux Club for a good time. There’s also a popular club called Lust in the Praça do Comércio.

TAKE A DAY TRIP TO SINTRA

Sintra is sometimes described as “the most romantic place on Earth“, and I couldn’t agree more. There is so much to do and see that I would recommend not trying to fit it all into one afternoon; it’s best to spend an entire day there.

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Source: www.fleetinglife.com

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48 Hours In: Lisbon

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48 Hours In: Lisbon

This charming capital, which combines sea views, steep hills and old-world manners with a vibrant nightlife, is a joy to visit, says Mary Lussiana.

TRAVEL ESSENTIALS

Lisbon's Portela Airport (ana.pt) is an easy 7km journey to the capital. TAP Portugal (0845 601 0932; flytap.com) flies from Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester; easyJet (0843 104 5000; easyjet.com) from Gatwick, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Bristol and Luton; Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com) from Stansted and Manchester; and BA (0844 493 0787;ba.com) from Heathrow.

Metro trains (www.metrolisboa.pt) run from the airport to Saldanha station (2), 6.30am-1am (€1.40). Aerobus (carris.pt) shuttles to Cais do Sodre station (3) every 20 minutes, with stops at the city's train and bus stations, including central Avenida da Liberdade (4). Buses run 7am-11pm; tickets (€3.50) are valid for 24 hours. TAP Portugal air passengers travel free with a boarding pass.

Taxis take around 15 minutes to the city and cost around €10.

Get your bearings

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After the 1755 earthquake, Lisbon was rebuilt by the Marques de Pombal, on a grid of parallel streets linking Rossio Square (5) to the Tagus river. A triumphal arch stands on Praca do Comercio (6), near the Tourist Office (7) at Rua do Arsenal 15 (9am-8pm;askmelisboa.com). You can buy a Lisbon Card here for 24 (€18.50), 48 (€31.50) or 72 hours (€39). It entitles you to limitless free rides on city transport (including the city lifts such as the Santa Justa) and free or discounted admission to many cultural attractions.

The city centre, known as Baixa, remains elegantly 18th-century. Rising into the hills to the east is the original Moorish quarter of Alfama, where the fortified Sao Jorge Castle (8) stands above narrow streets (castelodesaojorge.pt); further afield, near the mouth of the Tagus, is Belem, from where explorers set sail in Portugal's golden age.

DAY ONE

Take a hike

Start in the Praca do Comercio (6), for the first view of the city that 16th-century visiting dignitaries would have had as they alighted from their boats on the Tagus and walked up the marble steps to the Royal Palace, which was destroyed in the earthquake. With your back to the river, Lisbon's oldest café, the Martinho da Arcada (12), which dates to 1782, is on the square's right-hand side and is the place to stop for a bica (the local version of an espresso), under the arcades which became the new Royal Palace in the 18th century.

Walk under the triumphal arch into Rua Augusta (13) – a pedestrianised street lined with mosaic pavements and bordered by boutiques – and continue until you meet Rua de Santa Justa. Here, turn left to the Santa Justa lift (14) (7am-9pm; €5 return), which was built in 1902 and is still used. Made of iron and embellished with filigree, it raises you 13 metres to Largo do Carmo and the elegant Chiado district.

Lunch on the run

Head left down Rua do Carmo and into Rua Garrett, where Café a Brasileira (15) offers the perfect pause. Enjoy the pasteis de bacalhau, delicious cod fish cakes with a local wine or a Portuguese beer for under €10. Inside the 1920s café, a favourite haunt of Fernando Pessoa, all is gilded mirrors; outside is a bronze statue of the nation's famous poet.

Window shopping

Across the road is Paris em Lisboa (16) at Rua Garrett 77 (parisemlisboa.pt) a 19th-century family-owned store, which sells attractive tablecloths and napkins.

For the artisanal crafts Portugal excels in, head down Rua Anchieta to A Vida Portuguesa (17) at Rua Anchieta 11 (avidaportuguesa.com) with its Claus Porto soaps, olive oils and hand-woven rugs from the Alentejo.

Loop back to Largo do Chiado for a dip into Vista Alegre (18) at Largo do Chiado 20-23 (myvistaalegre.com), which makes Portugal's most beautiful porcelain and where you can also find striking Atlantis glassware.

An aperitif

To learn more about premium Portuguese wines and enjoy the patio designed by Portugal's greatest architect, Alvaro Siza Vieira, head to the new Wine Spot Chiado (19) at Rua Garrett 19 (00 351 213 460 032; winespotchiado.pt) to explore the different regions with wines by the glass accompanied by plates of cured ham and cheese for around €15 for two people.

Dining with the locals

Traditional flavours with oriental influences is how chef Joao Rodrigues describes his style of cuisine at the riverside restaurant, Feitoria (20) at Doca do Bom Sucesso (00 351 210 400 200;restaurantefeitoria.com), which delivers superb dishes such as lobster and wild seabass with Alcacer do Sal rice, lime and coriander (€37).

The service, setting and sensational tastes make this a favourite with Lisbon's in-crowd, so book early.

DAY TWO

Sunday morning: go to church

The Church of Sao Roque (21) on Largo Trindade Coelho (00 351 213 235 824; open Tuesday-Sunday 9am-6pm) has a plain exterior that belies an opulent interior with ornate hand-painted tiles and beautiful side chapels, particularly that of St John the Baptist, wrought with gold and silver, ivory and lapis lazuli. Sunday mass is held at 11.30am.

In Belem, don't miss the opportunity of mass – or a wander around – in the magnificent Monastery of Jeronimos (22) on Praca do Imperio (open daily 10am-6pm; Sunday mass at 9am, 10.30am and 12pm; otherwise tickets €7; mosteirojeronimos.pt). Built in the 16th century, on wealth from the spices, precious stones and gold that explorer, Vasco da Gama, had returned with, it is a fitting tribute to Portugal's era of discovery. Appropriately, Vasco da Gama is buried here.

Walk in the park

Just across the road from the monastery lies the little-known Jardim Botanico Tropical (23) on Largo dos Jeronimos (00 351 213 921 800; weekends 11am-6pm, Tuesday-Friday 10am-5pm; tickets €2). It is a haven of peace with peacocks and ponds among the rich collection of trees from the old Portuguese colonies such as Brazil, Angola and Mozambique.

Out to brunch

At the Varanda Restaurant in the elegant Four Seasons Hotel Ritz (24), Rua Rodrigo da Fonseca 88 (00 351 213 811 400;fourseasons.com/lisbon), the brunch is legendary. From the sweetest of oysters from nearby Setubal to octopus ceviche, huge joints of beef to tiny lemon tarts and runny cheese from the Serra da Estrela, it is a feast fit for the gods; €59pp.

Cultural afternoon

Download the Four Seasons Hotel's free Art Collection app (bit.ly/LisbonAC) to use as your guide to the eclectic mix of contemporary Portuguese artwork found there. Then walk to the Gulbenkian Museum (25) at Avenida de Berna 45 (00 351 217 823 000; gulbenkian.pt; open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5.45pm; €5, free on Sundays). Inaugurated in 1969, this important museum contains collections that span 4,000 years, from ancient Egyptian figurines to Lalique's Art Nouveau jewellery.

Icing on the cake The Hills Tramcar Tour lasts 80 minutes and departs from Praca do Comercio (6) every 20 minutes from 9.20am to 7pm (€8) and follows a similar route to the famous yellow No 28 tram around the old quarter of Lisbon, but with less risk of pickpockets and the inclusion of an audio guide.

Source: www.independent.co.uk

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Porto: Best European Destination 2014

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Porto: Best European Destination 2014

Porto, the second Portuguese largest city, was elected for the second time “Best European Destination” of the year, by the European Consumers Choice.

Porto was first awarded the honor in 2012. In 2013 the title was won by Istanbul.

Porto won with 14.8% of the votes, followed by Zagreb, Vienna, Nicosia, Budapest, the island of Madeira, Milan, Madrid, Berlin and Rome the other destinations in the top ten. The voting was carried online involving multiple social networks

According to the European Consumers Choice, “The fact that Porto has once more been selected reflects well its fame, attractiveness and excellence as a tourist destination, as well as the dynamism of this sector with the greatest growth potential and which contributes most to national GDP.”

For three weeks, from 22 January to 12 February, travelers from all over the world voted online on their favorite destination among the 20 shortlisted to participate on the competition.

Porto, population 237,559 (2011), offers a variety of resources and historic authenticity to its visitors. Discovering Porto means discovering what makes it different: the famous Port Wine, the Historical Center designated World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO, Museums, enchanting parks and gardens.

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The city has undergone a remarkable renaissance in the last two decades. At the mouth of the Rio Douro, the hilly city presents a diversity of styles from narrow medieval alleyways to extravagant baroque churches, romantic little squares and wide modern boulevards.

The European Consumers Choice is an independent non-profit-making organization based in Brussels created to recognize companies skilled in producing innovative and intelligent designs for easy to use products. European Consumer Choice in partnership with tourism offices also rewards the best holiday destinations in Europe.

Using Eurostat’s annual tourism data and experts’ professional advice, a central jury selects 20 towns to compete for the “European Best Destination” title.

Source: http://portuguese-american-journal.com/

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15 of the prettiest villages in Europe

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15 of the prettiest villages in Europe

Almost everyone loves a pretty village, you know a place where the houses are impossibly perfect and time just seems to stand still. Well luckily Europe has plenty. From dreamy fishing villages to tiny fortifiedtowns, here are our favourite picturesque villages in Europe guaranteed to impress your travel snob friends…

Eze, France

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The ancient village of Eze – with its fabulous views over St Jean-Cap Ferrat – is a more traditional alternative to the glitz and glamour of the Côte d’Azur’s resort towns. Perched on rock 1,400 feet above sea level, the focal point of the village is the ruins of a 12th-century castle. Wander through its labyrinthine streets and then stand back to admire the gorgeous view of the villas that lead down the hillside to the Mediterranean.

Pitigliano, Italy

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Surrounded by woodland and the fabled rolling hills of Tuscany is Pitigliano – an ancient small town built on sheer cliffs. Dating from as early as 1061, the town is filled with Etruscan tombs (which locals use to store wine) which are connected by a network of caves and tunnels. An extraordinary, steep fortress surrounds the commune which ensures its status as one of the most unusual and photogenic towns in the area.

Polperro, England

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The popular English holiday county of Cornwall is filled with chocolate box pretty villages, but perhaps the most beautiful is Polperro. With its narrow winding streets and cottages perched on steep slopes overlooking a tiny harbour it seems to be everyones idea of a picturesque Cornish fishing village.

Hallstatt, Austria

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Often considered to be one of the most beautiful places in Europe, Hallstatt is very picturesque. This is mostly due to its location on a narrow rocky west bank of the Hallstättersee with the sheer rising mountains behind it. Famous for its production of salt, this tiny village was once a settlement that dates back to prehistoric times.

Wengen, Switzerland

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Wengen is an impossibly perfect example of an Alpine village where traditional timber chalets cling to the slopes of the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Yes, it does look something straight out of Heidi and although it’s a little touristy in the summer, in winter the high altitude attracts so many skiers its population increases almost ten-fold. Although Switzerland is famously expensive it doesn’t always have to be, especially if you look around for some late deals.

Obidos, Portugal

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This is an ancient fortified town located in the Estremadura Province. In the 13th century, Portuguese Queen Isabel was so enamoured by the village of Obidos that her husband, King Denis I, gave it to her as a present. Today its perfectly preserved collection of medieval architecture ensures its status as a popular tourist destination.

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Deià, Mallorca

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Deia is a renowned picturesque village – located on the northern ridge of the island – which is known for its literary and musical residents. Positioned in a valley in the shadow of the Serra de Tramuntana mountains, its home to a cluster of stone built houses complete with terracotta roofs which seem to hug the dramatic mountain range.

Ravello, Italy

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The Amalfi coast’s most peaceful and charming resort is easily worth the stomach-churningly steep drive to get to. A favourite haunt of celebrities (Greta Garbo, Jacqueline Kennedy and Tennessee Williams all holidayed here) Ravello is known for its mostly traffic-free lanes, elegant gardens, picturesque squares and its famous vertigo-inducing glimpses of the Mediterranean miles below.

Pučišća, Croatia

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Pučišća is a small and gorgeous harbour town located on the northern coast of the island of Brač. Sheltered by a protective cove and filled with attractive Mediterranean style white and terracotta houses, this kind of place is the reason why Croatia is such a popular travel destination.

Kazimierz Dolny, Poland

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This small historic town has a pre-war, precommunist charm which really draws the crowds. Besides the cobblestone streets, preserved Renaissance buildings and picturesque ruins of a medieval castle the town is also known for its superb panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

Autoire, France

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Autoire – located in Lot, close to the border with the Dordogne department – has the honour of being titled as one of the ‘most beautiful villages of France‘. A place where little has changed in 800 years, it’s filled with a collection of attractive 16th and 17th century honey coloured houses, a pretty church and central fountain all set with a backdrop of the dramatic cliffs of the Causse.

Carlingford, Ireland

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Just an hour’s drive from either Belfast or Dublin, Carlingford Heritage Village is famous for both its attractiveness and its surrounding landscapes. It enjoys a very beautiful location on the southern shore of Carlingford Lough and at the foot of Sliabh Foye surrounded by Irish myth and legend.

Mittenwald, Germany

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Mittenwald is where ‘Old Germany’ stills exists. Traditionally very Bavarian, its has gorgeously decorated houses, painted facades and ornately carved gables. The painted buildings are exceptionally pretty so take your time to stroll around while doing a spot of shopping at the same time.

Crupet, Belgium

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Crupet is a small pretty village set in a woody valley of Wallonia and surrounded by a large moat. Dating from the 13th century its famous for its beautiful castle and its grottoes. Although the medieval Crupet castle can’t be visited (it’s privately owned) it makes for an extremely photogenic backdrop.

Fjallbacka, Sweden

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Fjallbacka is a dreamy fishing village which is also a gateway to Sweden’s most westerly islands, The Weather Islands. Soon you’ll also be hearing a lot more about this tiny village – the forthcoming feature film and TV series, The Fjällbacka Murders – are currently being filmed here.

Source: www.globalgrasshopper.com

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Lisbon on the top 10 beautiful European cities to visit by train

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Lisbon on the top 10 beautiful European cities to visit by train

Lisbon is a beautiful city and well worth a stop. It was once often overlooked as a travel destination but that’s changing rapidly and has become a lot more popular in recent years. Apart from taking a sunny stroll and enjoying the gorgeous baroque architecture, make sure you include a visit to Miradouro da Senhora do Monte for the incredible views of the city (especially at sunset).

My Lisbon tip – Lisbon is also great for shopping so take plenty of cash and include a visit to the sprawling modern Amoreiras Shopping Centre.

Source: www.globalgrasshopper.com

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10 of the most beautiful places to visit in Portugal

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10 of the most beautiful places to visit in Portugal

With its cities fast becoming chic hotspots and gorgeous coastline where you still can escape the crowds, Portugal is entering a new era of cool. So what are you waiting for? Here are ten of the most beautiful places to visit in Portugal:

Lisbon

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Being the capital of Portugal, Lisbon is an obvious place to start. It receives around half the fuss of other European capitals, but can easily equal them in beauty and charm. A lot of its attraction probably lies in its deep-rooted history, coming second only to Athens in the oldest European capital stakes. It’s actually a beautiful mix of old and new, and alongside the city’s endearing old-fashioned qualities, there is also plenty to please the boutique crowds. Visit the Gothic cathedrals, historic cafes, vintage trams and narrow lanes of Lisbon’s lovely backstreets and don’t forget the vibrant coffee bars and fabulous restaurants. The city is built on a series of hills, meaning that everywhere you venture within Lisbon you are practically guaranteed to have a gorgeous view.

Sintra

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Lord Byron’s favourite Portuguese haunt is this exceptional village, ripe with richly coloured buildings and breathtaking architecture. Palaces, turrets, a romantic Moorish castle and a misty dense forest are all part of this sweet little place. The vegetation is lush and exotic due to the microclimate. There are a host of historic buildings to take a look at, as well as clusters of leafy mansions with immaculate lawns and stunningly decorative features.

Porto

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With its 14th century walls, medieval winding streets, colourfully picturesque houses, bell tower and ornate tiles there is much to see in the newly fashionable city of Porto. Sit under the arches at Placa da Ribeira (the riverfront square) and watch the boats float past. Most apartments in the area have terraces that overlook the tranquil waters. Declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, it’s a combination of old worldly charm and bustling metropolitan culture, making it a very intriguing travel destination.

Douro Valley

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The river Douro winds through Spain and Northern Portugal. It was once a wild turbulent river, but the clever introduction of eight vast dams has tamed its spirit and it is now is very tranquil and peaceful. The beauty of the area isn’t limited to these still and shimmering waters, though. Bordered by stunning sweeping hills and expanses of delicate almond blossoms, it really is a beautiful part of the world. The area remains, for the most part, unspoilt, with roads zigzagging through the mountains and cruise boats softly pressing through the water. The Douro Valley is famed for supplying grapes to the best Port companies. In fact, you can see all of the major names proudly displayed on the hillside vineyards, which change colour through the seasons as the vines mature.

Óbidos

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This is an ancient fortified town located in the Estremadura Province. In the 13th century, Portuguese Queen Isabel was so enchanted by the village of Obidos that her husband, King Denis I, gave it to her as a present. This prompted a tradition of Portuguese kings buying this picturesque village for their queens, which lasted for many centuries. When you visit this beautiful spot, you’ll understand exactly why Isabel fell in love with it.

Cascais

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Once a sleepy little fishing village, Cascais is now a chic coastal resort famed for its glorious beaches, sophisticated nightlife, water sports and adventure pursuits. Always popular with artisans, writers and artists, due to its exquisite scenery, it boasts a remarkable selection of art, proudly displayed in The Conde de Castro Guimares Museum. Another of the town’s attractions is the smart new marina filled with yachts which shimmer and glisten in the bright sunshine.

Praia da Marinha

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Because of its proximity to the overly touristy Algarve region, many dismiss the beautiful beach at Praia da Marinha. It is certainly worth visiting though, as it is considered by many to be the best beach in Portugal and is classed as one of the Top 100 beaches of the world. Ideal for snorkelling and striking rocky cliff faces, it’s no wonder that this destination is so popular for luxury 5* holidays in Portugal.

Marvão

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Marvao is a beautiful medieval mountainside town in Alentejo that still has its original 13th century walls. The streets wind seductively between the surrounding walls, making Marvao a very beautiful place to visit. As you can imagine, the views from across the town are not to be missed. The lovely hotel Pousada do Marvao, Santa Maria, is the ideal place to stay. It consists of two of the village houses that have been converted, ensuring it is in keeping with the rest of the town.

Salema

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Situated three hours South of the capital, near Cape Sagres, Salema is a beautifully tranquil beach. Although located in the package holiday favorite the Algarve, this pretty village remains comparatively untouched by the ravages of tourism, offering just a scattering of eating places, a traditional outdoor market, one small main street and clusters of pretty white stucco houses. This peaceful fishing village is located between two sharp cliffs with a glorious sandy beach rolling between.

Évora

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Évora is a Portuguese city in the municipality of Évora. The beautifully preserved historic town has been classed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and when you visit, you’ll soon discover why. It’s home to a 2000 year old Templo Romano, a 16th century aqueduct that can be followed by foot for five miles and the incredible Capela da Ossos – a sinister crypt – which displays the full skeletons of over 5000 Evora residents.

Source: www.globalgrasshopper.com

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Falling in love, and longing, in Lisbon

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Falling in love, and longing, in Lisbon

The tram twists and turns up and down the hills of Lisbon. Views open up in all directions — the Tagus River sparkling below, the tumbledown facades of once-grand townhouses, laundry-laden balconies and wrinkle-faced women gazing wistfully out their windows.

My Angolan-Portuguese husband is snapping photos. I have my headphones on, tuning out the forgettable narration and tuning in when a fado comes on. The melancholy trademark music of Portugal helps me in my quest, propels me toward an understanding of what I’ve come here to seek.

We are on tram 28, a rickety vintage car that has been winding its way through Lisbon’s streets since 1928. Only, this isn’t the real deal; it’s an ersatz version that travels a slightly more scenic route and comes complete with an audio guide, so that tourists can understand the sights they’re passing.

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The starting point is Praça do Comércio, an expansive waterfront square on the Tagus, also known as Terreiro do Paço. Recently restored, it now showcases sidewalk cafes, restaurants and museums and, on sunny days, crowds of camera-toting visitors and a few Lisboetas passing through.

Then it’s off to the hills of Lisbon, with their aging beauty concealed in the steep maze of alleyways, and back to the mosaic-paved streets and neoclassical architecture of Pombaline Baixa, the city’s elegant downtown district, built in the 18th century after the devastating 1755 earthquake.

I stopped counting my visits to Lisbon years ago; there were too many to keep track of. It’s become one of “my” cities. For my husband, who spent 14 years in Portugal, it’s a second home. So what are we doing on a tourist tram?

I’ve come on a curious mission: to find a key to a sentiment that’s been haunting me since I discovered the country in 2005. That first time I laid eyes on Lisbon, I felt a peculiar kind of wistfulness. I’d never before set foot in Portugal, so there was nothing to be wistful about. But the feeling was present, it was potent, and I found it quite odd. En route from the airport, I remember seeing shabby porticos, a palm tree here and there poking out of spaces between abandoned buildings.

On that first trip, I came with a boyfriend. As we explored Lisbon, we fought. A lot. Instead of setting out to unlock the secrets of this striking city, I spent almost the entire trip feeling sad. Yet the sadness was tinged with strangely sweet undertones.

A couple of months after our return to New York, that relationship ended. Our parting had nothing to do with Portugal itself. But the end of that romance meant a beginning of another. Only now I was in love with a city, my blossoming affair with Lisbon infused with bittersweet emotions.

Portugal’s loss

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A couple of years later, I landed in Lisbon at 5:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Everything was still half-dark, slow, still. Fado was playing on the taxi radio. And there it was again, that same wistfulness. I could recognize it so clearly as the car glided through the empty streets.

Only by then, I knew its name. I was feeling saudade, the famed Portuguese word that has no apt translation. You could describe it as a profound state of longing for someone or something you love, while knowing deep inside that he, she or it may never return. It’s the love that lingers after someone is gone. It’s a mix of emotions — happiness because you once had this person by your side, and sadness because you don’t anymore — and it triggers the senses in poignant ways.

Although the word first appeared even earlier, it’s often said that this yearning stems from the 15th-century age of discoveries. This was the golden era when Portuguese explorers set sail for far-flung seas, many disappearing in storms, others dying in battle or starting new lives elsewhere. Those left behind suffered from saudade, the nagging sense of absence, the wishful longing for what is gone. Saudade became a thread that runs through all aspects of Portuguese society, the foundation of its mentality, a tune that always plays subtly in the background. It has become a Portuguese way of life.

The former colonial powerhouse ruled a number of countries and imposed its culture on lands as far away as India (Goa was a Portuguese enclave), China (Macau belonged to Portugal until 1999), Brazil, Angola (and a string of ex-colonies across Africa) and Uruguay (Colonia del Sacramento in the country’s southwest is a replica of a small Portuguese town). After this period of power and wealth, Portugal was hit by the dictatorship of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, which lasted from 1926 to 1974. Hundreds of thousands of Portuguese citizens left the country during this time. There was that longing again, for the motherland, as emigrants set up new lives elsewhere.

Then the dictatorship fell and the former colonies got their independence, after nearly six centuries of Portuguese rule. Decades later, Portugal is one of the poorest members of the European Union. The country once had it all, then lost most of what it was proud of. No surprise, then, that saudade is omnipresent, shadowing every step.

An air of nostalgia

I’ve always loved wistfulness. I have a soft spot for nostalgia, the bittersweet remembrance of things past. Perhaps it was the saudade that seduced me to Lisbon in the first place. I love walking through the city’s half-empty streets on a quiet Sunday afternoon, past yellow funiculars and wobbly trams, the peeling walls filled with street art that makes you stop and think, the light reflecting off pastel-colored rooftops.

I love hearing fado from the bars of Alfama, the city’s oldest hilltop quarter. I love the laundry lines zigzagging across slim alleyways and staircases that seemingly lead to nowhere. I love the unexpected squares filled with palm trees and colorfully dressed African vendors. I love nibbling on pastéis de Belém custard tarts in the namesake district overlooking the Atlantic.

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I’d been hooked by saudade so strongly that a couple of years after that first visit in 2005, I returned to Lisbon to spend a summer month by the Tagus. I didn’t know that fate had something else in store. I met that something else outside a corner bar in the form of the man who’s now my husband.

While our relationship was still a transatlantic venture with an uncertain future, I decided to spend a few months in Lisbon. I left New York and found a pied-à-terre on the top floor of a ramshackle building in Bairro Alto, a quarter known for its languid days and raucous nights. From one side of my living room I could see São Jorge castle atop Alfama and, if I leaned out the window, the Tagus on the other side.

A lot happened during those four months. Most memorable was my fall down a flight of stairs, on my behind the entire way, which led to a fractured bone and painful bed rest for weeks afterward. It wasn’t the tumble per se, but at some point during those four months it dawned on me that, although I’ll always love Lisbon, it wasn’t going to make the cut as my primary home.

But the relationship continued. Hoji, my new boyfriend, eventually moved across the Atlantic, then became my husband. My love of Lisbon remained. And my obsession with saudade never faded. So, nine years after my first visit, I returned for a couple of days and set out to seek saudade. It felt like a mystery that I simply had to solve.

Seeking saudade

So there we were, on tram 28. The idea was that if only I looked at Lisbon with fresh eyes, I’d finally “get” saudade, put my finger on where it comes from and what it means.

In Santos, the waterside quarter with 19th-century warehouses and wrought-iron balconies, Hoji showed me the spot where he’d performed stand-up comedy for a while. I spotted A Barraca, a 1930s cinema refashioned into a cultural space, where I’d once gone to dance the tango.

We passed Estrela Hall, built in 1906 adjoining the British church and cemetery and converted in 1947 into a theater housing the Lisbon Players, an English-language amateur drama group. Hoji had performed here once, and I’d gone to the premiere with my broken sacrum, sporting a donut-shaped orthopedic pillow to sit on.

The tram zipped past Bairro Alto Hotel, where we were now staying, a boutique hideaway nestled between the chic neighborhood of Chiado and the boho Bairro Alto. Our second-floor room with plush touches overlooked Praça Camões, a square dedicated to the Portuguese prince of poetry.

Just down the hill was Cais do Sodré, the train station serving westbound suburban routes. For years, the riverside district around the train station had been a seedy spot with lackluster back streets haunted by sailors and ladies of the night. A couple of years ago, it turned into boho-chic central, playing rival to Bairro Alto up the hill.

The tourists on the tram looked bored and sleepy as the two of us rode up and down memory lane. The sun was bright. In Alfama, with its crooked streets and gabled houses, I recalled that first visit with my ex, when we’d seen the tail end of our relationship at Palácio Belmonte, an exclusive 10-suite hideaway in a 1449 palace atop ancient Roman and Moorish walls. Then we zipped past the walk-up apartment that Hoji and I rented for 10 days after our Cape Verde adventure last winter, when my mother came to visit, fulfilling a long-held dream of hers. “The city looks ghostly and sad, yet so pretty,” she kept saying, in different ways. To our right, we passed the Santa Luzia Belvedere, a lookout with a view toward the Alfama rooftops, the river, the dome of the National Pantheon, all framed by grapevine-draped lattices and tall palm trees.

As the tram moved, our stories — my own, my husband’s and those we shared — intersected. It felt as though the history of Lisbon was being woven through the experiences we’d once lived in the city.

In the formerly working-class Graça quarter, the tram rode past a pink building where we’d once spent Christmas with Hoji’s friends. Azulejos, the painted tin-glazed tiles that are the emblem of Portugal, reflected the sunlight beautifully. We hopped off at Largo Martim Moniz, a once-sketchy square where up-to-no-goods gathered and the two of us used to meet by Hotel Mundial, on the southern end. Now with Lisbon at its most multi-culti, the recently revamped square has gotten a new lease on life: It hosts pretty fountains, a fusion market with kiosks hawking global fare and Chinese groceries, Turkish kebab houses, Indian restaurants and African stores around the edges.

A mood of melancholy

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The next day, we rose to rain clouds that hung heavy over the hilltops. The weather suited my saudade-seeking mission. We strolled to the Fado Museum, housed in a pink building near the waterfront. Fado, which in Portuguese means fate, was born from the songs of saudade. The Portuguese sailors who crossed the globe in the past brought back tales of unknown cultures. Out of these tales rose songs that spoke of danger-filled voyages, homesickness, loneliness and the volatility of nature and fate. So where else if not in this museum would I find the key to saudade?

We found listening stations, an old gramophone, dusty records, video clips of fado performances, a 19th-century square piano and a vintage Portuguese guitar. A wall inscription read: “Fado is a poem that can be heard and seen.”

But nowhere could I find a mention of saudade. There was only one painting that spoke of the sentiment, a 1913 triptych called “O Marinheiro,” an oil canvas by Constantino Fernandes, depicting the life of a sailor. The central panel shows an arrival, or perhaps a goodbye, and it’s steeped in saudade.

Leaving the museum in an irritating drizzle, we walked back toward Bairro Alto in a mood of melancholy. A crowd of tourists was crammed inside Conserveira de Lisboa, an old-school canned foods store from the 1930s known for its colorful hand-wrapped cans of seafood based on the shop’s own recipes. We popped in to see the cobblestone interior and the wooden cash register and to grab some lime-marinated sardines and cod in olive oil and onions. Despite the tourist jam, there was still a whiff of saudade inside

Outside, the drizzle dragged on. The next day, it was time to move on. The saudade mystery lingered, and part of me felt that my pursuit had failed. I was no closer to “getting” saudade. I knew that the moment I left Lisbon, I’d feel that yearning again.

But then a new understanding emerged. Had I unraveled the puzzle, saudade would be gone. And the very point of saudade is that it stays on, lingering until the moment I’m back in Lisbon, and beyond.

Source: www.washingtonpost.com by Anja Mutic

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This is Portugal: Grutas de Mira de Aire

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This is Portugal: Grutas de Mira de Aire

The caves of Mira de Aire, located on the county of Porto de Mós, were discovered in 1947. Are 11 km long but only 600 meters are flyable.

Considered one of the wonders of Portugal, these beautiful caves are open to the public since 1974 and receive daily a large number of tourists.

One more place in Portugal that is worth visiting!

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Beautiful don't you agree?

Source: vilas3.com

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