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Visiting Portugal

Lisbon’s comin’ at ya!

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Lisbon’s comin’ at ya!

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

Lisbon’s Thriving Creative Economy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

artigo de Laura Secorun Palet publicado no Fast Forward OZY

Source: A Cidade na Ponta dos Dedos

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Stunning village built into gigantic stone

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Stunning village built into gigantic stone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The cliffs surrounding the village are strewn with enormous rocks

The cliffs surrounding the village are strewn with enormous rocks

Monsanto is perched at 2,486 feet above sea level

Monsanto is perched at 2,486 feet above sea level

Source: Dailymail

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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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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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Cutting-edge Lisbon

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Cutting-edge Lisbon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Príncipe Real

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chiado and around

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bairro Alto

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

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

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

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

Alternative creative concepts

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

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

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

Baixa gallery

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

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

Source: Lonely Planet by Kate Armstrong 

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Portugal voted top destination once again

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Portugal voted top destination once again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The Portugal News

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Braga, the loveliest city in Portugal

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Braga, the loveliest city in Portugal

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

Morning at the Cathedral in Braga. Photograph: Alamy

Morning at the Cathedral in Braga. Photograph: Alamy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Centésima Página

Centésima Página

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

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

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

Spirito, Braga

Spirito, Braga

Source: The Guardian by Jeanine Barone

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Tourism technology: How to enjoy a roaming holiday

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Tourism technology: How to enjoy a roaming holiday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The Independent by Simon Usborne

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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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31 REASONS TO LIVE IN LISBON

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31 REASONS TO LIVE IN LISBON

1. It basks in Europe's greatest climate

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More sunshine than Madrid, Rome or Athens — yet while they all sweat through the Mediterranean summer, there's usually a breeze blowing off the Atlantic to give Lisbon natural air-conditioning.

2. Cervejaria Ramiro is so, so, so good

Lisbon is full of great places to eat super-fresh seafood.

3. The beach is 20 minutes from downtown

The soft sandy beaches of Oeiras and Cascais are a short hop along a coast-hugging suburban rail line. There are countless other choices too. In less than an hour's drive you can plunge into bracing surf at Guincho, or chill in a sheltered bay fringed with white sand beneath the green hills of Arrabida.

4. Tram 28 exists and makes everyone happy

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Every tourist knows about the little yellow street cars that ply this line, but the five-mile ride is still the coolest (and cheapest) way to see the city. The trams rattle through a succession of historic neighborhoods carrying locals and sightseers squeezed in sardine-style, while cheeky urchins cling perilously to the running boards for a free ride.

5. It's got a river that feels like the sea

The Tagus at its widest is over 10 miles across, forming western Europe's largest estuary. It's a haven for wildlife — including pink flamingos that flock to the far bank. The river water's reflected sunshine gives "the white city" its unique milky light.

6. It is mainland Europe's closest capital to Africa and Latin America — in all sorts of ways

It's not just the weather. Lisbon's public gardens are filled with lush tropical foliage. Countless Lisboetas have roots in Brazil or Portuguese-speaking Africa. There are bars playings bossa nova and serving caipirinhas; nightclubs where you can sway all night to the rhythms of Cape Verdean coladeiras or Angolan kizomba; restaurants dishing up Brazilian feijoada or the sophisticated, coconut-infused cuisine of Mozambique.

7. Rome can't match the views from Lisbon's seven hills

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Like the Italian capital, Lisbon is supposed to have been built on seven hills. Almost every one offers a fabulous view, from across the rooftops of the old city to the shimmering waters of the Tagus beyond. For the full panoramic experience head for the terrace bars at the view points of Portas do Sol, Sao Pedro de Alcantara, Graça or Santa Catarina.

8. The LX Factory has brought life back to a forgotten corner of the city

Take a rundown industrial site, fill the factories and warehouses with funky stores, restaurants and galleries, bring life to a forgotten corner of the city.

9. Getting lost here is a delight

Lisbon is reckoned to be Europe's second oldest capital (after Athens). It was ruled by Romans, Germans and Arabs before Portuguese crusaders conquered it in 1147. Wandering aimlessly through the souk-like streets of ancient neighborhoods like Alfama, Mouraria, Bica or Madragoa is one of the city's greatest pleasures.

10. Football is a religion

Some cities are divided by language, faith or politics. Lisbon is split down the middle by citizens' unbreakable devotion to either the eagles of red-shirted Benfica, or Sporting's lions in green. Few sports events unleash more passion than a game between them.

11. The coffee is better here than there

In its empire building days, Portugal managed to colonize Brazil, Angola and East Timor — producers of some of the world's finest coffee. Lisbon today runs on superpowered espresso served in tiny shots known as bicas.

12. There's loads of culture

You can overdose on the arts — from the gilded interior of the Sao Carlos opera house, to the fabulous art in the Gulbenkian Museum and Berardo Collection, to endless open-air music festivals through the summer.

13. You can drink ginjinha in gardens all over the city

Portugal is famed for Port wine, but Lisbon's favorite sweet tipple is this rich, red cherry liqueur. Best sipped at one of the old hole-in-the-wall bars around Rossio square or the many kiosk terraces in gardens and squares around the city.

14. They don't kill the bull

Unlike in Spain, the bulls walk away from a Portuguese corrida de touros. Instead, they are poked and prodded by a spear-wielding horseman (or woman) dressed in aristocratic 18th-Century garb before being wrestled to a standstill by a team of seemingly suicidal commoners. Lisbon's Campo Pequeno bullring is a neo-Moorish architectural oddity.

15. You can chill in cool modernist neighborhoods

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A few metro stops from the old city's mazes of medieval streets, the broad modernist avenues of Alvalade are lined with cool stores and tempting sidewalk cafes.

16. You can eat really, really well for practically nothing

Despite recent sales tax hikes, it's easy to eat a hearty traditional meal (let's say duck baked with rice, eggs scrambled with salt-cod and olives, or grilled fresh sardines) for about $7 in neighborhood eateries known as tascas. Food is taken very seriously here and even fancy restaurants are much cheaper than in most European capitals.

17. Lisbon's version of the blues is on the world's protected heritage list

Fado songs should form the soundtrack of any trip to Lisbon. The bluesy, guitar-backed laments can be an acquired taste, but a new generation of singers like Ana Moura, Gisela Joao or Cristina Branco are making fado sexy, accessible and successful.

18. It has what might be the greatest aquarium in the world

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The Oceanario is Lisbon's biggest attraction. An aquarium like no other, its 180,000 cubic feet main tank holds more than 100 species of big fish, including tuna, rays and sharks. Located in the ultra-modern Parque das Nacoes district, the landmark building's myriad displays also include penguins living in a re-created Antarctic icescape, sea turtles gliding through the water and darkened tanks lit by fluorescent jellyfish.

19. Even the cakes are historic

Pasteis de nata are Lisbon's greatest gift to confectionary. The Antiga Confeitaria de Belem has been selling the little custard-filled tarts since 1837, but if you want to avoid the queues, aficionados say the nearby Chique de Belem cafe does them even better.

20. The houses have more colors than a box of Legos

Lisbon's "white city" nickname is something of a misnomer. Houses and apartment blocks come brightly painted in yellow, pink, sky blue and just about every shade in between.

21. Johnny Depp speaks English here

Unlike in most European countries, Portuguese theaters play movies in their original language, with subtitles. Monoglot anglophones can happily catch up on the latest Hollywood releases, or enjoy an art house classic at the Cinemateca — preferably combined with a drink in its rooftop bar.

22. Shopping can take you back in time

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While much of Europe has succumbed to out-of-town megastores, Lisbon is filled with specialist shops where a friendly face will be waiting behind a wooden counter to help you find dried Algarve figs, bathroom appliances, coat buttons, vintage port or whatever it is you're searching for.

23. It smells really good (except sometimes when it smells bad)

A favorite song here claims "it smells good, it smells of Lisbon." If you're lucky, you'll catch whiffs of orange blossom, freshly hung laundry or cinnamon sprinkled on cakes hot from the oven. You might also be confronted by salt cod on the grill, blocked drains or trash piled up on strike days. All part of the olfactory experience.

24. There are great bars everywhere

Pensao Amor is an erotically charged former bordello; the Pavilhao Chines resembles a giant Edwardian curiosity cabinet; Botequim da Graça is an intimate intellectual hangout; Povo showcases up-and-coming fado stars. In a city that lives late into the night, there are bars on the roof of car parks, in gardens and museums; quayside nightclubs where you can dance until dawn breaks over the Tagus; whole neighborhoods of bars in Bairro Alto or Cais do Sodre.

25. The Chiado is like the legend of the phoenix

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Devastated by a 1988 fire, this grand old district of Belle Époque stores, theaters and literary cafes rose from the ashes as the restored heart of the city. You can spend your days browsing the world's oldest bookshop (Livraria Bertrand, est. 1732) and drinking bicas at the counter of the Brasileira cafe founded in 1905.

26. Where else (outside of Goa) can you sample wonderful Goan food?

Portugal's former colony on the west coast of India makes some of south Asia's finest cuisine. Can't get to Goa? Lisbon's Goan restaurants like Jesus e Goes and Cantinho de Paz serve sublime shrimp curry, kid with roasted coconut or crab-stuffed samosas.

27. There's a fairy-tale fortress up in the hills

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Commuter trains take less than 40 minutes to climb to the magical hill town of Sintra. A plethora of palaces were erected there amid the thick woodland so Lisbon's aristocracy could escape the city heat. Looming above them all is the Palacio da Pena, a romantic bolthole built by a German prince who married into Portugal's royal family. The whole place is a UNESCO heritage site.

28. Neighborhood markets are a feast for foodies

Fancy tripe, baby squid, or a plate of freshly picked loquats? Lisbon's neighborhood markets will have them all (in season). The best known is the 132-year-old Mercado da Ribeira, poised for a major facelift.

29. It's full of leafy havens

From tree-shaded public gardens where aging card sharks while away endless afternoons to the 2,500 acre Monsanto in the western suburbs, Lisbon is full of green getaways. A favorite is Jardim do Principe Real a verdant oasis surrounded by chic shops and bars.

30. They've got fabulous gelato

Attilio Santini moved from Italy in 1949. His family still serves world beating ice-cream from their stores in the Chiado and in the western beach suburbs. There's usually a line, but with flavors ranging from baked apple to Azores pineapple, the gelato is always worth the wait.

31. You can get a shoe-shine for less than $3

Shoe-shiners may have disappeared from much of Europe, but professionals armed with brushes, rags and pots of polish are stationed around downtown to give new life to your footwear — and fill you in on the latest gossip. Some operate inside cafes, like the splendid 1940s Pastelaria Mexicana, so you can get a shine while enjoying your morning coffee.

Source: Global post

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The horses of Portugal

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The horses of Portugal

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They look like the last aristocrats.

They are treated with the most respect and tenderness.

They have the best diets and food.

They have fancy shampoo baths before showing up.

They have the best shoemakers.

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They have healthcare 24/7.

They dress the way their forefathers did in the 18th century.

They have gentlemen’s hairdressers.

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They are all males living at the Royal Palace of Queluz, 20 kms (12 miles) north of Lisbon, the same palace that received past Kings, Queens and Presidents during their state visits to Portugal.

They have care takers and horsemen all around, proud to be a part of the Equestrian Art Portuguese School.

They are the Lusitano horses, descended from the family of Iberian wild horses that were tamed by the stud farm of Alter do Chao in southern Portugal in the 18th century. The Royal Equestrian School closed in the 19th century but due to the Portuguese tradition of bullfighting on horseback the art, the skills and culture survive until today.

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The Lusitano horse has been developed as a horse for bullfights, academics and training making them some of the most desired in the world. Portugal, the ancestral home for Lusitano horses has now been surpassed by Brazil with their fast-growing horse farms.

Twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays the horses appear on the baroque gardens of the Queluz palace. With epoch music playing along for fourteen minutes viewers feel like they are being transported to the past.

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Source: blogs.reuters by Jose Manuel Ribeiro

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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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Why Portugal is high on a wine lover’s list

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Why Portugal is high on a wine lover’s list

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

Portugal seems to be stuck in an unfortunate dichotomy in our mind’s eye: There’s cheap Mateus, the wine of unsophisticates — Saddam Hussein supposedly was a fan — and vintage port, the expensive postprandial tipple of the stodgy British aristocracy. 

That’s as regrettable as it is incomplete.

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

Much of the country’s charm is in the sheer variety of its grapes, many of which are indigenous and not widely grown in other countries. Portugal has not succumbed to the lure of chardonnay and cabernet. It shares some grapes with Spain, of course. Albariño and godello appear here as alvarinho and gouveio. Tempranillo, the great red grape of Rioja and Ribera del Duero, plays a supporting role throughout Portugal under a variety of pseudonyms. Syrah makes a cameo appearance, though it hasn’t stolen the show. 

If you enjoy keeping track of the grape varieties you’ve tasted, you can add extensively to your repertoire by exploring the wines of Portugal. The port grapes of touriga nacional, touriga franca, tinta roriz (Portugal’s main pseudonym for tempranillo) and tinta cao form the major red blends from the Douro. Farther south, trincadeira anchors the reds along with aragonez (another name for tempranillo), while fernao pires shines in aromatic whites. If you search, you can find touriga in Virginia or Australia, and others maybe in experimental vineyards, but most of these varieties are unique to Portugal. 

The Douro is the world’s oldest wine region, having been officially demarcated in 1756 in an attempt to guarantee the authenticity of its wines. Those wines were almost exclusively port — fortified and sweet, in a variety of styles — until the 1990s, when a few wineries began using the same grapes to make dry table wines. Those wines have proved popular enough that more vineyards have been planted farther upriver in the Douro Superior, near the Spanish border. So the Douro is both an old wine region and a new one.  

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Stylistically, Douro’s table wines are similar to Spain’s famous reds from Rioja and Ribera del Duero; remember the tempranillo connection. Yet Douro reds have a complexity that seems to reach down into the schist that makes up the vineyard soils. They also have a leafy, somewhat woodsy character that speaks of the outdoors. They don’t conjure wood-paneled tasting rooms or barrel cellars as much as an autumn hike along a riverside trail. 

The Douro also leads Portugal in value, and I might not have said that a few years ago, when the wines seemed to aim at the higher end of the price spectrum. There are a few priced under $10: Charamba is nationally available, while Lello is available more in the Washington area market. The excitement now starts around the $15 level and up, with wines that outperform for their price. Quinta do Crasto and Muxagat are two labels I highly recommend for their entire line of wines. Others, such as Niepoort and Quinta do Vale Meao, are harder to find but worth seeking out and splurging on.

Another reason to love these wines: They often have a smoky, earthy character that pairs well with grilled foods. And the time for grilling is nigh.

Source: By Dave McIntyre www.washingtonpost.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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