Lisbon Portugal What to do and what not to...
If you are travelling to Lisbon
If you plan on travelling to Lisbon I present you the best tips on a variety of topics so that you can enjoy your trip to the maximum. Find out why Lisbon is in the top 10 europe cities for tourism. Daily updates on 2010 events in Lisbon, best restaurants, fado shows and what you should do and common mistakes made by travellers to lisbon starting at airport. Read about Rossio, Chiado, Belem and other quarters worth visiting. Tips on getting a cheap Lisbon stay.
I contact daily with tourists since I am a hotel manager and have been in the business for the past decade. Feel free to contact me for any other tips...
Covered topics: Airoport transportation to the city, concerts, theatre and entertainment, nightlife, portuguese cuisine and wines, hotels in Lisbon and how to get the best at the lowest prices, restaurants and nightlife, Lisbon surroundings - Estoril, Sintra and Cascais, Lisbon quarters that you must visit, etc...
Best time of the year to visit Lisbon for me would be around June 12th. So you catch the Santo Antonio´s night party on the streets. The weather is usually mild. The city is vibrant with the celebration of Lisbon´s own Saint Anthony. Make sure you go to Alfama and celebrate among thousands with grilled sardines and red wine. Due to its mediterranean climate, Lisbon is an all year around great place to visit.
Upcoming 2010 events in Lisbon
Until June 23rd 2010 - Art in movement inside Lisbon´s trams - Bica , Lavra and Gloria trams
May 21st, 22nd, 27th, 29th, and 30th - Rock in Rio Lisboa - Ramnstein, Motorhead, Shakira, Elton John, 2 many DJs, Muse, Sum 41, Snow Patrol, Miley Circus, McFly, Green Velvet, etc.
May 18th and 19th 2010 - Metallica - Pavilhao Atlantico
May 7th 2010 - Gotan Project - Lisbon Coliseum
April 29th 2010 - Alicia Keys - Pavilhao Atlantico
April 22nd 2010 - Sonic Youth - Lisbon Coliseum
April 7th 2010 - Tokyo Hotel - Pavilhao Atlantico
March 27th - Disney on Ice - Pavilhao Atlantico
March 26th and 27th - Carmen Opera - Lisbon Coliseum
March 26th - Alphaville Concert - Campo Pequeno
March 23rd - Carmina Burana & Beethoven´s 9th - Lisbon Coliseum
March 22nd and 23rd - Star Wars in Concert - Pavilhao Atlantico
March 14th - Spandau Ballet Concert - Pavilhao Atlantico
TOP PLACES THAT YOU CAN´T MISS WHEN VISITING LISBON
- Bairro Alto -
This is where all the nightlife starts out for everyone. There´s always something out in Bairro Alto that is sure to please everyone independently of your age, music likings and wealth. Punk rockers, rastafaris and successful businessmen cross in the streets of this old quarter of the city. It is almost impossible not to get lost since it is full of small puzzling streets. You are also sure to find Lisbon´s best and most expensive restaurants here as well as smaller typical inexpesive food sellers. This is also where you find the best fado houses. Bars to go when you are in Bairro Alto:
- Clandestino bar - Rua Da Barroca 99 - A hit for anyone who was a teenager in the late 80´s and 90´s. If you wonder in during weeekdays you can even ask for the music that you want to listen - U2 , Pixies, Nirvana and Pearl Jam are always on...
- Pavilhao Chines - Interesting and unusual interior. Could pass as a museum of toys. The menu is actually a book so don't be intimidated. Awesome atmosphere and comfortable chairs. Place is a little spendy but well worth it.artists..
- Portas Largas - Rua da Atalaia 105 - The most famous bar around. Used to be a fado house. Old tavern environment
- Fragil - Rua da Atalaia 126 - An old favourite club. House music for the masses.
- Catacumbas Jazz Bar - Travessa Água da Flor 43 - The name says it all. Jazz and Bairro Alto mix well together.
- Fatima Lopes Bar - Rua da Atalaia 36 - Belongs to Portuguese styler Fatima Lopes. Cross between a bar and a place where you can dance.
- Capela Bar - Rua da Atalaia 45 - Neogothic style, low light and a great electronic music selection make this a great choice.
Galeria Ze dos Bois - Rua da Barroca 59 - Alternative live music inside an 18th century house. Electronic music and emerging artists.
Groove bar - Rua da Rosa 148 - If you are into Reggae and Psytrance this is it. Not very big sizzed but a wonder to the ears.
Arroz Doce - Rua da Atalaia 119 - Famous for its shot - Pontapé na cona (Puss% kick)
- The Historical Center (Rossio, Restauradores and Chiado) - The best way to start up your trip in Lisbon is to visit the old heart of the city, Rossio Square. It is located in the Pombaline Downtown of Lisbon and has been one of its main squares since the Middle Ages. It has been the setting of popular revolts and celebrations, bullfights and executions, and is now a preferred meeting place of Lisbon natives and tourists alike. Restauradores is located on the end (or the beggining) of Liberdade Avenue. Chiado is nowadays a place to shop for all kinds of goods. Old bookstores rival with modern appliances and modern shopping malls here.
- King Pedro IV Square (aka Rossio Square) - Majestic square and the absolute heart of the city. The "center" square is enlightned by 2 fountains and the statue of King Pedro IV. The majestic Augusta Street takes you down to Praça do Comercio.
- Praça do Comercio (aka Terreiro do Paço) - The Royal Palace Square is majestic by all means. It is bordered by its famous cafes and restaurants and overlooks the Tagus river. It is one of the largest in Europe.
- Santa Justa elevator (aka Carmo elevator) - The Santa Justa Elevator, also known as Carmo Elevator, is one of the most interesting monuments of Lisboa historical centre. Conceived by Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard in a Gothic Revival Romantic styleto link downtown Lisbon with the Largo do Carmo. The Elevator first started to work by Steam, and in 1907 it began working by electric energy, being the only vertical lift in Lisboa. Made entirely of cast iron and enriched with works in filigree, inside the tower the elevator has 45 meters and capacity for 45 persons in each cabin (there are two cabins). There is a Cafeteria in the top with a magnificent panoramic over the city centre and the gorgeous Tagus River.
Tram 28 - One of the most requested tram rides in the world. It twists and turns into narrow and impossible streets. It is a great way to see the city and its natives all for a cheap ticket. Another hit with the kids. One problem is the damn pickpockets. Beware tram riders.
Santo Antonio Church - The popular saint was born in Portugal and died in Padua. It is said that he lived here in the surroundings of this Baroque, Rococo and Neo-Classic architectonic church.
- The Lisbon Cathedral - Started building in 1147!!! Romanesque and Gothic styles. The treasure of the Cathedral is situated in the top of the stairways, on the right side. It shelters a diversified collection of silver, ecclesiastical suits, statues, manuscripts, and relics associated to São Vicente. The most precious piece of the cathedral is the chest that contents the mortal remains of the Saint, transferred from the São Vicente Cape, in the Algarve, to Lisboa in 1173. The legend says that two sacred crows kept a permanent vigil on the boat that transported the relics. The crows and the boat became the symbol of the city of Lisboa. In fact, it is said that the descendants of the two original crows lived in cloisters of the cathedral for many years, and probably their own descendents still do.
Ginginha - Try Portugal´s famous liquor the ginginha. Located on one of the corner´s of Rossio square, next to D. Maria II theatre, this typical bar is so small that everyone drinks outside standing up just before entering Lisbon´s coliseum for a music concert.
Gloria elevator - My favourite tram ride is also the shortest. It´s only one stop long!!! So don´t act surprised when it is over after riding 3 minutes or so. It is my favourite because it takes you to the high part of the city - Bairro Alto - and its nightlife.
- Nicola Cafe - In the early 1800’s, this café was the meeting place for politicians and writers, especially the poet Bocage.
Hard Rock Cafe - So you can say you were in Lisbon buy a shirt. The attendants are very nice and the cocktails are as exquisite as anywhere. It iwas built inside an old theatre. Features live music as well.
- Belem -
The famous historical quarter (not to be confused with the historical center). The nobel and renowned quarter features more historical and cultural monuments than anywhere else in Portugal.Belem was the main port from where the Portuguese Discoveries ships sailed to roam the world. It is also famous for its Belem custard cakes (pasteis de Belém) sold at the Confeitaria de Belem. The recipe has been the same since 1837.
- Jeronimos Monastery - Best example of the Manuelin style. The biggest monastery in Portugal and an architectural masterpiece. Unesco world heritage.
- National Coaches Museum - The biggest royal coaches museum in the world. One of Lisbon´s most visited sights. Some of the most wonderful examples belonged to several European royal families, from Spain to England, including a 19th century coach built in London last used by Queen Elizabeth II on a state visit.
- Belem´s Tower - or the Tower of St Vincent is a fortified tower. It is a UNESCO world heritage because of the significant role it played in the Portuguese maritime discoveries of the era The tower was commissioned to be both part of a defense system at the mouth of the Tagus river and a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon.
- Monument to the discoveries - Seen from the huge mariners compass this monument fascinates visitors with its impressiveness and its 50 metres height. It is visited by millions of people each year. Cut into the paving stone, the compass (see panel above) was a present from the Republic of South Africa in 1960 and it's best seen from the top of the Monument to the Discoveries, that you can access by elevator located inside the building. The central map, depicting galleons and mermaids, shows the routes of the discoverers in the 15th and 16th centuries.It is located on the bank of the River Tagus, in a unique monumental area and looks particularly dramatic in the light of the late afternoon sun.
- Belem´s Palace - No tourist access. The residence of Portugal´s President.
- Planetarium Calouste Gulbenkian - The Planetarium recreates the sky at night and reveals the mysteries of the cosmos. The several sessions, presented in Portuguese, English and French, will tell you more about 'The solar system', 'The moon', 'The evolution of the stars, 'The movement of the earth', ' Earth - Planet Alive', 'The universe', 'The sun', 'The constellations' and many others. An absolute hit with the kids.
- Tarts of Belem - or "pasteis de Belem " or "Belem custard cakes". Sold at the Confeitaria de Belem. The recipe has been the same since 1837.
- Belem´s Cultural Center - Production and hosting of cultural events, from theatre to dance, from classical music to jazz, from opera to cinema.
- The Berardo Museum of modern and contemporary art - Held inside Belem´s Cultural Center The Berardo Museum has one of the world's most acclaimed modern art collections, with works by Warhol, Picasso, Dali, Duchamp, Magritte, Miró, Bacon, Jackson Pollock, Jeff Koons, among others representing dozens of modern movements. It was amassed by Portuguese magnate Joe Berardo, who for many years had wanted to create a museum for his vast collection. Cities like Paris and Miami were interested in buying it, but the Portuguese government made sure it was kept in Lisbon.
- BBC (Belem Bar Cafe) - A hit among the upperscale portuguese. Features a restaurant and and a dance club in through the night.
Lisbon´s top 10 restaurants (highest quality/price)
10- Pap'Acorda - This one is located in Bairro Alto. Its location makes it great for after dinner bar hopping. You haven´t been in Lisbon if you haven´t been to Bairro Alto. It is the old part of town and a wonder for everyone dying for a good night entertainment,
9- Chapito - This one is located on the top of the city. Great view and it is very close to the Castel of St. George. It also features some circus and theatre shows. Better than the restaurant is the after dinner scene... Just great for a glass.
8- Casa do Alentejo - An absolute wonder to the eye. Mourish style and glazed tiles. Do try the "Carne de Porco á Alentejana" ã mix of clams and pork meat.
7- Alcantara Cafe - Italian QO said it is the 2nd best restaurant in the world. Located in between old factories and a very dark area, it comes out as an oasis. Nouvelle cuisine.
6- Restaurante Café Buenos Aires - Located in Bairro Alto. A small, young and very informal restaurante famous for its argentinian dishes.
5- O Terreiro do Paço - Located in the Praça do Comercio area. Beautiful design and portuguese typical food. Used to be an old post office.
4- Pinóquio - Located in the heart of the city (Restauradores). Great for seafood and the their beefs.
3- Cervejaria Ramiro - Great for tapas. Try the house favourite "Gambas á Guillo" - fried shrimp accompanied with toasted buttered bread
2- O Poleiro - It is in the "Entrecampos" area. A bit hard to find but worth it. The roasted lamb is out of this world.
1- Tromba Rija - All you can eat buffet. A bit expsensive but you get to try everything from the portuguese cuisine. It is absolutely complete and it includes the wine as well.
The top 10 mistakes to avoid for people traveling to Lisbon
10- Watch out for pickpockets in public transportation. Lisbon has got to be the safest capital city in the world. There´s no violence at all, you walk safely almost everwhere in the city but the best pickpockets in the world are right here and right behind you. Take extra precaution when takin tram 28.
9- Learn portuguese. What for? It is a hard language to learn and you´ll probably end up making a fool out of yourself. Do learn a few friendly words like thank you (obrigado/obrigada) or good morning (bom dia). Most speak english. Portuguese do not mind at all that you do not speak portuguese and are more than glad to try out their own english skills!
8- Lisbon in August. Not a very good time to visit. Prices are high and a lot of shops are closed since most workers take their vacations during August. It is very hot as well. Choose spring or autumn as your visit months.
7- Avoiding museums and palaces. Don´t even thin about it. Remember that Portugal was the richest country in the world 500 years ago and a lot can still be seen. Try the Palacio de Queluz (Portuguese version of Versailles) and the Ancient Art Museum.
6- Not bringing your swimsuit and beach towel. Lisbon is bordered by great beaches. If it is summer time try the beaches in the Cascais area and dine at the restaurants that are on top of the beach. Train ride to Cascais is about 30 minutes and very cheap. Make sure you avoid weekends since they can overcrowd.
5- Underestimating portuguese gastronomy and wines. Stay away from junk food. I find portuguese typical dishes to be among the finest in the world. And if you look around anywhere in the city (speacially during lunch time on weekdays) you can eat a full meal for less than 9 euros. Don´t forget that Port wine comes from here and Portugal produces green wine - it is the only country in the world that has green wine (besides South Africa - but we were first!). Green wine is drank with seafood (and there is plenty of fresh seafood to try).
4- Staying in 1 or 2 star hotels and hostels just because they are always cheaper. Lisbon is full of hotels and competition is high. You will find that paying an extra 10 or 15 euros per night for a 3,4 or a 5 star hotel was in fact a great choice. Hotel prices in Lisbon went down over the past 2 years due to the economical recession that hit the world. For the first time in 80 years the number of tourists coming in to Portugal decreased (like everwhere else).
3- Getting a suggestion for restaurants and fado houses from your hotel concierge. You´ll probably end up paying a lot of money for your suggestion since the hotels earn a commission from them.
2- Renting a car if you only plan on only visiting Lisbon, Sintra, Estoril and Cascais . Lisbon is an ancient city full of small streets, bad roads, crazy drivers, bad or non existing signs, no parking or expensive parking ... You will get lost (I live here and I always do!). Fuel is more expensive than any other city I know. The city is powered with a modern subway system. You can get to all the main points by metro or bus. If you feel like rushing back to the hotel just catch a cab it is also inexpensive and there are plenty of them around. Sintra, Cascais and Estoril even though they are out of Lisbon are easily reachable by inexpensive and fast train rides.
1- Airport (arrival terminal) cabs tend to overcharge. Since Lisbon´s Portela airport is located in the middle of the city, most hotels are reachable with 10/12 euros or less... Always pay what is displayed on the taximeter. Go to the departures terminal and catch a cab from there (it is always safer). The taxis found within the city are perfectly safe. Aerobus is a good choice as well (and you can save the aerobus ticket for other bus rides throughout that day).
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