Lisbon’s markets and fairs

If you’re one of those persons who loves to look for little treasures in lost places and browse little stores searching for rarities, then this post is for you.

One of the things I love to do on my (rare) free time is to walk around markets, buy rarities and handicrafts, or simply observe the quaint things some merchants want to sell. Lisbon has a nice offer in terms of markets and since many people like to visit local markets when they travel, I decided to list some interesting markets and fairs.

  • “Feira da Ladra” – Lisbon’s flea market is just like any other flea market in the world: name a bizarre product and you’ll find it there. From old books or vintage furniture to used clothes, shoes, underwear or other types of garbage, it has it all. Some artists use it to show their work too, so, you may find some art pieces or design jewelry as well. Where: Páteo São Vicente, between Alfama and Graça; When: every Tuesday and Saturday morning.
  •  “Mercado da Ribeira” – Is one of the most traditional markets, mostly visited by locals who want to buy fresh products: fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, flowers… Besides the classical products you’ll also find many things that you’ve never seen before. Don’t forget to buy some olives and some lupins (azeitonas e tremoços). Where: Cais do Sodré; When: every morning except on Sundays.
  • “Jardim da Estrela” – is the perfect combination of shopping and relaxing as it’s located in Estrela public garden. Most sellers are young artists who sell urban handicraft, jewelry, clothes, bags and other hand-made items. Besides the market you can sit and relax in the garden: sometimes they also have free Tai-Shi lessons or concerts. Where: Jardim da Estrela; When: first weekend of the month, from 10am to 6pm
  • Similar Fair: “Feira da Alegria”. Where: Praça da Alegria; When: every 1st and 3rd weekend of the month, from 10 am to 6 pm.
  • “Mercado Biológico do Príncipe Real” – has all sorts of organic products. While more and more consumers are worried about the quality of what they eat, more and more producers are proud of growing their products without the use of pesticides nor other chemical products. Since there was no place for them in the normal market, Agrobio decided to create this “organic market”. You can find vegetables, fruits, animal derived and bakery products. Where: Principe Real; When: every Saturday morning
  • Similar Fair: “Agrobio”. Where: Largo de Santos; When: every Thursday, from 4 to 8 pm
  • “Feira do Chiado” – is specialized in old books and collectible items. Is used mostly by collectors and second hand book sellers, some of which just show books they’ve been keeping for a while. Where: Rua da Anchieta, Chiado; When: Every Saturday morning.
  • “Mercado das Colecções” – located in the same place than “Mercado da Ribeira”, its name “Collections Market” says it all: is perfect to find stamps, coins, books, medals, postcards, watches and other rarities. Where: Cais do Sodré; When: every Sunday morning.
  • “Mercado da Avenida da Liberdade” – brings all sorts of items to the centre of the city. Old books and antiques, stamps and coins, handicrafts and designer’s clothes, it has a little bit of everything. Where: Avenida da Lisberdade; When: Every 2nd weekend of the month.
  • Similar Fair: “Mercado de Belém”. Where: Belém, in front of St Jerome monastery; When: every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month, from 9 am to 6 pm.

Not sure if everyone will speak English? Check this page with the essential words.

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The most beautiful train stations

Flavor Wire, a cultural guide from the USA, decided to make a list of the 10 most beautiful train stations in the world and didn’t forget to include Portugal on their list.
When someone talks about nice train stations my mind automatically flies (or travels by train) to Porto, to São Bento train station, which history includes a lot more than trains. Built in the place of a former monastery (in Portugal all the religious orders were abolished in 1834), it’s waiting room is completely covered by 20.000 blue and white tiles, painted by Jorge Colaço, a great Portuguese artist. Tile scenes include epic moments of the history of Portugal, traditional arts and crafts of the region, the harvest gather of the grapes that are used to produce Port wine and much more.
Wait, this is a blog about Lisbon! Let me get back to my train (“Alfa Pendular” trains connect Porto and Lisbon in 2,5 hours) and go visit Rossio train station, in Lisbon. There isn’t direct connection between these two train stations though, as the trains that leave São Bento only go to other towns in the North and Rossio’s trains only go to Sintra.
Rossio’s train station is also included on this listing for it’s precious architecture. Most of my customers get disappointed when I tell them that it’s just a train station, as, by looking at its façade, everyone expects it to be either a palace or a museum. It was built with the goal of dotting Lisbon with a fancy central train station, as all European capitals have one. Despite the classical neo-manueline style of the façade, the staircases and the hall are very modern, but, the waiting area has tiles panels dating from the dictatorship, depicting traditional products of Portugal, including those from the former colonies and great Portuguese characters.

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The feasts of Lisbon are coming!

Today I was doing a walking tour “Old and Downtown” and while walking through the streets of Alfama I could see that everyone is getting ready for “Santo António” night. God, I got really happy and excited as this is my favorite night of the year, in Lisbon. Yes, I prefer it over New Years Eve, my birthday or any other holiday. What’s so special about St. Anthony?
In Portugal we have the normal Patron Saints but we also have three Popular Saints. They are St. Anthony, St Peter and St John and are all celebrated in June. Just like the patron saints, each town chooses one and celebrates him, not with masses and processions, but with a happy party, in the streets of the historical center. In Lisbon we celebrate St. Anthony, the non official patron saint, on the 12th of June at night. All streets get decorated with colorful ribbons, paper balloons, lights and so. Everywhere there’s a small counter where they are selling beer, sangria, grilling sardines and sausages. About 6pm the tram stops to circulate because there are already too many people in the streets as everyone who finishes their work go immediately towards the historical center to meet friends and start to eat something.
This is a party in the streets, with small bands performing live, everyone dancing in the streets (traffic is cut in most areas), old and young people enjoying the party until the sun rises.
It was supposed to last just one night but everyone enjoys it so much that now the “Feasts of Lisbon” last for about one month and include lots of different activies. Check the program here.

“Lisboa vai prá rua, que o Sant’António é teu…”

Feliz Dia da Espiga

 Today we celebrate the “Dia da Espiga”, which can be translated into something like “Thursday of cereal ears”.

     This day tradition says that everyone should go for a walk through the fields, in the early morning, and grab daisies, poppies, few different cereal ears, a small olive branch and rosemary.

     The flowers generally stand for joy, being daisies for gold and poppies for love; cereal ears represent the bread; the olive branch remembers both peace and the light, as long time ago the only illumination existing in the houses would be olive oil lamps; and finally, the rosemary is supposed to bring health and strength.

     The branch must be kept at home, without water, and must be kept from one year to the other, to bring all these good things to the house. The tradition is old and its origins a bit unknown. Some say that it comes from an old Christian tradition, of blessing the first fruit of each harvest, but other say that it’s even older, coming from the pagan cults to the goddess Flora, which also used to happen in this time of the year.

     To me, this tradition remembers me of my childhood and puts a smile on my face. I still remember when I used to go for a walk on the countryside with my mother, sister, my dogs and some little friends and grab all these flowers and cereal ears. Nowadays there are many people selling these branches in the streets of the big cities, but obviously it isn’t the same thing than grabbing it yourself.

Feliz Dia da Espiga

And the winner is…

And the winner is…

We finally have the results and the great winner of “Concours Mondial Bruxelles”, as a red wine, is the Poliphonia Signature 2008. It’s produced in Évora region and is a property of Granadeiro Vinhos, which oenologist is Pedro Baptista.

This wine isn’t in the market yet but will be available in the next few days and will cost about 30€.

This wasn’t the only Portuguese wine that received some prizes: in the total Portuguese wines received 10 Great Gold Medals, about 100 Gold Medals and more than 150 Silver Medals.

The best red wine of “Concours Mondial”

The best red wine of the year, in the world, is going to be an Alentejo wine. The question is: which one?
Results come out next Monday and I’ll let you know as soon as they come out!
Every year, the Concours Mondial de Brouxelles gathers wine critiques from about 48 counties, to try different wines and choose the bests in the world.
This year’s edition happened in Guimarães and 8397 different samples were submitted, from 52 different countries. Divided by groups of 5 persons, the jury tries 5 groups of 10 wines, every morning, and grades them from 0 to 100 points. Wines that receive from 84 to 86,9 points will receive the silver medal; gold medal will be given to wines with more than 87 points but less than 92.4 and the great gold medal will be given to those with more than 92.5 points.
Just as a curiosity, Portugal is in the 4th place as the country which sent the biggest number of samples. Out of the 520 samples, 88 were primarily made out of the national cast “Touriga Nacional”, normally blended with other casts. Still, Portugal is the country with the biggest variety of casts sent to this world competition.

Well, results come out next Monday and I’ll share them with you as soon as they come out. I’m really curious to know which one is going to win this prestige prize, but also wondering if it’s winery does guided tours: I’d love to you take there on a tour… and a wine tasting, obviously.

Text based on Andre Ribeirinho’s article for “Publico” newspaper.

Happy mothers day!

In Portugal we celebrate mothers day on the 1st Sunday of May, which is actually today.

Instead of dedicating a post to all the mothers, I decided to dedicate this post to all the sons and daughters who are in Lisbon right now and that would like to buy their mums a little something. Here goes the list:
Filigree: it’s a very special and traditional way of working the silver or gold. Can be used in necklaces, medals, earrings, … and it’s traditional to the north of Portugal (specially Minho region) but can be bought everywhere.
Tiles: Lisbon is definitely famous for tiles and it’s production dates back to the Moorish times. Hand painted or printed with Lisbon landscapes, big or small, rolled in bubble wrap or in your jeans, they’ll make all mums happy.
Cork items: known mostly for being used as bottle stoppers, floors or shoes insoles, cork is more resistant than leather and today is used to produce all types of fashion items. Purses, hats, key holders, umbrellas, Ipad cases… sky is the limit!
Bordalo Pinheiro Ceramics: ceramics are another tradition of Portugal and these specific ones make part of our history. Bordalo Pinheiro was a great ceramist and though he already died, the factory is still alive and produces great quality ceramics shaped like cabbage leaves, other vegetables or even animals. You can find them in nice souvenir stores, everywhere.
Plane ticket! If you loved Lisbon, I’m sure that your mother will love it as well. Why not inviting her and do a city-break or vacation together? While here, experience a tile painting workshop and take a really special souvenir back home.

Verdes Anos, by Carlos Paredes

Today it’s time for music and I decided to open this thread with a great guitar player, Carlos Paredes.

For those who can’t recognize the sound, nor the shape of the guitar, don’t worry: you’ve hardly seen or heard Portuguese guitar before. Portuguese guitar is one of the guitars that accompanies Fado music (the other one is the classical guitar) and has almost the shape of a mandolin.

Carlos Paredes was born in a family of guitar players and started to play the Portuguese guitar when he was only 4 years old and managed to create new sounds that no one else could play. During the Fascist period he was imprisoned and had no access to his guitar. To keep training he started to play music with an imaginary guitar, which made everyone think he was crazy.

The song that I’m sharing with you today makes part of the sound track of a movie “Verdes anos” (young years), based on the life of several boys and girls from the lower classes who migrated to Lisbon looking for work and a better life.

Verdes Anos, by Carlos Paredes