From the airport to the city center by subway

From today everyone who arrives to Lisbon’s International Airport has a new way to reach the city center: subway!

After arriving to Lisbon’s Airport you just have to follow the signs (they’re not so good right now, that that will be fixed soon) and go to the ticket machine. Once you’re there (like I said before) buy a “Zapping” card. It costs 0.50€ for the card itself and then you can choose the amount that you want to put in the card. Each time you travel by public transportation it will deduct its cost automatically. In this case, it will take 1,15€, which is the price of each journey.

If you just want to take one trip, then buy “single fare” and the cost will be 1,25€ for the journey + 0,50€ for the green card. Don’t forget that you can return the card after the trip and recover your 0,50€, just keep the white receipt.

How to reach the airport by subway? Easy. Take it in the subway station that is more convenient to you and head towards “São Sebastião”, “Saldanha” or “Alameda (blue, yellow and green lines). There you can change subway and get on the red line, which takes you directly to the airport. To give you an idea, now you can go from “Saldanha” to the “Airport” in 16 minutes.  Isn’t that something?

Just like all the other subway stations, this one is also decorated with tiles. These were designed by a cartoonist, António, and has caricatures of important Portuguese personalities such as the Fado singer Amália or the writer Fernando Pessoa, among many others.

One last info: subway runs from 6.30 am to 1.30am and it’s generally safe. Toddlers, suitcases and other volumes are allowed, just look for the larger gates before passing your ticket. What are you waiting for? Try it and tell us how it was.

Or see the full subway map here. 

Can I just say, again, that I love Alfama?

    Next Saturday I’ll be doing a tour with a group of employees from an International Investment Bank based in Lisbon. Our plan is to walk through some quaint areas of Baixa and Alfama and after the walking tour we’ll do the famous tile painting workshop. Though this tour was aimed mostly at international workers, believe it or not, only Portuguese people joined.

    Touring with natives is always a challenge and I wanted to make sure that I’d show them many places that they don’t know. To make sure that I was prepared and to check the difficulty level of my planned itinerary, I decided to wear some comfortable clothes (and sneakers!) and explore Alfama on my own.

    Alfama used to be the Arabs’ neighbourhood and their defensive system consisted on building their city like a labyrinth. When trying to invade their space, enemies would get immediately lost. While the rest of the town was destroyed by the earthquake of 1755, Alfama was not. Million years ago there was a volcano in this area. It disappeared and Lisbon is safe now, but it left its magma deposit, making this underground area a lot more though. While in 1755 the whole city shake, Alfama stayed still.

    Once inhabited by the fisherman, this neighbourhood still preserves its personality. Though it’s in the centre of Lisbon you’ll feel like in a small town. Everyone knows each-other and there’s a strong sense of community. Kids play soccer freely in the streets where few cars pass and old ladies can be seen in their pyjamas, in the early morning, when they come downstairs to buy bread for breakfast. Still today this area is plenty of little nice alleys, old women chatting from window to window, clothes drying in the balcony and many secrets to reveal.

    Since we are still in the month of the “Popular Saints”, as I mentioned in other posts, the streets are still decorated and… I can’t wait for this tour to happen! I’ll definitely keep you posted!

    In this picture we have Thomas family (remember them?) walking through Alfama. Can you see the decorations on their back and how happy they look?

    Are you looking forward to visiting Alfama? Share your thoughts with me and this article with your friends!

Santo António – 13th of June, the day to be in Lisbon

The 13th of June is the day to be in Lisbon… just like the 12th of June is the night to be around. Lisbon celebrates St. Anthony, the unofficial Patron Saint and it seems like everything happens that day and night.

Everything starts during the afternoon, with the “Casamentos de Santo António”. This is an old tradition, organized by the town hall and other private sponsors. It’s a group wedding, that this year married 16 young couples, who can apply and be chosen if they have all the required conditions. During the dictatorship, girls would need to be seen by a doctor to certify that they were still virgins. Today they can choose between the religious ceremony in the Cathedral and the civil one in the City Museum.

Later, traffic is cut in “Avenida da Liberdade”, the main avenue of Lisbon, to prepare it for the “Marchas Populares”. Marchas are a sort of Carnival parade organized by the most traditional neighborhoods of Lisbon, on which they have to create their own costume, lyrics, song and dance. They all perform in “Avenida da Liberdade” in front of a jury and the curious eyes of the inhabitants who can’t miss the parade.”Marchas Populares” celebrated 80 years this year and the winner was “Alto do Pina”, for the 2nd year on a row.

After this parade everyone heads to the “Arraiais”, a sort of fair on which the whole historical center is transformed. Everywhere, in the streets and squares of Alfama, Castelo and Bica, there are small improvised bars, counters, stages where small bands perform live and everyone drinks and dances until the sun shines again. Some areas get a little bit too crowded but the nice thing is to watch young and old people, rich and poor, all dancing together popular songs which lyrics everyone knows. Forget a bar or a disco… this night is spent outside, dancing in the street where you normally just sit in traffic.

Since this night is all about St Anthony and he is the “wedding maker”, boys are supposed to offer their girlfriends a “manjerico” – small basil, with a little paper flower, holding a love poem. A lovely tradition that somehow survives to the modern times.

Share your thoughts with me and this post with your friends!

Getting around Lisbon – your green card to public transportation

Yesterday I was touring around with Paula Thomas and her family. They’re a lovely (big) family from California who are spending a couple of weeks in Portugal and some days in Lisbon. We did a “Old and downtown” walking tour together ,to get their bearings of the city ,and the first thing we did was to buy public transportation tickets, aka “Viva Viagem”.

“Viva viagem” is a green card that you can buy in subway stations and other public transportation offices. It works like a credit card, and every time that you use it, they automatically take out the cost of your journey.

When you buy it choose the option “zapping” and then choose the amount you want do charge: 2€, 5€, 10€ or 15€. Don’t worry about adding too much money, just keep the white receipt that comes with it and before you leave Lisbon, go to a counter with the card and your receipt. You’ll be returned the unused credit.

During your stay in Lisbon, as long as your credit is enough, you’ll be able to use it on board of the trams, buses, historical elevators, subway, trains that go to Sintra and Cascais, and also on the ferries that cross the river. These trips cost 1.40€ using these cards, but if you buy the tickets on board, they can cost up to 5€.

There are three things no one tells you. 1st- these cards are rechargeable: if your credit finishes, just go to another office or machine, insert your card and add some money. The card itself costs 0.50€. 2nd- These cards are very easy to break or demagnetize. Don’t store them together, in your pocket, close to your credit card nor to your cellphone. 3rd- Don’t throw the white receipt away: you’ll need it to get your credit back or to recover it in case your card stops working.

With all this you’ll be saving about 1€ per journey, which you can easily spend on our wonderful “café”, delicious “pastéis de nata” or fresh “imperiais”.

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.

Share your thoughts with me and this post with your friends!

5 things that are different (on the table)

After all these posts about food I decided to clear some doubts and talk about 5 things that are different, on the table.

Appetizers: When you sit at a restaurant they’ll bring you immediately some bread, olives and butter. After you’ve order they may also bring you wonderful small appetizers to eat while you wait. Though they may seem a courtesy, they may cost you almost as much as the meal itself… and they also fill you almost as much as the meal itself!

If you don’t want any of those, just don’t touch them or tell the waiter that you don’t want them right away.

My fish wasn’t clean: in Portugal you can eat excellent fresh fish everywhere. The only thing that may look weird for you is that the fish never comes clean. Why? Portuguese people love to eat fish and also to know which kind of fish it is, and how fresh it is as well. This way, we like to clean it ourselves and refuse to eat just a fillet. At pricey restaurants they may clean it for you, but they’ll bring the cooked fish first, show it to you, and then clean it in front of you.

Eat without rushing: for us eating out is meeting with friends and talking about everything. We like to take our time during the meal and restaurant owners understand this. Don’t get surprised if the service isn’t really quick or if they don’t bring the check just after you finished to eat. If they would rush us out of the place no one would go back there.

Tipping: for us, tips are a reward for a good service and not part of the waiter’s wage. There’s no rule but we tip about 10% of the check, which may double when the service is outstanding. Since it’s not mandatory it’s never included in the bill.

Taxes included: In Portugal all prices MUST include taxes (vat, for instance) and when they don’t, they have to state that.

Read more about Eating habbits here.

What do you think? Share your thoughts with me and this article with your friends!

5 Meals a day and become Portuguese right away

Though you don’t see that many people in the streets, Portuguese people eat a lot: generally we eat 5 times per day. Here they go:

Breakfast: a caffèlatte and a sandwich or cereals with milk. Is eaten at home and quickly as everyone is always late for work.

Mid-morning snack: about 10.30 or 11am it’s time to stop what you’re doing and ask your colleagues if they’d like some coffee. It lasts about 15 minutes and is a moment of relax and socializing between working colleagues. Almost everyone drinks an espresso and eats one pastry.

Lunch: about 1pm everyone is already hungry and it’s time for lunch break. It lasts about one hour and is composed by some bread, vegetables soup, the main dish (rice and meat or fish and potatoes), desert or fruit and another expresso. This isn’t “the” big meal of the day: we have two big meals per day and love it this way.

“Lanche” or afternoon snack: is mandatory for kids but most adults eat something before dinner too. About 6pm it’s time to bite another sandwich and drink some tea, or have some milk with cookies.

Dinner: at the end of the day (8 or 9pm) the family spends some time together and sits for more than one hour by the dinner table. In terms of food, it’s just like lunch but since the day is over, everyone takes their time to eat and talk.

When we have a dinner out with friends it never starts before 9pm and lasts up to two hours.

Supper: not everyone, but since we never go to bed before midnight, some people still eat some crackers or a piece of fruit before going to sleep.

What do you think of our eating habits? How many times per day do you eat? Share your thoughts and share this post with your friends!

Read more about our gastronomy here.

 

And the oscar for the best custard goes to…

Remember that entry about Lisbon’s Fish Festival?

It’s still going on and yesterday there was a very special moment of it: the election of the best custard of the year.

All pastry shops claim to have the best one, so, it has been three years that a remarkable jury gathers, during this festival, and choose the best one of the year. This year there were 9 different pastry shops on the contest and after trying the 9 different custards (tough job) they chose “Pastelaria Aloma” in Campo de Ourique.

Curious about it? Book your tour today and ask our guide to take you there, to see if they deserve the prize.

Can’t understand what’s the big thing about the custards? I’ll explain that on my next post!

 

Just for a few hours in Lisbon? Don’t miss a thing!

Most Lisbon Stories customers have the same problem: they’d like to see everything, but they only have few hours or days in town.
If this is your case, here goes a set of posts with different itinerary suggestions, according to your available time.

5 hours in town:

Walk through the organised streets of “Baixa”, packed with shops and cafés, until you reach isbon’s Cathedral. Here you can visit one of the oldest buildings of Lisbon as well as the church where St Anthony (known as from Padua, Italy) was born. Keep walking up until you reach Sta Luzia belvedere, in Alfama. It’s a steep walk, but once you’re at the top and can enjoy the wide view over Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhood and Tagus river, you’ll realise that it worth the climbing.
Your walking is going to be much easier now as you just have to walk down through the labyrinthine streets of Alfama, until you finally reach the river and after all, Comercio Square.  Tired? Relax on your way to Belém area, where once the Portuguese seafarers set sails on their way to Africa, Brazil, India, China and Japan.
Here you can visit St Jerome Monastery, built during the 16th century, in the Manueline style: a style that engraves on the stone all the different plants, fruits, animals and products that Europeans only got to know after the discoveries, as well as ropes, crosses, armilary spheres and other navigation tools that were used during this period. Visit only the church and if you have a sweet tooth, head to the famous pastry shop where you can try the custards once made by the monks from the monastery.
Walk or drive a bit more to visit Belém Tower (just the outside) and the Monument to the Discoveries with its map (doesn’t worth to get inside either).
You’re time is probably up and it’s time to leave, but don’t worry: I bet that you loved Lisbon so much that you’ll be back really soon.

 

To help you to do all this without missing anything and explain you everything, book this tour!