International Museums night, in Lisbon

     Every year, on May the 17th, Lisbon and the rest of Portugal celebrate the Museums Night with music concerts, guided tours and whole program of fun activities.

     The program is vast, and can be consulted here. I know that it’s only in Portuguese, as this night is mostly aimed at locals, but please feel free to use the comment or email box, shall you need any help or suggestions.

     There are plenty of fun activities to choose from. Theater plays, staged tours, organ concerts, dance sessions and also activities for children. If you prefer to visit a museum on your own, just pick one, as all the museums will be open until 11pm, with free admission.

     The next day is celebrated as the International Museums Day and it’s also full of activities, guided tours and free entrances. I know that the sun is shining out there, but if you’re looking for something indoor, there’s a lot to choose from!

What to do on April the 25th

As you may know, every year, on April the 25th we celebrate the Red Carnation Revolution. It was a non-violent revolution that put a end to a long lasting fascist dictatorship.

Being such a recent and emblematic date, there isn’t much open in this day. However, not many places open don’t really mean that there isn’t a lot going on.

If you’re in Lisbon and are wondering what you should be doing today, the answer is simple: join the crowd!

At 3pm starts a cheerful parade along Avenida Liberdade. Foklore groups, brass bands, people dressed in traditional customs and everybody else walk and sing along this avenue to celebrate the freedom of speech.

Worried about the dress code? That’s simple: buy a red carnation and you will immediately make part of the group.

“Portugal is, and there I will be, happy” – Ruy Belo

Saint Anthony’s day is coming and the party is on!

     Have you heard about Saint Anthony of Padua? Well the truth is he is not from Padua, Italy but from Lisbon, Portugal. Why are we telling you about this now? The celebrations in Saint Anthony’s home town, our dear Lisbon, have already begun but the highlight will definitely be tonight: the night of the 12th June.

     Saint Anthony is not the patron saint of Lisbon – that would be Saint Vincent – however he’s our favorite and celebrating him is a way of paying our homage.The date we celebrate is actually the 13th June- the date that marks his passing away in 1231, although the party starts way before that day.

     This is a popular celebration so people come out in the streets and go out partying with their neighbors or with anyone passing by so I am sure you will feel even more at home during these days The festivities include beautifully decorated streets, street parades and a dance parade and contest between associations belonging to the different parishes in the city.

     Food and drinking are also an important part of this party and never like in this week, will Lisbon be as much filled with the scent of grilled sardines all over the place. These don’t go without the occasional glass of red wine, although green wine is also a good choice.

     Dance the night away to the sound of traditional music sung by everyone or played by informal bands here and there; go and eat grilled sardines out in the street and then don’t miss out the parades in Avenida da Liberdade, the main avenue in Lisbon where the dance contest is held.

     The following day you might want to join the crowd that goes to the church of Saint Anthony, right next to the cathedral in the old neighborhood of Alfama and ask for a little blessing. Here is a tip: he’s known as a good match-maker!

May 18th-International Day of Museums

     We are very excited around here at Lisbon Stories! Tomorrow is the International Day of Museums. We love what we do, so this date is just a good excuse to visit our stunning monuments  and museums yet another time. The best of all: for free!!

     The date is celebrated worldwide and the best of all is that this year, May the 18th is a Saturday, so there is a full weekend to be planned starting tonight. Yes, you read it well; many museums and monuments throughout the country will be open at night, holding different cultural events, music concerts, guided tours, etc…

     If you are around Lisbon I would suggest taking a walk around the Chiado quarter, in the center of the city, in the evening and then head off to one of the nearby museums open at night such as the Archaeological Museum of Carmo or the more modern Museu do Chiado.

    However, anything goes as the different programs include special guided tours, dance and acting performances, workshops for families and many, many activities more. The Portuguese institution that runs the public museums in Portugal (IGESPAR) has a full program of the weekend which you can see here.

   It is in Portuguese, but we are happy to help you with the translation. Just send us an email and maybe we can meet in one of the museums. Don’t miss out all the fun!!

Outjazz – Our Jazzy Lisbon

     As you might have guessed by the name, Outjazz is a Jazz Festival and yes, it is out in the open.

     As the sun starts to shine, in Spring time, Portuguese people start to find excuses to spend as much time outside as possible. We have coffee outside, we eat outside, we go to the beach, we jog… and we attend music festivals.

     This Festival has been held since 2005 and it was a huge success from the very beginning. Why? The concerts take place in some of the most fantastic locations in Lisbon.

     View points, terraces, gardens, monuments, public parks all of them and many others will welcome various bands and solo performers every Friday and Sunday throughout the next 5 months. This year besides the usual food and drinks stalls, there will also be street markets, selling handicrafts and other items.

     Do you know those hot afternoons when you’re tired of touring around and just feel like relaxing a little bit? Well, it looks like we’ve just found you a little excuse to do so.

Find more about it, as well as the program, here.

     We’re terribly sorry that the program is not in English. Feel free to contact us if you need a little help with it. Anyway, “Sextas” means Fridays and “Domingos” means Sundays. The writing in bold is the location so, go ahead and google maps that.

25th of April- a very special national holiday.

Whenever I go to Lisbon- and believe me when I say I go to Lisbon a lot! – there is a place I never miss: the Largo do Carmo. This is a quiet yet central square of Lisbon where some very special piece of recent History took place.

As you might have heard already, we had a closed, strict regime in Portugal from 1926 (although only officially from 1933) to 1974. António Salazar was the head of government until 1969 and Marcello Caetano, his successor until 1974.

In that year it all ended finally, not in a blood bath as you might imagine, but in rather a joyful way, with a “shower” of carnations, grabbed from the street flower vendors, instead (you can read more about it here.

It’s been 39 years but we still celebrate this date and what better place to start celebrating than the very place where it all happened? If you are around Lisbon on this date you must make your way to Largo do Carmo and other nearby places and see for yourself.

We will have music playing, speeches from some important political leaders, poem reading in the open air from tonight.  In the afternoon a parade will be held in Avenida da Liberdade down to Rossio where there will be some Portuguese music concerts.

You won’t need to go hungry nor thirsty as there will be many stands selling cold drinks and traditional nibbles. Cafés in the center will be open all day. Will you want to miss all the revelry and joy of yet another year in freedom?

International Day of Monuments and Sites

     There are good reasons to celebrate today’s date around the world. It is a very dear day to us here at Lisbon Stories: today is April the 18th the international day for monuments and sites. And you are more than welcome to come and join the party!

     Why is today so special? Well for a start, it is an official international celebration approved by the UNESCO in 1983, so actually today is its 30th anniversary. Many places around the world hold special events in Museums and other important sites today and during the next week and Portugal is no exception.

     Every year there is a different theme and the theme for 2013 is the Heritage of Education. More than 490 activities in 290 different monuments and sites were planned for today throughout Portugal and most of them include some very different tours from what we are used to.

     From food tastings and ancient dance shows in the castle of Saint George in Lisbon to a special guided tour to the painted tiles of Pena Palace in Sintra, there is a bit of everything to please everyone’s taste.

     By the way, did you know that the St. Jerome Monastery is the most visited monument in Portugal? Well, I dare you to come and figure out why. If not before, maybe you can come just in time for next year’s celebration of the international day for monuments and sites!

Easter treats

     Apart from Christmas, Easter is probably the most popular family celebration in Portugal.  Catholic traditions go hand in hand with family reunions and most of the time, are just an excuse to get together and, guess what, eat!

     Generally speaking, on holy Friday no meat is eaten. Cod fish- cooked in one of a million ways- is once again, the king of the table. Grilled fish or octopus are also common choices.

      Easter is also a celebration of the relationship between godparents and their godchildren. They exchange some gifts, but mostly sugar coated almonds and chocolate eggs. Another thing that can’t miss is the sweet bread stuffed with boiled eggs (shells still on!) we call Folar.

      Easter Sunday is a family day and no one wants to go anywhere far from the wonderfully laid tables in our family homes. Lamb or Kid either in stew or oven roasted are the most common main dish, but in this point, families definitely rule over tradition and one can find a bit of everything to please everyone’s taste.

      As for me, well I have to tell you: I love them all! No Easter holiday would be complete with some comfort food and family around. Check the “Folar” below:

Hey, it’s Carnival!

     Today is Carnival day and from the North to the South all the country is celebrating… and probably masquerading too.

     Carnival is a great opportunity to do some tricks and jokes, masquerade and have fun during five consecutive days. Is it a bank holiday? Theoretically no, but in reality it almost is. At home it’s time to make or buy costumes. Most inspiration comes from movies and fairy-tale characters, professions, other cultures and so on.

     Traditions vary throughout the country but happiness and a care-free spirit are something they all have in common. After all, “É Carnaval, ninguém leva a mal”. It’s Carnival, no one can get offended, is probably the most heard sentence.

     Recently some towns (like Ovar, Sesimbra or Mealhada) got inspired by the Brazilian Carnival and now boast Samba dancers, with colorful and short costumes. Others, like Torres Vedras preserve the tradition. Here most men dress like women and the Allegorical cars used during the parade satirize politicians and important situations.

     Tomorrow night it will be time to “bury Mr. Carnival” and burn a scarecrow, symbolizing the end of festivities. During old Catholic times this would mean the culminate of celebrations and the beginning of Lents fast.

Bread-for-God, the Portuguese tradition for Nov the 1st

     While the rest of the world celebrates Halloween on October the 31st, in Portugal we have our very own tradition. We also give candies to the kids, but they need to behave.

     Like in many European countries the 1st of November is the day to visit the tomb of our deceased relatives, clean it and bring fresh flowers, preferably chrysanthemums. We call it “All Saints Day”, assuming that all our deceased ones could be saints.

     For kids this is one of the most important days of the year. They all wake up early, dress their best clothes and gather in small groups. Mums finish ironing their fabric bags, generally embroidered or hand painted and let them go.

    They’ll pass by every house of the town singing “Pão por deus, Pão por deus, Saco cheio, E vamos com deus” aka “Bread for god, Bread for god, With a full bag, We’ll go with god” and the neighbors will give them candies, chocolates or homemade cakes. Obviously kisses and compliments like “you’re so grown-up now” are also a must.

    Unfortunately this tradition is only alive in small towns and since Troika forced our government to erase this holiday, this is the last year, sigh. Still, I was rather happy to welcome all the kids of the neighborhood, remembering how much I used to love this day.

Ano do Brasil em Portugal

    Aí pessoal do Brasil, hoje este post é para vocês! Bem sei que na LisbonStories escrevo sempre em Inglês, mas tendo em conta que hoje é o dia de inauguração do Ano de Brasil em Portugal… há que abrir uma excepção!

    Leram bem: começa hoje a celebração do ano de Brasil em Portugal. Para celebrar, haverá (já desde hoje) exposições, concursos de fotografia, workshops de samba e concertos em muitos bairros emblemáticos de Lisboa e Porto, as duas principais cidades portuguesas. O melhor? É gratuito!

    Este sábado à noite vai ter concerto de Ney Matogrosso e Monobloco e domingo concerto de Martinho da Vila, Carminho, Paulo Gonzo, Zeca Baleiro, Boss AC e Zé Ricardo, a partir das cinco da tarde.

    Ficou com fome? Tranquilo. Vai ter também um espaço gastronómico para provar quitutes portugueses e brasileiros: pastel de carne, pão de queijo, kibe, bolinho de bacalhau ou até mesmo salada de polvo.

    Mas tem mais, muito mais. Basta visitar a página oficial e programar bem a sua agenda!

Com’out Lisbon – another festival

During summer time it’s quite hard to see one Lisboner sitting inside, either at a restaurant, café or even music concert. As the sun starts to shine and the nights get warmer Lisbon’s streets get more and more crowded with plenty of things to do. Open cafés and restaurants can be found everywhere, belvederes are turned into chill out areas, kiosks open and get popular and there are also the famous feasts of Lisbon. They only last until July, but for those who are visiting Lisbon during August or September (like you, Kristin) and are sad because the Feasts of Lisbon are over, I have great news: “Com’out Lisbon” has just begun.

This festival will last until the 11th of September and will cover the whole city. Almost every concert or projection happens in a different part of Lisbon, which will let you discover off-track gardens or parks. The activities are varied, including music concerts (don’t miss the Big Band from Hot Club Portugal, on Sept the 8th), outjazz, DJ’s and open air cinema. As usual, the entrance is free and you don’t need to pick up tickets some days before, or so. Just show up at the exact place in the exact time and enjoy the show!

The full program can be found here. Unfortunately there’s no English program but it’s not hard to understand the location nor the date, so, since it’s free entrance, I guess that you have nothing to lose!


Thanks god for the free Sundays… or, I love Outjazz

    Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, but I also love to have some free time for myself and for my friends. Since there are no bookings for this weekend I already have a plan for my next free Sunday. Want to meet me there?

    This Sunday I’m definitely going to be in the Park Eduardo VII (at the top of Avenida da Liberdade) attending Outjazz. This is a sort of music festival that brings different DJs and bands to the city center, with free concerts and nice moments of relax. They happen in different parts of the city but regarding this specific one, since it’s in the park, many people bring their kids, dogs, a blanket and some drinks and sit to relax the end of the afternoon. I’ve been there two weeks ago and can’t wait for tomorrow!

    Where and when? The concerts happen in different parts of the city. This year even hotels decided to join, so, the “stage” ranges from museums (Ancient Art Museum, Tiles museum, etc) to hotels (Sheraton hotel, hotel Mundial, Tivoli hotel, etc) passing by train stations, historical elevators (Gloria, Santa Justa) and obviously public parks and gardens of the city. It runs from May to September on Fridays and Sundays afternoons. On Fridays the concerts start at 6pm and on Sundays at 5pm.

   With big companies cherishing this project all concerts are free which allows everyone to enjoy nice concerts and performances. I’d say that this is a really good thing about Lisbon: there are tons of things that one can do even without money in its pocket!

    Here you can find the program for the whole summer. Just check your available date and see where the festival will happen that day. If you can’t understand the location or something else don’t be shy and ask, ok? See you tomorrow!

This is the photo I took with my bberry, 2 weeks ago

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Tall Ships are coming

     Today’s post has everything to do with the sea.

     Personally love everything about the sea. The sound of the waves hitting the sand brings me memories of hot summers spent on our beautiful coast, the sea breeze that comes in through my nose and refreshes my mind and spirit, the beauty of the blue waters that delight my eyes and the touch of it in my toes is something that makes me feel I’m alive. Perhaps it was this feeling, that I can hardly put into words, which led our sailors to pursue the sea and the oceans and to discover new lands…

     For Lisbon (which isn’t located on the ocean but on the river) it’s going to be a great honor to receive the Tall Ships Race… and a great challenge for the participants, I’m sure! From the 18th to the 22th of July we’ll receive more than 45 tall ships in Lisbon, This event had its first edition back in 1956 and its aim is to keep the traditions of the great ships alive.

     The races are organized by the Sail Training International and aim to promote education and training at sea. Thus, the space between the Comércio Square and Santa Apolónia, on the north bank of the Tagus River, prepares to receive about 1 million visitors!

     This regatta is the opportunity of our present generation to revive the spirit of sailing and adventure. Aboard these large ships will be young people from lots of different nations, together to exchange their culture and sharing their experience related to the art of sailing. And speaking of art, this event will also have a very attractive musical agenda, so we can only expect great animation, music, food and, of course, great ships!

     For more information check their official website. It’s in English and contains important information about the general and musical agenda, the venue and the ways to get to the event.

Foto taken from their official website

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.

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Here are the famous sardines!

Today I was doing this tour with Julia and Todd, a happy couple from the USA. Though they just had one day in Lisbon, they really wanted to seize it. We started with a tram ride towards Lisbon’s castle, visited the castle, walked trough the labyrinthine streets of Alfama, tried some port wine, bought some hand-painted tiles and sat for lunch before going to Belém area.

Right, lunch! As you may know, one of Lisbon’s most famous dishes is the sardines. They can be eaten from May until August (the months without an “R”), grilled, preferably accompanied by boiled potatoes, grilled green peppers, salad and some green wine as well. The funny thing is that since sardines used to be a poor’s people dish and hey must be grilled on the coal, you can’t find them in elegant restaurants. To eat sardines you can either follow your nose (the smell of grilled sardines can’t pass unnoticed) or look for a “normal” restaurant, preferably outside, preferably one of those with the special dishes written in a paper-towel, hanged on the wall. These are the best ones and of course that we visited one of these.

While Todd had grilled squids and I had “Frango no churrasco” (roasted chicken, I’ll write about it soon), Julian made me proud and ordered sardines, with Green wine. I’ll write about green wine soon, I promise, but by looking at Julian’s happy face, you can see that it was very good! :)

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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

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.

Why was it a holiday on Wednesday, April the 25th?

This was a really busy week at Lisbon Stories and I’m really ashamed of writing this post only today! Anyway, I’d be even more ashamed of not talking about this at all, so, here it goes: Why was it a holiday on Wednesday?

April the 25th, of 1974, was the day of the Red Carnation Revolution. Until then Portugal was living in a fascist dictatorship, first led by Oliveira Salazar and then leaded by Marcelo Caetano when Salazar deceased in 1969.

During this time there was no freedom of speech. Everyone was afraid of talking as there could be members of the political police (“PIDE”) everywhere; newspapers, books radio and so would need to be approved by the censure police before they could be published; all those who were communists or simply against the regime could be arrested or tortured; and I could keep on with this list forever!

Finally in 1974 the “Armed Forces Movement” (MFA) organised a coup to put an end to the dictatorship. The crucial point happen in front of Carmo police station, when the MFA stood in front of the building where the government was. The name “Red Carnation Revolution” comes from the fact that the soldiers put red carnations in their guns to show that they didn’t want to shoot. Actually, they managed to put an end to 41 years of fascist dictatorship without making one single death. Isn’t that something?!

All the political prisoners were set free right away and the war with the colonies, which wanted the independence, finished right away too. Nowadays, every year, on the 25th of April, there’s a parade that crosses a major avenue in Lisbon. Everyone carries red carnations and sing revolutionary songs and slogans to remember the day of the revolution.