Lisbon’s underground Roman museum

     If you were reading about Lisbon, this weekend, you may have heard about the Roman galleries that only open 3 days a year, being submerged by Tagus river during the rest of the time.

     Lisbon was once an important city for the romans and to prove that, there are a number of roman vestiges. These galleries are by far the most famous ones. The media coverage about this place is huge and so are the lines.

     What few people know is that there is another underground museum area, with roman ruins, underneath the city center.

     I’m talking about the Archaeological Center of Millenium BCP (a Portuguese bank). It’s located underneath the downtown area and you get to walk under the main building and see a former roman house and fish salting factory.

     It is open from Monday to Saturday, from 10am to 5pm and has guided tours (mandatory) starting at every sharp hour. It’s not recommended for those who suffer from claustrophobia but it’s definitely something different to do while in Lisbon.

If you really want to visit this place, here are the contacts.

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!

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!

Comercio Square – Our square

     If you’re visiting Lisbon during Easter, there’s something you can’t miss.

     During the extended Easter weekend (28-31 March), Terreiro do Paço will be transformed into a giant interactive screen — with a free multimedia event, that invites tourists and local residents to visit this revitalized zone of the Portuguese capital.
The initiative will feature drawings by young children and adults that will be brought to life using 3D videomapping projection techniques and an interactive touchscreen platform, in real-time — projected on the facade of the Terreiro do Paço’s West Wing.

     The light show – based on 2D and 3D video-mapping projections and techniques – will be accompanied by a dynamic original soundtrack. From 9 pm onwards  all roads will lead to Terreiro do Paço. Imagination is the only limit.

Both text and images were taken from the event’s official webiste.

 

Portugal Restaurant Week

     If you love to go out and try new restaurants, new flavors and gourmet foods, you’re coming to Lisbon during the right week.

     Portugal restaurant week is here and until next Sunday the best restaurants in Portugal will be available at a settle price of 20€ per person (drinks not included). This is a great opportunity to try expensive restaurants, where one can’t go every day. Besides, 1€ per person will be donated to charity, which makes this event even more special.

      To check this long list of restaurants and to do your reservation just follow this link. You’d better hurry up: this promotion only lasts until March the 24th and some restaurants are already full.

    If you decide to give it a try please don’t forget to leave a comment and tell us how it was!

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.

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!

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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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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Fish, anyone?

Though you can eat excellent fresh fish all over the year, the next days are going to be specially tasty for those who love fish and are visiting Lisbon.

Turismo de Lisboa (the Official Tourism Board of Lisbon) is organising again the Fish Festival, from the 12th to the 22th of April.
All visitors who pass by the “Páteo da Galé”, attached to Comércio Square, can try fish dishes prepared by different restaurants, watch famous chefs preparing elaborate fish dishes, attend cooking classes, try other Portuguese traditional products and much more.

Detailed information, as well as the program, can be found here.

If you’re in Lisbon pay them a visit and… Bom Apetite!
(Enjoy your meal)