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.

“Alheira” – a sausage plenty of history and flavor

     There was once a time, about 300 years ago when the Inquisition – an extremist section of the Catholic Church – dictated the rules around here. Strangely enough, even in what food was concerned.

     One of the tastiest sausages in Portugal was invented by the Jews during those difficult times as a way to escape the clutches of the Inquisition. Since their religion wouldn’t allow them to eat pork, they would be easily identifiable by their pursuers by not preparing the -very common at the time- smoked pork sausage.

     They found a clever resource: they replaced the pork with a huge variety of other meats, such as veal, rabbit, turkey, duck and chicken sometimes partridge, tucked into richly seasoned dough of wheat bread. Garlic played an important part flavor wise as it would cleverly disguise the lack of pork if any investigation would be carried through.

     The result was “Alheira”: a mouthwatering soft sausage that would eventually become popular even among Christians. Today we can find “Alheiras” made with different ingredients, including pork, as Christians didn’t resist to adding the usual porky touch to the recipe.

     Alheira can be easily found in almost any restaurant menu. Served with a fried egg on top, french fries and salad or vegetables, it can be either fried or grilled.

Is Portugal a child-friendly country?

     Since LisbonStories offers child-friendly tours and doesn’t charge anything for children car seats or booster seats a good part of our clients come with their little ones. Scott family emailed me asking if Portugal is a child friendly country. They’ll be travelling with a 9 mo boy and 6 yo girl and are quite concerned.  Assuming they are not thinking of taking their kids to a night club nor to a fashion show, spending a holiday in Portugal as a family is easy peasy as children are welcome pretty much everywhere.

      Culture: Museums, palaces and monuments, wherever you go most likely there will be a special program or guided visit for your little ones. If you want to enjoy the place as a family, you’ll find plenty of 50% discounts, free entrances or family packages with friendly prices.

      Eating: Going out to eat whether it is lunch or dinner, shouldn’t be a problem either. Most restaurants have special menus for children, a high chair and sometimes colouring paper and pencils. In some places they won’t mind if you share your dish with your kid nor if you ask them to warm a soup for your baby. Just mention that you have children in the group when you make the reservation.

      Sleeping: most if not all hotels have big rooms where an extra bed or a crib can be installed, just for a small extra fee. Communicant rooms are usually available and if you decide to go for a romantic adult’s dinner ask at the reception to call a baby sitter as they’ll have some contacts and good references.

      Walking around: Don’t be surprised if someone starts playing with your child, talking to you about their pretty eyes or trying to console them if they are crying. Don’t be alarmed! We just love children and don’t mind showing it. Lisbon is a very safe city and in some neighborhoods kids still play football in the streets… your kids are welcome there too.

Prepare your kids for the trip and let them color Vasco da Gama and his vessel! You’ll  certainly feel as part of the family over here!

Carmo convent – our 1st featured museum

     Carmo convent and museum couldn’t be a better start for our new category: featured museum.

    Built during the late 14th century, it could be just another European Gothic monastery if it wasn’t destroyed by the earthquake of 1755, a major earthquake that destroyed a considerable part of Lisbon. The structure was compromised and there was no way to recover this building. Instead of trowing it down, it was decided to turn it into an Archaeological museum to remember forever the victims of the earthquake.

     We’ve all seen beautiful Gothic monasteries but this one is special. When you look up, instead of looking at a massive stone-roof, you see the sky and the clouds. Hanging on the walls and ground there are several tomb-stones, coat of arms and other interesting archaeological findings from different centuries.

   To complete this beautiful place, where once was the transept we now have a real archaeological museum chronologically organized.

 

    Practical info: it’s located close to Chiado and Bairro Alto; closes on Mondays and opens from 10 am to 6 pm. The admission fee is 3,5€ with discounts for students and senior citizens.

Tipping – how much?

    Doesn’t matter where you go, tipping is always an issue, or at least a question. Is it included in the bill? Wen shall you tip? How much and to whom?

    In Portugal tips are welcomed but are not mandatory. Tipping is a reward for a special / remarkable service and not a customer’s obligation. We tip about 10% of the bill or more when the service was extraordinarily good.

    Since it’s not mandatory, it will never be charged together with your whole bill. In case you’d like to pay the tip together with the check, on your credit card, ask the waiter if that’s possible as normally we pay with credit card and then tip in cash.

    Last question: who shall you tip? We tip mostly waiters and doormen (when they help us with luggage). In the case of taxi drivers we normally round up the bill a little bit.

    And if this post helped you, feel free to leave a tip… a comment, I mean ;)

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. 

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!

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!