Lisbon in a nutshell – from azulejos to fado

The Sleeping Beauty on the Tagus, Lisbon is steeped in the irresistible charm of times past. Magnificent palaces and monasteries bear witness to colonial riches; picturesque alleyways and staircases, pretty corners and sleepy squares enchant visitors. That’s not all though: the melancholy capital on the southwestern edge of Europe has another side that is dynamic, modern and cosmopolitan. Discover the Portuguese capital with Marco Polo:

AZULEJOS

Azulejos (pronounced: azoolayshoosh) can bee seen everywhere in Lisbon. The colourful tiles adorn the walls of houses and benches, staircases and arches. The art of tiling is part of the city’s Moorish heritage, and the name is derived from the Arabic al zulaique (‘small polished stone’). Tiled landscapes and scenes of daily life tell a lot about Portugal’s history and culture. The Museu Nacional do Azulejo gives an excellent overview of the history of the tiled images. And a new generation of tile artists is treading new paths, choosing unusual motifs or employing the art in new ways – replicate a minimalist trend at home with a single tiny tile on its own on a big wall.

MANUELINE STYLE

Manueline style is a Portuguese variant of Flamboyant Gothic. This decorative, playful style, named after King Manuel I (1495–1521), was introduced in the early 16th century. Inspired by the exotic adventures of the seafarers and maritime explorers of the time, the architects and stonemasons covered their buildings with delicate carvings of ropes and knots, exotic plants and animals, shells and fish. For particularly beautiful examples of this architectural style, don’t miss the Hieronymus Monastery in Belém.

SAUDADE

‘Like a dagger working in the heart’ is how the Portuguese will sometimes explain the feeling of sheer boundless melancholy known as saudade – a word that cannot be translated as sorrow, fatalism, sentimentalism, nostalgia or melancholy, as it combines a little bit of all of them. The roots of this passionate feeling are considered to lie in the Islamic era, and it finds its artistic expression in the famous fado music. In conversation with Lisbon’s older generation, you’ll often find a general fatalism at work. When asked how things are going, they will often reply, ‘Eh, cá estou’ (well, here I am) or ‘Vai-se andando’ (things are going), comparable perhaps to the English expression ‘mustn’t grumble’.

PESSOA

Lisboetas have commemorated Fernando Pessoa (1888–1935), probably Portugal’s most famous poet, with a bronze monument in front of his favourite café, A Brasileira. Today, few of the countless tourists who have their picture taken alongside the statue have actually read Pessoa’s obsessive prose and poetry, tinged with nihilism. Pessoa’s name and his work are intimately connected with the city. As witty as he was eccentric, the intellectual wrote under different names – ‘heteronyms’, whose identity he would take on for a certain time – worked as a foreign languages correspondence clerk in the Baixa and moved house many times within the city. During his lifetime, Pessoa, whose name means ‘person’, published very little, but his work is currently experiencing a renaissance beyond the borders of Portugal. In the poet’s last residence, which has been converted into a small arts centre with a library, fans can follow in the footsteps of this genius of modernism (Casa Fernando Pessoa | Rua Coelho da Rocha 16 | Mon–Sat 10am– 6pm | free admission | casafernandopessoa.pt/en/, mundopessoa.blogs.sapo.pt | Eléctrico 25, 28 to Rua Saraiva Carvalho). Still worth reading: Pessoa’s poetic city guide written in 1930, Lisbon – what the Tourist Should See.

FADO

Fado is the Portuguese blues. It was born in the poor neighbourhoods of Lisbon, Alfama and Mouraria in the second half of the 18th century, and for a long time had a somewhat notorious reputation. The word is derived from the Latin fatum (fate). While both men and women (fadistas) sing the fado, it is always accompanied by two men, usually with stoic expressions, working two string instruments, a twelve-string guitar and a kind of lute, the guitarra portuguesa.

In terms of subject matter, the fado revolves around love, Lisbon, hope and disappointment – and most of all the saudade, a distinctly Portuguese feeling. What fado means to the Portuguese was evident in 1999, when Amália Rodrigues, the ‘Queen of Fado’, died. A three-day period of state mourning was declared. Amália’s house in the Rua de São Bento (Nos. 191-193) has become a site of pilgrimage for her fans (Tue– Sun 10am–1pm and 2–6pm | admission 5 euros | Metro (yellow) Rato). To this day, nobody can compare with the goddess of fado, but there are many new names on the scene, such as Camané and the internationally successful Mariza.

Many visitors to the city hear fado for the first time as a canned version, emanating from a green fadomobile in Rua do Carmo. Lisbon’s only ambulant music vendor acquired the right to sell music on the street after losing his record store in the devastating fire that destroyed Chiado in 1988. When the area was re- built rents skyrocketed. Young stars such as the Sara Tavares, of Cape Verdean heritage, and the strong-voiced Cristina Branco and Ana Moura have breathed new life into the genre.

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Lisbon Marco Polo Guide

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Where to go in 2018? – Marco Polo Staff Picks

Choosing your travel destination can be difficult, as there is the whole wide world to choose from. Many of us are planning our 2018 travels at the moment, so we thought we would ask around our office for some ideas, and some Insider Tips. Here are Marco Polo’s Staff Picks for your 2018 travels:

Lake Garda Marco Polo Guide

Photo credit: Ian MacDonald

LAKE GARDA

“Lake Garda is my favourite holiday destination, it has everything – the weather, the views,
the food, the wine… did I mention the food and wine?

My tip for Lake Garda: Have your first espresso immediately after getting off the autostrada
(motorway). Stop at the car park after the first hairpin bend coming from Nago heading for
Torbole and enjoy your first cup of coffee, your first aperol or your first ice cream (at the bar
on the other side of the road). The view to the south is breath-taking.”

– Ian MacDonald, Managing Director

Dresden Marco Polo Guide

DRESDEN

“Dresden city exudes a magical aura. When the morning sun glistens on the Elbe River and
highlights the silhouette of the Altstadt, even the residents of Dresden catch their breath.

As one of the most popular travel destinations in Germany (the city welcomes around
ten million visitors every year, and this figure is on the rise) it impresses its visitors
with monuments, art and culture. Yet, it is the Elbe River that defines the city’s
mood. It winds its way through the town in broad curves, passing vineyards, stately
castles and homely beer gardens, and lined by the broad Elbwiesen meadows, which
are unlike anything to be found in other large European towns these days. People meet
here to sit around camp fires, eat picnics, go for a walk, ride their bikes
or relax in the sand and watch the clouds go by… why not join them?”

– Andrew, Sales Representative for London and the South Coast

SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA

“This is hardly a hidden gem, but after travelling around Asia for two and a half months,
this place is the one I still dream of. Angkor Wat is simply the most stunning thing I have
ever witnessed in my life. It’s no exaggeration to say it took my breath away. Make sure
you allow plenty of time to explore the temples. The best way is by tuk-tuk; hire a driver
for the day. Or if you’ve brave enough you can rent a moped or bike – but prepare to sweat!!

Whilst in Siem Reap be sure to check out Pub Street and the Night Market. Restaurant wise
– I’d recommend New Leaf Eatery and Genevieve’s, both of which are non-profit organisations,
so you can enjoy your meal knowing you’re supporting a great cause!”

– Hayley, Digital Marketing Manager

Photo credit: Alison Floutier

CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP & SAN DIEGO

“If you’re on Highway 5 heading south from LA to San Diego, add an extra hour to your journey time to allow a stop in San Clemente. It describes itself as the ‘Spanish Village by the Sea’ and would be so easy to dismiss in your charge south to the San Diego. But an hour here, taking in the ocean views and gorgeous Spanish architecture is well worth your time. Insider Tip – you’ll see the big Starbucks sign from the 5. Use this for navigation but stop at the Zebra House Coffee Shop. The best coffee you’ll experience in California and if you strike lucky, the walls can be laden with beautiful artwork from local artists.

Coronado, the spit of land that juts out from San Diego, is Paradise with a capital P. Everyone knows it for ‘The Del’, the grand Victorian Hotel Del Coronado graced by US Presidents and Marco Polo staff alike! It’s a beautiful beach to while away a few hours and then take your sandy-self to the Babcock and Story bar on the ocean front to sip a perfectly ice cold beer and imagine Marilyn Monroe filming Some Like it Hot on the beach just in front. If you can tear yourself away, a drive round to Point Loma is well worth the view looking back across the Navy base, the principal home port of the US Pacific Fleet, and see the hotel and the whole of this gorgeous peninsula.

Insider Tip – the finest Mexican food and eye-wateringly wonderful margaritas can be found just across the road and a world away from the tourist hub of The Del. Hidden behind a row of shops, is the fantastic Miguel’s Cucina. You need to find time to linger here.”

– Diane, Sales & Marketing Coordinator

Marco Polo Guides Lisbon Largo Trindade Coelho

Photo credit: Tim Kelly

LISBON

“Ah, where do you start with Lisbon? I think I’ll have to start with food – freshly caught seafood including prawns the size of your fist and Bacalhau, a local speciality! You can’t leave without trying a Pastel de nata – a Portuguese egg tart. The most popular place to try them is Pasteis de Belem, but they’re sold all over the city. Not forgetting the wine – Portugal produces some excellent wines! Including the famous Port and Madeira, of course… but they’re found all over the country. In Lisbon, the local delicacy is a sickly sweet but surprisingly delicious liqueur called Ginjinha. It’s made from cherries and if you’re lucky, you’ll get a whole cherry in the bottom of your cup! The best places to try it are A Ginjinha near the famous Rossio Square or Ginjinha Sem Rival.

Alfama is my favourite area in Lisbon, I could wander around there for hours. And you must visit Castelo de São Jorge, Rossio Square and the beautiful Cathedral: Se! My other tip is Belem… which is a little out of the city, but worth a visit… and if you have time, take an excursion to Sintra. You won’t regret it!”

– Petra, Sales & Marketing Manager

BOSTON

Boston is ideal as a stand alone city break or as a good starting point for trips further afield in the New England area. Hotels can be ridiculously expensive so we tend to go for the better priced boutique B&Bs. Seafood is plentiful and just about everywhere from cafes, pubs to restaurants offer lobster and their famous Clam Chowder on their menus and at such good value.

For sports fans you have everything covered, The Boston Red Sox Baseball stadium where you can take a guided tour, the TD Gardens for Ice Hockey and Baseball and Patriots Place for the current Superbowl Champions, the New England Patriots for American Football and The New England Revolutions for Soccer. This is further afield and requires a train journey but great to get to see small town America as you travel by.

Boston and the New England coastline is brilliant for spotting whales and from the harbour you can easily book day trips on the many tours they offer. Duck Tours are great to get your bearings and get the low-down on the city from a local driver and they all end up on the river which is one of the best places to view Boston. Their Aquarium is right on the harbour front and worth a visit.”

– Julie, Office Manager

UTRECHT, THE NETHERLANDS

“Amsterdam is one of those destinations that everyone has to see at least once in their life, but my tip for anyone visiting Amsterdam for more than a day or two is to leave the city. It may seem counter-intuitive, but there is a lot more to see in the Netherlands than just Amsterdam. One such place is Utrecht, one of the oldest cities in the country. It’s only 20 minutes away by train, but Utrecht is still a bit of a hidden gem for most tourists.

There are canals, just like in Amsterdam and many other Dutch cities, but the canals in Utrecht have a unique feature: the canal side docks. Once used for loading trade goods, today there are countless restaurants that host their terraces on the docks.

The Dom tower is the main landmark of the city, an old church tower from the 15th century, which you will be able to see in the horizon almost everywhere in the city. The cathedral is also worth a visit, as is the old courtyard with its flowers and a maze. Entrance is free, though a small donation at the door is always appreciated.

If you are hungry or thirsty, there is plenty that Utrecht can offer. My personal favourite for a quick, inexpensive snack is the Vietnamese streetfood restaurant Kimmade, on Mariastraat. It’s a tiny little place, with seats for around 10 people, but the food is excellent. For drinks Neude is the place to be, especially if it is sunny. The square will be packed with tables and chairs and this is where the locals will be. Order a beer and a portion of fries – or bitterballen if you are really feeling the local vibe, and enjoy.”

– Senja, Social Media Assistant

What is your pick for 2018?

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Top 10 things to do in Lisbon

Lisbon charms its visitors with her numerous museums and cafes. With Marco Polo’s Top 10 list you won’t miss any of Lisbon’s best sights!

Lisbon Marco Polo Guides

Photo credit: Tim Kelly

1. MOSTEIRO DOS JERÓNIMOS
This magnificent building, financed with gold from the colonies, is a symbol of Portugal’s Golden Age. It’s the most popular tourist attraction in the country.

2. ALFAMA
This former Moorish medina was largely spared by the terrible earthquake of 1755. Dive into its picturesque alleyways until the sounds of fado fill the night air.

3. MUSEU NACIONAL DO AZULEJO
The history of this uniquely Portuguese art form is told in a beautiful convent. There’s no metro station nearby, so it’s never overcrowded.

4.  BAIXA
The lower part of town and the centre of Lisbon. Climb the triumphal arch on the Praça do Comércio to get an overview of its chessboard layout.

Marco Polo Guides Lisbon Largo Trindade Coelho

Photo credit: Tim Kelly

5. ROSSIO
The heart of the city. The wave patterns in the cobblestones are absolutely enchanting. Grab a bica at Nicola (an art déco café), sit back and enjoy the scene.

6. PARQUE DAS NAÇÕES
Lisbon gets all futuristic at the former grounds of the World Expo. The park boasts great views and Europe’s second-largest oceanarium.

7. MUSEU NACIONAL DE ARTE ANTIGA
Admire the artistic treasures – including the apocalyptic visions of Hieronymus Bosch – before relaxing in the pretty garden café.

8. TORRE DE BELÉM
This symbol of Lisbon enchants visitors with its elaborate ornamentation. A beacon at the top once marked the entrance to the harbour.

9. CASTELO DE SÃO JORGE
This former Moorish fortress may have been restored beyond all recognition during the Salazar era, but the views from the battlements are unbeatable.

10. MUSEU CALOUSTE GULBENKIAN
A glorious treasure trove of art, collected by an Armenian oil baron who was accepted by the city of Lisbon in 1942.

 

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Lisbon Marco Polo Spiral Guide

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Only in Lisbon

The Sleeping Beauty on the Tagus, Lisbon is steeped in the irresistible charm of times past. Magnificent palaces and monasteries bear witness to colonial riches; picturesque alleyways and staircases, pretty corners and sleepy squares enchant visitors. That’s not all though: the melancholy capital on the southwestern edge of Europe has another side that is dynamic, modern and cosmopolitan. Young hipsters party in the smart riverbank clubs and restaurants or get their kicks from bar-hopping in the party neighbourhood of Bairro Alto – and increasingly around the port of Cais de Sodré. 

Lisbon, once the capital of a large chunk of the world, today represents a melting pot of cultures. Lisbon – Lisboa (pronounced ‘lishbóa’) in Portuguese – is both metropolitan and provincial, multicultural and open to the world, welcoming and relaxed. ‘Live and let live’ is the motto here. The city and its inhabitants are imbued with a certain spirit of laissez-faire, which accompanies the much-referenced saudade. Considered the key to the soul of the Portuguese, this melancholy way of being is difficult to capture in words.

Lisbon Marco Polo Guide

Here are our top tips for unique experiences in Portugal’s vibrant capital!

Terraces with a view
Lisboetas, like tourists, are forever hunting the best view of the city and Tagus river. One of the finest vantage points is the Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara looking across to the Old Town and Castelo.

Coffee culture
Students and office workers, elderly ladies and Atlantic coast surfers: they all share one habit – stopping for a coffee at any opportunity. The most famous and atmospheric place for this is the Café a Brasileira in Chiado.

Happy to be sad
You’ll hear fado, the ‘Portuguese blues’, with its undertones of melancholy and longing, on every corner in Lisbon. Don’t miss a live performance in one of the atmospheric fado venues.

A Streetcar named Nostalgia
The old-fashioned yellow trams are used by tourists and citizens alike. The No. 28 offers the best ride in town, rumbling up through narrow alleys, inches away from the houses.

Stay on the ball
Everybody knows that the people who brought us Figo and Ronaldo are football-mad. At the local derby between Benfica (red) and Sporting (green) things get pretty heated. But even ‘regular’ league games are always worth a party.

Look down
Lisbon’s famous calçada, pavements laid by skilled craftsmen, occasionally take on fabulous shapes and forms. Cast your eyes over the wave patterns on Rossio square or the phallic representations between the Brasileira café and the Benetton store in Chiado.

Up the town and down the town
One of Lisbon’s icons are the elevadores, funiculars and lifts that have been transporting people up to Chiado and the Bairro Alto for over 100 years.  Don’t miss being whizzed uptown in the cast-iron tower of the Elevador de Santa Justa!

 

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Lisbon Marco Polo Guide

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Eat Like a Local – Lisbon

Traditional Portuguese cuisine is simple, rustic and hearty. Portions are usually generous. A hefty plate of fish or meat is complemented with rice and potatoes (often at the same time), plus a few lettuce leaves as standard garnish. 

Lisbon Marco Polo Guide

Local specialities you should try on your visit to Lisbon:

Açorda de marisco – bread stew with seafood

Amêijoas à bulhão pato – mussels in a garlic-lemon sauce

Arroz de pato – rice with duck

Bacalhau à brás – codfish potato gratin

Bife à Marrare – fillet of beef in a garlic and cream sauce

Bitoque – steak with fried egg and chips/fries

Bolo-Rei – ‘King’s Cake’, Christmas and Easter cake made with dried fruit

Cabrito – kid goat, prepared with fresh herbs

Caldeirada à fragateira – fish stew with tomatoes and potato

Caldo verde – soup made from green cabbage and potato

Chanfana – goat in wine sauce

Cozido à portuguesa – hearty stew of various cuts of meat and vegetables

Favas à moda de Lisboa – fava beans with bacon and sausage

Feijoada à portuguesa – bean stew with sausage

Frango na púcara – chicken, prepared in a clay pot

Iscas com elas – liver with spleen

Lulas recheadas – stuffed squid

Pão-de-ló – biscuit cake

Pastéis de bacalhau – fried codfish pasties

Pastéis de Belém – custard tarts

Peixinhos da horta – fried green beans in tempura

Porco à alentejana – pork goulash with mussels

Queijadas de Sintra – sweet curd pastries from Sintra

Rissóis de camarão – fried prawn rissoles

Salada de polvo – octopus salad

LIsbon Marco Polo Guide

Restaurants serving traditional Portuguese cuisine:

O Miudinho
Get off the beaten track at the Miudinho in Carnide, a charming old-fashioned neighbourhood in the north of Lisbon. Don’t let first impressions – a modern development – put you off. The simple restaurant serves traditional Portuguese fare, specialising in meat and fish from the charcoal grill. Large helpings, low prices! Closed Sun | Rua Neves Costa, 21 | tel. 2 17 14 01 20 | www.omiudinho.com/pt | Metro (blue) Carnide | Budget

Sol e Pesca
This former angling equipment and tinned fish shop in the port quarter – now a hip nightlife mile – has been converted into an informal bar-restaurant. Choose your tin of fish, pay an additional €2.50 for bread and salad, and you’re good to go. Tue–Sat noon–midnight, Fri/Sat sometimes up to 4am | Rua Nova do Carvalho 44 | Metro (green) Cais do Sodré | Budget

Cervejaria da Trindade
This is the classic place to enjoy a beer in Lisbon. The large rooms form part of a former monastery church. In summer, you can sit in the small, shady garden. Whether meat or fish, a whole meal or only a couple of tapas (appetisers), there is something to eat most times of the day or night. Daily 10am–1.30am, Closed on public holidays | Rua Nova da Trindade, 20c | tel. 2 13 42 35 06 | www.cervejariatrindade.pt | Metro (blue, green) Baixa-Chiado | Moderate

Faz Figura
This is one of Lisbon’s classic restaurants, with a beautiful view across the Tagus. Its light-filled conservatory and terrace make it a favourite meeting place for wealthy Lisbon families. It offers fine Portuguese and international cuisine, including vegetarian dishes. Very friendly service. Daily | tel. 2 18 86 89 81 | Alfama | Rua do Paraíso, 15B | www.fazfigura.com | bus 12 to Rua do Paraíso | Expensive

 

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Lisbon Marco Polo Guide

What’s the best thing you have ever tasted in Lisbon? Comment below, tweet us @MarcoPoloGuides or tell us on Facebook.

Street Art Lisbon

Lisbon is a popular tourist destination for many reasons; it is steeped in the irresistible charm of times past with magnificent palaces and monasteries, picturesque alleyways and staircases, pretty corners and sleepy squares. That’s not all though: Lisbon has another side that is dynamic, modern and cosmopolitan. Young hipsters party in the smart riverbank clubs and restaurants or get their kicks from bar-hopping in the party neighbourhood of Bairro Alto and in the lively port quarter of Cais de Sodré.

Lisbon today represents a melting pot of cultures. Lisboa (pronounced “lishbóa”) in Portuguese – is both metropolitan and provincial, multicultural and open to the world, welcoming and relaxed. “Live and let live” is the motto here.

For that reason, among others, the street art scene is bursting with talent. Love it or hate it, street art is art… and it’s here to stay! Here are the street art highlights of Portugal’s capital:

Street art, Anjos, Lisbon

Street art, Anjos, Lisbon

Street art, Anjos, Lisbon

Street art, Anjos, Lisbon

Street art, Anjos, Lisbon

Street art, Anjos, Lisbon

Street art, Anjos, Lisbon

Street art, Anjos, Lisbon

Street art, Lisbon

Street art, Lisbon

Street art, Socorro, Lisbon

Street art, Socorro, Lisbon

Street art, Socorro, Lisbon

Street art, Socorro, Lisbon

Street art, São Sebastião da Pedreira, Lisbon

Street art, São Sebastião da Pedreira, Lisbon

Street art, São Sebastião da Pedreira, Lisbon

Street art, São Sebastião da Pedreira, Lisbon

Street art, São Sebastião da Pedreira, Lisbon

Street art, São Sebastião da Pedreira, Lisbon

Street art, São Sebastião da Pedreira, Lisbon

Street art, São Sebastião da Pedreira, Lisbon

Street art, São Sebastião da Pedreira, Lisbon

Street art, São Sebastião da Pedreira, Lisbon

Street art, São Sebastião da Pedreira, Lisbon

Street art, São Sebastião da Pedreira, Lisbon

Street art, São José, Lisbon

Street art, São José, Lisbon

Street art, São José, Lisbon

Street art, São José, Lisbon

Street art, São José, Lisbon

Street art, São José, Lisbon

Street art, São José, Lisbon

Street art, São José, Lisbon

Street art, São José, Lisbon

Street art, São José, Lisbon

Street art, São José, Lisbon

Street art, São José, Lisbon

Street art, São José, Lisbon

Street art, São José, Lisbon

Street art, São José, Lisbon

Street art, São José, Lisbon

Street art, São José, Lisbon

Street art, São José, Lisbon

Street art, São José, Lisbon

Street art, São José, Lisbon

Street art, São José, Lisbon

Street art, São José, Lisbon

Street art, São José, Lisbon

Street art, São José, Lisbon

Street art, Pena, Lisbon

Street art, Pena, Lisbon

Street art, Anjos, Lisbon

Street art, Anjos, Lisbon

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Lisbon Marco Polo Guide

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