The strange history of National Theatre Doña Maria II Lisbon & backstage guided tours

Teatro Nacional Doña Maria II has a strange history, like a lot of historical buildings in Lisbon. It was built on the ruins of one of the city’s finest buildings, the Palácio dos Estaus, which had burned down and which had housed the court of the Holy Inquisition. The liberal revolution and the end of the civil war created a climate in Portugal that was conducive to the development of arts in general and the theater in particular.

National Theatre Dona Maria II Lisbon 1 Teatro Nacional

National Theatre D. Maria II Lisbon

In 1836, by order of Queen D. Maria II, Almeida Garrett (famous author and poet) was charged with creating a conservatoire for the dramatic arts. The site chosen for this colossal task was the finest in the city at Praça Dom Pedro IV, commemorates Portugal’s first liberal king. The square is usually simply referred to as Rossio (big square).

National Theatre Dona Maria II Rossio and wave pavement

National Theatre D. Maria II Lisbon

The theatre opened to the public on April 13 1846, the date of the anniversary of the queen it is named after, but the acoustics were poor and the theatre closed the very next day for improvements. It reopened several years later to notable success. In late November 1964, the theatre staged Shakespeare’ Macbeth. A strange superstition, or more appropiately a curse, hangs over theatres that perform this play: one week after the first show the whole building burned down except for its outer walls. It was reopened in 1978. Since then, countless plays, by the finest playwrights of the past and of today, have been performed and staged.

Rossio Lisbon Theatre National Dona Maria II and ginja cafe

National Theatre D. Maria II Lisbon

Today, Teatro D. Maria II is not merely a concert hall. Besides its majestic Garrett room, it also has a smaller room, while the great hall has been turned into a theatre/ studio, covering a whole world of activities that very often burst out from behind its venerable walls.

Theatre Dona Maria II Lisbon near Rossio Station

National Theatre D. Maria II Lisbon

On the other side of the theatre you’ll find the unique Rossio train- and metro station (Estação do Rossio)

National Theatre Dona Maria Rossio Lisbon hall

National Theatre D. Maria II Lisbon

You can discover the theater (or take the time to enjoy a good show).

From Monday to Friday 10:00 am to 13:00/ 15:00 to 17:00 there are guided tours, in several languages, to the backstage of the theater. A journey that reveals the secrets and stories of Teatro Nacional D. Maria II.  (website)

Lisbon National Theatre Dona Maria II view from cafe Garett Rossio Christmas

National Theatre D. Maria II Lisbon: view Rossio square

Christmas time. Café Garrett, beside the theatre’s foyer, one of the most perfectly located cafés in Lisbon, facing the lively Rossio Square

Lisbon cafe Garrett Theatre Dona Maria II facing Rossio

National Theatre D. Maria II Lisbon

Famous tea/lunchroom Versailles Lisbon & surrounding areas

If you like to walk around outside of tourist areas go to Saldanha , the fashionable Avenidas Novas (a part of Lisbon built in the 1950s), with department stores, cinemas, museums, supermarkets and libraries.

Lisbon Versailles tearoom restaurant outside Avenida Republica

Avenida da República near Saldaña square. A must-do is to have breakfast or lunch in the wonderful old tea- and lunchroom Pastelaria Versailles (opened in 1922) which has it’s own bakery.

Saldana Lisbon statue Square Praça do Duque de Saldana

Praça Duque de Saldaña. Monument of the great liberal Marshal who gives the square its name. Designed by Thomaz Costa and Ventura Terra, unveiled in 1909. The base of the monument contains a bronze figure of victory. At Saldaña Square there’s the highly frequented cinema Monumental where many young Portuguese meet in the bar of the cinema, ‘Movies’ .

Saldana Restaurant Galeto Lisbon december 08

Famous restaurant Galeto, a classic spot. Avenida Da República, 14. Open from 07.30 am – 03.30 (!). Delicious food and quite cheap (dinner and snacks). Galeto (movie) is well known in Lisbon for its friendly and courteous service.

Lisbon market in Arroios fish

Market mercado de Arroios , fresh fish, flowers and fruit. Arroios is a very atmospheric working class neighborhood with great markets and very good prices in restaurants and shops.

Lisbon little shops Estefania neighborhoos

Estefania: a nice and very quiet area, with lots of typical Portuguese small business ‘mom and pop’ and food shops.

Lisbon cheap tradtional restaurants Estefania

Rua Ilha da Terceira, Estefania. To eat out, try the pastelerias (cheap small restaurants, great Portugese food). Not one tourist in sight…..Chiado, Baixia and Alfama are easily reached by public transport, and even at night a taxi isn’t more than 5 euros.

Lisbon Estefania Rua da Ilha Terceira restaurant owners

The bill? Grilled salmon 5,50 euro, soup 0,90. A glass of wine 0,75.

Lisbon Saldanha luxurous shopping center

Luxury shopping center Saldanha, quite near Avenida da Liberdade, (Liberty Avenue). This broad boulevard is the Portuguese equivalent of the Champs Elysees in Paris with lots of luxury boutiques selling international brands.

Lisbon Avenida da Liberdade Pombal statue

Marquis of Pombals’ statue , a despotic marquis….more…..The Rotunda, or, officially, Praça do Marqués de Pombal

Museum Casa dos Bicos Lisbon, restaurants & famous fish cannery shop

Quite close to the historic Alfama neighborhood, a very nice street to walk around at Lisbon’ city center is Rua dos Bacalhoeiros (street of the cod fish sellers). The buildings that face the Tejo River look lovely, but if you take a closer look, they mostly are in a worse condition.

Lisbon Rua dos Bacalhoeiros near Casa dos Bicos

Rua dos Bacalhoeiros Lisbon

Walking from Praça do Comércio in the direction to Alfama, you will get to Rua dos Bacalhoeiros. The famous 28 tram (eletrico) passes here on its way to the Santa Apolonia station.

Lisbon Rua dos Bacalhoeiros terraces near Casa dos Bicos

Rua dos Bacalhoeiros Lisbon 2009

This part of the street is really beautiful. The small restaurants with a terrace outside are popular; even in wintertime when the sun is shining you can enjoy a beer or have lunch outside.

Lisbon Rua dos Bacalhoeiros Adega do Atum near Casa dos Bicos

Rua dos Bacalhoeiros Lisbon

Just near ‘Casa dos Bicos’ is restaurant ‘Adega do Atum‘, The waiters are friendly and not too agressive. They serve traditional fish and meat meals and have the Portuguese Sagres beer on tap (imperial). Try ‘Salade de Atum’ (tuna fish € 7 ) for lunch 🙂

Lisbon Rua dos Bacalhoeiros Casa dos Bicos

Rua dos Bacalhoeiros Lisbon & Casa dos Bicos (House of the pointed stones)

Casa dos Bicos (House of the pointed stones).  

This Palace was built in the early 16th century, a notable part of Lisbon’s heritage and one of the few examples with traces of the 15th C. architecture.

From 1981 to 1982, Casa dos Bicos was the site of excavations, many archaelogical findings were unearthed (ceramic and glass pieces a.o.). Worth a visit!

Lisbon Rua dos Bacalhoeiros3 shop nr 117 Silva & Feijó

Rua dos Bacalhoeiros Lisbon

You will find various shops in this street. Silva & Feijó, on the other side of Casa dos Bicos, sells a.o. wines and typical Portuguese handicrafts.

Lisbon Rua dos Bacalhoeiros lots of restaurants

Rua dos Bacalhoeiros Lisbon

Lunchtime in Lisbon. This part of the street is filled with lots of restaurants, from traditional Portuguese to Chinese.

A Churrasqueira is a restaurant serving grilled meat or fish, many offering as much as you can eat: the waiters move around the restaurant with the skewers, slicing meat onto your plate. Frango de Churrasco with piri piri (a kind of salty roasted chicken spiced with hot red chili sauce) is very popular.

Lisbon Rua dos Bacalhoeiros restaurant espetada

Rua dos Bacalhoeiros Lisbon

Restaurant Churrasqueira Santo António.

Carlos Marcalo, Rua dos Bacalhoeiros 133, invites you to try their ‘espetada‘, a typical Portuguese dish made of large chunks of fish or beef rubbed in garlic and salt with vegetables such as onions and bell peppers.

Lisbon Rua dos Bacalhoeiros shop canned fish

Luís Vieira.

Conserveira de Lisboa (The Lisbon Cannery), nr 34.  Famous! Wonderful very old preserved-fish store with hundreds of colourful tins of the Portuguese favorite fish. This shop opened 80 years ago, nothing has changed.

Lisbon Roa do Comerico shit

Rua do do Comércio ,

The shit of today will fertilize tomorrow...” 😉 a building drawing, just around the corner of Rua dos Bacalhoeiros and Rua da Madalena

Museum of Decorative Arts Lisbon, former Palace, lovely tiles & fascinating collection

In this wonderful former Palace in Lisbon (Museu-Escola de Artes Decorativas), Museum and school, it’s forbidden to make pictures. After taking a few ones a guard warned me. Suddenly, walking from room to room, 4 guards kept an eye on me …..

Lisbon Museum of Decorative Arts1

The entrance: ‘Coupé Berlin, 18th Century.

Portugal’s most important furniture collection can be viewed here: valuable wooden Portuguese, French and English furniture dating from the 15th to the 18th C.

You can wander freely from room to room and get right up close to the pieces on display.

Lisbon Museum of Decorative Arts3

The grand staircase leading to 1st floor has lovely tiles.

An on-site collection of tiles (azulejos), several of which originallly pertained to the Palace, while others were integrated therein during the restorations works, in the end of the 1940s.

In the 17th C. former city palace of the Count of Azurara , currently houses the Museum of Decorative Arts. Banker Ricardo do Espirito Santo Silva, acquired the palace in 1947 and donated his collection to the museum.

Lisbon Museum of Decorative Arts4

Beautiful ceiling and azulejos! Sorry, no more pictures (the guards…).

The museum has a remarkable collection of faience, local silver and ceramics, paintings, bedrooms, dining rooms and dressing rooms. Each room is more ornated than the next, in an aristocratic environment. Anyone interested in decorative arts in general and the Portuguese Empire in particular will find this collection fascinating.

Lisbon Museum of Decorative Arts7

Museum of Decorative Arts, Alfama

Largo das Portas do Sol, 2 . More information, videos and Museum shop  http://www.fress.pt/  . Near the famous viewpoint (miradouro) Portas do Sol (‘Gates to the Sun’)

Closed: New year’s Day, Easter, May 1st and Christmas (December 25). Cost Adult 4.00, free entrance for children aged 12 or under. Opening hours 10 a.m to 5 a.m. Lovely patio with cafetaria-restaurant.

Famous Cafe ‘A Brasileira’: wonderful Art Deco style & poet Pessoa’s table

Elegant shopping street Rua Garrett,  lIsbon, that leads from the Baixa to Chiado, is named after the author and poet Joao Almeida Garrett (1799-1854). The area is also an important cultural area, with several museums and theatres.

winkelen Rua Garrett2
Rua Garett, June 2008.

On the background cafe ‘A Brasileira’ s terrace. You will see young locals here just socialising or window shopping.

Lisbon shopping Rua Garrett building

Rua Garrett, Lisbon

The most famous street of Lisbon, that mixes traditional chic and modern commercial shops, is also beloved by tourists.

Pessoa statue Cafe A Brasileira tourists

Cafe ‘A Brasileira’ (Rua Garrett 120) is famous for having had the enigmatic poet Fernando Pessoa  (1888-1935) among his customers.

Pessoa still has his table in bronze on the terrace (the work of sculptor Lagoa Henriques).

Portugal’s famous writer has no idea he’s mobbed by lots of tourists, all day long!

The downstairs seating area is a favourite with locals for a set lunch of traditional Portuguese specialties. The cafe once was the setting for tertulías literárias (lively discussion groups) in which debate would often culminate in chair throwing, cup smashing and brawls.

Lisbon shopping: Rua Garett cafe a Brasileira outside

‘A Brasileira’ (‘The Brazilian woman’), opened in 1905 as a shop selling genuine Brazilian coffee.

It was the first shop to sell the ‘bica’, a small cup of strong coffee, similar to espresso.

Lisbon shopping Rua Garrett cafe A Brasileira inside

The interior of ‘A Brasileira’ is grandiose: decorated in Art Deco style, with a green-and-gold entrance, mirrored walls, brass fittings, and a long oak bar.

However: bad service and inattentive staff  for tourists. It’s a very popular tourist destination, and prices are high.

Restaurant ‘A Travessa’, one of Lisbon’s best & unique location

We had heard great things about ‘A Travessa’, a trendy restaurant located in a former convent in Bairro da Madragoa, and one of Lisbon’s best: from food, service to location.

Restaurante A Travessa inside

Restaurant ‘A Travessa’ Lisbon

The building used to be a 17th century convent. Set in the very peaceful quarter in Santo (Lapa) this is one of the most atmospheric restaurants in Lisbon. There are at least three dining areas; the main room, a small side room and a terrace in the old courtyard. In the bar right next to the restaurant you can have an appetizer while waiting for your table. In winter, you can dine inside by the fireplace, and in summertime ‘al fresco’ in the wide courtyard.

Restaurant A Travessa dining outside

Restaurant ‘A Travessa’ Lisbon

The menu is Portuguese-Belgian, but international as well. Before you order they do provide you with some original hors d’oeuvres. The wine list includes many of Portugal’s best, including an extensive selection of Douro reds. The place is stunning, the people are really nice and the food is excellent!

There’s no parking area – so don’t go driving, instead use a taxi.

A Travessa (website including the history of the Convent and a virtual tour)
Travessa do Convento das Bernardas, 12
Bairro da Madragoa
Santo
1200-638 Lisbon
Tel: (+351) 21 390 20 34 / 21 394 08 00

Prices: more expensive than average.  Open on 24, 25 & 31 December and 1st January.

Viviane Durieu owner A Travessa restaurant Lisbon

The creator of restaurant ‘A Travessa’ in Lisbon is Viviane Durieu (Belgian origine), read her story and Viviane’s favorite places in Lisbon

Viviane Durieu, creator of ‘A Travessa’ Lisbon, famous restaurant & 17th-century convent

Viviane Durieu is creator of ‘A Travessa’, one of Lisbons best restaurants, set in a 17th-century convent, with a picturesque courty yard.

Lisbon people Viivane Durieu 3

“When I arrived in Lisbon in December 1969, two days before Christmas, I thought the climate and the light were fantastic. Especially because I had arrived from Belgium where it’s cloudy for nine months of the year and we only get a few months of blue sky. I remember being surprised to see the leaves still on the trees at that time of year.

I fell in love with the city, and still I’m fascinated by the humanism of the Portuguese and the beautiful light.

Viviane Durieu restaurant

My background is in photography, I worked in this field until we opened restaurant ‘A Travessa’, which only started as a bit of a joke between me, my husband and a friend.

We opened a small restaurant with good products: coffee that you couldn’t find in Portugal at that time, good bread and good wine, just round the corner from the current ‘A Travessa’, next to the Portuguese Parliament building and surrounded by embassies. Because we were French speakers we got lots of clients from the Belgian and French embassies. It was a hit. We just developed from there and it’s been 30 years this year since we opened. Time flies…..!”

‘A Travessa’ , Travessa do Convento das Bernardas, 12 Bairro da Madragoa – Santo, more details about the restaurant and the menu

“I live in the historic area near the Sao Jorge Castle (Castelo de São Jorge), a delight for residents, with limited car access. The narrow streets of uneven cobbles make life in the centre of the city like living in a village”.

Lisbon entrance Castelo Sao Jorge

Castelo Sao Jorge, entrance

“When I arrived in Lisbon, I use to go to Sintra a lot. As it’s colder there, I felt closer to Belgium and I dreamt about having a house there. World Heritage Site, this historic town lies 40 km from Lisbon, a must for any visitor!”

Sintra Palacio Nacional da Pena

Sintra: National Palace da Pena, now a museum. The very old Palace stands on the top of a hill above the town of Sintra. On a clear day it can easily seen from Lisbon.

“In Lisbon, I like to shop in the Baixa and Chiado areas. I don’t like shopping centers, I prefer traditional shops, it’s much nicer to walk around the town”.

Lisbon shopping Rua do Carmo Ana Salazar

Lisbon, Rua do Carmo, Baixa

“i like going to Belém. The Jeronimus Monastery and the famous classic Belém custard tarts (Pasteis de Belém) , always warm, are real musts! And I like the shows at Centro Cultural de Belém, which has got the best concert hall in Lisbon.”

Belem Pasteis de Nata

Antiga Confeitaria, since 1837. The recepe of Lisbon’s most celebrated custard tarts is still a well-kept secret…open 7 days a week.

Lisbon Belem Pasteis de Belem
History: at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century, in Belém, next to the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (the Heironymite Monastery) there was a sugar cane refinery linked to a small general store. As a result of the liberal revolution of 1820, all convents and monasteries in Portugal were shut down in 1834, the clergy and labourers expelled.

In an attempt at survival, someone from the monastery offered sweet pastries for sale in the shop; pastries that rapidly became known as ‘Pasteis de Belém’.

Graças a Maria Ventura

Historic Alfama Lisbon: the Pantheon, marvelous river views & the remains of Amalia Rodrigues

You can find the Pantheon (Panteão Nacional) on Campo de Santa Clara, near Lisbons’ most famous flea market ‘Feira da Ladra’ (Thieves market)

lissabon-12-17-december-2007-001.jpg

The Pantheon is opened daily, from 09:00 – 13:00 and 15:00-19:00, a ticket cost 2 euro. Address:  Campo de Santa Clara Lisbon.

It is possible to walk around the inside of the dome, you can climb the 169 stairs (I did it, pfffffff!) or use the elevator. From the exterior of the dome the view on the Alfama area and on to the Tagus river is marvelous!

Pantheon view 25 april bridge

View on the historic Alfama area and the Tagus river

History: the Church of Santa Engrácia (Igreja de Santa Engrácia) is a 17th century monument. In the 20th century the church has been converted into the National Pantheon (Panteão Nacional) in which important Portuguese personalities are buried, like Amalia Rodrigues, the famous fado singer.

Alfama Pantheon Amalia Rodrigues

Amalia Rodrigues

Its construction took 284 years and gave origin to the Portugese expression “Santa Engrácia works“, a Portuguese synonym for long unfinished works…..

Building work proceeded from 1682 through 1712. Eventually a dome was added, whereupon the church was reinaugurated in 1966. The magnificent 18th-century baroque organ was brought from the Lisbon Cathedral.

Alfama Pantheon organ

The magnificent 18th-century baroque organ

In 1966, during the government of the dictator Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, the Church of Santa Engrácia was turned into a National Pantheon. There are cenotaphs to f.i. Luís de Camões (famous Portugese poet), Pedro Alvares Cabral (Portuguese explorer), Vasco da Gama (commander of the first ships to sail directly from Europe to India) and Prince Henri The Navigator, an important figure in the early days of the Portugese Empire.

Alfama Pantheao Vasco da Gama

Vasco da Gama, his remains are elsewhere….