Rob Plews’ (teacher and writer) favorite places in Lisbon: Botanical garden & Tapada das Necessidades

Rob-plews-lisbon-writer-teacherI set foot in Lisbon back in 2001 after 9/11, and how refreshing not to understand a word as I went from café to café drinking galão, with TVs blaring in the background. I overheard an eager tourist trying to sum up this city as he scrunched his eyes under the vivid Atlantic light and scanned his vocabulary for words that fit. Faded elegance, he said.

I worked as an English teacher, moved to the Bairro Alto, opened a café, wrote two books, closed the café, and now I’m writing a third and learning to surf. For me, Lisbon is a living city. She’s female, she’s choosey, she’s testing, but if she likes you she’ll open up and share her secrets. Best thing to do is leave the guide book at home and take to the streets with an open mind. It still amazes me how people here so easily strike up conversations, and they’ll happily tell you their life story in a nutshell before giving you directions.
Lisbon is a small city, but so rich in nooks and crannies that, after almost seven years, I’m still upturning new stones. Here are two of my favourites:

Lisbon botanical Garden 3 Bairro Alto

Botanical gardens

Rua da Escola Politecnica 58 in Principe Real. Trees from all over the world, a family of squawking parrots, tiny terrapins, leafy shade, abandoned observatory and boundless inspiration.

Tapada das Necessidades.

Guarded secret even the Lisboetas don’t know about. Beautiful grounds and palace peeling pink paint, with an incredible cactus garden and a setting for a picnic you usually only see in films. Take the 28 tram to Prazeres.

tapada-das-necessidades-lisbon

Pink painted Palace  &Tapada das Necessidades

 

SNOB bar restaurant Lisbon: elegant British sixties style & best steak in town

In Bairro Alto, near Principe Real square, you will find bar/restaurant SNOB.

Restaurant SNOB Lisbon Rua do Seculo 178

Restaurant ‘SNOB’ Rua do Seculo 178 , Lisbon

Ring the doorbell

If you are looking for this restaurant, don’t walk away thinking it’s closed. You have to ring the doorbell, like in many other Portuguese places. ‘SNOB’ is not a club, however. The reason for the closed doors is that the owners want to welcome you personally. Many foreigners are unaware of this and miss out on a great experience!

SNOB restaurant is a favourite of politicians, journalists, actors and artists. The restaurant is decorated elegantly in a British sixties style.

SNOB-Restaurant-Lisbon-Bairro Alto

Bar/restaurant SNOB Lisbon

The traditional Portuguese kitchen serves the best steak in town (according to many experts): the bife à SNOB. We can recommend the carne estufada (beef stew) and the feijoada a transmontana (a traditional dish of beans and pig meat).

SNOB-Restaurant-Lisbon-Bairro Alto-Owner

Bar/restaurant SNOB Lisbon: senhor Albina Oliveira

Clock without hands

Senhor Albina Oliveira and his brother are the proud owners for already 43 years. And they have every right to be proud to! The restaurant is open every day of the year, except December 24. The clock in this restaurant is famous, because it doesn’t have any hands. In other words: time is completely unimportant when you are enjoying a good meal…

Klok-SNOB-Restaurant-Bairro Alto-Lisbon

Restaurant ‘SNOB’ Rua do Seculo 178 , Lisbon.

Website

Napoleão shops Lisbon: port, Portuguese wines & Napoleon, the french emperor

Around 1974, after the Portuguese revolution, the Napoleão family in Lisbon started selling wines and Port wines in Lisbon. A quite  peculiar name for a Portuguese family of course, but the explanation is a simple one. Portugal was once occupied by France for a short period of time and like in other European countries Napoleon obliged civilians to register a surname.

Napoleao-Lisbon-Wine-Port

Christina Napoleão

French emperor Napoleon & familyname

That’s why 8 generations ago the ancestors of Christina Napoleão chose the name of the French emperor Napoleon, in Portuguese: Napoleão 😉

Napoleao-Lisbon-Wine-Port3

Napoleão shop, Rua dos Fanqueiros 70 Lisbon

This youngest store of the Napoleão family, located in a beautiful old renovated building , also sells top quality olive oil, tasty jams, azulejos (traditional tiles) and many other typical Portuguese goodies.

Napoleão shop Port tasting

The Napoleão wine shop in the same street, Lisbon

The Napoleão family now owns six shops in Lisbon, and specializes in the best Portuguese wines and Port wines.  They can explain you all about the best Vintage years of the 20th Century.

Napoleão shop Port Wines street Lisbon

Napoleão shops: Rua dos Fanqueiros 70 Lisbon, tel: +351 21 8861108
Website you can order online

Napoleao-Lisbon-Wine-Port2

How to prepare Caldeirada (fish stew), traditional Portuguese recipe & Lisbon market Mercado da Ribeira

Caldeirada, a traditional Portuguese fish stew, can consist of seafood (caldeirada de marisco), salted codfish (caldeirada de bacalhao) or any fish of your choice.

We’ll concentrate on making a ‘caldeirada de peixe (plain fish) and we’ll use some nice fresh douradas. As we cook for 4 persons we’ll take 4 large douradas, or 8 smaller ones.

Mercado da Ribeira fresh fish2

When actually cooking in Lisbon go out to the big market (near to Lisbon’s major railway station and ferry terminal Cais do Sodré )Mercado da Ribeira . A kilo of douradas shouldn’t cost more then 7/8 euros, depending on the quality. Look for fish with shiny eyes and gills that are still red on the inside.

Other ingredients you need:

  • 4 large potatoes
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 large tomatos
  • 1 red and 1 greene pepper
  • Olive oil
  • White wine
  • Sea salt
  • Coriander

Preparation

Take a large pot, cut the fish into big lumps (including the heads, tails and bones, don’t throw away the good parts). Cut the potatoes, tomatoes, garlic and onions into thin slices, cut the peppers into cubes.

Drizzle some olive oil in the pan and start ‘building up’ the caldeirada. Place the slices of potatoes in the pot, the slices of tomato, the peppers, garlic and onion and finally a third of the fish, some sea salt and coriander. Then start with the second layer, repeating the entire process untill all ingredients are used up. Top with some extra sea salt, coriander, olive oil and white wine.

Don’t save on the olive oil, cooking the caldeirada in oil gives it the rich typical taste.

Place the (closed) pot on a low fire, and let the caldeirada simmer ‘till all the ingredients are cooked (about 45 minutes/ one hour). Serve with bread olives and ice cold ‘vinho verde’ or white wine.

Caldeirada de peixe portugese fish stew

Restaurant Portugalia Lisbon: ‘beerhouse’ (Cervejaria) & delicious seafood

A Cervejaria is a ‘beerhouse’, where beer is produced (or used to be produced) and where you can eat as well. There are many cervejaria’s around Lisbon and the quality of the food is normally very good.

Portugalia cervejaria Lisbon Avenida Almirante Reis

‘Portugalia’ restaurant on Avenida Almirante Reis (near Praça do Chile).

Most Cervejaria’s have restaurant and a bar where you can stand and drink beer and eat snacks like a ‘prego’ which is a steak sandwich. The steak is grilled on the plate and comes with garlic in a white roll. The Portugese eat the prego’s (literally: nails, referring to the full stomach after eating one) with mustard or piri-piri.

A popular snack as well is a small plate of cooked shrimps (camarão) served with sea salt and a part of lemon. You can ask for camarão grande (big ones), camarão medio (medium) or camarão pequeno (baby shrimps).

Portugalia cervejaria Lisbon Avenida Almirante Reis 3

Portugese love there seafood with beer (or with ice cold vinho verde). So on the restaurant menu in a Cervejaria, you will find a lot of seafood (marisco). You can have big shrimps (gambas or camarão tigre), scampi (lagostim) and crab (sapateira). Cooked fresh seafood tastes fantastic with mayonaise, grilled seafood goes very well with ‘molho de limão’. This is a sauce of butter, lemon and a bit of piri-piri. If they don’t bring it, ask for it. Like in all Portugese restaurants, it’s not strange to be specific about how your food is prepared or accompanied.

The crab, sapateira, is cooked and the body is open and filled with a mixture of (among others) crab meat, vinagre, onion, pickles, tomates, eggs, parsley and port wine.

Then there’s the steaks. The steaks can be grilled or fried in a pan with butter. Ask for a steak in ‘molho de cerveja’, ‘beersauce’. It comes with a fried egg on top.

Famous cervejaria’s are restaurants Portugalia and Trindade. Trindade, situated on Rua de Trindade (near Bairro Alto), is a massive restaurant which has a beautiful garden where you can sit during summertime. Prices are a bit above average, but the decoration makes it worthwhile.

Trindade website

Cervejaria Portugalia has become a brand over the years (There are even Portugalia restaurants in shopping centers and outside of Lisbon). You will find many families with children and it’s a bit touristy. The original 80 year old Portugalia restaurant on Avenida Almirante Reis (near Praça do Chile) is certainly the best one you can choose. This is the most traditional Portugalia you can find. Before entering the restaurant you will pass the messy bar where many men hang out, eat pregos and drink beer.

Don’t get us wrong, Portugalia is certainly worth a visit. The shrimps in garlic and olive oil (below) are a treat. Fans can order merchandising on the Portugalia website.

Portugalia cervejaria Lisbon Avenida Almirante Reis Shrimps Garlic

Cafe ‘A Ginjinha’ Rossio, best place in Lisbon to taste a Ginja (berry liqueur) & spit the pit

Try a typical Portuguese liqueur! Cafe ‘A Ginjinha’ is a city center tourist attraction. When walking to ‘Restauradores’ or ‘Rossio’ in Lisbon’s city center, be sure to stop at the ‘A Ginjinha’ cafe, Largo de São Domingos 

Lisbon Rossio Ginja

Cafe A Ginjinha’ Rossio Lisbon near Teatro Theater Nacional Doña Maria II

This is a very tiny bar where a maximum of three people can go in at a time and order a Ginja.

Short term rentals: my 3bedroom authentic apartment (110 m2) in the historical part of Lisbon with a lovely patio, 10 minutes walk from here 🙂

Lisbon A Ginjinha’ cafe Lisbon tourist attraction 1

Cafe ‘A Ginjinha’ Rossio Lisbon. Next door: famous traditional hat shop

Ginja or Ginjinha as most people call it, is a liqueur made of a cherry-like berry called (not surprisingly) Ginja. The berries are fermented into a brandy that’s slightly bitter, slightly sweet and very sticky.

Students in September drinking ginja

Cafe ‘A Ginjinha’ Rossio Lisbon in September

Lisbon students in September, a brand new school year…

You can order a Ginja for little money and with or without a cherry in it. The Ginja’s are on the bottom of the bottle and it requires a fair bit of skill to get just one berry into a glass. Most Portuguese people like to have their Ginjinhacom Ginja’, with a cherry in the glass. If you don’t want it, ask for one ‘sem Ginja’ (without a Ginja).

A Ginjinha near Restauradores Lisbon Portugal

Cafe ‘A Ginjinha’ Rossio Lisbon

Spit the pit

The older Portuguese men drink their Ginja in one time. After this, they suck on the berry for a while and spit the pit onto the streets. Take care: if you approach this square, the pavement can become quite sticky 😉 😉

Lisbon A Ginjinha’ cafe Lisbon tourist attraction 3 Rossio city center

Cafe ‘A Ginjinha’ Rossio Lisbon

There’s no specific time for drinking a Ginja, the Portuguese tend to drink all day. Where to buy a bottle of Ginja in Lisbon (or order via the website?

Lisbon A Ginjinha’ cafe Lisbon tourist attraction 2

Cafe ‘A Ginjinha’ Rossio Lisbon

Nearby small Ginja café ´Os Amigos da Severa

Nearby in historical área Mouraria: small café ´Os Amigos da Severa´: also really worth a visit for tasting Ginja liqeur: 1 euro! 🙂

Saude! (cheers)

Transfer from Lisbon airport Portela to the city by bus, metro or taxi, a hint & long term parking

taxi-lisbon-portugal-airportThere’s three ways of getting to the center of Lisbon from the Portela airport. A taxi is not necessarily more expensive then the bus connections. It depends on the number of persons you’re travelling with. Portela airport is located at about 7 kilometers from Lisbon’s city center, a ride to the city in normal traffic shouldn’t take longer then 15 minutes.

It is possible taxidrivers will try and charge more for the ride than the normal price. Make sure they switch on the meter. It is illegal for taxidrivers to charge more then the official rates in Portugal and there are penalties. So if you encounter a problem, make sure that you let them know that you might contact the police.

Hint about taking a taxi at the airport: if the queue is too long at the arrivals you just have to go upstairs to the departures area and take a taxi there.

Lisbon airport Portela tourist information center taxi voucher

Airport Portela Lisbon, Tourism information center – Arrival Hall.

Here you can buy a voucher for pre-paid taxi transfers to the city center with fixed prices. Each taxi carries up to 4 (or more) people, including all the luggage that can fit in the trunk.

If you travel by car: Long term parking information

A taxi to the center shouldn’t cost more then 12-14 euros, luggage included. The taxidriver will charge you for the luggage (if you have luggage that needs to be placed in the trunk of the car).

Buses

There’s a special bus (Carris Aerobus 91) that brings you to the city in about 20 min. From 07:00 to 23:00, costs € 3.50 one way or € 5.50 round trip. You can buy the ticket inside the bus, free use of the metro’s and other buses in the city during the same day is included. You can also take normal buslines, which are a bit cheaper. The buses 5, 22, 44, 45 and 83 will take you to areas in or around central Lisbon.

Metro (subway)

The (new in 2012) airport metro station is located just outside the arrivals and departures building. From 6 am to 1 am, it costs around 2 euro to Lisbon’s city center.

Map of all metro stations in Lisbon. The new aeroporto (airport) station: red line (linha vermelha).

Website metro Lisbon

Brief introduction to gay bars in Bairro Alto Lisbon & Gay Clubs and Parties

Bairro Alto is a fantastic old neighbourhood in the center of the city. One of the oldest parts of town. Literally, Bairro Alto means ‘High neighbourhood’, as it is on top of one of the seven hills of Lisbon. It is a maze of narrow streets streets filled with old fashion and charming grocery stores during the day, but at night, bars suddenly appear everywhere from behind the shutter doors.

Bairro Alto_Lisbon_gay_neighbourhood

Since the eighties Bairro Alto has become ‘the place to be’ when it comes to nightlife. When the locals go out and say they go ‘ao Bairro’ (‘to the neighbourhood’) they can only mean Bairro Alto. Don’t expect big clubs though, you will find these in other parts of the city.

Journalists

Bairro Alto was well known as the center of journalism in Portugal, all the main newspapers had their offices in the neighbourhood. And journalists need bars to get inspiration, and well, one thing let to another. The neigbourhood now attracts people from all walks of life even with the publishers all long and gone.

The Portugese tend to go out very late. They’ll leave the house at about midnight and start the night of easy with a drink in one of the bars, and when it’s warm out they prefer the streets. In summertime it is hard to move in Bairro Alto, all the little streets are crowded with people. The first days you will think a local holiday is being celebrated, but it’s just normal summer madness. Most places in Bairro Alto close at 02:00. For people heading for the nightlife, Bairro Alto is a pleasant warming-up.

Picture: Rene van Gijn

Gay bars

Now that you know something about Bairro Alto it’s time to get down to business: Where can you go and meet new friends? The Portuguese are not so open about their sexual preferences and the few people that are ‘out’ you’ll probably find in Bairro Alto. But don’t worry, the neighbourhood is very famous across the globe and you are sure to meet many nice guys when you hit the streets.

Bairro Alto has about 50 different bars and small clubs and the majority of the places is not gay, but most of them are ‘gay-friendly’. Cruising however is not recommended. Gay Clubs and Parties in Lisbon .

Beach 19, Portugal’s most famous and popular gay beach & how to get there

Portas Largas

The best place to start of is Portas Largas as it opens early (at about five already), it’s in the heart of Bairro Alto on Rua da Atalaia. The bar is very international and you’ll most likely be served by some cute muscly Brazilian guys that already work there for years. The owner of Portas Largas has his own hotel round the corner of the bar ‘Anjo Azul’ where you will be very welcome as well.

In Portas Largas you can drink caipirinha’s (they’re quite good) and jars of Sangria. From early on the place attracts an international crowd.

Fragil

This is a small but very cool club facing the entrance of Portas Largas. Famous for it’s enormous influence on Portugese club life and music. Many famous Dj’s have played here.

The audience is 90% gay on most nights, the door policy is friendly but not everybody is allowed in.

Fragil_club_gay_lisbon_Bairro Alto

Apartments: Three bedroom apartment with lovely patio (30m2) in historic Lisbon, Mouraria & history

This old building in the heart of Mouraria, once home of Fado music and famous performer Amália Rodrigues (‘Lady of Lisbon’) is suitable for a long weekend trip with your friends to explore Lisbon’s nightlife, a romantic week with your beloved or a summer holiday with your family. The quiet patio of 30m2 (sunny from March till October) with plants and flowers makes this apartment a nice location for your summer holidays in the city. There’s easy access to public transport, and all major sight-seeing in the city center are within walking distance. For bookings, availability and prices, call 0031 653941845 or skype Julie Kruijs (skype: juliekr1956) in the Netherlands.

Website with all the info you need

Lisbon Mouraria apartment dinner patio September 2008

Mouraria, September 2008

BBQ in 2008 with some good friends: Maurits (from Holland, living in Lisbon), Aurelio (from Brazil, living in Lisbon), Sheila (Canadian, living in Lisbon), Rob (living in Lisbon) and his mother (from England), Jur and Hans (from Holland) and I (Julie, living in Amsterdam, sometimes in Lisbon). I’m the one who writes the articles on this blog.

Apartment Mouraria June 2016

The 30 m2 patio is what makes this apartment really nice. In summertime you can catch some sun (from March – October) and walk the to kitchen fridges to get yourself a cold beer or a freezin’ bottle of Vinho Verde. At night you can sit outside, cool of after a hot summers day and have barbeque. There’s a large wooden table with 6 (4 comfortable) chairs, 1 relax chair and 2 beautiful umbrellas

Facilities

The apartment, with a total surface of 100 square meters offers a lot of comfort.

Lisbon apartment Mouraria sleeping room

The sunny livingroom has antique wooden doors that open to a small french balcony overlooking ‘Rua do Terreirinho’, a narrow street with many old houses and typical bars, and small restaurants. There’s a couch (twoseater) and a large eatingtable with four comfortable chairs. WiFi is available, bring your own laptop and you’ll have unlimited acces to the internet. There is a smart satelite TV system with hundreds of international channels.

bedroom_apartment_lisbon_mourariaThe master bedroom (with a double bed) that lies next to the living room has it’s own balcony facing the street as well. (Double glass windows). Clean sheets (and a full cleaning of the house) are taken care of before you arrive. If you plan to stay for a langer period we can arrange for the house and the beds to be cleaned during your visit as well. 2 big antique wooden closets provides more then sufficient closet space for your luggage.

The house has two extra bedrooms (one with boxspring beds) and five/six people can sleep in all comfort. New duvets and luxury duvet-covers (Essenza). A Chicco babybed plus matrass ( 0-4 years) is available for free.

There’s a large bathroom, bathtub and shower, a washing machine and a dryer (you can use it for free). Plenty of towels are provided.

The kitchen has been renovated, there’s a small table for your breakfast, a fridge, microwave, 4-burner-electric-cooker, pans, coffee-maker (and a Nespresso), fruit juicer, (wine) glasses, plates, cutlery, kitchen-linen etc. Good heating system for the colder evenings in wintertime via a eco-heating system.

Mouraria neighborhood my apartment

Mouraria, home of fado Music

No neighborhood in Lisbon is praised more in Fado music then Mouraria. This ‘Bairro’ (neighborhood in Portuguese) is a maze of little, narrow streets, situated between Graça (beautiful city viewpoint), Alfama and Costa de Castelo  (Castle of Saint George) is nowadays a ‘multiculti’ area.

Mouraria neighborhood apartment December 2008

Mouraria was given it’s name by the first Portugese king, Dom Afonso Henriques after the ‘siege of Lisbon’, in which Lisbon was taken over again by the (Christian) Portugese army from the Moorish overlords. This siege put an end to the Islamic control in the Iberian peninsula. The Moors however kept on living in the city after the conquist and gathered in the Mouraria.

It is said that the melancholic sounds of the music and singing of the Moorish people was at the base of Fado music. Amália Rodrigues, Lady of Lisbon, the ‘queen of Fado’ was born near Mouraria on Rua Martim Faz. More

Mouraria close to the apartment Rua do Terreirinho

The little streets of Mouraria are full of typical grocery stores, old bars (taverna’s) and cheap traditional restaurants. (No nightlife, if you’re looking for bars and disco’s, go to the nearby Bairro Alto neighborhood).

At the corner of the street is a night bar: Flamingo open till 03:00  ….

Lisbon Mouraria apartment 3 bedrooms patio 30 m2

Mouraria apartment

Lovely pátio summer 2014 dinner with friends Rob and Felipe

Restaurant Mouraria Rua do Terreirinho Laurinda & Jose Marie March 15

Restaurant in the street

The restaurant of Jose Marie and his wife Laurinda is a perfect place for a real portugese lunch. Don’t expect international food in this tiny restaurant. Their specialities are dishes like Cozido a Portuguesa (different kinds of meats, sausages and vegetables cooked in the same water), Coelho a caçador (Rabbitstew, in red wine) and Favas com entrecosto (Beans with porc meat and sausages).

If you don’t feel like experimenting, try a ‘bitoque. It’s steak and fries, with a fried egg, garlic and rice. Prices are very fair ca. 8 euro for a meal. In the late hours when the shops are closed and you are on your way home, you can always stop at Jose’s and take some beers, wine, water and even food home.

Casa rosa Mouraira Nov 15 2

Libon, área Mouraria, Rua do Terreirinho, October 2015

Reservation & availability calendar

World famous club in Lisbon ‘Lux Fragil’, unique river location & John Malkovitch

Many experts say this is one of the best clubs in Europe. A three floor building on a unique location along the river Tejo, near train station Santa Apolónia.

Lux_Fragil_Lisbon_clubs

After his succes with the Bairro Alto club Fragil, Manuel Reis used his experiences in creating this trendy hot spot together with associate John Malkovitch (yes, you are right, the actor). This club is certainly still one of the top clubs in town, but the glory days were the opening year 1999 up until about 5 years ago (I’m sorry, but we have to be honest). Still worth a visit though, not in the last place for the top musical attractions you will find here. The view from the gigantic balcony also remains unbeatable.

The place is divided in three floors. On ground floor you will find the club area, a rectangle and dark room with two bars and a stage. First floor is a bar and lounge, with a smaller open space in the middle for dancing. But go to the balcony first and take your time to enjoy the riverview. The decoration of the bar/ lounge changes at least every half year (my personal favourite was the era that the whol place was filled with enourmous beenbags and ‘pouffes’). The second floor is a roofterrace, only open in summer.

Lux_Club_Lisbon_nightlife

Lux fragil open it’s doors for clubbers usually around midnight, but the best time to arrive is from 3.00 till 5.00. As most bars in Bairro Alto close around 2:00 am, all barowners, DJ’s and nightflies choose where to go. Doors close at 5:00. But the club stays open till about 08:00 or 09:00.
There’s many concerts in Lux as well, starting earlier. For an agenda of the clubnights and the concerts visit the luxfragil website.

Resident DJ’s

All major DJ’s from Europe play in Lux, but there are a few Portuguese stars that made their way to the top behind the desks in Lux Fragil.

Probably the most famous of them all is DJ Vibe. Check out some of his mixes on his myspace page. Facebook. He’s one of the residents in Lux and of course a well-known producer.

Rui Vargas is no doubt one of the Lux Fragil dinosaurs. You can see him in Lux almost every week.