December 1, 2010

Portugal Independence Day

Portugal Independence Day.
Today is Independence Day and celebrates Portugal's independence from Spain in 1640 after Spain had ruled the country since 1581.

On this day the Spanish were driven from the country and John of Bragança became King John IV of Portugal. A small group of Portuguese patriots stormed the palace in Lisbon and imprisoned the Duchess of Mantua, the Spanish appointed Governor of Portugal.

Sporadic conflict followed the coup in Lisbon and lasted, on and off, until 1668. Along with a number of border incursions, the fortress town of Elvas was unsuccessfully besieged by Spanish forces, though nearby Evora was briefly taken by the Spaniards. Spain finally agreed to recognize Portugal's independence on in February 1668.

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November 1, 2010

All Saints' Day Dia de Todos-os-Santos

All Saints' Day Dia de Todos-os-Santos.
Today is All Saints' Day, Dia de Todos-os-Santos, a national holiday in Portugal.

The holiday honours all saints, those known and unknown.

All banks, public buildings such as museums and many shops will close on public holidays in Portugal.

The next day following All Saints' Day is All Souls' Day in the Catholic calendar.

Devout Catholics will attend mass in one of Portugal's many churches on this day.

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October 18, 2010

Praca do Giraldo Evora

The Praca do Giraldo is the main central square in the UNESCO World Heritage listed city of Evora, with many small streets radiating out from the sides of the square.


The town's tourist office is situated here and there are some wonderful pavement cafes here to kick back, have a glass of wine, some fine food and, above all, just relax.

The 16th century renaissance-style church of Santo Antão can be seen in the image above.

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September 22, 2010

Cabo da Roca Cape Roca


Cabo da Roca, or Cape Roca, once known as the "Rock of Lisbon," is about 16km (10 miles) from Sintra, and is a must-see if you are in Sintra. It can also be easily reached from the resort of Cascais.

Cabo da Roca is not only the westernmost point in Portugal, but in Europe. It is the most visited spot in the Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais, a 14.5 hectare park that includes the village of Azenhas do Mar, spectacularly nestled into a cliff.



Cabo da Roca towers almost 150m above the sea, which is usually very rough. The formidable cape is regularly buffeted by gales. In the sixteenth century it sported a fortress that served for Portugal’s maritime defense. Some inconspicuous ruins remain, but the main building there now is a lighthouse, also quite old, dating from the late 18th century.

The weather conditions are indeed extreme. As you can see in the photo of the crucifix-topped commemorative plinth that I am standing beside in the first photo, the wind will rip off any headgear that isn’t gripped onto tight.



It is a miracle that anything can grow in such extreme weather conditions. However, it is overrun with the very hardy South African sour fig, or ice plant, a succulent creeper introduced to the region several years ago that has completely taken over.


Before going to Cabo da Roca, I had read that a certificate of having visited the cape was available to the equally hardy foreign tourist who braved it, but when I went there there was no such prize in sight.

You may be luckier!

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August 28, 2010

Public Telephones In Portugal

Portugal Telecom (PT) operates the majority of the country's landline telephone services.


Public telephones can be found by the roadside, in post offices (correios), stations and cafes. Most public telephones accept both coins and cards.

Phone cards can be purchased in Portugal Telecom shops, post offices and kiosks.


The once state-owned PT is now a private company and has a major presence in Brazil and other countries.

Mobile phones far outnumber landlines in Portugal (over 13 million to 4 million).

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July 25, 2010

Arriving At Lisbon Airport

Lisbon Portela Airport (LIS) is Portugal's main airport and a major hub for flights to the Azores and Madeira.


The airport has car parking facilities (4 car parks), a tourist office, shops, cafes, car hire offices (Avis, Sixt, Hertz, Europcar) and bus connections to central Lisbon - buses #5, #22, #44, #45, #83, #208, #745.

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June 30, 2010

Holidays in Portugal

Holidays in Portugal.
If you’re undecided about your next holiday destination, but want to visit a country full of beautiful beaches, fabulous resorts and a distinctive culture and identity, then look no further than Portugal.

Stunning sunshine beams down daily, which makes the Algarve the perfect area to get away to if you want a holiday that consists of relaxing and unwinding. Cheap Algarve holidays boast a selection of resorts that offer everything you could possibly need. The liveliest resort, Albufeira is home to no less than seven beaches and a nightlife that rivals the very best Europe has to offer.

If you prefer to spend your holiday immersing yourself in historical culture and stunning architecture, why not take a city break to Porto or the capital city of Lisbon? The other side of Portugal is obvious to see in these vibrant cities that offer wine lodges, charming restaurants and fantastic shopping.

History is also apparent in Madeira, a gorgeous island off of the Portuguese coast in the Atlantic Ocean. Offering not only a rich historical past, it also differs from mainland Portugal because the landscape is quite simply beautiful. Here you will find breath taking scenery, unbelievable hiking opportunities and an interesting culture all for you to explore.

The diversity of destinations in Portugal makes it a must for British holidaymakers. Whether you want sightseeing, family holidays, stag or hen parties or even a romantic city break, holidays in Portugal provide.

Experience a variety of new things such as water sports, dolphin watching or its speciality - golf. Portugal is home to 15 world class golf courses, so if you’re looking to improve your handicap, Portugal is the essential destination for you.

With such a variety of destinations and experiences, Portugal is the perfect place for your next holiday.

June 25, 2010

Rua da Academia das Ciências Lisbon


Rua da Academia das Ciências is a street in Lisbon’s Bairro Alto district. It is very picturesque not only in its ancientness, but – as in many Portuguese cityscapes - in the variety of architectural ages and styles that meld in it.

Rua da Academia das Ciências is worth a visit for three reasons. The first is the institution it is named after: the Academia das Ciências de Lisboa (Sciences Academy of Lisbon). It is housed in the former Convent of Jesus (which still survives in part as the Hospital de Jesus) and was established in 1779. The Convent became home to the academy in 1833. The founding of the Academy was a boon in particular to the study of mathematics in Portugal as its Memoirs were the only journal at that time where mathematicians could publish their research.

The Academy is worth a visit for its huge, awe-inspiring hall and its general atmosphere of scholarly grandeur and noble dedication to fusty causes. It also has the Museu Geológico  (Geological Museum), founded in 1857, Portugal’s first geological and archaeological museum. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am – 5pm.


Down the other end of the Rua da Academia das Ciências is an institution that, in some senses, couldn’t be more diametrically opposed to the stolid, sedentary Academia in its intent: the Escola Superior de Dança, or the Advanced School of Dance. Yet, in a way, it is sister to the Academia in that dance here is studied in such depth that graduates leave with a bachelor’s degree in the subject.

Then, happily, at 1-1A Rua da Academia das Ciências, where it meets Rua O Seculo (see photo above), next door to the dance school, is Consenso, one of Lisbon’s best restaurants. It is said that personages as exalted as the prime minister patronize this establishment, but for all its chic interior, its new age “earth, air, fire, water” theme, and its exquisite, modern cuisine, it nevertheless manages to be surprisingly affordable. Highly recommended.
Restaurant Consenso
Mon-Sun: 7.30pm - 11:30pm
Rua da Academia das Ciencias 1-1A
Bus no. 92, tram no. 28, Baixa-Chiado subway station.
Tel . 21 346 86 11
http://www.restauranteconsenso.com/eng/home.html

Oh, and one more reason to visit Rua da Academia das Ciências: like almost any backstreet in the Bairro Alto, it is delightfully sleepy and eminently wanderable.

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Portugal Holidays

Portugal isn't just the base country for brilliant football players and Port. No, in fact it offers a whole lot more than this. One of the main reasons that thousands of Brit holidaymakers choose it as their destination every year, is because of the fabulous weather that shines on Portugal's beautiful beaches.

Portugal Holidays


The popularity of holidays to the Algarve has grown over the years and it is easy to understand why. Home to every kind of resort you could ever want on a holiday, it offers sun drenched beaches, family-friendly resorts, and a fantastic nightlife – there truly is something for everyone.

If lying in the sun sometimes leaves you feeling restless, why not visit Madeira, Portugal's small island in the Atlantic Ocean, and explore the other side of the country? Madeira boasts heavenly scenery, a history rich with culture and the opportunity to get active with a range of excellent hiking opportunities. The traditional charm that this tiny yet beautiful island offers will remain with you long after you’ve left.

Alternatively, if you fancy yourself as a golf pro, you will be in the right place. Portugal is home to 15 of Europe's best courses, built around rural landscapes and ocean views, the perfect setting to hone your skills.

Portugal Holidays in Porto


Beach holidays, and golf is not all Portugal has to offer. The country is so diverse, so why not try a city break to Porto or the capital city Lisbon? Both cities fuse culture and history, making them ideal destinations for holidaymakers who desire the thrill of a vibrant city. Eat in amazing restaurants and shop in boutiques whilst being surrounded by stunning architecture that gives Portugal such a distinctive identity.

Whatever you hope to get out of your holiday - be it relaxing beach holidays in the Algarve or culturally fuelled breaks, you’ll find it on your holidays to Portugal.

June 24, 2010

Indians in Portugal


The Portuguese people have for hundreds of years formed Europe’s most ethnically and culturally homogenous nation. To be sure, there are various ethnic influences on the population by region, with a Celtic influence in the north, and Arab influence in the south. But these influences are only that, and do not form boundaries.

However, post-colonial Portugal has become more like the rest of Europe in its ethnic composition. Although, even now, compared with neighboring Spain, for example, Portugal’s is a far less complex situation.

The biggest ethnic minority now is African: mainly from the former colony of the Cape Verde Islands. It is estimated to number about 200,000. The majority of Portuguese Africans lives in the greater Lisbon area – mostly in circumstances considerable less comfortable than those in general of the Caucasian population.

Another sizeable ethnic minority in Portugal is Indian. There are estimated to be about 60,000 in Portugal –mainly in greater Lisbon and Porto, but in Algarve, Coimbra, Guarda, and Leiria, too.

Many Gujaratis came from Mozambique once Portuguese rule ended there in 1974. They formed the Gujarati vanguard, Gujaratis from India also immigrating to Portugal from the 1980s. While Mozambique Gujaratis are typically successful in business, it tends to be the Gujaratis from India who are involved in bigger enterprises, mostly trade and commerce, as well as manufacturing and the hospitality industry.

Goa was given independence from Portugal in 1961. Indians in Goa were already at the top of the socio-economic pyramid there and it was they who immigrated to Portugal in considerable numbers. Mozambique also had a sizable population of ethnic Goans, who typically held administrative positions, many of whom immigrated to Portugal in 1974 with the granting of independence.

Nevertheless, while Indians are in evidence in Lisbon (see photo above) and other cities, there is little in the way of obvious Indian businesses, least of all Indian restaurants of which, sadly, there is a dearth.

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June 23, 2010

Rua Augusta Lisbon


Rua Augusta, in the Baixa area of Lisbon, is the city’s main pedestrian and shopping street. Closed to traffic, it runs all the way from the Praça do Comércio up to the Praça de Dom Pedro IV (AKA “Rossio”), a length of 550 meters.

Being a walkway, it is also a route where pedestrians are constantly being offered things – especially round the arch joining it to Praça do Comércio. Craftsmen peddle African wooden carvings or South American leatherwork or Middle Eastern metalwork, scarves, and jewelry; stalls stock souvenir T-shirts, cheap sunglasses, paintings, hot chestnuts, flowers; and street artists, musicians, and anyone else with anything to try and charm you with do their best to attract you and your coins.

At 89 Rua Augusta is the famous Travellers House Lisbon, one of the city’s best hostels with its modernity, cleanliness, spaciousness and sociability.

Just a little further along, at no. 110 Rua Augusta, on the corner of Rua Augusta and Rua de Sao Nicolau, is the Sao Nicolau Cafeteria (see photo) where there are some delicious pastries to be had.

Rua Augusta is the most accessible of Lisbon grand boulevards, and is where you can interact with the people of the city, view a thousand different products from the tawdry to the ritzy, and a lot of splendid architecture – all at your own pace.

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June 20, 2010

Pena Palace and Gardens


Pena Palace in the town of Sintra is famous as Europe’s most Romantic-style castle – which is of little surprise, considering that its present state dates from the mid-19th century when Romanticism was at its height.


Pena Palace began in the 14th century as a small chapel built on a hill, dedicated to Our Lady of Pena. Years later, St. Jerome’s monastery was added. In the 18th century the monastery was first struck by lightning, and then, more seriously, by the 1755 Great Lisbon Earthquake. The chapel, by contrast, survived virtually intact.


The king consort in the mid-19th century, Ferdinand II, was a German by birth. He was charmed and fascinated by this little chapel and the ghostly ruins of the monastery, so acquired the site and set out rebuilding what had been the old monastery as a royal summer residence.



The job of designing the new palace was given to the amateur German architect, Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege, and construction took place from 1842 to 1854. King Ferdinand and Queen Maria II also had extensive say in the design. The vault arches, and the Islamic and Medieval aspects of the design are among the features ordered by the royal couple.




Architecturally it is a potpourri of styles spanning many continents and ages from Gothic, to Renaissance, to Moorish.

Pena Park was created around the Palace at the same time. Ferdinand II’s vision for the park was a blend of wild tropical forests and the grand woods of Germany. So, like the Palace, it is an eclectic, but wonderfully integrated, construct of flora from all over the world, including North America, China, Japan, and, for fern and tree ferns, Australia and New Zealand.



It became the property of the Portuguese State in 1889, and a national monument after the 1910 Republican Revolution.



The photos from this visit to Pena Palace and Gardens were taken on a rainy day, which, with the soft mysteriousness of the muted colors and darkened corners, captures the inspiration behind the royal fantasy that gave birth to this magical site in Sintra.



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June 15, 2010

The Bemposta Monstrance

A Lisbon museum that anyone with any appreciation of art and crafts must visit is the National Museum of Ancient Art, (Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga) on the Rua das Janelas Verdes.

The range of art on display in the museum is very wide, covering not only paintings, but ceramics, textiles, furniture, and metalwork.



One highlight of the metalwork on display is the famous Bemposta Monstrance of Belem. This amazing 97cm high incarnation of opulent ornateness was created in Portugal in the 18th century, about 1775–80, by Adam Gottlieb Pollet from silver-gilt, diamonds, rubies, topazes, emeralds, sapphires, rock crystals and amythests - mostly from the treasure trove that was Brazil.

The unquestioned authority of a Church with as much wealth, power (and time) on its hands to create something as uncompromisingly majestic as this is almost as impressive as the object itself. And of course, viewing it somewhat in isolation as you do in the Museum you can almost forget that when in use it was just another element in an institution in which that opulence extended in every direction.

Oh come all ye faithless!

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June 6, 2010

Museu da Marioneta Lisbon


The Museu da Marioneta, or Puppet Museum, of Lisbon, is a true labor of puppetry love, launched by the puppeteer group Companhia de Marionetas de São Lourenço in 1987.

The permanent collection of the museum includes a lot more than just Portuguese puppetry, but reaches right back to the roots of puppetry in its retelling of the history of the art from stages around the world, particularly Asia.


The museum's collection features masks, puppets, techniques, posters, clothing and stage props – again, with a lot more than just Portuguese puppets, but devoted, of course, to their irresistible magic.


The Museum has special exhibitions, advertised on the Puppetry Museum website (unfortunately not regularly updated in English.)

Convento das Bernardas - Rua da Esperança, nº 146
Lisbon, Portugal, 1200-660
Phone:
213942810
Tue - Sun:
10:00 am - 1:00 pm
2:00 pm - 6:00 pm

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May 21, 2010

Flags on Rossio Railway Station

Flags on Rossio Railway Station
Lisbon’s most famous station, Rossio Railway Station, with its splendid Neo-Manueline (i.e. 16th-century-Gothic-inspired) façade, used to be known as Central Station, reflecting its historical importance.

Another feature of the station that continues to proclaim that “centrality” is the display of flags that fly smartly from its apex of its entranceway.

In this photo, you can see four flags being flown above the station. They are, from left, the flag of Europe, the flag of Portugal, a flag that looks like it should be the flag of Portuguese Railways – but isn’t (please leave a comment if you know), and the flag of Lisbon.

Flags on Rossio Railway Station, Lisbon, Portugal.

The black and white pattern of the flag of Lisbon is known as a gyronny (or gironny) in heraldry parlance – made up of eight alternatively black and white gyrons - indicating city status. This plain version is the civil version. The “full” version includes the city’s coat of arms in the middle.

Interestingly, in spite of Lisbon having existed more or less as “Lisbon” (originally "Olissipo") at least since the time of Julius Caesar, and in spite of it being incontrovertibly the capital city of Portugal, its status as capital city has never been officially enshrined. It is a purely de facto capital. Besides the fact of Lisbon being the seat of government, the city’s flag is therefore one of the most important visible assertions of its historical status.

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May 19, 2010

Regimento de Lanceiros nº 2



The Ajuda district is well known for its Palacio Nacional da Ajuda and it accompanying Museum, and for the Jardim Botanico da Ajuda (Ajuda Botanical Garden).

Of course, both are well worth the visit, but if you’re in the area, try and include the base of the Regimento de Lanceiros nº 2 in your route.

The 2nd Lancers Regiment is a Portuguese Army unit with its headquarters on a hill in the Ajuda district of Lisbon. The Regiment runs Portugal’s Army Police (Polícia do Exército).

The Regiment’s headquarters have a light earthy-colored entrance, jaunty red flags, candy-striped sentry box, and colorful crests, with an almost festive atmosphere, offset by the stern retired tank displayed to the left of the entrance (just visible in the photo).

The photo above of the entrance of the Regiment’s headquarters shows its crest at the right with the motto “Murte ou Gloria” (“Death or Glory”) - not really legible in the photo - and the skull-and-crossbone emblazoned shield.



This close-up photo shows the crest in more detail, rendered in brass, but without the motto.

If you tarry long enough, you’ll also experience the thrill of real men in uniform. Careful with your camera!

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May 16, 2010

Blazons Hall National Palace Sintra



Sintra is a short day trip out of the city of Lisbon. Of its many wonderful sights, the National Palace is one of the best. After the area was recaptured from the Moors, the Palace became royal property. Embellishments followed from the 13 century onwards.

One part of the Palace of particular note is the Blazons Hall in its western part. Its decorations are overwhelmingly heraldic. The ceiling, with its octagonal dome, is its most spectacular feature, with the royal Portuguese coat of arms, framed by a winged dragon, at its very top.

Below it, around the beautifully tiled walls are scores of other coats of arms of the children of the great Dom Manuel I, and below it, of 72 other noble clans.

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April 23, 2010

Pork in Portugal


You can’t go far in Portugal without coming upon somewhere selling pork. It’s as staple to the Portuguese diet as cod. Anyone who knows a little about Portuguese cuisine can tell you, the most famous pork dish in Portugal is the Bairrada suckling pig – Barraida being a region in the middle of Portugal famous both for its pigs and its wine, and a suckling pig being one that is still feeding off its mother’s milk. The city in the Barraida considered the suckling pig capital is the region’s largest, Mealhada.

Pork is sold in Portugal in its many different forms, but usually in a form that, like the way fish are sold, is far from processed. Shown here is a typical sight in any Portuguese butchery: hams, as is, waiting to be carved off for you. This shot was taken in a Lisbon supermarket.

Pork is, of course, also dined on in various forms, but with roast pork, the traditional way to serve it is with acorns and/or truffles.

Read an article about Portuguese cuisine

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April 21, 2010

The Portuguese menu



Portugal is a nation facing the Atlantic Ocean, not to mention one with a long and illustrious seafaring history.
It's no surprise then to find that seafood features prominently in Portuguese cuisine. Dining in Lisbon is a safe experience in terms of very rarely being let down, but by no means a boring one. Fresh vegetables, not overly cooked or processed, share the plate with fresh fish that can be anything from the tuna, snapper and the like familiar to English-speakers to more exotic treats like octopus.



Carcois a Portuguesa (Portuguese snails), Bacalhau assado com batatas (boiled salted cod fish with potatoes and roasted peppers), Caldo verde (vegetable soup), Arroz doce com abobora (rice pudding) - are some of the perennials of Portuguese cuisine. And, of course, at prices that won't hurt the pocketbook - and just as well, because you'll want to be back!

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April 18, 2010

Portugal Pavements - Calçada

Portugal's distinctive paving, known as Calçada in Portuguese can be seen in most Portuguese towns and cities as well as in the former Portuguese colonies Brazil and Macau.

The traditional paving is found in many of the squares and sidewalks of Lisbon, so keep your eyes to the ground for a treat beneath your feet.

Portugal Pavements - Calçada

This pavement is in Faro in the Algarve outside the the Igreja do Carmo, known for its Chapel of Bones in the back.


This lovely design is also in Faro in the Algarve at Jardim Manuel Bivar, just north of the Old Town.


This colorful take on the Calçada is on the main, ritzy shopping street in Faro.



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April 15, 2010

El Corte Inglés Lisbon

El Corte Inglés is the largest department store chain in Spain and also has branches in Portugal.

There has been an El Corte Inglés store in Lisbon since 2001 and one opened in Vila Nova de Gaia in Porto in 2006.

El Corte Inglés Lisbon.


The name El Corte Inglés means The English Cut as in a tailor's cut and was the name given to the company by founder Ramón Areces, who began his business ascent by purchasing a small tailor's shop in Madrid in the 1930's.

El Corte Inglés Lisbon.


The Lisbon store is one of the company's largest and its nine floors include a supermarket, a 14-screen cinema, cafes, restaurants including an an outdoor terrace on the top story as well as electronics, books, CD's, men and women's clothing and household goods.

El Corte Inglés Lisbon.


El Corte Ingles
Av. Antonio Augusto Aguiar, 31
Marquês da Fronteira e Sidónio Pais
Tel: 213 711 700

Nearest Metro station: São Sebastião as an entrance in the store.

The supermarket Supercor is also owned by the chain and there is a huge Supercor branch at Parque das Nações, Avenida dos Oceanos, 29 (Tel: 218 985 160)

El Corte Ingles, Lisbon

Entrance to São Sebastião metro station.

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April 14, 2010

University of Lisbon

The University of Lisbon (Universidade de Lisboa) was founded in 1911 but its roots go much further back in Portuguese history to the Estudo Geral of the late 13th century.

University of Lisbon

The state-run University of Lisbon has eight faculties: the faculties of Fine Arts, Sciences, Law, Medicine, Dental Medicine, Psychology, Pharmacy, and Letters.

The University of Lisbon maintains four museums: the Astronomy Observatory of Lisbon (Tel: +351 21 361 6730), the Museum of Medicine (Tel: +351 21 798 5153), the National Museum of Natural History (Tel +351 21 392 1879) and the Science Museum of the University of Lisbon (Tel: +351 21 392 1808).

University of Lisbon

University of Lisbon
Alameda da Universidade
Cidade Universitária
1649 - 004
Lisboa
Tel: 351 21 796 7624

The nearest metro station is Cidade Universitária Station (on the Yellow Line); the following buses stop at UL, #31, #35, #738, #768.

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April 4, 2010

Pensao Residencial Ninho das Aguis Lisbon hotel


I recently stayed at the Pensao Residencial Ninho das Aguis (i.e., “Eagle’s Nest”) in Lisbon’s Alfama district, not far from the Castle of São Jorge. It is in a very convenient location, perched just above the city center, and offers wonderful views of Lisbon.

The Ninho das Aguis is up a very steep hill, so is probably not the first choice for those not in great physical shape, but, on the other hand, it is easily accessible by tram (no. 16) or bus (no.37), from which stops it is only a short walk.



Equally challenging is the huge spiral staircase that has to be scaled immediately upon entering from the street, but once you’ve climbed them you are in a cozy little accommodation, below which the city lies spread out, making it very much an “eagle’s nest” of a place to stay.

The amenities are limited, just a bed and wash facilities (no toilet in the room), but it is fairly cheap at about 50 euros per night, and clean enough.



The Pensao Residencial Ninho das Aguis is recommended for those who want somewhere close to where it’s happening, don’t mind using their legs, are happy with a taste of Lisbon “as she is” as opposed to being pampered.

Pensao Residencial Ninho das Aguias
74 Costa do Castelo, Lisbon 1100, Portugal



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