From the monthly archives:

June 2009

Lisbon Confidential: Lily from InLoveWithLisbon.com

by Lisbon Apartments on June 18, 2009

Lisbon Confidential is a series of interviews with people who know and love Lisbon. In this section we share their insider tips, favourite places in the city, and “hidden gems” of Lisbon. We ask the same 10 questions to each interviewee and publish their answers verbatim. Should you wish to suggest somebody for this interview, please contact us.

Lily from InLoveWithLisbon.com

Lily from InLoveWithLisbon.com

Today’s Lisbon Confidential interview is with Lily from InLoveWithLisbon.com, a blog about Lisbon and, in her own words, “one woman’s love affair with the beautiful city and the land of Portugal”. So, read on to find out what it is Lily loves about Lisbon:

1. What’s your connection with Lisbon?

I met a Portuguese man and fell in love. I didn’t know anything about Lisbon until then. The stories he told me about his country of origin and Lisbon together with the beautiful language and the mysterious ‘saudade’ all made me yearn to see it for myself. When I first visited I felt like I was coming home. Upon my return to England I started In Love With Lisbon because I felt that everyone should know about this wonderful city. I’ve been learning Portuguese ever since.

2. Why should a tourist visit Lisbon, in your opinion?

Lisbon is such a beautiful city full of history and picturesque scenery. Nearby beaches, bars, the glorious river, quiet coffee shops, chic shopping and so many musems and places of interest to visit. The Portuguese people are also warm and welcoming. Whilst tourism has definately increased, it still seems to be a less visited place than many of the other more familiar European cities so it retains it’s distinct charm and remains true to itself.

3. Your favourite Lisbon museum, sight or attraction?

The gothic ruins of Convento do Carmo. It’s unbelievably peaceful and strangely eerie. I also love the Discoveries Monument which honours those who sailed across the oceans to discover new lands.  For me, just to see the glittering river and the light that floods Praça do Comércio is a unique Lisbon experience.

4. Do you have a favourite restaurant? If so, why?

Os Tibetanos is a lovely vegetarian restaurant. Wholesome food for a good price with friendly staff. They have a lovely garden outside where you can sit and eat as well.

5. A favourite bar or cafeteria?

When I first arrive in Lisbon I make my way to Miradouro das Portas do Sol for a coffee. There’s a little kiosk cafe at the top of the miradouro which probably has one of the best views in Lisbon. I love to just sit and gaze out over the Tejo. Pois cafe behind the Sé is definately worth finding. It’s quirky, chilled out and the staff and clientele are friendly. They also make a great galão! Lastly Kaffeehaus in Chiado is perfect for a lunchtime break. The staff here are also very friendly and the decor is minimal and relaxing.

6. What is your favourite district of the city and why?

I love Alfama for the labyrinth-like streets, ancient passageways and traditional architecture. This is where you will find many of your typical Lisbon picture postcard scenes. It survived the great earthquake in 1755 so wandering through here is like going back in time.

7. Recommend a good night out in Lisbon.

I’m more of early morning bird myself but I think a night in a traditional Fado bar is a must.

8. Tell us your favourite, interesting or unusual Portuguese saying or phrase, and its meaning.

I can’t think of a phrase right now but ‘borboleta’ is my favourite word in Portuguese. It means butterfly.

9. Given the chance, what would you do to improve Lisbon?

Lisbon is an irregular city, which although this is part of its charm, getting around can be a bit of a challenge. It takes time to cover places and the walk can be very steep and uncomfortable.
I would only improve the access to places, introducing more ecologic means of transport to allow visitors to access places more easily and with silent vehicles to preserve the surroundings and truly enjoy the magic tranquility of Lisbon Historical quarters.
With Red Tour we tried to the introduce modern and fun ways of visiting the city, using ecologic vehicles (Segways and buggies) to help travelers to get closer to the sights than a bus would, such as narrow streets and other hidden gems.

There’s a lot of buildings in Lisbon that are very run down but in many ways this is part of Lisbon’s charm. There are no pretences. Lisbon was once a great sea-faring capital and it’s history is evident all around even though in places it’s a little faded. I would love to see some gentle renovation – mostly getting rid of graffiti.

10. Lastly, do you have any insider tips, a hidden gem or little known aspect of Lisbon you can let our readers know about? Or simply a last word of advice for visitors to Lisbon.

The best way to enjoy Lisbon is to let it open up to you like a flower. It is a place that inspires poetry, literature, art, music and romance. You need to walk her streets slowly savouring the scent of good coffee and listening to the sound of fado in the air. Remember to look down at the mosaic pavements (calçadas) and up at the wonderful decorative tiles on buildings and walls (azulejos). Make sure you visit a miradouro (a viewpoint) and allow yourself to be seduced by history and become lost in Alfama.  Lisbon has many wonderful attractions and tourist hotspots but you will discover so much more if you allow yourself some time to just see where your feet take you.

Thanks, Lily, for sharing your passion for Lisbon with us – it truly is a love affair you’ve got going there! Our next guest to be interviewed for this Lisbon Confidential series will be Nathalie Costa, manager of the famous Olivier Restaurant.

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The 7 Hills of Lisbon

by Lisbon Apartments on June 16, 2009

The 7 Hills of Lisbon
You will often hear of Lisbon being referred to as the “City of Seven Hills”, people talking about the seven hills of Lisbon or, in Portuguese, “as sete colinas de Lisboa”. Even the local transport companies use a rechargeable ticket called the “7 Colinas” ticket.
But how true is this description of the city? Well, Lisbon certainly has a number of hills but as we will see, limiting them to seven is largely based on myth and we can perhaps relate the number to Greek legend, snakes and serpent power, and even Hindu chakras.
To do this, we must start with the story of how Lisbon was founded. According to Greek legend, Ulysses visited Portugal during his travels and here founded the city the Greeks called Olissipo. These ancient Greeks knew Portugal as Orphiussa (Land of Serpents), a name also given to the Cabo de São Vicente cape and a Serpent-Goddess Ulysses supposedly fell in love with.
When Ulysses left Portugal in the Argos to return to Troy, the Serpent-Goddess Orphiussa shook with such anger that the tremors affected the land around the Tagus estuary and the seven hills of Lisbon were formed, giving us the snake connection. In English, the term “Serpent Power” is often used to refer to traditional chakra doctrine and Kundalini yoga, Kundalini being a corporeal energy and often envisioned as a goddess or sleeping serpent, and closely linked with the chakras or energy centres, the major ones of which number … yes, you guessed it … seven.
So the number 7 has long had a certain symbolic and mystical aura about it, and probably this was increased in the Christian world due to the reputation of Rome being the original city of seven hills. And possibly the Romans stationed in Lisbon during their occupation of the city saw some similarities between the 2 capitals. But in fact there are many cities claiming to have been built around or on 7 hills – at the last count Wikipedia was <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cities_claimed_to_be_built_on_seven_hills”>listing more than 50 such locations</a> amongst which we can highlight Jerusalem, Istanbul and Budapest, apart from the aforementioned Lisbon and Rome.
The first mention in writing of Lisbon’s hills were made by the 16th Century Portuguese philosopher Damiao de Góis (although, rather inconveniently, he mentioned only five). Then finally, in 1620, we come across the famous seven hills when Frei Nicolau de Oliveira, a friar who taught in the Trinidade Convent, wrote “O Livro das Grandezas de Lisboa”, or the “Book of Lisbon Grandeurs”. Here he famously cites Lisboa as being seated on the seven hills of Castelo, São Vicente, São Roque, Santo André, Santa Catarina, Chagas and Sant’Ana.
But in his haste to link Lisbon with the Holy City the good Friar completely missed another famous hill (and in fact Lisbon’s highest!), that of Graça, which perhaps he didn’t know about because it can’t be seen when arriving to Lisbon by sea, hiding as it is behind the hill of Castelo. So in fact even in the 17th century there were at least 8 Hills of Lisbon, and of course over the years as the city grew, more and more hills found themselves within the city limits.
In any case, the oft referred to and famous 7 Hills of Lisbon are as follows:
Colina de São Jorge (or Castelo). The highest of the seven, covering the districts of Mouraria, Castelo and part of Alfama. Lisbon’s castle overlooks the city from on top of this hill, and it is here where it is thought the first settlers lived. On this hill and under the castle, remains of a Roman Oppidum have been found.
Colina de São Vicente.  This is where the Convento de São Vicente de Fora Monastery stands, and is also the location for what is commonly thought of as Alfama.
Colina de São Roque. The Bairro Alto dsitrict is located on this hill, as is the viewpoint called the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, which is perhaps the reason behind the fact that this hill is sometimes confused with the “Colina de São Pedro de Alcântara”. But Colina de São Pedro de Alcântara isn’t a hill – simply the much more recent name of a street.
Colina de Santo André. It is said that D. Afonso Henriques installed his troops on this hill to attack the city during the Siege of Lisbon. And in the 16th century, Lisbon’s nobility and rich installed their palaces here in a search for the healthier climes and air of the hills. The main street of this hill is the Largo da Graça.
Colina de Santa Catarina. This hill is located from the Largo Camões to Calçada do Combro, near the Bairro Alto. The hill also received the names of Senhora do Monte or Santa Catarina do Monte Sínai, after Catherine of Alexandria.
Colina das Chagas. The name comes from a church built here by the sailors who worked the route to India, and makes reference to the five sacred wounds of Christ. The main street here is Largo do Carmo.
Colina de Sant’Ana. This hill is located to the West of St. Jorge’s Castle,a nd is more or less defined by the Rua de São José and Rua das Portas de Santo Antão streets, the Rua da Palma and Largo do Martim Moniz streets, and the Praça da Figueira square.
However, even when arriving to Lisbon by plane with the privileged view that gives us of the city, it’s difficult to distinguish these seven hills – you just get the idea of Lisbon being quite a hilly city.
But this is basically all you need to know as a tourist visiting Portugal’s capital – that to visit some of the sights like the castle you’ll need to do some uphill walking. But once you’re at the top, we can promise you the view is well worth the effort!
Lisbon Castle, set upon the Colina de São Jorge hill

Lisbon Castle, set upon the Colina de São Jorge hill

You will often hear of Lisbon being referred to as the “City of Seven Hills”, people talking about the seven hills of Lisbon or, in Portuguese, “as sete colinas de Lisboa”. Even the local transport companies use a rechargeable ticket called the “7 Colinas” ticket.

But how true is this description of the city? Well, Lisbon certainly has a number of hills but as we will see, limiting them to seven is largely based on myth and we can perhaps relate the number to Greek legend, snakes and serpent power, and even Hindu chakras.

To do this, we must start with the story of how Lisbon was founded. According to Greek legend, Ulysses visited Portugal during his travels and here founded the city the Greeks called Olissipo. These ancient Greeks knew Portugal as Orphiussa (Land of Serpents), a name also given to the Cabo de São Vicente cape and a Serpent-Goddess with whom Ulysses supposedly fell in love.

When Ulysses left Portugal in the Argos to return to Troy, the Serpent-Goddess Orphiussa shook with such anger that the tremors affected the land around the Tagus estuary and the seven hills of Lisbon were formed, giving us the snake connection. In English, the term “Serpent Power” is often used to refer to traditional chakra doctrine and Kundalini yoga, Kundalini being a corporeal energy and often envisioned as a goddess or sleeping serpent, and closely linked with the chakras or energy centres, the major ones of which number … yes, you guessed it … seven.

So the number 7 has long had a certain symbolic and mystical aura about it, and probably this was increased in the Christian world due to the reputation of Rome being the original city of seven hills. And possibly the Romans stationed in Lisbon during their occupation of the city saw some similarities between the 2 capitals. But in fact there are many cities claiming to have been built around or on 7 hills – at the last count Wikipedia was listing more than 50 such locations amongst which we can highlight Jerusalem, Istanbul and Budapest, apart from the aforementioned Lisbon and Rome.

The first mention in writing of Lisbon’s hills was made by the 16th Century Portuguese philosopher Damiao de Góis (although, rather inconveniently, he mentioned only five). Then finally, in 1620, we come across the famous seven hills when Frei Nicolau de Oliveira, a friar who taught in the Trinidade Convent, wrote “O Livro das Grandezas de Lisboa”, or the “Book of Lisbon Grandeurs”. Here he famously cites Lisboa as being seated on the seven hills of Castelo, São Vicente, São Roque, Santo André, Santa Catarina, Chagas and Sant’Ana.

But in his haste to link Lisbon with the Holy City the good Friar completely missed another famous hill (and in fact Lisbon’s highest!), that of Graça, which perhaps he didn’t know about because it can’t be seen when arriving in Lisbon by sea, hiding as it is behind the hill of Castelo. So in fact even in the 17th century there were at least 8 Hills of Lisbon, and of course over the years as the city grew, more and more hills found themselves within the city limits.

In any case, the oft referred to and famous 7 Hills of Lisbon are as follows:

Colina de São Jorge (or Castelo). The highest of the seven, covering the districts of Mouraria, Castelo and part of Alfama. Lisbon’s castle overlooks the city from on top of this hill, and it is here where Lisbon’s first inhabitants are thought to have settled. On this hill and under the castle, remains of a Roman Oppidum or settlement have been found.

Colina de São Vicente.  This is where the Convento de São Vicente de Fora Monastery stands, and is also the location for what is commonly thought of as Alfama.

Colina de São Roque. The Bairro Alto district is located on this hill, as is the viewpoint called the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, which is perhaps the reason behind the fact that this hill is sometimes confused with the “Colina de São Pedro de Alcântara”. But Colina de São Pedro de Alcântara isn’t a hill – simply the much more recent name of a street.

Colina de Santo André. It is said that D. Afonso Henriques installed his troops on this hill to attack the city during the Siege of Lisbon. And in the 16th century, Lisbon’s nobility and rich installed their palaces here in a search for the healthier climes and air of the hills. The main street of this hill is the Largo da Graça.

Colina de Santa Catarina. This hill is located from the Largo Camões to Calçada do Combro, near the Bairro Alto. The hill was also given the names of Senhora do Monte or Santa Catarina do Monte Sínai, after Catherine of Alexandria.

Colina das Chagas. The name comes from a church built here by the sailors who worked the route to India, and makes reference to the five sacred wounds of Christ. The main street here is Largo do Carmo.

Colina de Sant’Ana. This hill is located to the West of St. Jorge’s Castle, and is more or less defined by the Rua de São José and Rua das Portas de Santo Antão streets, the Rua da Palma and Largo do Martim Moniz streets, and the Praça da Figueira square.

However, even when arriving in Lisbon by plane with the privileged view which that gives us of the city, it’s difficult to distinguish these seven hills – you just get the idea of Lisbon being quite a hilly city.

But this is basically all you need to know as a tourist visiting Portugal’s capital – that to visit some of the sights like the castle you’ll need to do some uphill walking. But once you’re at the top, we can promise you the view is well worth the effort!

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Lisbon Confidential: Susana Welsh

June 13, 2009

Tweet Lisbon Confidential is a series of interviews with people who know and love Lisbon. In this section we share their insider tips, favourite places in the city, and “hidden gems” of Lisbon. We ask the same 10 questions to each interviewee and publish their answers verbatim. Should you wish to suggest somebody for this interview, […]

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Top 10 Amazing, Unusual or Interesting Facts About Lisbon

June 11, 2009

Tweet 1. Lisbon isn’t the capital OK, strictly speaking that’s not exactly true. 🙂 But in fact Lisbon has never been declared or confirmed as the capital in any official document, unlike most other capital cities. It simply became the de facto capital when in 1255 Alfonso III of Portugal moved the court to what […]

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Lisbon Confidential: Mario Rui Fernandes

June 9, 2009

Tweet Lisbon Confidential is a new section in this blog, dedicated to the people who know Lisbon best: those that live and work here every day. We will be interviewing several distinguished personalities from the online and offline worlds of tourism, hostelry, the restaurant trade, and hopefully many others such as politicians, shop assistants, tram […]

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The Mouraria district

June 8, 2009

Tweet Mouraria is one of Lisbon’s most traditional and historic “bairros” or neighbourhoods. It owes its name to the fact that Dom Afonso Henriques (Afonso I of Portugal), after capturing Lisbon during the Christian Reconquest, decided that the moors should stay in one part of the city, in the same way that the Jews were […]

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Apartments in Lisbon

June 6, 2009

Tweet Self-catering holiday rentals are becoming increasingly popular in Portugal in general, and in Lisbon in particular. Several different companies are now providing these Lisbon apartments for tourists, and one of them is our very own, QuietZone, Lda. We are a couple who own 4 different rental apartments in the centre of Lisbon, all with 1 […]

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