Lisbon is a city that always took its jewelry seriously. In his 1610 census of Lisbon, Friar Nicolau de Almeida counted 70 goldsmiths and 62 silversmiths. Gil Vicente, one of Portugal’s greatest playwrights, was also a jeweler. And two of Lisbon’s main streets are Rua do Ouro (gold street) and Rua da Prata (silver street).
It should come as no surprise that Lisbon is a great place to learn the art and craft of jewelry making. You can take courses at Reverso, a wonderful jewelry gallery. These classes are a great way to make your vacation memorable and learn something precious.
Click here to see the schedule of Reverso’s courses, so you’ll know when to book your flight to Lisbon!
Many guidebooks describe the tower of Belém as a chess piece forgotten on the Tagus river. The poet Fernando Pessoa thought that there is much more to the tower than this first impression. In 1925, he wrote an English-language guide to Lisbon, titled “What the Tourist Should See.” This book, discovered only in 1988, was meant to restore Lisbon to its rightful place as one of the great European cities. Here’s what Pessoa writes about the tower of Belém:
“This marvel of oriental architecture was erected in the Restelo beach, famous as the point from which the ships sailed forth for the Great Discoveries, and was meant for the defense of the river and of the Portuguese capital. It was King Manuel I who ordered its erection; its was built within the river, and the project is due to the great master of “laced” architecture, Francisco de Arruda. It was begun in 1515 and completed six years afterwards. Later the river sank away, from that point, leaving the Tower definitely connected with the shore. […]
The Tower of Belem, seen from the outside, is a magnificent stone-jewel, and it is with astonishment and a growing appreciation that the stranger beholds its peculiar beauty. It is lace, and fine lace at that, in its delicate stonework which glimmers white afar, striking at once the sight of those on board ships entering the river. It is no less beautiful inside; and from its balconies and terraces there is a view of the river and of the sea beyond, which is not easily forgotten.”
Clouds also deserve a break and, on their day off, they occasionally travel to Lisbon. Mostly, it’s the cirrus and stratus, the pretty, socialite clouds that come looking for a good time. But, sometimes, they let the nimbus clouds tag along and then it rains.
These rainy days are a blessing to the ancient trees scattered throughout the city, fruits of the seeds that Portuguese sailors brought from all over the world. For the tourist, a rainy day is an opportunity to try some of the best tea and scones in Lisbon. These have been served for more than 30 years at the Vicentinas, a tea shop in Rua de São Bento. The proceeds go to charity, which makes these wonderful scones taste even better.
As Vicentinas, Rua de São Bento, 700 , Lisboa , Tel: 213 887040.
Coimbra is famous for its university, one of the oldest in the world. It is a beautiful city that seduces its visitors slowly, with its winding streets, ancient buildings, and academic traditions. According to an old folk song “Coimbra is most alluring when you try to say goodbye.” Hans Christian Andersen, the author of “The Little Mermaid” and other popular fairytales, visited Coimbra in 1866 and fell under its spell. Here’s what he wrote:
“We drove along the Mondego river whose broad bed displayed more dry sand than running water. Yet, what freshness and forest charm all around! The city rose as the loveliest flower in the whole bouquet. Coimbra rests upon the mountain side, one street higher than another. The streets are narrow, crooked, and rise continually. Shops and bookstores are here in abundance.
From the cloister of Santa Cruz the streets ascend towards the university, an extensive building that occupies the highest site in the city. Up there, through the dilapidated walls of the fortress, one enters the botanical garden, which is rich in rare flowers and trees.
I met some students all in their medieval garb: one went by himself, reading; three others passed in lively conversation with the guitar strung over the shoulder; their wild pranks in these surroundings put me in a cheerful mood; it was as if I lived back in an earlier century.”
Cistercians monks started producing wine in the Bombarral region in 1153. The Bombarral wine fair, which takes place in early August, celebrates this ancient wine-making tradition.
You’ll find few tourists there. It is an event designed for the locals, which makes it a lot more fun. You can buy a glass for a nominal amount (about 3 Euros) and use it to try the wines of many producers, including one of our favorites, Quinta do Sanguinhal.
You can meet the famous D. Amélia, maker of an incredible pear cake and many other delicacies. And eat outdoors underneath the foliage of ancient oak trees at the Zélia restaurant stand. They serve an astonishing grilled rabbit and a lot of other great fare. Mark your calendars!
During beach vacations life follows the rhythm of the tides. Low tide is the best time to walk on the hard, moist sea sand. The sun and the moon regulate the tides with designs that only physicists understand. Luckily, Portugal’s Ocean Institute publishes tide tables, so we don’t have to study physics to know the perfect time to walk on the beach.
Imagine that the year is 1282 and that you are king D. Dinis. What wedding present would you choose to impress your bride, Isabel of Aragon?
1) a passionate “cantiga de amor” (a medieval love poem);
2) a state-of-the art ship that can crest ocean waves without capsizing;
3) silk and jewels;
4) a medieval town.
If you guessed 4), you are correct. King Dinis offered Queen Isabel the town of Óbidos. And, while the gift might seem extravagant, Queen Isabel repaid it many times over by helping the poor and maintaining peace in the realm.
Óbidos’ beauty is unique. Inside the castle walls it is easy to imagine we are in the Middle Ages and that we might bump into the “Lidador,” the knight who helped conquer the town in 1148.
If you cannot afford giving your loved one a medieval town, you can settle for the next best thing: a visit to Óbidos.
This unpronounceable word is the Portuguese name for table soccer. In older days many Portuguese wasted their youth learning the fine motor skills required to control the ball. Even today table soccer remains popular. So, if you see a table at a local café don’t be afraid to join in. You will be surprised at how easy it is to start playing and at how much fun it can be.
If you’re in Portugal in July, you might want to visit the Óbidos medieval fair. It features jugglers, jesters, and jousting tournaments, all in the shadow of the majestic Óbidos castle. You can also taste the delicious pork roasted on a spit, a delicacy that, in the Middle Ages, only kings could afford.