Lisbon, Time Out Market Lisbon

Time Out Market Lisbon

Photo 00090
Time Out Market, Lisbon

The Time Out Market is housed in the late-nineteenth-century Mercado da Ribeira building, which is locally referred to as the ‘Turnip Mosque’ because of the cupola on the roof. The market was originally one of the main food markets for the city and even had its own slaughterhouse, but by 2000 it had lost its role as a wholesale market and the building needed to find a new purpose. The Lisbon branch of Time Out magazine had the idea of turning it into a place where people could buy good quality tried-and-tested food and drink from independent stalls, based on the notion that good eating and drinking places are included in the magazine, so why not have the same principle with the market? All the food is tested by an independent panel of experts before the stall is included in the market. This means that, in theory, there is only very good quality food and drink on sale. The Time Out Market opened in 2014 and is now one of the must-see places for tourists to visit in Lisbon, with over three and a half million visitors in 2017.

There are 24 eateries and eight bars catering for all tastes in the market. They all have established and respected restaurants or cafés elsewhere and range from those selling savoury snacks, such as Olhó Bacalhau, Croquetaria and Manteigaria Silva, or ice cream or cakes, such as Santini and Nós é Mais Bolos, to those serving main dishes designed by respected Portuguese chefs, such as Henrique Sá Pessoa, Miguel Castro e Silva, Miguel Laffan, Marlene Vieira and Alexandre Silva, and food from around the world, such as Asian Lab and Pizza a Pezzi. Some of the food stalls serving fish dishes have fish tanks where you can choose your dinner just like the expensive restaurants in the city, although this isn’t something I enjoy seeing. There are also plenty of stalls selling drinks ranging from fruit juices at Compal Frutológica to cocktails at Cinco e Meio. The centre of the large hall is full of communal tables where you take your food, so you can order a starter from one stall, a main course from a completely different stall and a dessert from another. If you time it right you may even get to see a cookery demonstration.

Just a warning. Even though it’s a food market, don’t expect it to be cheap. A night out with food and drink can work out as expensive as ordering a meal in a restaurant but without the waiter service or comfortable seating. For example, we paid €12 for two glasses of wine. It also gets really busy at night, especially at weekends, and I saw many people having to eat their food standing up. It has recently become popular with stag and hen groups who make a day of drinking here.

The upstairs area is an open space which is used for a variety of things. Concerts are often held here, but on the day we visited there was a clothes fair, which was a bit like a jumble sale. It’s worth going upstairs to see the pretty azulejos at the bottom and top of the stars and for the view of the Time Out Market from above. If you’re a fan of traditional markets there is still a daily market (Monday to Saturday mornings) in the hall in the other half of the building.


Time Out Market Lisbon, Mercado da Ribeira, Avenida 24 de Julho, Lisbon (opposite Cais do Sodré station)

Open: Sunday to Wednesday 10am-midnight; Thursday to Saturdays 10am-2am

There is a list of all the stalls here.

Buddha Eden - wine, art and peace, Centro region

Buddha Eden – wine, art and peace

Picture 1715
Buddhas, Buddha Eden

What do you get when you mix statues of Buddha, replicas of the Xian terracotta warriors, an Asian pagoda, stone carvings from Africa, contemporary art, and a wine estate? There is only one answer: Buddha Eden, a sculpture park in the grounds of the Quinta dos Lobidos winery in Bombarral (13 km south of Óbidos). The estate is owned by a wealthy art collector, José Berardo, who was so shocked and upset by the destruction of the 6th-century Afghan Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban in 2001 that he decided to create a garden dedicated to peace in the gently rolling 35-hectare grounds of the Quinta dos Lobidos estate. The first statues to be erected in the garden in 2007 were various Buddhas made of granite and marble in China, including a large reclining Buddha and a 21-metre standing Giant Buddha.

The view of the grounds from the entrance gives you an idea of the scale of the place – there is even a tourist train to take you around if you prefer not to walk – and as you look across at the hill opposite where the Buddhas live they look deceptively small.

The gardens are beautifully landscaped into zones, but the unifying theme throughout is the unity of the physical and the spiritual. The Zen-like oriental garden has Asian statues, tree-lined paths, a lake with koi carp and a pagoda.

The African sculpture garden is in tribute to the Zimbabwean Shona people, who believe that each stone carving is determined by a life spirit in the stone.

Even the Xian terracotta warriors, painted an incongruous vibrant blue, seem at home here.

Picture 1682
Xian Terracotta Warriors, Buddha Eden

In contrast to the traditional sculptures in the oriental and African gardens, the modern and contemporary sculpture garden houses Berardo’s collection of sculptures by current international sculptors. Pieces include ‘Néctar’ by Joana Vasconcelos (2006), which comprises two enormous candlesticks made from green wine bottles; ‘Temple’ by Allen Jones (1997); the geometric steel ‘Ace of Diamonds’ by Lynn Chadwick (2003); the glass construction ‘Stairway’ by Danny Lane (2005);  ‘Alien’ by David Breuer-Weil (2012) which shows a naked man doing a headstand, cheekily placed opposite the Buddhas; furniture made from recycled bits of machinery; and, the pièce de résistance, ‘Looking Back’ by Zadok Ben-David (2005), which shows a giant man looking back at a smaller man, and when you get up close you realise that the giant man is made up of thousands of unique miniature men. It is quite remarkable.

Finally, let’s not forget the wine. There are small reminders throughout that this is also the Bacalhôa wine estate, from Joana Vasconcelos’ wine bottle-inspired ‘Néctar’ sculpture to the tiled panels telling the history of wine along one of the paths. On the other side of the road there are vineyards for as far as the eye can see, and at the entrance to the estate there is a shop selling bottles of Bacalhôa-label wine, such as Quinta da Bacalhôa, Quinta dos Loridos, Quinta do Carmo, JP, Tinto da Ânfora and Aliança, produced at wine estates all over Portugal. Wine tastings are advertised on the Bacalhôa publicity literature, but there were no signs of wine tastings in the shop on the day that we visited and I understand that any tastings have to be booked in advance. Nevertheless, there were bottles of wine on sale for only €2 and a very decent glass of wine in the café only cost €1! So, taking advantage of this, we raised a glass to wine, art and peace.


Bacalhôa Buddha Eden, Quinta dos Loridos, Carvalhal Bombarral

Open daily 9am-6pm (except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day)

Entrance: €4 (under-12s free); Tourist train: €3

Wine tastings need to be booked in advance.

Getting there: It is not easily accessible by public transport (the railway station at Bombarral is quite a long way from Buddha Eden). A taxi from Óbidos costs €20 one way (as of 2017).

Lisbon, Palácio da Assembléia Nacional de São Bento – the home of Portuguese democracy

Palácio da Assembléia Nacional de São Bento – the home of Portuguese democracy

picture 00001 (1386)
Palácio da Assembléia Nacional de São Bento, Lisbon

Some days the god of travellers smiles down on us and he must have been smiling on the day we stopped at the Palácio da Assembléia Nacional de São Bento, on our way back into the centre of Lisbon from the Basílica da Estrela, to take some photos of the Neoclassical exterior of the parliamentary building. We had finished taking photos of the allegorical Homeland by Simões de Almeida (1938) above the porch and the four sculptures of Prudence, Justice, Strength and Temperance by Raul Xavier, Maximiano Alves, Costa Mota and Barata Feio respectively (1941) and were about to continue on our way when we spotted people entering the building through a side door. We decided to find out what was happening, expecting to be turned away, but to our surprise and joy we discovered that the Portuguese equivalent of the House of Commons was hosting a European Heritage Day and had opened the building to the general public. After passing through an airport-style security check we were handed a glossy self-guided tour brochure in Portuguese and English, which gave detailed information about each area of the building. We were able to wander through the rooms at our own pace and there was no restriction on photography (so much better than the guided tour (with photo restrictions) that I took around the House of Commons in London).

picture 00001 (1312)
Palácio da Assembléia Nacional de São Bento, Lisbon

The original building was the Monastery of São Bento da Saúde, designed by Baltazar Alvares and dating from 1598. Parts of the original monastery still exist, but much of the building was redesigned by Ventura Terra in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries to make it look more parliamentary. Even if you are not interested in politics, the building is worth a visit for the architecture and the vast collection of art and sculptures by important Portuguese artists throughout. Inside, areas of the original monastery are still evident, such as the atrium with its pink and white marble floor which is part of the original church. The former saints have now been replaced with busts of eminent politicians, a statue of King Carlos I and an incongruous bust of Luís de Camões sculpted by José Aurélio in 1999.

From here a 1930s staircase leads to a landing on the walls of which are two breathtaking triptychs painted by Martins Barata in 1944, The Cortes of Leiria and Agriculture, Industry and Commerce. The Cortes of Leiria depicts the thirteenth-century cortes (parliament) with King Afonso III at the centre surrounded by the clergy, the nobility and, significantly, representatives of the common people. Agriculture, Industry and Commerce, as the name suggests, shows the importance of these three economic activities in fifteenth-century Portugal. In the central panel is Saint Vincent, representing Lisbon as the head of the country. Above the doors leading off the landing are eight pediments and on top of each are sensuous Neoclassical-style reclining figures by Leopoldo de Almeida representing the former Portuguese provinces.

More works of art are on display in the Lobby (also intriguingly known as the Sala dos Passos Perdidos (Hall of the Lost Steps)), which, positioned next to the Session Chamber, is a very grand waiting room and if it looks familiar, it is because this is where TV news reporters often interview politicians. It was designed by Terra in 1895 and its pink and white marble walls are decorated with paintings of former kings and statesmen, while the ceiling is decorated with allegories of concepts such as Homeland by Benvindo Ceia and Law, Justice and Wisdom by João Vaz.

The Lobby leads to the Session Chamber, probably the most famous room in the palace, as the Portuguese news shows the MPs orating and debating here on a daily basis. The chamber dates from 1903 and once again Terra used pink and white marble for the walls. It is dominated by a large oak desk with Lex (law) carved into it, which is where the President of the Assembly sits. Above the desk is a statue of Republic by Anjos Teixeira (1916) and a painting showing the 1821 Constituent Assembly by Veloso Salgado, surrounded by coats of arms by Benvindo Ceia. Statues representing democratic concepts, such as Constitution, Law, Eloquence, Justice and Diplomacy by sculptors including Costa Mota and Maximiano Alves, dating from 1921, are positioned around the chamber. The MPs’ seats are arranged in a semi-circle in front of the President’s desk and they are watched over from two public galleries.

The Hall of Honour, which was the former high chancel of the church of the monastery and is now used for official receptions, is notable for the frescos depicting nationalistic scenes of the Portuguese discoveries in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, painted by Sousa Lopes, Domingos Rebelo and Joaquim Rebocho in the 1940s.

In contrast to the pink and white marbled walls of the Session Chamber, the Senate Chamber walls are covered with plaster designed to look like Siena marble and the room is dominated by a large walnut desk and on the wall behind it is a panel of carved cedarwood with figures of Royalty and Justice by Leandro Braga and a portrait of King Luís I by José Rodrigues (1866) in the middle of it. For me the pièce de résistance in this chamber is the ceiling, which appears to be bas-relief, but is in fact a very clever optical illusion painted by Pierre Bordes to look three-dimensional. Up until 1976, the year that Portugal’s political system became unicameral, this chamber was where the Peers of the Realm met. Nowadays this very formal-looking chamber is a used for committee meetings, conferences and most interestingly the biannual Young People’s Parliament.

Nearing the end of the tour, the library takes up four rooms in what were formerly the monks’ bedrooms. Although it was designed in 1936, it looks considerably older as the design by Adolfo Marques da Silva was based on libraries of the Renaissance period with shelving on two levels.

picture 00001 (1379)
Library, Palácio da Assembléia Nacional de São Bento, Lisbon

Despite this homage to the Renaissance, Neoclassicism is the dominant style throughout the palace and it continues into the formal garden at the back of the palace, the focus of which is two statues of Justice (Maximiano Alves, 1935) and Strength (sculptor unknown). The garden has a wall at the back separating the palace from the Prime Minister’s residence. In contrast to the garden, a small interior cloister with olives trees and an eighteenth-century fountain still has a monastic tranquillity to it.

With the exception of a couple of other rooms of little interest, the tour more or less ends at the Monks’ Refectory in the north-east wing of the building. It still contains the impressive eighteenth-century azulejo panels on the walls depicting events from the life of Saint Benedict alongside scenes of daily life. However, it is now a rather soulless visitors’ welcome centre and was full of white plastic chairs on the day we visited!

As I left this room I noted how the former monastery had been eclipsed by the Neoclassical architecture and had lost its original features in a way many other former monasteries in Portugal that I have visited haven’t. Ventura Terra had definitely fulfilled his brief to make it look more parliamentary.

Portuguese politics

Portugal is a republic and as such has a President as the head of state and a Prime Minister as the head of the government. The role of the President of the Republic is mainly a ceremonial role, but the President does have the power to dissolve parliament. As of February 2018 the Prime Minister is António Costa of the Socialist Party (elected in 2015) in coalition with the far-left parties (Left Bloc, Portuguese Communist Party and Ecologist Party ‘The Greens’). The government serves a term of four years. The current President of the Republic is the popular and charismatic centre-right Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa (who stood as an independent) and who will serve a term of five years. He is not to be confused with the President of the Assembly of the Republic, which is a role equivalent to that of Speaker in the UK parliament and is elected by MPs. This role is currently held by Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues. There are 230 MPs who sit in the Session Chamber to the left or right of the President of the Assembly of the Republic’s desk in their parliamentary groups. The two main parties are the Partido Socialista (PS) (Socialist Party – a centre-left party) and Partido Social Democrata (PSD) (Social Democratic Party – a centre-right party). The other parties represented in the government are: Bloco Esquerdo (BE) (Left Bloc); Partido Comunista Português (PCP) (Portuguese Communist Party); Partido Popular (CDS-PP) (Central Democratic and Social – Popular Party); Partido Ecologista ‘Os Verdes’ (PEV) (Ecologist Party ‘The Greens); and Pessoas – Animais – Natureza (PAN) (People – Animals – Nature); Iniciativa Liberal (Liberal Initiative); Livre (Free); and Chega (Enough – an extreme-right party which is worryingly growing in popularity).


Palácio da Assembléia Nacional de São Bento, main entrance is on Rua Correia Garção (off Calçada da Estrela), Lisbon

Public transport: Metro: Rato (yellow line); Tram: 25 and 28; Bus: 706, 727, 773


Guided tours of the building are held on the last Saturday of the month. Tours are free but must be booked online in advance.

There is a virtual tour on the parliament website.

Algarve, Palácio de Estói: a pink house with a colourful history

Palácio de Estói: a pink house with a colourful history

DSC00581It was a waiter at the Pousada Palácio de Estói who told us about the colourful history of the former stately home, which is grandiosely called a ‘palace’. The house, designed by the architect Domingos da Silva Meira in the early-nineteenth century, was originally built for Francisco do Carvalhal e Vasconcelos. It had fallen into a state of neglect after the last member of the Carvalhal e Vasconcelos family died, but a wealthy man called José Francisco da Silva acquired the house at the beginning of the twentieth century and restored it. Da Silva was made the Viscount of Estói and this is where versions of the truth become a little blurry. In some versions of the story he was given the title for restoring the house, but in our waiter’s version, a version that seems more likely, da Silva used the house as a place for his powerful friends to come and stay. He would organise parties where these men could meet women away from the watchful eyes of their wives and it was for these favours that he was made a viscount. The small summer houses and gazebos in the gardens, which would have made it easy for illicit rendezvous, support this story.

Whatever the truth is, there is nothing else quite like the Palácio de Estói in the Algarve region. The exterior of the house is pink with a bell tower and dome.DSC00675 Inside, the house is a fine example of rococo-style décor, from the ornate stucco ceilings, carved wood-panelled walls, frescos on the walls and ceilings depicting nymphs and cherubs, extravagant chandeliers, gilt-framed mirrors and gilded furniture. There is even a small chapel.

The ornamentation continues in the gardens, to the point that there is so much going on it is hard to know where to look and attempting to describe it in words is almost impossible, but I shall try!

From the bar and restaurant area of the house a flight of stairs leads to a terrace with a formal garden from which there are lovely views of the Serra do Caldeirão mountains and the city of Faro. On the other side of a wall is the hotel swimming pool and along the top of the wall are busts of Portuguese heroes, including Vasco da Gama, Luís de Camões and Almeida Garrett. In the centre of the garden is a fountain with a cherub sitting on a dolphin. In two corners of the garden are two small charming summer houses with stained-glass windows, frescos and azulejo panels depicting pastoral scenes and to one side is a path flanked with pillars.

An ornate wrought-iron gate leads to a staircase which divides into two and descends to a lower terrace where, at the bottom of each staircase, you are welcomed by a statue of a nymph reclining against a coloured panel of tiles decorated with images of exotic birds and plants. Dominating this terrace is a fountain with four more nymphs and a cherub watched over by some gargoyles and to the side of the terrace is what appears to be a bandstand.

Another staircase, opulently decorated with azulejo panels depicting more nymphs and cherubs, leads to ground level where there is the pièce de résistance, a wonderful grotto with intricate wrought-iron gates at the three entrances, a mosaic floor and walls, statues of Venus and Diana and at the centre is a delightful replica of Antonio Canova’s early-nineteenth-century sculpture ‘The Three Graces’.

From here a path lined with trees and lavender plants leads into the rest of the garden, which includes a lovely grove of orange trees. At the far ends of the garden are two gazebos, far enough from the house to be perfect for secret assignations away from prying eyes! The house is surrounded by a relatively low wall but there is an incongruous ornate gate at the south-western end of the garden, through which in the past carriages would have entered. Nowadays the gate appears to be firmly locked and the only entrance is through the hotel reception.

Despite the work that da Silva put into restoring the house, subsequent owners did not maintain it and by the time Faro Municipal Council acquired it in 1987 it had fallen into a state of disrepair. Eventually, it was restored under the direction of the architect Gonçalo Byrne and financed by the Portuguese tourist office and it became a pousada (a state-owned hotel in a building of historical interest managed by the Pestana hotel chain) in 2009. The original part of the house and the gardens are open to non-guests, but we decided to go for the full experience and treated ourselves to a night in the hotel. The accommodation, swimming pool and spa are in a completely new section built to the side of the original house, but it has been designed in such a way that it doesn’t impinge on the original building either from the inside or the outside. The three former reception rooms (Salão Verde, Salão Nobre and Salão Estói) are still used for socializing as there are sofas and armchairs in all of these rooms and the bar opposite serves drinks, snacks and even afternoon tea here. Dinner and breakfast are served in the restaurant next to the original kitchen, which still has the original cooker and cooking utensils on display.DSC00682

The modern part of the hotel is a complete contrast to the original building, but somehow it works. Our room was large with two double beds pushed together. It was on the lower ground floor, which, due to the way the hotel has been built into the hill, meant that we had to go down two flights of stairs from the reception, but it also meant we had a little terrace with a table and two chairs facing onto a patch of grass, although our room was a bit too low to have a view.DSC00596 As it was late December I didn’t use the outdoor swimming pool, but I did make use of the spa, which had a very small pool with a Jacuzzi at one end, a sauna, a Turkish bath, a tropical shower with water jets and, in a room opposite, a few gym machines. There was a wonderful view of the sun setting over Faro from here and, best of all, I had the entire spa to myself.

After it got dark we went for a walk around the grounds and got a different perspective of the ornamentation in the floodlights. The artificial light allowed us to focus on the main sculptures without all the extraneous details coming into view. It wasn’t better, just different.

We then decided to eat in the hotel restaurant, O Visconde, as it advertised gourmet regional cuisine. The food was good and each dish was a decent size, but it wasn’t cheap. We started with the regional couvert of bread, olives and olive oil, which also came with an unexpected amuse bouche. We then opted for a regional tasting snack starter which comprised sardines and roasted red peppers on toast, asparagus wrapped in smoked ham with poached quail egg, figs stuffed with cheese mousse, chilli and olives, and fried squid with garlic and coriander. They were all delicious and gave us an opportunity to try local dishes we wouldn’t normally order. For the main course Neil ordered the cataplana porco which was pork loin with sweet potato, chouriço sausage and clams cooked in a cataplana (a traditional metal cooking utensil) and I opted for tagliatelle served with grilled vegetables (not a regional speciality and in retrospect I wish I had ordered the vegetarian cataplana, which, if not authentic, would have been an interesting variation on a traditional theme). For dessert, as it was a few days after Christmas, the hotel was offering a dessert buffet of traditional Portuguese Christmas desserts at no extra charge and although we were stuffed we couldn’t resist trying treats such as bolo rei, filhós, sonhos, aletria and rabanadas, among many others. A bottle of one of the cheaper wines on the wine list (at €19) washed it all down nicely.

We retired to the Salão Nobre for a nightcap and found ourselves alone in this sumptuous room, as all the other guests had retired to their rooms. It was almost possible to image what it must have been like to have been a guest in this house in its heyday and nearly 100 years after his death José Francisco da Silva’s presence is still very much felt. It may have been the wine or the fact that there was no one else about, but for a moment I thought I saw him poking his head round the door to make sure we were having a good time. We were!  DSC00748


Pousada Palácio de Estói, Rua de São José, Estói

One night in a double room, including breakfast and use of the spa: €114 (late December 2017)

Dinner (couvert, two starters, two main courses and a bottle of wine): €86

Bus from Faro to Estói: €3.30 per person one way (buses aren’t very frequent)

Taxi from Faro to the Palácio de Estói: €16.75 one way