Lisbon, Lisbon's kiosks

Lisbon’s kiosks

Kiosk, Largo da Sé

Kiosks selling items ranging from newspapers, magazines, cigarettes and lottery tickets to drinks and snacks at quiosques de refrescos (refreshment kiosks), complete with pavement tables and chairs, are a distinctive part of the Lisbon street scene. With their wrought iron, art nouveau design and canopies providing much-needed shade, they look as if they have been around for decades, but the surprising fact is that many of them have only been in existence in their current state for a few years.

There were kiosks in Lisbon, some of which are still in existence, in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, but in the mid-twentieth century they fell out of favour. One reason that has been given for this decline is due to the discouragement of public gatherings during the Salazar/Caetano dictatorships (1932-74), so people stopped going to the kiosks to meet friends for a drink and they fell into disrepair. In 2009 a Lisbon businesswoman, Catarina Portas teamed up with architect João Regal to restore the original kiosks and to create new ones. Kiosks can now be seen all over the city, including on Avenida da Liberdade, Largo da Sé, Rua do Jardim do Tabaco, Largo do Carmo, Praça de Luis de Camões, Rua de Belém in Belém and even one used as a public library in the Jardim da Estrela. They have brought a healthy café culture to squares and gardens that were lifeless and even unsafe in some cases. Not only did Portas revive the kiosk tradition, she also revived the traditional drinks that used to be served in the kiosks; drinks that cannot be found elsewhere in the city. These drinks include some refreshing-sounding drinks, such as mazagran (an iced coffee with lemon and sugar), groselha (a red-currant-flavoured drink), orchata (an almond and sugar drink), leite perfumado (milk with lemon, cinnamon and sugar) and some more improbable-sounding drinks. such as tomilho-limão (a lemon thyme-flavoured drink) and capilé (a maidenhair fern and orange blossom-flavoured drink). In the evening it’s nice to sit at a quiosque de refrescos and sip a ginginha (a local cherry liqueur) and watch the world go by.