Portugal: What’s New for 2017

Written by  Stillman Rogers

Europe Portugal
With a 20% increase in American travelers last year, Portugal has earned its place as one of Europe’s top emerging destinations. Couple that with the jump in the value of the US dollar against the euro and you have lots of reasons to suggest a Portugal vacation to your clients.

Getting to Portugal is easier, too, with TAP launching new US gateways and United adding flights from Washington, DC to Lisbon. TAP serves Lisbon with daily flights from JFK, Newark, Boston and Miami, as well as nonstop flights to Porto twice weekly from Newark. And in June TAP inaugurates service to Canada with 5 weekly flights between Toronto and Lisbon. TAP has also become the first operator to announce the addition of Airbus A330neo Airspace cabin design, launching later this year.
Portugal’s mix of old and new is a winning combination. Along with the Old World charm that makes Lisbon so appealing to travelers, there’s a cutting-edge vibe to its art scene. A new landmark on the long Lisbon waterfront is the MAAT museum. The striking new building houses the Museum for Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT), its low undulating silhouette containing flexible exhibition halls and new riverside public space. The building is covered in shimmering glazed ceramic tiles, reflecting not only the river, but Portugal’s long heritage of colorful ceramics. MAAT’s focus is on contemporary culture, including visual arts, architecture, science and technology in its 23,000 square feet of exhibit and leisure space.
Opening in 2017 is new Museum of Art Nouveau and Art Deco, displaying more than 300 works from the early 1900s, including furniture, paintings, sculptures, ceramics and decorative arts. These are from the collections of Joe Berardo, who previously gave the city the beautiful Berardo Collection Museum featuring masterpieces of modern and contemporary art, in Belem.

New Lisbon Hotels
You can offer your clients a taste of Old World Lisbon or a chance to sample some exciting properties that have opened in the past year. Heritage Lisbon Hotels are in small historic buildings; clients will love Heritage Avenida Liberdade in a beautifully restored 18th century building in Lisbon’s best location or Solar Do Castelo, a romantic boutique inn and the only hotel located inside the Medieval village at Lisbon’s hilltop castle (www.heritage.pt).
Two new openings will please families (although anyone will love their luxurious and spacious rooms). Martinhal Chiado Family Suites is in the heart of Lisbon’s old quarter, surrounded by dining, shopping and attractions, while Martinhal Cascais Family Hotel is in the posh coastal suburb of Cascais. Martinhal properties here and in the Algarve cater to children with activities, a kids’ club and family-friendly fine dining (www.martinhal.com).
Memmo Hotels has followed up on its spectacular contemporary Memmo Alfama, opened in 2013, with Memmo Príncipe Real, a sleek white geometric building with ultra-modern rooms in the hip Alcantara neighborhood (http://memmohotels.com).
Sports fans will love the new Pestana CR7 Hotel, in the center of the Baixa near the elegant riverside Terreiro do Paço, for its unique animated screens in the elevators featuring Cristiano Ronaldo, and the surround-sound in staircases of cheering fans in a soccer stadium (www.pestanacr7.com).
Suggest that clients interested in Portugal’s rich culinary heritage visit the sparkling new food halls of the Ribeira Market, where they can sample the best in traditional dishes along with new interpretations of seafood and other local ingredients. Some of Lisbon’s most popular chefs are represented here and your clients can taste tapas-sized servings of their specialties in an informal setting. It’s a great place for lunch. Another handy tip you can share with clients is to opt for the 6-euro daily transit pass good on Lisbon’s trams, buses and metro without having to pay individual fare. It is more user-friendly and inexpensive than either the Sete Colinas or Viva Viagem card.

New in the Algarve
Clients seeking the year-round mild climate of Portugal’s southern coast will find a lot more than sun, sand and surf. They can also share in the active local arts scene, through the newly-formed 365 Algarve, where they can find more than 500 music, dance, theatre, art exhibitions, festivals and heritage activities throughout 2017. All these cultural events are posted on 365 Algarve’s Facebook page (www.face
book.com/365.Algarve.EveryDayCounts). The region’s average 3,000 hours of sunlight each year is good news for golfers, who will find some of the world’s best golf courses overlooking the blue sea.
New hotel openings in the Algarve include the 114 ocean-view villas of Salema Beach Village in the hills overlooking the beach at Vila do Bispo (www.salemabeachvillage.com) and the 5-star Pestana Algarve Race Hotel & Resort in Portimão (www.pestana.com). This year the early 20th-century landmark Hotel Guadiana in the historic center of Vila Real de Santo António, just across the river from Spain, will re-open as the 5-star Grand Café and Suites - Algarve (www.grandafrica.com).

North of Lisbon
Portugal’s second-largest city, Porto lies on the Douro River in the country’s most famous wine region. It is the starting point for river cruises and visits to the wineries and vineyards that cling scenically to the Douro’s steep banks.  Clients can now get a bird’s-eye view of this picturesque city from the newly opened observation point atop the Arrábida Bridge, designed by Edgar Cardoso. The Porto Bridge Climb is just that -- 262 steps to the top of the arch, but it’s a memorable view (www.portobridgeclimb.com).
Building on the success of Lisbon’s Ribeira market food halls, a similar concept is underway for Lisbon’s century-old São Bento rail station. The station, best known for the huge tile panels that decorate its entrance hall, will house about 15 top local restaurants, along with bars, shops and an art gallery when the complex opens later this year. In nearby Leixões, the Casa da Arquitetura -- House of Architecture -- will bring exhibition space, an auditorium, library, bookstore and shop to the former home of the renowned architect Alvaro Siza. The new cultural center will open this spring with a major international exposition.

Fátima 100th Anniversary About halfway between Lisbon and Porto, the Basilica of Our Lady of Fátima will be a major destination for pilgrims in 2017 as they observe the 100th anniversary of the Miracle of Fátima. The main pilgrimages are between May 13 and October 13, the dates of the apparitions. This year Pope Francis is scheduled to be there for the Feast of Our Lady of Fátima on May 13. Less than half an hour away in the village of Monchite, near the medieval city of Tomar, The Agartha Boutique Hotel, Retreat and Wellness Centre has recently opened. (http://theagartha.com)
Go to www.visitPortugal.com

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