Maps & Introduction – Pena (Arroios), Rossio, Lisboa

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Welcome to the Bairro da Pena

[column width=”one-third”]Our neighbourhood, or bairro, is called Pena and begins at the north-east corner of the Rossio, arching up to the large tree-filled park known as Campo dos Mártires da Pátria.

On the southern tip of the Arroios parish, Pena is a family neighbourhood, home to the Italian Embassy, German Embassy, grassy parks and ponds… and the birthplace of Amália Rodrigues.

It’s a non-touristy, quintessentially Portuguese residential area: no hotels, no all-night clubs, no panhandlers. Per the recommendation in “Junior Jetsetter’s” guide book:

[font size=”12pt”]”This experience is for those wanting to chat up old neighbours and dive into Lisbon’s rhythm.“[/font]

For more photos of our neighbourhood, view our Christmas in Lisbon Photo-Tour. (Photos courtesy of professional photographer, M. Achterman.)[/column]

[column width=”one-third-last”]Pena neighbourhood, Rossio, Lisbon[/column]

Lisbon Maps

The map below shows the triangular neighbourhood of Pena, bordered by the Avenida de Liberdade on the left, Rua da Palma (R.Palma) on the right, and the Campo Mártires da Pátria at the top, with the Rossio at its bottom point.

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From Google Earth: Satellite Photo of VisitingPortugal Holiday Rentals

For another perspective, here are the various locations of our houses, seen from the Bairro Alto:

Pena neighbourhood, Rossio, Lisboa


Our guests tend to over-estimate Lisbon’s climate, so it’s probably not going to be as hot as you imagine.All year long, our hill receives cool breezes straight off the River Tejo such that the average August high is just 82F/28C. This means many summer days will be cooler than this. On the other hand, yes, it will occasionally be in the 90s, but never for very long. (For these days, we installed AC!)

That said, if you live or are “sight-seeing” somewhere that doesn’t receive these unobstructed Atlantic breezes, the heat can build up and be oppressive.

Evenings: Even in August, the evening temps can be chilly. (Average August low is 63F/16C; expect lower temps at our places, because of those cool breezes.)

No matter when you visit: pack a sweater or light jacket.

[google_map width=”100%” height=”245″ src=”, Portugal”]

Eating Well

Pena also hosts Lisbon’s open-air Restaurant Row, Rua das Portas de Santo Antão, a pedestrian-only boulevard devoted to gastronomical indulgence. Popular favorites include the Michelin-rated Gambrinus, Solar dos Presuntos and Bom Jardim.

Restaurant row, Pena, Lisbon

Here is a link to an interactive googlemap of our favorite local restaurants and cafés: Local Restaurants and Cafés

Getting Around

Our neighborhood funicular (trolley), 120-year old Elevador do Lavra, is one of the most charming amenities offered by Casa Villa Serra, Casa Joaquina and Casa Pátria. (Casa Santana and Casa Travessa are too close to the Rossio to justify walking over to the funicular stop.)

The first funicular in Lisbon, Elevador do Lavra rattles up and down the hillside every 15 minutes, every day. Soon you’ll be riding like a local, cheerfully showing the tourists how and where to punch their tickets. In the picture, below, Elevador do Lavra is at its lower stop on the end of Rua das Portas de Santo Antão.

Lavra tram, Pena, Lisboa

This meandering 14th-century stairway — with its famous 186 steps — is another favorite way to bop down from Casa Villa Serra, Casa Joaquina or Casa Pátria to the Rossio. Lisbon is criss-crossed with these medieval thoroughfares: we encourage our guests to spend an enjoyable day wandering the city along these lanes, accompanied by the beat of Lisbon’s ever-flapping laundry.

Stairs, Pena, Lisbon

And here we have Lisbon’s Rossio square, with the imposing, white Dona Maria National Theatre guarding the entrance to Restaurant Row. Our neighborhood, Pena, is in the background.

Pena, Rossio, Lisboa

[font size=”12pt”]Come and see![/font]

Maps & Introduction – Armona Island, Olhão, Algarve

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Welcome to Armona Island

Armona Island (“Ilha de Armona”) is a pedestrian-only retreat, owned and managed by the Ria Formosa National Park, and reachable via a 15 minute walk-on ferry from Olhão, the Algarve’s largest fishing port. The quick boat ride is a perfect buffer between you and the Algarve crowds: Armona’s many beaches are blissfully empty each morning and evening, and the more hidden of Armona’s beaches — such as the one directly behind Casa Armona— are delightfully wide open during the day… even in August. Perfect for your family holiday!

Ria Formosa

The Ria Formosa is an estuary that runs much of the length of the Eastern Algarve. The Ria Formosa Natural Park is a 60km protected coastal zone, dedicated to protecting the wildlife and culture of this area. A large part of the park is made up of the barrier island system, including Armona Island. Shellfish farming is extensive, with 80% of Portuguese clam exports coming from this area alone. For more information, read about Ria Formosa Natural Park.

What does pedestrian-only mean, really?

Armona Island has a “main street” that starts at the ferry dock and is only a few buildings long, before giving way to houses and the occational shop or café. All motor traffic is prohibited (aside from occational service vehicles belonging to the Park), so you’ll share the small paved lane with other people on foot, a few bicylces, scooters and skates–mostly belonging to children. Since you leave the crowds and hotels behind you in Olhão, the island is the perfect place to relax, and–in the morning and evenings–the beaches will be practically deserted, even in the summer.


Pack light. Dress is casual in the Algarve. But bring a light sweater/sweatshirt–the evenings can be cool and breezy, even in August.

Eating Well

Restaurants on Armona Island

There is an area of restaurants, cafés and a small grocer just as you get off the ferry, jokingly referred to as the “Baixa” or “downtown”. The two largest restaurants are Tolinhas (on the right) and Carlos (on the left). The food at Tolinhas is simple, tasty and classically Portuguese–plus the outdoor seating area is lovely. They also do takeaway (bring your own tupperware). If it’s too warm or too cold to eat outside, go for Carlos: the food is–in our experience–not quite as good, but the indoor seating is much more pleasant. And don’t miss the less obvious restaurant/bar tucked behind Carlos, for a younger, trendy-er vibe: just follow the chalkboard signs just past the grocer on the main “street”. All three restaurants are open regularly throughout the year, and at least one will be open at any given time.

Along with these three restaurants, there are several cafés clustered around the dock which serve coffee, snacks, ice cream and drinks. Again, at least one will be open whenever you visit.

During the warmer months, there is also a restaurant/café/grocer about halfway to the Atlantic beach (across from the playground), and a lovely café, which also serves light meals, overlooking the Atlantic beach itself.

Eating in

There are three small grocers on the island itself: one in the area by the dock, another 50 meters down the road (under a big green awning) and a third halfway to the Atlantic beach, across from the playground. The grocer under the awning sometimes has fresh fish, and there is a fruit stand next door with more fresh produce.

Every morning except Sunday, Olhão has a bountiful indoor market at the foot of the ferry terminal: fish, fruit, meats, pastries, nuts, flowers… this is the largest market in the Algarve. If you can’t find what you want at the market, a major grocery store (Pingo Doce) is one block from the ferry dock.

At Casa Armona, we provide a starter supply of spices, staples (oil, vinegar, pasta, coffee, OJ) and paper products, along with our other standard amenities.

What to do…

…on the island?

On the first day, most people enjoy breakfast pastries at an Armona café before splitting up: some head for the Olhão market while the others hit the beach until the lunch reunion. Beyond that… play on the beaches. Catch and eat clams. Build sandcastles. Hike the dunes. Rent kayaks or schedule a boat tour for a different perspective. Try our local fish/seafood recipes, coaxed from the Olhão fish-vendors themselves. Swim. Read. Sleep. Go back to the beach. Enjoy your authentic Portuguese neighbors. Play on the playground. Play boardgames. Cheat at cards. Ride the ferries to nearby Farol (“Lighthouse”) and Culatra Islands. Sit at the café and watch the fishing boats pass by. Enjoy the sunset over the ocean. Lay on the beach and count the falling stars… brilliant!

…and off the island?

Browse the Olhão markets, shops and historic center. Picnic at the Ria Formosa Natural Park, hike the 3km trail, learn about the ingenious Portuguese tidal mills, salt flats, Portuguese water dogs and Eastern Algarve water fowl and bird-watching. Drive 25 minutes — or take the train — to Tavira, the “loveliest town” in the Algarve (romantic, too). Grab your swimsuits and drive 90 minutes for a day of fun at either Zoomarine, for animal shows and plenty of swimming, or Aqualand, the Algarve’s largest water park. And Sevilla, Spain is a 90 minute drive from Olhão.

Getting there

  1. Take a taxi from the Faro airport (20 minutes, €20 including luggage and tip) or park your car in Olhão (except for the weekend surrounding the Annual Seafood Festival, approximately August 15, Olhão has plenty of free street parking). If you are staying with us, we’ll send you an Olhão map highlighting the ferry terminal, parking, internet café, etc.
  2. If your arrival coincides with the regular ferry, buy a ticket and hop onboard. Otherwise, use the fast, fun 24-hour taxi-speedboats (€25 for up to 8 people). Even in low season, there are at least 3 regular ferries a day: morning, noon and evening. Very convenient.
  3. Walk off the boat, wheeling your suitcase behind you for the three-minute walk to Casa Armona.

Where can I get a ferry schedule?

Right here: Olhão-Armona Ferry Schedule (The second block is the Olhão/Armona timetable. Please note that the first section is for June/September, the second for July/August, and the last for the “non-summer” months.)

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