Try to see all Lisbon
You can see the best perspective of Lisbon if you cross 25th April bridge and visit "Cristo Rei".
You'll see from Algés to Parque das Nações if you catch clean sky. In Cristo Rei pay attention to some monuments, churches and riverside.
The 25th April bridge is enormous and very beautiful in this picture.
Baixa Pombalina - downtown
On the north side of Praça do Comércio, there are several parallel and perpendicular streets around a main axis which is Rua Augusta. This has nothing to do with what could be found here before the earthquake of 1755. At that time this was a place with dark alleys between the narrow and entangled streets much as what we can find still today in Alfama, Mouraria and other neighborhoods surrounding the castle. All this was completely destroyed by the quake, followed by the tsunami and next day’s fires. Marquis de Pombal who was the prime minister of the kingdom at that time, was the "mentor" of the rebuilding of the Baixa (opportunistically he found an easy way to much recognition) and that’s the reason why this place was labeled after his name.
This area starts with a triumphal arch (beginning of Rua Augusta) of great dimensions, Arco da Vitória (Victory arch) one of the largest of its type in Europe (and the world) dated from 1873 (although its project is from 1755, the same year of the devastating earthquake). If this arch will seem familiar to you, it means you have seen Gulliver's Travels starring Ted Danson, in a scene in which the Lilliputians wheeled him through the arch. The allegoric group which crowns the arch personifies Glory crowning Genius and Merit. Also represented we find personifications of Tejo and Douro rivers (2 major Portuguese rivers) and statues of 4 great Lusitanian men: Viriato (Lusitanian leader and defeater of the Roman legions), Nuno Álvares Pereira (first constable of the Portuguese kingdom, major defender of the country’s integrity against the Spanish pretensions to the throne, and founder of the Convento do Carmo whose ruins are part of the charming of Lisbon downtown), Vasco da Gama (the great “discoverer” of its time), and Marquis de Pombal.
The Baixa is a commercial area since its construction and you can find here jewelers, goldsmiths, and silver crafters, who give names to the 2 major side streets of Rua Augusta -Rua do Ouro e Rua da Prata-, small businesses, shops (which gave the names of the other streets, such as shoemakers, tailors, strap makers, etc.), stock exchange, banks, restaurants, and, nowadays, street vendors. Rua Augusta is the pedestrian street of the Baixa and is the busiest and the most famous with boutiques, coffee houses and bars, and most part of the time full of street vendors and jugglers, some beggars and all sorts of tourist "fauna". There are several nice small restaurants where you will find typical dishes at very reasonable prices (mostly for lunch as the locals eat here close to their work places). You must stop for a special coffee at the Casa Macário (also good wines) or to bite some irresistible sweets at Pastelaria Brasileira.
Recently archeologists found tunnels and the remains of roman baths dating from the 1st century AD under the network of streets of Baixa. These 20 centuries old ruins which also include mosaics can be visited by passing through the Millenium BCP Bank. But not so deep you must also pay attention to the pavement where you can find some nice pieces of calçada portuguesa works as you will find many different patterns and motifs -from the symmetric ornamental designs to the advertisement names of the shops, small businesses, restaurants, and hotels. This is very unique kind of advertisement.
This perpendicular street network with 4-5 storey buildings with iron cast materials and garrets are very typical of the Baixa Pombalina and with a bit of luck you will find some original azulejos (tiles). Some peculiar points can be spotted at Rua dos Sapateiros (shoemakers) where footwear is still sold (but you will find many more restaurants than shoemakers). It's the case of the decorative arch entrance to the street coming from Rossio -Arco do Bandeiro. This bears the name of the wealthy sponsor Pires Bandeiro who commissioned it at the end of the 18th C. Just after the arch you will also notice an old Art Nouveau cinema Animatógrafo do Rossio which opened in 1907. The beautiful facade is adorned with a highly detailed Art Nouveau style, and it has remained unaltered since then from the outside. Nevertheless, since some years ago it houses a sex shop and peep show.
Unfortunately as the entire zone of Baixa becomes an "office zone" almost nobody lives here. By that reason the streets of Baixa are the liveliest and most crowded during the day but at night, despite the marvelous lightening, the entire place is deserted except during the towns' festivities (around June, 12th), some summer events, and Christmas / New Years season because all downtown is enlightened. Even some restaurants in this area close around 10pm.
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This area is served by several city bus lines, Rossio train station, Baixa / Chiado metro station, and by the nearby Praça do Comércio pier where boats from the other side of the river dock.
Praça da Figueira (Fig tree square)
Adjacent to the Rossio, this large and very popular square houses small stores and shops selling virtually everything - groceries from dried cod fish to fruit, but also fabric, hats, gloves, shoes, fine bone china and crystal, gold and silver crafts, chandeliers, etc., etc. It has also several Pensões (pensions and hostels) and Hotel Mundial is around the corner. Moreover, the square now houses an underground car parking and most of Lisbon’s buses stop here.
Since medieval times this was a trade and merchandise place but after the earthquake this area was designed as the city’s main marketplace surrounded by classical styled buildings. It remained as such until 1885 when a covered market was built (not so interesting as the Mercado da Ribeira). This market was demolished in the late 1940’s and gave place to an open space. Later on the 1970’s a bronze equestrian statue of King João I was added.
João I was an important Portuguese monarch -the first king of the second dynasty, known as the House of Aviz, after himself who was Master of the military Order of Aviz . The institution of House of Aviz followed the dynastic crisis that originated from the death of Fernando I (his half-brother) in 1383 without successors and the claim of the Portuguese throne by the Spanish king, Juan I de Castile. The people didn’t acclaim the Spanish king and acclaim for the first time someone out of the main lineage. In Portugal all kings had to be acclaimed by the people.
As the Spanish king shown reluctance with the people’s decision he invades Portugal in 1385 and entered into a battle in Aljubarrota (close to Leiria). João I choose as its constable Nuno Álvares Pereira who victory the decisive Battle of Aljubarrota (August 14, 1385), where the Castilian army (6 times bigger) was virtually annihilated due to the tactic used on the battle field.
To commemorate this victory João I promise to erect a monastery to thank the Virgin Mary -the monastery start in 1386 and it took 200 years to finish but becomes one of the jewels of the Portuguese architecture and UNESCO heritage -Mosteiro da Batalha (battle monastery) whose real name is Monastery of the Saint Mary of Victory.
On 11 February, 1387, João I married Philippa of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt, who had proved to be a worthy ally, consolidating the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance that endures to the present day. This marriage was also quite fortunate as the progeny, known as the "Illustrious Generation" (Ínclita Geração) included Eduardo (future king), Peter (regent of the kingdom, not a VTEER but one of the most traveled princes of its time), Henrique or Henry the Navigator, who guided Portugal to the Great era of The Discoveries, Isabella who married Philip III of Burgundy, John, the grandfather of the two greatest Iberian monarchs in the 16th century, Manuel I of Portugal and Isabella I of Castile, and Fernando, "the Saint Prince," a warrior, who was captured during the Disaster of Tangier and died a prisoner of the Moors.
This period of Portuguese history is considered to include the ascension of Portugal to the status of a European and world power. The first act of expansion was the conquest of Ceuta in 1415 (under the commands of João I) and was followed by the exploration, colonization and commerce exercised in Africa, Asia and Brazil.
The statue of King João I is usually smothered by flocks of pigeons and surrounded by teenage skaters. In recent years there were some live concerts (they put a stage in the middle of the square) mostly during the summer times.
From this plaza we can get a very good view of the castle overlooking it. Try the view while you get a coffee and some pastries at the gold medal prize %L[http://www.casasuica.pt/Pastelaria Suíça, one of the best pastry shops in town founded in 1922. On the corner with Betesga street, another famous pastry house is the charming old Confeitaria Nacional, considered to be one of Europe's most elegant pastry shops when it opened in 1829. The Confeitaria still serves some mouth-watering cakes among them the quite famous “bolo-rei” (literally, King Cake) a traditional Portuguese soft dough cake with nuts and fruits, which is usually eaten around Christmas until the "Dia de Reis" (literally, Day of Kings, as a reference to the three wise men) on January 6th.
Along with the underground car parking, most of Lisbon’s buses and trams stop at the square which shares with Rossio square the metro station “Rossio” (green line) .
In summer, Lisbon hosts various festivals in the major city squares lasting several days featuring folklore, handicraft, and food from different regions. Most regions from the north to the south are represented, and it is a very good way to get to know the country without having to leave Lisbon. Each region (or district) has its own association, and its members usually are the ones who participate in these festivals.
Songs and dances, as well as traditional craft such as woodcarving, are presented on the stage. The participants are of course dressed in traditional costumes. Stalls line the sides of the square where regional delicacies are sold, usually breads and cakes of different kinds and a whole array of sausages and smoked meats.
The photos here are from one such event held last summer in Praça Rossio, in the center of the Lisbon.
You have to go to a Benfica match
We were on a Benfica match against Academica in the Luz stadium. It was fantastic, 43 000 fanatics. The eagle before the match is a great performance. The eagle flies down from the highest stand to the field. And Rui Costa is sensational.