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Favorite thing: More on pavement
This is typical not only in Lisbon but in all the largest city squares and sidewalks in Portugal (and some in Rio de Janeiro or Macao). Usually they are decorated with stone combinations which look like mosaics; they are spread along all the streets of Lisbon like beautiful carpets where geometric patterns alternate with those of natural inspiration. In sidewalks we see mostly repeated patterns and sometimes find street numbers, and business logos - simple individualized panels opposite to some shops and cafes, like an advertisement. Most city squares on the contrary, show closed patterns.
The material used is always the same: dark basalt and white limestone. The alleged reason for this b/w contrast centers around Lisbon's patron Saint Vincent. It' is said that the black represents the holy attire worn by the revered Saint, while the white represents the white outfits of the Christian Crusaders who vanquished the Moors.
The pavement system as we know it today in Lisbon was used for the first time in 1840, on a large surface in the parade ground of the military headquarters, on the main hill of Lisbon. After this first experience, the inventor of this system, Lieutenant-General Eusebio Furtado, a military Engineer and Governor of Castelo de S. Jorge between 1840 and 1846, presented the Town Council with a project for the paving of the main square in Lisbon, Rossio, and got the approval, for the making of the famous "large" waves or "the wide sea" (mar largo). In 1849 after the completion of the Rossio square the pavements of the Chiado district and Avenida da Liberdade were also completed. Eventually most of Lisbon's streets were paved this way, and this "fashion" spread throughout the country.
Today the "Portuguese pavements" are still made by hand, and are part of the country's heritage and identity, continuing to decorate the streets and squares all over Portugal.
So if you come to my town, don't look just around, watch your step ;-) because stones here "live" under your feet and some are authentic works of art. Take a look on Avenida da Liberdade, the main squares downtown (Restauradores, Rossio, and Comercio Square), and Chiado. For more contemporary designs, look around in some metro stations and in Parque das Nações, especially by the Oceanarium, where you'll find images of sea monsters and other maritime designs.
- Arts and Culture
- Historical Travel
Rossio - Praça D. Pedro IV
Favorite thing: Rossio is the fond name Lisbonners use for Praça D. Pedro IV. The old name "Rossio" was the common name given to the central squares of any town in the country. It is the "center", the heart of Lisbon, the focal point of the lower city, full of souvenir and craft shops, historical cafés, pigeons, where everybody passes by, stops, the meeting point to go somewhere downtown.
Up high on a marble column (actually with 27 meters is one of the highest in the city) the bronze statue of Pedro IV overlooks the square with its amazing black and white mosaic undulating pebble paving "calçada portuguesa" in a special design -Mar Português (the waves of Portuguese sea)- and the 2 baroque bronze fountains.
Talking about Pedro, it was a curious sovereign. First of all, his father, João VI, left Lisbon running from Napoleon’s troops in a huge fleet for Brazil who becomes the head of the Portuguese empire. The only sovereign to run away from Napoleon (not giving him the “privilege” of being defeated) and the only European empire with a capital out of Europe... this is quite a story. When his father returned to Lisbon he split the crown and enthroned himself Brazil emperor. But once his father died he was elected (as successor) king o Portugal. First he accepted the throne of Portugal but he only ruled for 6 days and he left this crown to his daughter Maria da Glória. Later on his brother Miguel, an absolutist which opposed his brother’s liberal ideas, started a fight against his nephew Maria (actually to her sister Isabel Maria, who was left as regent) and claimed the throne. This started a civil war between absolutists and liberals and Pedro IV abdicated his throne in Brazil in favor of his son Pedro II and returned from Brazil in 1831. In July 1833 he arrived in Lisbon, and later that year Maria da Glória (D. Maria II) was proclaimed Queen, with Pedro as regent.
Well, back to the square. In the old days the big Estaus Palace served as the Inquisition office, and as the main square, along with the open market Rossio was frequently used as setting for public executions. Later on, the huge All-Saints Royal Hospital was also build on the eastern side of the square. As many other structures in Lisbon area these important buildings were destroyed with the big earthquake of 1755 (actually the old Inquisition Palace was only completely destroyed in a fire in 1836) and what we can see today is the reminiscence of the Marquês de Pombal reconstruction plan carried out along the 18th and 19th centuries. Nevertheless, Rossio was always the most important square in town and so was used for political rallies, bullfights, military parades, etc.
North of the square is Teatro Nacional de Dona Maria II, a neoclassical style building from the 1840’s with six monumental columns and built on the spot of the Inquisitional Palace. It is no less interesting inside, the theater itself being a fine one, with a ceiling painted by Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro. On the outside, the statue above the theater is the one of Gil Vicente, our first play-righter, also a known goldsmith which was the author of one of the best gold treasures of Portugal -the Belém Monstrance on display at the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (see link).
Next to the theater we have from one side the beautiful Rossio train station and from the other the Largo de S. Domingos. This leads to Praça da Figueira and to the pedestrian street Portas de Santo Antão -a strolling area with shops, leisure esplanades, and several types of restaurants, from the very expensive (but good) Gambrinus, to the small and cheap “tascas”. And of course being here we cannot avoid one of the landmarks of Rossio area - the ginginha- a traditional sour cherry liquor that spread from Rossio (actually the most well known place stands in Largo de S. Domingos) and become popular all around the country. Some places like Óbidos specialized in this liquor but most part of the production of the cherries come from Fundão, near the Serra da Estrela.
There are 2 quite famous cafés across the square: Nicola, once the hangout of intellectuals and artist, namely the famous satiric poet Bocage, and the famous Pastelaria Suíça, the pastry shop of kings with finest traditional sweets.
On the other top of the Rossio square stands the bizarre Rua da Betesga (which we can translate as the redundant "alley street" because of the previous dead end street standing there before the earthquake) which is the smallest street in Lisbon (20 meters) but the one with most traffic, as every vehicle entering the Rossio square from the river must pass there. There is a Portuguese saying that can be translated as “you are trying to put the Betesga in Rossio” to address a virtually impossible task. By the way, at the end of Rua da Betesga you can find another good pastry shop (pastelaria), Confeitaria Nacional, which dates back to 1829, and is quite famous for its "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.
Pigeons are a constant in the square but this applies also on many other areas in Lisbon. The square is also the gathering point of ethnic people from the Portuguese ex-colonies (and their second generation) not necessarily related to drugs or poverty, it is just because they are used to come here, and they will not upset / annoy you. But as a foreigner (and they will spot it by the distance) you will be offered some drugs by other youngsters. You will also see some beggars. Well this is the scene you have in all great cities (in Europe at least).
As Lisbon is quite hilly there are many viewpoints, we call them Miradouros (see link), which have superb views of the town and the river. There are 3 great spots to overlook Rossio square from above -the castle, the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara (at the top of Elevador da Glória), and the cafeteria at the top of the Santa Justa elevator. I go there often just for the view and admire the Lisbonners and tourists passing by like ants :-)
The entire square is served by many city buses (remember it is the most important square in town), the Rossio train station and by the metro stations "Rossio" (green line) and nearby "Baixa-Chiado" (blue line).
Avenida da Liberdade - Liberty Avenue
Favorite thing: This large Avenue goes from Praça dos Restauradores to Parque Eduardo VII and it’s among the most emblematic places in the city, a symbol of the “classical Lisbon”. Built as an extension of the Public Walk it open to the public in 1882, and it started off by being a pedestrian avenue with gardens, very similar to the style of the Champs Élysées in Paris. This great improvement in Lisbon is due to Rosa Araújo, who was then the president of the City Council. It connected the downtown of the city (Baixa Pombalina), rebuilt a century earlier, to the preferential area of the city’s expansion, known as the Avenidas Novas (the new avenues), in this way, transferring the attention of the people from the river Tejo to the emerging northern area of the city. The name (Liberty) comes from the fact that the earlier Public Walk was elitist and surrounded by walls and gates that were knocking down when the liberals come to rule the country in 1821 putting this area “free for all”.
Nowadays the Avenue is the finest artery in Lisbon with 90 meters wide (the widest in town) and 1500 meters long (the biggest), and has been considered the most important and central place in the capital. It goes up in imperceptible incline and offers a magnificent perspective, with ten lanes divided by pedestrian pavements. This is the best spot of the town to pay attention to the side walks and perceive the works of art known as the Portuguese calçadas 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.
The entire Avenida (as the Lisbonners call it with affection) is full of trees (some centenary) from beginning to end, and includes small gardened spots, fountains, cascades, and statues. Among these statues noticeable are the ones of the poet Almeida Garrett, and the historian Alexandre Herculano, and the allegoric statues representing the 2 main rivers of the country –Tejo and Douro. Also important is the monument to the fallen in World War I, inaugurated in 1931. At the top of the Avenue we will find Rotunda do Marquês de Pombal (see link).
Currently it boasts several interesting buildings that reflect Portuguese architecture from the late 19th through the early 21st centuries. Neoclassic cinema Tivoli (1924) is one example but there are still several Valmor prize awarded buildings (the architecture prize for the best building in town, since 1902). Unfortunately (in my opinion) many of the original Art-Nouveaux and Neoclassic buildings (I remember several from my childhood) of the avenue have been replaced in the decades after the Carnation or April Revolution (April 25th 1974) by tall office and hotel buildings. Preserved was also 1 of the many 1920’s Art Deco kiosks (in front of Tivoli) that populated Lisbon many years ago.
All along the Avenida we can find some of the finest Hotels in Lisbon, good coffee houses, fine restaurants (Tivoli Hotel Restaurant is fantastic and have a great view but expensive) cinemas, newspapers’ headquarters, and important offices of major national and international companies (insurance, trade, airlines, etc.). Along with that “of course” we can find here the best international fashion and design shops - Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein, Timberland, Todd's,Trussardi, Massimo Dutti, Armani, Burberry, Christian Dior, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, among others. Walk along the Avenida was always a synonym of elegance and ... it is still. According to some recent international statistics about the most expensive avenues in the world by Cushman & Wakefield Avenida da Liberdade is on the top 40 (just in case you intend to buy any square meter here).
The Avenida is the place for big popular demonstrations and marches by trade unions (on strike or not) or just simply to commemorate big events as the traditional march of 25th April (freedom day). But without any doubt the largest commemoration occurs here on every Santo António’s eve (12th June) -the street parades known as “Marchas Populares” (a street carnival, literally “popular marches”) with all the Lisbon districts entering a contest for the best parade. These are the largest festivities in Lisbon. It’s also very nice to come here during the Christmas season as the trees all along the avenue are filled of light bulbs in various colors and designs.
The Avenue is served by many buses from everywhere on the city (and near towns) and there are 3 metro stations along the avenue: Restauradores, Avenida, and Marquês de Pombal .
More info here
A City of Hills
Favorite thing: It did not take us long to find out why Lisbon is called the 'City of Seven Hills'!! As soon as we had arrived in the country and checked our bags in our hotel, we ventured out on foot for a little exploration of the downtown core of the city. Just the way the streets were laid out, as we left from the inland Saldanha district, we headed downhill toward what appeared to be the centre of the city, with this marvelous view of the beautiful coloured houses looking toward the ancient Alfama district of the city.
This seemed to be a contant theme in Lisbon, you were either climbing up hills or strolling down them wherever you walked. The beauty of it was the great weather, interesting architecture, friendly people and new sights at every turn. However, be prepared to 'crash' early if you are not up to this demanding pace in the heat of a typical Portugese day!
- Family Travel
Praça do Comércio Square
Favorite thing: Still known as Terreiro do Paço (the old Royal Palace was here 400 years until the big earthquake of 1755) this is the largest of Lisbon squares. Like a great amphitheater facing the river this is a vast space (112000 sq meters) lined on three sides by yellow buildings of uniform type, with high stone arches housing several public offices (ministries, etc), and a fourth side, which is the river Tejo itself, with a marble staircase with 2 columns, the Cais das Colunas (column quays’), where the caravels and trading vessels once docked.
In the center of the square stands the 14 meters bronze equestrian statue of King José I. This was the king that ruled the country when we were devastated by the big earthquake in 1755, and although the mentor of the rebuilding of the Baixa (downtown area) was its prime minister Sebastião José, known as Marquis de Pombal, the rebuilding of the town is depicted in the magnificent pedestal of this statue. This is a place full of story for Lisbonners, which celebrates many important events. Many kings were born here (on the palace) and the penultimate was assassinated -king Carlos in 1908. Prior to air traffic this was the place of arrival for the important guests (kings, queens, etc.) as they come from the sea.
On the right corner, close to the arch, is the famous Café Martinho da Arcada (see link), which has making Portuguese typical dishes and excellent pastries since 1782 (oldest restaurant in Lisbon), and where the poet Fernando Pessoa, one of the biggest Portuguese writers of all time, enjoyed the afternoons taking some aguardente (spirit, literally fire water).
Contrary to some well known plazas in other European towns, Praça do Comércio is not yet totally exploit as a recreation area in a daily basis, eg. with restaurants and esplanades, and is still a major traffic point in Lisbon. Hopefully this will change in the future since from 2008 they close traffic on Sundays and there are many activities promoted by the city hall entities (a program called “Sundays the Terreiro do Paço is for people”. Moreover, there are many benches around the plaza to relax and after 2010 the Cais das Colunas will be reopen as a promenade place -Passeio Ribeirinho (riverside walk).
This is also the place to be if you come to spend the New Years Eve in Lisbon and you enjoy a popular night. There are always rock/pop concerts and big fireworks around midnight. Bring your own bottle and join Lisbonners in this town event.
This area is served by several city bus lines, metro line, and of course by boats coming from the other side of the river. Also nearby we have 2 major train stations: to the west Cais do Sodré (suburban line to Cascais) and to the east Santa Apolónia (departure point to the north of the country and linking to Gare do Oriente).
From this square it is also possible to take some of the many tourist routes promoted by Carris either by tram or bus. Another nice option is to take the cruise along the Tejo (from April until October). There is also a tourist office, a wine taste point, and some exhibition halls.
For more information about the square please see here
NOTE: This square will be under reconstruction in 2009 as the water supply and the sewage systems are under renovation (according to the responsible companies “until June 2009” but you know about this type of announcements).
Rua das Portas de Santo Antão
Favorite thing: Leading up from behind the National Theater D. Maria and Palácio da Independência is Rua das Portas de Santo Antão, a lively pedestrian-only street known, among other oddities, for the wide selection of options in what concerns seafood restaurants and beerhouses (cervejarias). Maybe the most famous one is Solmar (#106-108) with decorations from the middle 20th C. Most of the restaurants have outdoor seating and even if you are not a fan of seafood, look out for the eye-catching tanks filled with gigantic lobsters by the windows. Generally speaking, this street is rather touristy and, unfortunately, the waiters are sometimes a bit aggressive in their approach to tourists. The quality is good although the prices are not always the best as you pay the “tourist area tax” (you know what I mean, there’s no real tax).
Competing with “A Ginginha” from Largo S. Domingos, here we have the “Ginginha sem Rival” (cherry without rival) where the exquisite sour cherry liquor is served anytime
The street name (Gates of St Anthon) dates from the 15th C. when a gate in the former town wall stood here. In 1552 the later to become famous poet Luiz de Camões wrestling with some friends out in this street was arrested and sentenced to prison in the City Jail (on this same street) and from there forced to embark to India. Maybe this street led Camões with the predisposition to write the wonderful epic poem. The gates were removed in 1727 in order to enlarge the access to the Rossio area. At this time, the area was the location of the public slaughterhouse. The area was destroyed after the earthquake of 1755 and some interesting buildings were build on the late 19th C. and beginning of the 20th C.
By that time the place become a bohemian place for Lisbonners as many nightclubs were located here (Arcádia, Bristol club, Majestic, Monumental club and Palace club). None of them remains today but at the northern part of the street you still can spot some prostitution at night. But the area was and it is still known for its popular theaters - Politeama still presents musicals (“Revista” in Portuguese), Olympia- that later on the 80’s turn to one of the first adult cinemas in the city, and Condes that more recently become the “Hard Rock Café” in Lisbon. Across the Praça dos Restauradores another big theater –the Art Deco Éden- since 2001 become an apartment hotel and a bit up on the Avenida da Liberdade Tivoli Theater is still a big cinema in town. Another of the big constructions on the Portas de S. Antão street is the classical Coliseu dos Recreios, the Lisbon Coliseum, opened in 1890 as a circus, and today one of the largest concert venues on the city. Nevertheless, it houses also big conferences and political meetings and other events of the same kind.
Part of the Coliseu building is ascribed to the Geographical Society of Lisbon, a 130+ years old institution, which houses the Ethnological Museum with material from Africa, South America and Asia, and a magnificent library with 230000+ titles on display in a beautifully decorated room where classic music concerts are held.
One more remarkable building (although it looks so normal from the outside) stands at number 58 -the Casa do Alentejo-, a peculiar 17th C. palace worth visit. The place meant for the gathering and meeting of people with connections to the Alentejo (people usually born there, now living in Lisboa), a southern province in Portugal -Alentejo translates as “beyond the Tejo”. But the nice thing is that the building looks so normal from the outside, but in the inside it resembles an Arab palace, with an attractive Moorish courtyard, beautiful tiles (azulejos) and stucco work, where most the original decoration is preserved, even if just not in perfect condition. Besides the great atmosphere, the best thing is the restaurant (filled with tile decoration) which serves a great deal of food typical from the Alentejo region. Yes it’s one of my favorite places to make vtmeetings in the city.
Along with Casa do Alentejo, there were a few other professional associations (like the Athenaeum) in this street which provided physical, sporting and cultural activities to their associates and schools for their children.
All the way at the end of the street, at Rua de São José, you reach the bottom of the Elevador da Lavra, the world's first ever funicular, with a slope of 23º linking the Rua de São José with the Travessa do Forno do Torel and its garden / viewpoint (Miradouro) off the beaten tourist path. It opened on 19 April 1884 and carried 3000 people, free of charge, on that day alone! Originally water-powered, it was converted to electricity in 1915.
The entire area is served with different city buses and the closest metro stations are “Rossio” (green line) and Restauradores (blue line).
Baixa Pombalina - downtown
Favorite thing: 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.
For more information please see here
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.
Casa dos Bicos (House of Spikes)
Favorite thing: The Casa dos Bicos is one of the most emblematic buildings of the Portuguese Capital, not only because of its curious name, "House of Spikes", but also for its façade decoration, covered with diamond-shaped stones (a total of 1125).
Situated on the "Campo das Cebolas" (the "onion field", as the onion market was here once), actually on the Rua dos Bacalhoeiros, on the western side of the Praça do Comércio, this 16th century palace was built by the son of Afonso de Albuquerque, the Portuguese viceroy of India, maybe after this business man returned from a trip to Italy where he saw for the first time the Diamond Palace of Ferrara and some palaces of Venice. That’s why we can spot a quite unique architectonic style, marked by the Italian Renaissance, with an irregular distribution of the windows and doors, all in different shapes and dimensions. Nevertheless, the two upper floors have exuberant arched windows characteristic of the Portuguese Manueline style making the façade quite eclectic.
In 1755, the earthquake destroyed part of the building. The main façade was destroyed, and the two upper storeys of the façade facing the Bacalhoeiros street (the current main façade) came down. The house was kept in possession of the Albuquerque family until the 19th century, when it was acquired by a codfish trader. It was used for years as a storage house for codfish (Bacalhau). Around 1960 the house was acquired by the Lisbon Municipality. In the 1980s the house was restored and partially rebuilt according to pre-1755 drawings and paintings. It was then housing the Comissão dos Descobrimentos (Discoveries’ Commission) which among other things prepared the Expo 98.
Its interior is not usually open to the public, except when it hosts occasional special exhibitions. Nevertheless, it houses parts of the archaeological set discovered during the conservation works, including four Roman salting tanks, part of the Moorish defensive walls, part of a medieval tower and a piece of a mudejar pavement.
It is currently in the process of turning into the home of the Saramago Foundation, a space dedicated to the Nobel Prize-winning Portuguese writer. It will host special literary events and contain the author's library.
There are tourist shops in the vicinity as well as cheap restaurants known for their traditional grilled fish dishes.
Walk from Praça do Comércio (Comércio Square) where you have many buses.
Only opens for temporary exhibitions.
Praça dos Restauradores
Favorite thing: Situated in the south extreme of Avenida da Liberdade, the Restauradores Square is considered to be the starting point of the expansion of the city to the north, linking the Baixa Pombalina to the Marquês de Pombal Square. Built as an extension of the Public Walk it open to the public in 1882, and it started off by being an entirely pedestrian avenue with gardens, a mandatory passage of the distinct bourgeois walks, very similar to the style of the Champs Élysées in Paris.
In the center is a patterned pavement (black and white pebbles) of on the style of Portuguese calçada surrounding a 30-meter high obelisk. The obelisk was designed by António Thomaz da Fonseca, and was erected in 1886 in memory of the country's liberation by the Restauradores (from where the square took its name) who put an end to the 60 years of Spanish domination in 1640. We do still celebrate the date every December, 1st. The two bronze figures on the pedestal at the base symbolize Victory and Liberty. The monument also bears the dates of the chief battles in the campaigns who followed the Revolution of 1640.
Nowadays the square is one of the busiest areas in the Lisboa centre, lively with cafés, restaurants, shops and offices. The strong point of this area is, undoubtedly, its architecture, with diverse buildings characteristic and historical buildings. On the west side is Foz Palace, the former residence of the Marquis of Foz, now housing the National Tourism Office. Built from the mid-18th to the mid-19th C., the palace may only be visited with special permission or during some exhibitions or classic music concerts. The interior and its furniture were inspired by Paris' Versailles Palace and the most interesting rooms are the Renaissance-style Stove Room, the Mirror Room, and the atrium of the chapel of Our Lady of Purity.
Next to the Foz Palace we can find an adapted Art Deco marvel -I’m talking about Orion Eden Hotel. This was one of Lisbon's major cinema/theatre buildings -Eden Teatro- and its imposing facade still dominates the square with a stone frieze depicting stylized actors performing before a film crew and cameras. The name Eden Teatro is centrally located in the stonework above like it was when it opened in 1931 after the design of architects Cassiano Branco and Carlo Florencio Dias. With lavish interiors the theater was masqueraded as a Russian hotel in the Wim Wenders film "Until the End of the World" (1991). In 2001 it was converted into a 134 room apartment hotel but the facade has been retained (slightly modified by removing the two huge film advertising poster spaces) and 'opening up' the space by providing an atrium.
Closer to Rossio station we can spot another nice building -Avenida Palace Hotel- the only downtown hotel which was a Palace with history and tradition in Lisbon. Projected at the end of the 19th C. by master José Luís Monteiro, one of the most distinguished portuguese architects, who projected, among others, Rossio's Train Terminal, the Hotel was inaugurated in the year 1892, and has maintained all the characteristic romanticism of its "Belle Époque" architecture until today.
Across the square we can spot the world-famous music-themed restaurant (and memorabilia collectors Mecca) Hard Rock Café which is another nice building. This was used to be another old cinema, named Condes (the name is still on top of the build, so you can’t miss it). As you can see in my Rua das Portas de Santo Antão tip, this entire area was populated of cinemas, theaters, and nightclubs at the beginning of the 20th C -quite a bohemian place. Nowadays the Lisbon bohemian life moved to other out of center spots such as Bairro Alto, Santos, Docas and Parque das Nações.
On the left of the square a little higher up, at the corner of Calçada da Glória is the much photographed Elevador da Gloria, a funicular that links downtown to the Bairro Alto district. Take it up to have a splendid view from the S. Pedro de Alcântara Miradouro (viewpoint).
There’s a car parking and underground Restauradores (blue line) metro stations, and most of the Lisbon’s buses stop nearby or at the square.
Praça da Figueira (Fig tree square)
Favorite thing: 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) .
Largo de S. Domingos
Favorite thing: Next to Praça do Rossio and to Praça da Figueira is the Largo de S. Domingos with the church of the same name. This church was destroyed by the 1755 earthquake and rebuilt with beautiful pink marbles. In 1959 a huge fire damaged much of the church and some remaining signs of this fire can be spotted today. This plaza was a horrifying place on the old times as it was here that the sentences of the Inquisition were emitted. The sentenced people were taken from there to the fire places nearby (Rossio plaza). The big Estaus Palace from medieval times turned to be the Inquisition headquarters once the order comes to Portugal, a place that now is occupied by the National Theater D. Maria II.
Just behind the church is the Palacio da Independencia which commemorates independence from Spain.
The Largo S. Domingos was populated in the old times by shoe shine boys (you can still spot some but much more rarely nowadays), and vendors of roast chestnuts on the cold days -from November 11th (S. Martin’s day) up to January. Nowadays you will see the roast chestnuts vendors anywhere in Lisbon when in season.
At number 8 of Largo S. Domingos is one of the oldest and most characteristics points of Lisbon: “A Ginginha”, the house where a very exquisite cherry liquor is served anytime (see link). Ginjinha is a traditional sour cherry liquor that spread from this place and become popular all around the country. Some places like Óbidos specialized in this liquor but most part of the production of the cherries come from Fundão, near the Serra da Estrela.
There are several city bus lines stopping nearby, Rossio train station and the nearest metro stops are "Rossio" (green line) and “Restauradores” (blue line).
Favorite thing: Bairro Alto is a picturesque working class quarter with lanes and narrow streets at right angles to each other, and partially ruined houses, clad in azulejos (tiles). The quarter has been changing quite a lot throughout the ages –from a rich and new place, to the city's bohemian haunt of artists and writers, to the nowadays trendy nightlife of the city.
Located above the Baixa (it is the highest quarter of old Lisbon) between Rua do Século, Rua de D. Pedro V, Rua de S. Pedro de Alcântara/Rua da Misericórdia and Rua do Loreto/Calçada do Combro, the quarter developed in the 16th C. in the course of an extension of the city center towards the west and the northwest. When Alfama increasingly changed its character and started to be poorly maintained, some of Lisbon's prosperous inhabitants moved here and had houses and palaces built for themselves. That’s why in its beginnings Bairro Alto was the quarter where richer citizens and the nobility settled. Moreover, the construction of the magnificent baroque São Roque church (middle of the 16th C.) by the rich Jesuits played a significant part in attracting settlers to the area -the original name of this residential district was Bairro Alto de São Roque. The rather unusual geometric design in a hilly area used for the construction originates from a period when previously rural land was divided up for sale into rectangular and trapezoidal parcels.
The quarter only suffered relatively little damage during the earthquake of 1755 but it lost part of its importance and later the area become a center of newspaper industry with many small printing works and editorial offices setting up business here. "Journalist Quarter" was until recently an unofficial nickname for Bairro Alto. The roads Rua do Diário de Notícias and Rua do Século still bear witness to the offices of two of the larger daily newspapers which were once produced here and the Rua Eduardo Coelho commemorates the founder of the Portuguese newspaper industry and the daily newspaper "Diário de Notícias ".
Simultaneously, artists and writers developed a bohemian life in the quarter and prostitution (they just went up from Cais do Sodré area) brought a bad reputation for a long time to the place. Despite this Bairro Alto becomes predominantly a residential and working quarter for craftsmen and small shopkeepers that started to fade.
As many houses were uninhabited, in the middle 1990s Lisbon's city council made extensive repairs, and Bairro Alto went through major changes. The youngsters were encouraged to move here and were pushed to repair their own houses as a result of very special loans. The place blossomed again. And with youngsters around, dozens of new restaurants (portuguese but also italian, chinese, india, arab, etc.), clubs and trendy shops were opened. At the same time cars were banned (except for residents and emergency vehicles) and Bairro Alto becomes the heart of Lisbon's youth culture and nightlife. Lisbon's punk, gay, heavy metal music, gothic, hip hop and reggae scenes all have the Bairro as their home, due to the number of clubs and bars dedicated to each of them. But in a revival movement of the Lisbon traditional lifestyle some taverns (like Mascote da Atalaia) and cellars (like Adega Mesquita) persist and also dozens of fado singing clubs (maybe not the best) animate the area.
Parallel to those we have the oldest brewery (in a old convent) in the city –Cervejaria Trindade-, in the street with the same name, which after 150+ years of beer production still maintains its reputation as one of the best restaurant-pub-beerhouses in the city. And you have much more than beer here –you must look to the beautiful collection of old walled azulejos (tiles). Nearby you have other good restaurants like Papa Açorda (Rua da Atalaia), Bota Alta (Travessa da Queimada ), Brasserie de l'Entrecôte (Rua do Alecrim) or Bacchus (Travessa da Trindade) or the expensive but rather good Tavares Rico (Rua da Misericórdia).
Of course parallel to this “boom of youth” the zone struggles with a problem of vandalism, with graffiti destroying some historical buildings and despite the police presence, you can spot illegal drugs sold in the streets. But the area is safe (prostitution was banned) and especially on weekends (and week days in the summer) you'll find people of all ages, backgrounds, and lifestyles bar-hopping through the cobbled lanes or standing outside with a drink in hand enjoying the city's usual mild nights. You will find also hippies playing guitar on the streets, gays posing in front of bars and other peaceful oddities.
Nevertheless, the quarter presents a fundamentally different face during the daytime. Bairro Alto is quiet and still is a traditional district where older people gossip when shopping for groceries, and the younger generations visit stylish alternative fashion shops (that stay open until late at night), art galleries like “Zé dos Bois”, bookshops like “Ler Devagar” (slow read) or art gift shops like “Hold Me”.
The main commercial streets are Rua do Norte, Rua da Atalaia, and Rua do Diário de Noticias, from where it is easy to reach Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara (a garden-terrace with one of my favorite panoramic views over the city), and two of the city's most interesting churches: São Roque with its magnificent baroque interior (free to visit, has one of the nicest interiors of any church in Portugal, and a magnificent museum of Christian sacred art) and the romantic Gothic ruins of Carmo Convent (it houses also the Archaeological Museum).
As the district lies on one of Lisbon's seven hills to get there it's a fairly steep uphill walk from any direction. That’s why a couple of alternatives were developed: the typical funiculars -Elevador de Bica, departing from São Paulo, and Elevador da Gloria, departing from Praça dos Restauradores; and the lift -Elevador de Santa Justa (see transportation tips). This will save you time and legs but I will strongly recommend you to return downtown walking via Chiado -Rua Garrett and Rua do Carmo- or via Rua do Alecrim, if you come to Cais do Sodré. The nearest metro stop is Baixa/Chiado (green line) and the area is also served with Lisbon’s buses and trams. It has also an underground parking car.
Favorite thing: Chiado is the name given to the quarter west of the Baixa, located on the slope that forms the link between the lower and the upper (Bairro Alto) parts of the city. The name is often also used to denote only the elegant shopping street, Rua Garrett, situated in the center of the quarter. This main street is where we can find some of the most emblematic places in Chiado, such as the almost tri-centennial Bertrand Bookshop or the centennial Art Nouveau café A Brasileira. It also gives access to the Chiado Museum, the opera theatres of S. Carlos and S. Luiz and to the ruins of Convento do Carmo (Archaeological museum). In Rua Garret we can find 3 churches: Mártires, built in 1147 in memory of the martyrs killed during the reconquest of Lisbon by Afonso Henriques, Encarnação with beautiful tiles and frescoed ceilings, and Loreto, the Italian community church in Lisbon, with frescoed ceilings and a splendid furnished sacristy in pau santo (Brazilian wood).
At the top of the street we have Largo do Chiado, where the gate in Fernando’s walls (king Fernando I) once opened (in the place where the 2 churches stand today). In front of Chiado square is another, bigger, square which is one of the main accesses to Bairro Alto -Largo de Camões- dedicated to the national poet -we celebrate Portugal’s Day on his date of death, June, 10th.
All this area was once the epicenter of bohemian Lisbon and today is undoubtedly an elitist area of the city.
While in Avenida da Liberdade we can find the headquarters and important offices of major national and international companies along with international fashion and design shops, in Chiado you have the same elegance in emblematic theatres, antique bookshops, old-style cafes, art nouveau jewelry shops and luxurious international names such as Hermes and Cartier. In a small dimension (scaled to the city’s dimension) Chiado in Lisbon can be thought as the 5th Avenue in New York, or Oxford Street in London. You may evaluate it yourself by going into the opulently gilded Tavares Rico Restaurant opened in 1784 (known as the most expensive restaurant in the city), by taking a look at the fine porcelain of the Vista Alegre shop (although you can find Vista Alegre shops in some new shopping malls) or the wonderful hand-painted ceramics and tiles based on antique patterns from Fábrica Sant'Ana (founded in the 1700s), or checking out the boutique of Ana Salazar, one of Portugal's international fashion designers that also has collections of interior design and accessories.
The poet and playwright António Ribeiro (1520-91) gave the area its name. A contemporary of Luis Vaz de Camões, he was originally a Franciscan monk but left his order and went to Lisbon where he became known as "Chiado". On Largo do Chiado a monument in memory of António Ribeiro was erected in 1925. Another, more famous poet, has a curious monument here too: Fernando Pessoa sits, in life size bronze, at a table infront of the Café A Brasileira, ready to have a photograph taken with tourists, this man who in life was so shy and reserved. Pessoa, a public service official spent entire afternoons in this café (and in Café Martinho da Arcada in Praça do Comércio). He wrote about the Brasileira: “the corners stare at me, the smooth walls really smile at me”. In Largo S. Carlos you can visit Pessoa House, a small museum with some of his belongings and books.
The name of the Rua Garrett in the center of Chiado commemorates another writer, Almeida Garrett (1799-1854), who was also temporarily active as a liberal politician. Actually at the turn of the century and during the first decade of the 20th C. Chiado was the meeting place for writers and artists. Political and cultural exchanges constantly took place in the cafes here. That’s why we can spot reminders of the city's intellectual life, with statues of literary figures such as Luis de Camões (in the square of its name), Eça de Queiroz, and Fernando Pessoa.
Chiado hit the world headlines when an enormous fire destroyed part of the quarter on August 25, 1988. The fire affected an area of "only" 2ha/ 5 acres but nevertheless the destruction seriously spoiled the character of the district. In the main it was the Rua do Carmo which was affected by the catastrophe. Together with homes and offices two old department stores burnt down, as well as the famous Pastelaria Ferrari, the Casa Batalha (jewelry) and the valuable archives of the music shop Valentim do Carvalho containing unique documents relating to the history of Portuguese music. I was one of the many impotent voyeurs of the disaster as I was serving in the army on the hills of Graça just across the Baixa.
Chiado was rebuilt and rethought by the internationally awarded architect Siza Vieira so as to keep its original glamour. The Armazéns do Chiado (Chiado storehouses) were converted to a modern shopping center with several types of shops including a big FNAC music and bookshop. The Carmo street become a wide open pedestrian-only street after the fire (actually the access of the fire brigades to the street was impracticable to the spot of fire allowing the fire to extend). Walking along these streets is always a unique pleasure, whether it is for the beauty of its buildings or for the variety and multiplicity of people which walk through it each day. And here we can find the “usual” street vendors and jugglers, some beggars and all sorts of tourist “fauna”.
The area is served with a metro stop with the same name -Chiado (green line) and is also served with Lisbon’s buses and trams. It has also an underground parking car.
Praça do Município -municipality square
Favorite thing: Along with Rua do Arsenal this plaza houses the splendid 18th century City Hall (also known as Paços do Concelho) considered one of the finest buildings in the city. This is an important point for Lisbonners as the Republic was proclaimed from the terrace of this building in October 5th 1910 and every year on the 5th of October that’s the place to celebrate.
The building can be visited on sundays at 11am in a free guided tour promoted by the city hall. The building is quite beautiful inside with a magnificent inner staircase, beautiful frescoes, and some important paintings of state figures and mayors. Nowadays only the city assembly and some major offices (president and main counselors) operate are and most of the departments were transferred to a modern building in Campo Grande.
On the right side of this square, as we pass it, we shall note the Naval Arsenal, and the Naval College. At the center of the square we can also find a beautifully ornamented pelourinho (pillory / penitential column) made of stone (as usual in Portugal’s most important villages and towns) topped with an armillary sphere, the marine symbol of king Manuel I that become a national symbol and still exists today in the center of the national (republican) flag.
This is also a place where Lisbonners come to celebrate special occasions as the victory in major national and international sport events. In this case the square turns colorful due to the club/country flags and scarfs.
This square is just close to the Praça do Comércio and is served by the same several bus lines, metro line, and boats. Another approach can be from Cais do Sodré or from Chiado (see links).
More info here.
Phone: 351 21 3588591
Favorite thing: If you stay a couple of days, you might consider to buy a Lisboa card.
It will give you reduction to many musea, it comes with a book with all the addresses and places to visit and you will be able to use the local transportation.
The time we were there in 2001, you also could have a free ride on the famous tram 28.
I read recently on another member’s page that you now have to pay for this tram.
The first time you use it you have to fill in the date and have it stamped and put your signature.
We took a 72 hour card but we didn’t have much profit out of it as some of the musea were closed for reconstruction and there was also a free museum day during our stay.
I think it would be better to stay longer then the 72 hours and use the first couple of days to explore and then valid your card for the remaining days and museum discounts.
Fondest memory: I would have stayed on tram 28 the whole day. Sometimes it was like a helter skelter! On the last evening there were some of the trams not driving but lucky the very last one did! Only the driver was not very happy to have to pick up so many people and he showed it, not only by his expression, but also by his "driver's skills".
Every one was trying to keep serious, trying to avoid to look at eachother because that driver would have just kicked you off his vehicul should you dear to laugh!.
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