LISBON - NEIGHBORHOODS

Baixa and Chiado

Destroyed by the 1755 earthquake, The Baixa was rebuilt, under Marquês de Pombal, with an elegance and architectural style all of its own. Running south, the main street of Baixa separates Praça do Comércio from the Rossio. A triumphal arch leads from the square to Baixa's pedestrian-only Rua Augusta, one of the city's most popular streets for shopping. Other streets in Baixa are named after the crafts that were once practiced there: Rua dos Sapateiros (shoemakers), Rua da Prata (silversmiths), Rua do Oro (goldsmiths), and more. The Baixa is really for wandering, shopping and people watching.

Adjoining Baixa to the southwest, the Chiado is even better known for shopping, with stores ranging from leather and crafts to fashion boutiques. It's very smart and very chic, and full of Lisbon charm. The shops here range from the big chain stores to little boutiques, with a liberal sprinkling of book stores and others. You can wander up the gently sloping Rua Garrett, stopping for a coffee on the way.

The Elevador de Santa Justa from the Baixa up to the Rua Do Carmo, offers some of the best views in the city, and you can also visit the Carmo Museum, one of the best museums in the city, housed in the ruins of a convent, unrestored, roofless, and with Roman and renaissance statuary scattered around its walls, it is a strangely charming place.

Together, the Rossio, Baixa and Chiado neighborhoods form the center of Lisbon's tourist districts, sandwiched between Bairro Alto to the west, Alfama to the east and the Rio Tejo to the south. They are full of cafés and shops, as well as train/tram stations that connect visitors to top daytrip options, such as Belém, Sintra, Cascais and Estoril.

Bairro Alto

Coming out the Chiado, up the hill still further, you reach the Bairro Alto. Trams and funiculars can take you there, but most Lisboans use their feet. This section of town survived the devastating earthquake in 1755. The Bairro is a very old residential area, with tiny cobbled streets laid out in a grid. It is full of cool shops selling clothes, shoes, bags, particularly by young or new designers, which generally open late, and stay open late. The Bairro also has many small restaurants, ranging from the pricey to local holes in the wall. It's a great area to wander around looking for somewhere to eat. Somehow the Bairro also manages to pack in dozens of tiny bars and clubs, including fado bars. Because they are so small, most of the drinking goes on in the street. It's fun, friendly and not rowdy at all. Just look for the biggest concentration of people after midnight, buy a caipirinha and settle in to watch the passing parade. The Bairro does get noisy at night, and so may not be the best place to sleep, but it's very safe and exciting.

The Alfama

Perched on a hill, east of Praça do Comércio lies the Alfama, the oldest and most famous district of Lisbon. Saved only in part from the devastation of the 1755 earthquake, the Alfama was the Moorish section of the capital. In sharp contrast to the wide boulevards and logical, grid-based street plan of the adjacent Baixa district, the Alfama consists of a labyrinth of narrow, wandering streets that zigzag around a hillside, atop which the Castelo de São Jorge, a Visigothic fortification that was later used by the Romans, presides over the lower city. The Sé de Lisboa (Sé Cathedral) lies at the south end, down the hill from the Castelo towards the Tagus River. You could easily spend the better part of a day in the Alfama, visiting these sites and getting yourself lost among the vistas. Although recently notorious for pick pocketing, Lisbon's Tram 28 is still immensely popular with visitors as an alternative to wearing holes into their shoes. The tram rambles up and down between the Alfama district and lower Lisbon throughout the day.

Avenida de Liberdade and Marques de Pombal

The Avenida da Liberdade is a wide boulevard connecting downtown Lisbon with the northern districts, linking Restauradores Square with Marquis of Pombal Square. It is a 300 foot wide boulevard, with ten lanes divided by pedestrian pavements decorated with gardens. The street, lined with trees and fountains, is decorated with statues and a large monument dedicated to WWI soldiers. Soon after its creation in the 19th century, the Avenida da Liberdada became a prestigious address, and grand buildings were erected along the street. Its scenic qualities, hotels, shops, theatres and architecture turn it into an important tourist attraction of the city. Famous nationally for hosting numerous luxury brands like Christian Dior, Chanel, Versace, Balmain, Gucci, Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, Michael Kors, Stella McCartney, Christian Louboutin, Donna Karan and others. It is nowadays considered as the 35th most expensive avenue in the world.

At the north end of the Avenida de Liberdade is a large trafficjunction known as the Praça Marquês de Pombal. At its center stands atall column with a statue of the Marquis of Pombal. The marquis himselfled the city's rebuilding efforts, and he decided to raze the downtownbuildings in the Baixa district, most of which had been reduced torubble. Within thirty days after the earthquake the marquis had madeplans for a new modern district with a network of parallel streetsleading to a monumental square, the Praça do Comércio. The architectureused during the reconstruction, with anti-seismic features, is known asthe Pombaline style.

São Sebastião and Saldanha

Further north from Marques de Pombal, and moving out of the center of Lisbon, the area between São Sebastião and Saldanha is more business oriented, but also a good cheaper option for accommodation. The metro makes it easy to get into the city, and is cheap, reliable and easy to use.