3 March 2010
Discovering Lisbon: Baixa, Alfama, Barrio Alto…
The heart of the city is Baixa, the shopping centre built on the ruins of the Old Town destroyed by earthquake in 1755.
The neighborhood is on the Tagus river, and is characterized by straight and perpendicular avenues, including the most famous Rua Augusta, where there are clubs and restaurants frequented by tourists and by the same citizens of Lisbon. From Baixa it is possible to reach the district of Barrio Alto with the Elevador de Santa Justa, an imposing wrought-iron elevator built in 1902.
Bairro Alto is a central district of Lisbon, but more popular than Baixa, where, however, evening and night life is always pleasant. In fact, in this area are renowned the Tascas, often small family-run inn where to taste traditional dishes such as grilled octopus, fejiolata (beans with vegetables and meat) and pudim, a sweet cream. The structure of the neighborhood is completely different from Baixa: here, the alleyways are winding and intricate, with its famous Becos, alleys with steps.
Alfama is the oldest district of Lisbon and it is at the foot of the Castle of São Jorge. It has always been the poorest area of the city (the first around which the capital is growth) and it survived the earthquake of 1755, because it is located in an higher zone: so, even today the streets, the tangles of alleyways and squares are originals. In the neighborhood there are many historical monuments and premises known as casas do fado where they plays and sings the fado, a traditional Portuguese music. In this district there is the Cathedral of Lisbon, in the western part, the Convento da Graça, the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora and the Church of Santa Engrácia, where important people of the history of the country are buried.
Chiado has always been the intellectual district and it is located between Bairro Alto and Baixa. The main square is Largo do Chiado overlooked by two baroque churches: the Church of Loreto and the Church of Nossa Senhora da Encarnação. In the district there are many theaters, the S. Luiz, the Teatro da Trindade, the Teatro São Carlos, and the Theater Gymnasio, that has become a very popular… shopping centre. In the neighborhood is born the poet Fernando Pessoa remembered with a statue near the Brasileira café in the Chiado square. Here, there are also the ruins of the Carmo Convent that houses the Archaeological Museum and Palace of Valadares, home of the first university in Portugal. In 1988 a fire destroyed many buildings of the Chiado, killing two people.
The district of Belem has got the most important examples of the Manuelino style, which takes its name from King Manuel I lived around 1500. Belem that in Portuguese means Bethlehem, extends along the Tagus River where there are magnificent gardens. The most famous monument of the district is the Tower of Belem, lighthouse and fortress of the ancient port. In the district there is also the Padrao do Doscombrimentos, a monument shaped like a bow of a ship built to commemorate the explorations of Portuguese sailors and the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, a stately Renaissance-style church.
Photo of the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos by zakmc