Baixa, The Center & The Chiado
Start: Praça do Comércio.
Finish: Elevador de Santa Justa.
Time: 3 hours.
Best Times: Any sunny day except Sunday.
Worst Times: Monday to Saturday from 7:30 to 9am and 5 to 7pm; Sunday, when shops are closed.
The best place to begin this tour is:
1. Praça do Comércio (also known as Terreiro do Paço)
This is at the waterfront end of Baixa. The House of Bragança ended here with the assassination of Carlos I and his elder son, Luís Filipe, in 1908. Regrettably, employees in the surrounding government buildings now use the Praça as a parking lot. The Marquês de Pombal designed the square when he rebuilt Lisbon following the 1755 earthquake. The equestrian statue is of Dom José, the Portuguese king at the time of the earthquake.
Before all this walking, especially if it's a hot day, you might need to:
Take a Break -- Café Martinho da Arcada, Praça do Comércio 3 (tel. 21/887-92-59), has been the haunt of the literati since 1782, attracting such greats as the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. The old restaurant has gone upmarket, but it adjoins a cafe and bar, often called the best cafe in Portugal. If you're here for lunch, ask for a savory kettle of fish, called cataplana, or clam stew served in the style of the Algarve. It's open Monday to Saturday 7am to 11pm.
After dining, head north along:
2. Rua Augusta
This is one of Baixa's best-known shopping streets. Leather stores and bookshops, embroidery outlets, and even home-furnishings stores line the bustling street. Many of the cross streets are closed to traffic, making window-shopping more enjoyable. The glittering jewelry stores you'll see often have some good buys in gold and silver. The many delis display vast offerings of Portuguese wine and cheese, along with endless arrays of the pastries Lisboans are so fond of.
The western part of this grid of streets is known as the Chiado. It's the city's most sophisticated shopping district. In 1988, a devastating fire swept the area, destroying many shops, particularly those on the periphery of Rua Garrett. The area has bounced back with vigor.
Rua Augusta leads into the:
3. Rossio (formally called Praça de Dom Pedro IV)
The principal square of Baixa, the Rossio dates from the 1200s. During the Inquisition, it was the setting of many an auto-da-fé, during which Lisboans turned out to witness the torture and death of an "infidel," often a Jew. This was the heart of Pombaline Lisbon as the marquês rebuilt it following the 1755 earthquake. Neoclassical buildings from the 1700s and 1800s line the square, which has an array of cafes and souvenir shops. The 1840 Teatro Nacional de Dona Maria II sits on the north side of the square, occupying the former Palace of the Inquisition. The statue on its facade is of Gil Vicente, the Shakespeare of Portugal, credited with the creation of the Portuguese theater.
Crowds cluster around two baroque fountains at either end of the Rossio. The bronze statue on a column is of Pedro IV, for whom the square is named. (He was also crowned king of Brazil as Pedro I.) Dozens of flower stalls soften the square's tawdry, overly commercial atmosphere.
Take a Break -- Café Nicola, Praça de Dom Pedro IV 18 (tel. 21/346-05-79), dates from 1777. It gained fame as a gathering place of the Portuguese literati in the 19th century. Though somewhat short on charm, it's the most popular cafe in Lisbon. Pastries, endless cups of coffee, and meals can be consumed indoors or out. It's open Monday to Friday 8am to 10pm, Saturday 9am to 10pm, and Sunday 10am to 7:30pm.
From the Rossio, proceed to the northwest corner of the square and walk onto the satellite square, Praça da Câmara. If you continue north, you'll reach the beginning of:
4. Avenida da Liberdade
This is Lisbon's main thoroughfare, laid out in 1879. More than 90m (295 ft.) wide, the avenue runs north for 1.5km (1 mile), cutting through the heart of the city. It has long been hailed as the most splendid boulevard of Lisbon, although many of the Art Deco and Belle Epoque mansions that once lined it are gone. Its sidewalks are tessellated in black and white. This is the heart of Lisbon's cinema district; you'll also pass airline offices, travel agencies, and other businesses.
An open-air esplanade lies in the center. Almost immediately you come to:
5. Praça dos Restauradores
This square was named for the men who, in 1640, revolted against the Spanish reign. The event led to the reestablishment of Portugal's independence. An obelisk in the center of the square commemorates the uprising. The deep-red Palácio Foz, now the Ministry of Information, is also on the square.
West of the square is the:
6. Estação do Rossio
This is the city's main rail terminus. Built in mock Manueline style to resemble a lavishly adorned palace, this is one of the strangest architectural complexes housing a rail terminal in Europe. Trains from Sintra and the Estremadura pull right into the heart of the city and leave from a platform that's an escalator ride above the street-level entrances. The bustling station abounds with businesses, including souvenir shops and currency-exchange offices.
A possible detour: At this point, you can walk 1.5km (1 mile) along Avenida da Liberdade all the way to Praça do Marquês de Pombal, with its monument to the prime minister who rebuilt Lisbon. North of the square, you can stroll through Parque Eduardo VII. If you'd like to see more of the heart of Lisbon, continue south from Praça dos Restauradores.
If you choose to walk south again along Avenida da Liberdade, retrace your steps to Praça de Dom João da Câmara. Instead of returning to Rossio, continue south along Rua do 1 de Dezembro, which will become Rua do Carmo. This street will lead you to the:
7. Elevador de Santa Justa
This elevator, built in 1902, is in a Gothic-style tower at the junction of Rua Áurea and Rua de Santa Justa. It is often falsely attributed to Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, who designed the fabled tower of Paris. In no more than a minute, it whisks you from Baixa to the Bairro Alto. There, you'll be rewarded with one of the city's grandest panoramas.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.