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The Avenida da Liberdade, is Lisbon’s main boulevard and the location for designer shops, expensive restaurants and trendy bars. Between the luxurious and exclusive decadence, there are fine examples of classical 19th-century Portuguese architecture and the two central plazas contain charming water features and grand statues.
The war memorial on the Avenida Liberdade
The avenue extends up hill, from Restauradores square to the Marques de Pombal square and is a pleasant place for tourists to stroll along or stare into the windows of the fashionable boutiques. The walk along the length of the Avenida da Liberdade is a recommended activity for those visitors with plenty of time to discover Lisbon.
The Avenida da Liberdade is the capital’s grandest avenue, stretching 1.5km in a north-western direction from the Baixa district up to the Parque Eduardo VII park. The boulevard is 90m and has space for 10 lanes of traffic and two 19th century styled plazas that run the length of the avenue.
Running beneath the avenue is Lisbon’s oldest metro line, the blue line, and the area is served by three metro stations; Restauradores, Avenida and Marques de Pombal. The Marques de Pombal station is situated at the top of the gentle hill, close to the Parque Eduardo VII park and this is the recommended start for a walk down the Avenida da Liberdade.
The tree lined Avenida Liberdade
The avenue was originally constructed after the 1755 earthquake and named the Passeio Público (public street). This was a little ironic as there were massive gates at both ends to keep the commoners out of the private street of Lisbon’s rich. The Avenida da Liberdade close association with the wealthy has continued to this day with the designer shops helping make the avenue the 35th most expensive street in the world.
The statue of the Marques de Pombal at the top of the Avenida Liberdade
The water features that run the length of the plazas were designed to represent the two major rivers of Portugal the Tagus and the Douro. The paths are lined with the traditional black and white stone mosaic patterns and these symbolise the waves of the oceans. The most significant monument is the dedication to the Portuguese soldiers that lost their lives during the First World War; Portugal lost a total of 50,000 troops during World War I.
The Avenida da Liberdade is the focal point for the Popular Saint Festivals held in mid-June. Each of the districts of Lisbon competes for the best carnival procession with lavish floats and costumes while the crowds celebrate with grilled sardines and beer.
Before the 1755 earthquake, the area was a wealthy but undefined region of the city. Under the direction of the Marques de Pombal, whose statue stands at the top of the street, the entire of Baixa district was rebuilt. The Avenida da Liberdade was styled on the wide boulevards of Paris but was sole for the rich of Lisbon.
In 1821, King John VI commanded that the gates be removed and the street was opened for public use. This relaxing of the entrance policy also coincided with the first transformation of the park with the introduction of the water features and fountains. The second and most significant transformation was in 1880 with the construction of the roads, pathways and formal gardens that visitors can enjoy today.