The original, independent guide to Lisbon
The original, independent guide to Lisbon
This guide will provide details of a walking tour that covers two of Lisbon’s most popular areas, the Alfama and Baixa districts. The route is ideal for visitors who are new to Lisbon as it covers the most diverse sections in the city and many of the important attractions of the capital. This walking tour takes approximately three hours to complete and is an enjoyable half day activity for one of your first days in Lisbon.
The narrow and steep streets of Alfama
Alfama is the oldest district of the city and is a maze of narrow streets that stretch from the banks of the estuary up to the castle. Historically this was the section of the city where the poor lived, just outside of the city walls. Today Alfama is rejuvenated with trendy bars and cafes set amongst the crumbling charm of the ancient buildings.
The Baixa district boasts of the grandeur that Portugal once commanded, with wide avenues and magnificent squares. The area was completely rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake and was one of the first cities to follow a grid plan street layout. Baixa is the heart of Lisbon and is where many of the capital’s finest tourist attractions are located.
Rossio square in central Lisbon
The walking tour of Baixa and Alfama begins from the Praça Dom Pedro IV square, which is regarded by many Portuguese as the centre of their city. The Praça Dom Pedro IV is a prime example of the Marquis of Pombal vision for the entire area of Baixa with wide open spaces with grand monuments and buildings.
The Teatro Nacional D. Maria II
The statue in the centre of the square is Dom Pedro IV, king of both Portugal and the independent Brazil. Legend has it that the statue is actually that of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, he was assassinated soon after completion of his statue so the sculpture switched orders and delivered this statue to Lisbon. The switch was unnoticed (or accepted) as both leaders were of similar appearance and provided a massive saving to all parties. Praça Dom Pedro IV or more commonly know as Rossio is famous for its nauseating wave pattern stone paving which stretches the length of the square.
The tour heads to the north end of the square, towards the most prestigious theater in Lisbon the Teatro Nacional D. Maria II. To the right of the theater is a small Ginjinha bar, which sells a sweet cheer brandy that is adored by the older Portuguese generation. The church opposite the bar is the fire damaged Igreja de Sao Domingos a strange and macabre religious building.
Inside the fire damaged Igreja de Sao Domingos
The interior of the Igreja de Sao Domingos has a very heavy atmosphere with dim lighting, fire scorched walls and gruesome statues of Jesus' death. Step back into day light and head north along Rua das Portas de Santo Antao. This is the liveliest area of Baixa during the night as the restaurant swell catering for hungry tourists and the Portuguese attend the shows in the theatres. Be warned the waiters here have a very smooth patter to entice tourist to sample the fresh fish of the day.
Turn left on to and the short street opens into Praça dos Restauradores which is dominated by the independence obelisk monument. Within Praça dos Restauradores is the art deco Eden Theater, the pink Foz Palace and the Funicular Elevador da Gloria but sadly the square is often completely missed by tourists. The northern side of Praça dos Restauradores leads into the Avenida da Liberdade a wide tree lined boulevard that stretches to the Square of Marquis of Pombal a pleasant walk for visitors with plenty of time, and energy.
The Eden Theater and the obelisk in the Praça dos Restauradores
Head south from Praça dos Restauradores and return to Praça Dom Pedro IV, this route passes Rossio train station which was heavily influenced by north African design. The trains that depart from Rossio station head for Sintra, a must day trip Lisbon for all visitors to Lisbon. The trains pass out of Lisbon through a 2km tunnel, Lisbon's greatest engineering achievement of the late 19th century.
Within the district of Baixa there is a unique blend of specialist shops with few large brand stores, this is thanks to the council of Lisbon which protected the price of rents. The control of rents has allowed the preservation of many small family businesses, some of which have been owned by the same families for generations. These stores line the 5 streets that lead south in Baixa selling many traditional produce of Portugal.
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