The second part of this tour will take us through the very center of Lisbon.
- The Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square)
- The Rua Augusta Arch
- Rua Augusta (Augusta Street)
- Rossio Square – Praça de D. Pedro IV (Pedro IV Square)
- The Teatro Nacional Dona Maria II (The Queen Maria II National Theatre)
- The Estação de Caminhos de Ferro do Rossio (The Rossio Train Station)
- The Castelo de São Jorge (Saint George Castle)
- The Church or Monastery of São Vicente de Fora (St. Vincent Outside the Walls)
- The Alfama
- The National Pantheon – the Igreja de Santa Engrácia (The Church of Santa Engrácia)
- The Museu do Fado (The Fado Museum)
- Sé de Lisboa (The Lisbon Cathedral)
- The Elevador de Santa Justa (The Santa Justa elevator)
- The Bairro Alto
- The Chiado
We will start it from the Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square), still commonly known as the Terreiro do Paço (Palace Yard), because it was the location of the Paços da Ribeira (Royal Ribeira Palace), until it was destroyed by the great earthquake in 1755. After the earthquake, the square was completely remodeled.
Situated near the Tagus River, the square was very important place in the history of Lisbon. There is a huge archway to the city center (The Rua Augusta Arch) and a beautiful equestrian Statue of King José I in the middle of it.
The Rua Augusta Arch is a stone, triumphal arch and one of the most recognizable attractions of Lisbon. It was built to commemorate the city’s reconstruction after the earthquake. It has six columns and with statues of various historical figures and with the coat of arms of Portugal. The group of statues at the top represents Glory rewarding Valor and Ingenuity.
The building was originally designed as a bell tower, but later, after more than a century, it was transformed into an elaborate arch.
It takes us to Augusta Street, which links the Praça do Comércio with the other traditional Lisbon square, the Rossio.
Rossio Square, officially the Praça de D. Pedro IV (Pedro IV Square) paying homage to Pedro IV, King of Portugal, has been the place of many revolts and celebrations, executions and bullfights, and is still a favorite meeting place in Lisbon.
In the 19th century, it was paved with typical Portuguese mosaic and was decorated with bronze fountains. The Column of Pedro IV was erected in 1874 and the square got its current official name that has never been accepted by the people.
Most buildings around the Rossio were reconstructed after the earthquake in the second half of the 18th century, like the magnificent All-Saints Hospital. Only the Palace of the Independence survived it.
The Teatro Nacional Dona Maria II (The Queen Maria II National Theatre) built in the 1840s, is one of the most prestigious Portuguese venues. It was designed in neoclassical style. The main feature of the façade is a portico with six Ionic columns and a triangular pediment decorated with a sculpted relief of Apollo and the Muses. On its top, there is a statue of the Renaissance Portuguese playwright Gil Vicente, considered the founder of Portuguese theatre, whose plays, ironically, had sometimes been censured by the Portuguese Inquisition in the 16th century.
In 1887 another important landmark and an important addition to the infrastructure of the city was built in the square: the Estação de Caminhos de Ferro do Rossio (the Rossio Train Station) whose beautiful neo-manueline façade dominates the northwest side of the square.
Going towards the eastern part of Lisbon now, we will first visit the Castelo de São Jorge (Saint George Castle), a Moorish castle on the top of the hill overlooking the historic center of Lisbon and Tagus River. This well-preserved citadel offers a magnificent view of the city and it is easy to reach either taking the famous 28 tram or a tuk tuk, which is already a unique experience.
The Church or Monastery of São Vicente de Fora (St. Vincent Outside the Walls) is one of the most important monasteries and mannerist buildings in the country. It also contains the impressive royal pantheon of the Braganza monarchs of Portugal.
It was originally built in Romanesque style in 1147 outside the city walls, dedicated to Saint Vincent of Saragossa, patron saint of Lisbon, whose relics were brought there in the 12th century.
Its magnificent façade follows the later Renaissance style known as Mannerism and has several niches with statues of saints and two towers.
The Monastery buildings are reached through a magnificent Baroque portal, located beside the church façade. The monastery houses a museum containing the largest collection of Baroque Portuguese tiles.
Climbing the steps up to the bell tower, we will get one of the most beautiful views of the city.
On the slope between the São Jorge Castle and the Tejo river, lies the Alfama, the oldest district of Lisbon.
Its steep and narrow cobblestone streets are filled with historical attractions, but also restaurants and Fado bars. Seeing one of the fado dinner shows is a must.
The Arab influence here is remarkable, both in the architectural style and in the whole layout of the area.
One of the Alfama’s hidden gems is the National Pantheon, located in what was formerly the Igreja de Santa Engrácia (The Church of Santa Engrácia).The church was converted into the National Pantheon in 1916 and it contains the tombs of many important Portuguese rulers and historical figures. It is worth climbing to the broad terrace that provides panoramic, breathtaking views over the Alfama neighborhood.
There is a beautiful baroque portal at the entrance to the church with the coat-of-arms of Portugal held by two angels. A high central dome was completed only in the 20th century, and its magnificent baroque organ from the18th-century was brought from Lisbon Cathedral.
On our way to the Lisbon Cathedral, we will pass by the Museu Militar (The Military Museum) and The Museu do Fado (The Fado Museum), both worth visiting if the time allows it.
Sé de Lisboa (The Lisbon Cathedral) is a Roman Catholic Church and the oldest church in Lisbon. Since the beginning of its construction in 1147, the building has been modified several times and survived many earthquakes. Nowadays it represents a mixture of different architectural styles. The facade is relatively plain, but the interior is quite stunning.
Coming back to Augusta Street, we will walk to the Elevador de Santa Justa, which will take us to our final destinations, this time on the western part of Lisbon, the Bairro Alto and the Chiado.
The Elevador de Santa Justa (The Santa Justa elevator), one of the eccentric sights of the Baixa district, was designed by an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel, Raul Mesnier de Ponsard in 1902.
It is 45 meters tall, made of iron and decorated with filigree. Up to 20 passengers at a time can travel up and down.
At the top, there is a walkway that links the elevator with Largo do Carmo in the Bairro Alto.
The Bairro Alto (Upper District or “neighbourhood”) resulted from urban expansion in the 16th century, outside the walls of the historical city.
This cobbled area is a bohemian part of the city with numerous tiny shops and boutiques spread along the narrow streets, and many crowded, fun, and lively bars that are bursting with people hanging out.
Between the Bairro Alto and Baixa Pombalina, there is the Chiado, a square with its surrounding area, a traditional shopping area that mixes old and modern commercial establishments, but it is also an important cultural area, with several museums and theatres.
After a huge fire in 1988, the Chiado area has recovered, and nowadays features the highest real estate property prices in Portugal.
To be continued …