Lisbon and its fascinating history

quite cheap
a week end
august
a lot to see
breathtaking landscapes

Wikipedia

From Wikipedia: “At the beginning of the eighteenth century , with an estimated population of about 250,000 residents, Lisbon was one of the largest cities in Europe.On 1 November 1755 , around 9.40 am, when many people were busy to attend the Mass, there was an earthquake with a magnitude estimated at around 9 º Richter scale with its epicentre in the sea, about 200 km off the coast of Cabo de São Vicente.The earthquake caused the collapse of many buildings and numerous fires that expanded through the city;to escape the fire, the survivors gathered in the Baixa, near the river. About 40 minutes later, a tsunami, generated by the same quake, stroke Lisbon destroying the whole lower section of the city.According to official estimations, there were between 30K and 40K deaths and about 85% of the city was destroyed. The only district of Lisbon which surpassed harmless the earthquake was the Alfama, whose castle is left. After the earthquake, Prime Minister Pombal led the city’s rebuilding. Instead of rebuilding from the tracks of the former medieval town, Pombal decided to tear down the remains of the earthquake and build a town centre in accordance with modern urban rules dictated by the Illuminism .” I don’t know how it could be Lisbon before the devastating earthquake, but dear Prime Minister, you did a great job.

Rossio, Avenida da Libertade, Praca dos restauradores

Well, first things first:

Naples-Paris and Paris-Lisbon with Air France, sadly I don’t remember the price. Once landed, a comfortable bus (Carris n.91) drive you to the city centre with 3€ only. We left the bus in a square called Rossio, our hostel was nearby. Rossio Square has been a meeting place for people of Lisbon for centuries and is still constantly populated by Lisboners and tourists. In the square there’s a bronze fountain, the statue of Dom Pedro IV, the Maria II theatre, the Public Gardens and some cafés and shops dated 18th century, like the Café Nicola or the Pastelaria Suíça. From the square you can also see the castle. Shortly before the Rossio there’s Avenida da Liberdade, one of the Lisbon’s main and most expensive streets: in addition to hotels and luxury shops (not juicy stuff to me), there’s the Hard Rock, one of the best seen so far: two floors, with a convertible Cadillac hanging from the ceiling :D Take notes, you fans: Avenida da Liberdade 18 :D Avenida da Liberdade starts at a rectangular square known as the Praça dos Restauradores.Here is one of Lisbon’s most beautiful Art Deco buildings: the former Eden Theater. It opened in 1931 and soon became one of the city’s most important cinemas.In 1989 the cinema closed its doors and remained empty until 2001, when it was converted into an hotel.The atrium behind is planted with trees and hedges.

Praca do municipio

From the Baixa-Chiado tube stop, walking down the Rua Aurea and then the Rua Comercio, you reach Praca do Municipio. Also this square was laid out by the earthquake and Tsunami: the Town Hall, indeed, was built here after the two catastrophic events. In the middle of the square there’s the so-called Pelourinho, a column representing the justice: here convicted criminals were bound to the column and often whipped in public.

Praca do comercio

After 5 minutes walking we reach Praca do Comercio. Obviously, also this square was rebuilt after the earthquake. It’s open on the Rua Augusta, on the one hand, through the arch, and shows itself on the Tagus River on the other side .On February 1, 1908, the square was the scene of the murder of the second-last King of Portugal, Carlos I. On the way to the royal palace, the coach with Charles I and his family passed through the square: while crossing some shots were fired from at least two confused men in the crowd, Alfredo Costa and Manuel Buica. The King died immediately, Prince Louis-Philippe was fatally shot while Prince Manuel was wounded in the arm. The assassins were killed on place by the King’s bodyguards and were recognized as members of the Republican Party, which overthrew the monarchy two years later.

The main monument of this square is The statue of Jorje I on horseback, the ruling king during the earthquake . On the riverfront there are some nice, soft shaped and coloured benches built around the saplings, cute idea for a break in the shade.

Alfama

After that we decide to go towards the castle, and to do that we cross the only area not affected by the tsunami: the Alfama. It was once inhabited by fishermen and poor people, and the character of poor district is still going, with its colourful squares and lanes. It’s one of the most vibrant and original areas of the city, full of traditional locals.

Castelo de Sao Jorge

This is the Lisbon’s castle, located on the highest hill of the historic center of the city, the Alfama. It’s one of the main historical and touristic sites of the city, from up there you can enjoy a fantastic view. Climbing to the top is difficult, especially in the summer, so I recommend to take the tram n. 28 and then walk down to explore the narrow streets of Alfama. Admission fee €5, from 9 am to 6-9 pm, depending on the month.

Pastelaria de Belem

Delicacy: Pastelaria Belem! It’s an historic bakery established in 1837, known throughout Portugal for inventing the recipe for pastéis de nata: they’re puff pastry tiny baskets filled with custard cream, baked in the oven, with a unique flavour. The bakery bakes pasteis all the time , so you can always enjoy them warm. The bakery has remained unchanged over time and keeps a lot of azulejos (decorated ceramic tiles) that visitors can observe seated in the inner rooms.

Doca de Santo Amaro

There ‘s an area that in the evening offers a spectacular view, and it’s the Doca de Santo Amaro: a road running along the Tagus river, teeming with all kinds of restaurants and pubs. It was once an area of ​​harbour warehouse, the leftovers of all this are the romantic boats * _ * Topped by the April 25th Bridge, from far can be seen the Cristo Rei, minor replica of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, erected as a thanksgiving for the lack of involvement of Portugal in WWII. Beautiful!

Chiado

district of narrow streets, alleys, multi-ethnic and full bar!In the past the area was a meeting place for intellectuals Portuguese, in fact here we can find several statues of literary figures : António Ribeiro, called the Chiado (from who derives the name of the district), and in front of him Fernando Pessoa, a famous Portuguese poet of the 20th century , sitting at a table outside the Café Brasileira. Across the street there’s the monument to Luís de Camões , the epic poet of the 16th century.

A Brasileira, we said.An old and famous cafe’: it was opened in 1905 as a store selling the ” genuine Brazilian coffee ” from the Minas Gerais state. The shop sold many other products, such as oil, flour, tea, pepper and wine.It was renovated two times over the years, becoming a real bar. The interiors were decorated in Art Deco style. In the sixties, the artworks were moved to the Museo do Chiado. In 1997 the Portuguese authorities, by ordinance, classified A Brasileira in the ” Portuguese architectural heritage ” as “Building of public interest “

Some random info:

  • be careful to the cobblestones, I saw several people fall down :D ;
  • the evenings are chilly, August 10th I wore sweater and jacket;
  • Restaurants close down around 9.30-10 pm and are quite peremptory with the timings, so keep an eye to your watch if you don’t want to starve ;
  • if you need to go to the airport at night, the taxi is quite cheap: 9.50 euros for two people.

I should tell about the Oceanarium area but I decided to do it in another post otherwise this would get endless!

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Pros

  • very nice people
  • cheap
  • full of historic places

Cons

  • pretty windy
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