BAIXA AND CHIADO
Baixa is the heart of Lisbon and stretches from the main avenue of Avenida da Liberdade to Praça do Comércio on the Tajus river waterfront. Completely rebuilt after the great earthquake of 1755, the district is the city’s main shopping area and is home to elegant squares and some of the best neo-classical buildings in the city. Its lively pedestrian-only streets are dotted with shops, boutiques, outdoor cafes, restaurants and bakeries. Rossio Square, which sits on top of Baixa, is Lisbon’s main square and is a popular meeting place for both tourists and locals. Some of the cafes here are quite historic dating back to the 18th and 19th century and are surely worth a visit. Next to Rossio is the Praça de Figueira square, a major transport hub; all major bus and tram routes pass through this square, the Rossio metro station is also located here. Baxia is as central and convenient as it gets. Chiado sits snugly up the slope between Baixa and Bairro Alto. This sophisticated district was once the literary centre of the city, today it’s known for its museums, theatres, luxury fashion boutiques and trendy cafes. You’ll find most of them on the famous Rua Garrett street.
Further up the hill from Chiado lies the atmospheric Bairro Alto*. During the day this residential district is quiet and peaceful, with narrow, winding streets that are ideal for wandering around and finding tucked away eateries and cool shops. Post sundown it’s a different story attogether, the streets come alive and you’ll find yourself amidst the legendary nightlife of Bairro Alto. The countless small bars, pubs, restaurants and fado clubs are packed with people; many of them park themselves on the street with a drink in hand. The district has its share of shopping, with stores selling clothes and accessories by upcoming designers. And if you’re shopping for views, head to Miradouro de Santa Catarina which has stunning views of the Tajus river. Barrio Alto makes a perfect base for exploring Lisbon’s nightlife. But even if you’re not into partying, we suggest you at least spend an afternoon here. Tip: Wear comfortable walking shoes. *Bairro Alto can be reached by 3 funiculars (Elevador da Glória, Elevador da Bica and Elevador de Santa Justa) from various parts of the city.
AVENIDA DA LIBERDADE
The grand Avenida da Liberdade stretches for about 1.6 kilometers from Marquis de Pombal to the Restauradores Square. This broad boulevard is the Champs-Elysees of Lisbon but with more trees and greenery and less noise. It’s the site of posh hotels, shaded outdoor cafes and stores of every international luxury brand you can think of. A number of banks and airlines also have offices here. Strolling down the boulevard is a pleasure; the buildings have typical Portuguese architecture and pedestrian pavements have beautiful tiled decorations, wooden benches, fountains and little gardens. Avenida da Liberdade is a prime location, not to mention a very convenient one: it has 3 metro stations, buses ply up and down the avenue every few minutes and it’s located right next to Baixa.
Stepping into Alfama is like stepping back in time, this hilly area is Lisbon’s oldest district. Formerly an Arab quarter, you can still see the Moorish influence as you walk up its mazy cobble stoned streets. These days, Alfama is a working class neighbourhood known for its Fado Houses, tiny squares, hidden churches and whitewashed houses with wrought iron balconies and flower pots. You’ll also stumble upon some fantastic traditional eateries here. Perched on top of the hill is the Sao Jorge castle which has some of the best views in the city. Good budget hotels here are hard to come by, but thankfully you don’t have to stay in Alfama to enjoy it.
MARQUES DE POMBAL
Praca Marques de Pombal sits at the top of Avenida da Liberdade. This major roundabout with a huge monument is one of the city’s main traffic and transport hubs. 18 bus lines and 2 metro lines cross the square and its underground metro station. So getting to the centre, which is also doable by foot, is a breeze. Just behind the roundabout is the sprawling Edward VII Park which has a greenhouse filled with tropical plants, ponds and a variety of cacti. The park also has a café with a lovely outdoor sitting area by the pond, perfect for relaxing with a book. The streets surrounding the park are pleasant and tourist-free. Marques de Pombal is for those who want a quiet stay among the locals.