With the earthquake of 1755, the Baixa Pombalina, the lower part of Lisbon’s city centre, has been totally destroyed. Almost all buildings collapsed and the neighborhood had to be rebuilt.
Baixa Pombalina owes its name to the (then) Prime Minister Marques de Pombal and is the lower (Baixa) neighbourhood.
The straight streets
None of the current street pattern is like the street layout of before the earthquake. The streets are laid out in straight lines around a main street: Rua Augusta.
The Baixa has something for everyone. You can go shopping in the streets Rua Augusta or Rua da Prata, have a drink near Rossio at Café Nicola.
Here are our tips for the Baixa neighbourhood.
Places of interest in the Baixa
Elevador de Santa Justa
If you want a quick trip from the Baixa to the Bairro Alto, take the
Elevador de Santa Justa. This 45 meter high wrought iron elevator will take you to the highest part of the city in a few minutes.
If you want an easy way from the Baixa district to Alfama, take the elevator: Elevador Castelo! With 1 change halfway you are within 5 minutes in Alfama.
Ascensor da Glória
This cable car tram, Ascensor da Glória, takes you from Praça Restauradores to the Bairro Alto. Just like the locals, take the tram to move around comfortably.
Ascensor do Lavra
Ascensor do Lavra is Lisbon’s oldest cable car still in use. This tram is not (yet) well known to tourists but certainly worth a ride.
Hospital de Bonecas
In Lisbon, people go to the doll doctor in the doll hospital for generations: Hospital de Bonecas, right in the centre.
Arco da rua Augusta
Arco da rua Augusta is the gateway to the Baixa district, with Rua Augusta as its main street. The triumphal arch was built after the 1755 earthquake.
There are many shops in the Baixa district. Especially the large chain of shops can be found in the shopping streets: Rua Augusta, Rua da Prata, Rua dos Correeiros, Rua dos Sapateiros.
In the Baixa you will find old (historical) shops, unfortunately they are disappearing more and more from the streets.
Manteigaria Silva is mentioned in many travel guides with the advice to walk past the shop and peek inside. That’s all right! But don’t forget to go inside and enjoy all the goodies that are sold in the shop.
Lisbon Duck Store
You visit Lisbon mainly for the beautiful old buildings, the atmosphere of the city and the friendly people. And of course because of the good food, the beautiful wines and other excellent national liqueurs. But then suddenly you run into a very cheerful shop: Lisbon Duck Store.
Squares & Streets
Rua Augusta is the shopping street in Lisbon where you can do some great shopping. And if you are hungry from all that shopping, you can grab a meal in one of the many restaurants around. Be sure to check the pavement, which are made of mosaic with beautiful patterns.
Praça do Comércio
Praça do Comércio, this huge square is located on the banks of the Tagus river and is also known as Terreiro do Paço (Palace Square), where the royal palace Paço da Ribeira stood before the earthquake of 1755.
The meeting place in Lisbon, the square is hard to miss when your visit Lisbon. Rossio is always busy, there are a lot of vendors around. When it rains you’ll be approached by people trying to sell you an umbrella in no time. But at the first ray of sunshine they take their other backpack and try to sell you a pair of sunglasses.
Praça da Figueira
Praça da Figueira is the heart of public transport in Lisbon. Many buses and also the metro stop on or under this square. After the earthquake in 1755 a large part was destroyed. Most buildings have been restored and rebuilt in their original state. In most buildings around the square are modern hotels, shops, cafes and restaurants,
Pastelaria Suíça also has an entrance on the side of Praça da Figueira. The square offers a beautiful view of Castelo de São Jorge, during the day the view is very nice but if you have the opportunity to be here in the evening, do not forget to look at the castle which is very nicely illuminated.
Wondering who that bronze statue in the middle of the square is? That’s King João. Do not forget to count the pigeons. There are hundreds of them, and they are a characteristic of the square.
Rua das Portas de Santo Antão
There are a lot of eateries in Lisbon, and the proof is in this street. The better fish restaurants can be found in this street, which is just a block away from Rossio.
One of Lisbon’s best kept secrets is also in this street: Casa do Alentejo. What is now a cultural centre and a meeting place for people from the Alentejo (province in Portugal), used to be a 17th century palace: Palacio Alverca.
From the outside it looks like a normal house, but inside you’ll be enchanted by the Moorish influences and the large patio. You can also have lunch or dinner at Casa do Alentejo.
It’s been more than 6 years since I last had lunch there. I remember the food was really good. If I read the reviews nowadays, it no longer seems to be what it was: the food is mostly fried, cold or something else is wrong. The waiters seem to be grumpy. It’s not the same restaurant as it use to be.
If you choose to eat elsewhere in the street, do not forget to take a look behind the doors of Casa do Alentejo. The ambiance is worth it. And if after dinner you want a nightcap, walk the street in the direction of Rossio and stop at A Ginjinha.
Praça Restauradores is located at the beginning of the popular boulevard Avenida da Liberdade and is almost attached to Rossio. The square was built in memory of the independence of Portugal in 1640 (after 60 years of Spanish rule). In the middle of the square is an obelisk with the names and dates that have to do with the Portuguese Restoration War (a conflict between Spain and Portugal between 1640 – 1668).
Around the square you will find restaurants, shops, hotels, a small ice cream shop (tasty ice cream, but not the best you can get in Lisbon). You will also find Ascensor da Gloria that takes you to the Bairro Alto.
Parque Eduardo VII
Parque Eduardo VII This is one of the larger parks in Lisbon. In the park you will find greenhouses with exotic plants, flamingos and various species of birds. The park also has a cooled greenhouse (ideal for cooling off in the summer months) with flowers, trees, fountains and waterfalls.
Avenida da Liberdade
The Avenida da Liberdade is an important street in Lisbon. It connects Praça dos Restauradores with Marquês de Pombal. The avenue has a lot of history.
Marquês de Pombal
Marquês de Pombal is one of the busiest traffic squares in Lisbon. It is an important junction connecting many districts in the city.
Ribeira das Naus
Looking to cool off during the hot summer days, but your visit to Lisbon is just too short to go to the beach? Don’t panic! Grab your beach towel and head to Ribeira das Naus!
Food & Drinks
In addition to Rua das Portas de Santo Antão, there are plenty of food and beverage outlets in the Baixa. Like everywhere in Portugal (especially if you’re interested in the local eateries): bright lighting, paper tablecloths and plastic furniture means you’re in the place to be. It’s even more jackpot when mãe (mama) is in the kitchen. Forget the chic laid tables with well covered cutlery and too many glasses on the table. These are often the tourist restaurants where the food is mediocre and the portions are not Portuguese.
Imagine yourself back in time with the poet Manuel Barbosa du Bocage. In the 18th century he was a frequent guest at Café Nicola. Nowadays he comes to life through the canvases hanging in the cafe. Café Nicola is a nice base for people watching and enjoying a bica (cafe).
Drink this typical Portuguese liqueur: A Ginjinha. In this small bar which has a maximum capacity of 3 people ordering inside, you can order a glass and finish it in the street. Try to drink like a real Lisboetas: in one shot. Saúde!
Try the pastries here, for a quick bite. They’re glorious! Or if you want to sit down you can take a seat at one of the tables in Beira Gare. Typical Portuguese food for a fair price.
Merendinha do Arco
Hidden just behind Rossio Arco is Merendinha do Arco, a restaurant where despite the many tourists in this part of the city, you almost only encounter Lisboetas.
The ice cream shop: Amorino in Lisbon where you (when you take a cone) get the bulbs in the shape of rose petals. The artwork is beautiful to see, but the ice cream is far too good not to eat and only to look at the artwork.
Pastelaria Café Gelo
The display window of Pastelaria Café Gelo is a joy to stand for, the great variety of their assortment is visible here. The bread and sweet pastries are delicious here, if you want to eat a meal you better find another place.
Confeitaria Nacional is the oldest pastelaria in Lisbon. The bakery was founded in 1829 and was the official bakery of the Portuguese king at the time. Besides the many tourists who take a look, you can still find many Lisboëten who come here for a coffee with something sweet or a meal.
Ginjinha Sem Rival
Ginjinha Sem Rival literally means Ginjinha without a rival. It’s funny that this little bar is so hot, because just a stone’s throw away you’ll find plenty of other Ginjinha bars.
Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau
Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau does serve very special pastel de bacalhau. The bacalhau pastry is made according to a traditional recipe, with cheese from Serra da Estrela.
Tucked away in a corner at Praça dos Restauradores you’ll find Veneziana. This is the smallest and oldest ice cream shop in Lisbon.
Fábrica da Nata
Fábrica da Nata is highly recommended to eat a pastéis de nata. This baker makes fast jumps and within 3 years has opened a second branch in the Baixa.
Goodnight Hostel: This hostel is located in an 18th century building in the middle of the Baixa. It has dormitories with heating, there is a separate women’s room. These dormitories are equipped with lockers and shared bathroom. For a bed in a room you pay 17 GBP.
Lisboa Prata Boutique Hotel: Centrally located in an old typical Portuguese building is this fine but simple hotel. The rooms have a private bathroom. One night is 105 GBP.
Dare Lisbon House: The 18th century loft is a lovely place to stay. If you have mobility problems, the elevator offers a solution. One night is 194 GBP.