The Baixa, or lower city, is the most elegant district of Lisbon, the symbol of the rebirth of the capital after the devastating earthquake of 1755. The transformation of this area was so dramatic that the district was called Pombaline Baixa, as the reconstruction of this area was strongly supported by the marquis of Pombal.
As you walk through Baixa’s parallel and perpendicular streets and alleys, which remind of a chessboard, you will feel a completely different sensation compared to the messy mix of streets of Alfama, the most traditional district of Lisbon.
Wide spaces, pedestrian streets, and elegant palaces characterize this area which represents the first approach to the city for many tourists. Here there are several hotels, b&b, hostels, bars, restaurants, bakeries, shops, and offices.
There is nothing better than starting the day with a smile on the face, enjoying the sunlight and sipping a coffe while sitting at one of the many outdoor tables located around the streets and squares of Baixa.
Fun facts: street names
Several street names of the Baixa district refer to old corporations or professions: for instance, Rua dos Fanqueiros (fabric traders), Rua dos Sapateiros (cobblers), Rua dos Correiros (saddlers), Rua dos Douradores (gilders). Other streets have metal names, like Rua da Plata (silver).
The best way to visit the Baixa district is on foot. This is the district of coffee bars and shops; its major attractions – except one – are outdoor.
The wide Commerce Square represents the center of the reconstruction works ordered by the Marquis of Pombal. It is a huge square space characterised by elegant symmetries and Neo-Classical virtuosities. At the center of the square there is the bronze statue of King José I, which was realised by the artist Joaquim Machado de Castro in 1775.
Back in the past the square represented the main gate to the city, as it can be seen by the symbolic meaning of the Cais das colunas, the two columns that seem to emerge from the water at the end of a monumental marble staircase that leads to the river.
Among all coffee shops in the Baixa, Cafè Martinho da Arcada in Commerce Square plays a very special role. It is an historical bar which in the past was very popular among artists and intellectuals, including the writer Fernando Pessoa. Another historical literal coffee is the art-decò Caffè Nicola, located in Rossio Square.
Another treasure of Commerce Square is the Rua Augusta Arch, which is located on the north side of the square and connects the square to the main shopping street of the city.
This monumental triumph arch, started in 1755 and ended in 1873, is decorated with statues representing important characters of the history of Lisbon, including the explorer Vasco da Gama and the Marquis de Pombal. It is possible to climb to the top to enjoy a beautiful panoramic view of the district and the river.
On the opposite side of Rua Augusta there is the second most important square of Baixa, that is to say the lively Praça D.Pedro IV, better known as Rossio square. It represents the hub of Baixa, a passing point as well a point of interest for residents and tourists.
Despite the square is boarded by elegant palaces, try not to look up to the sky but pay attention to the beautiful floor characterized by white and black calcareous stones that create a waving pattern, as the ocena is the real protagonist of the history of Portugal.
Do not miss the facade of Rossio station, a three floors Manueline palace located on the North-West corner of the square.
A masterpiece of art and engineering, Elevador de Santa Justa, a very big elevator that connects the Baixa to the Carmo hill. It was inaugurated at the beginning of 1900 and it is characterized by a vintage charm thanks to its wooden and brass details; back in the time it represented an innovatine work of art.
At night it offers a magnificent view of Lisbon.
The Baixa is one of the central districts of Lisbon and it is connected to the main public transports: tram, bus, and metro. There are direct connections also to and from the airport.
City Card allow you to save on public transport and / or on the entrances to the main tourist attractions.