Baixa is regarded as the real center of Lisbon. It lies in a hollow between Bairro Alto and Chiado in the west and the opposite quarter which rises up to Castelo de Sao Jorge.During the time when the Lisbon area was first settled the whole of Baixa remained flooded with water from the Tagus; up at Rossio two tributaries of the Tagus converged.
Transit: Subway: Rossio; Tram: 3, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26, 28, 28B.
Praça do Comércio was originally a famous square where kings would be received or public events would be held. A number of historical structures stand on the square.
The Gothic style Igreja do Carmo was all but destroyed in an earthquake. Today the interior houses the National Museum of Archeology.
Fig Tree Square
The Praça da Figueira, located immediately next to the Rossio, is part of the urban development concept of Pombal's lower city. It is directly linked to the Praça do Comércio by the lively Rua da Prata. Although the square has many shops, in comparison to the neighboring Rossio, it appears considerably quieter, a result essentially of the fewer cars using it. This may also be one of the reasons why the typical uniformity of building in the Baixa is more noticeable here than in the Rossio.In 1755 a large market was set up here and in 1885 covered markets were built which gave the square a completely different character. Lively business was the order of the day here, especially in the mornings, and the square with the all day market became a popular tourist attraction. In the middle of the 20th century the covered markets were pulled down.In their place, in the middle of the Praça da Figueira, there now stands a bronze statue which commemorates the first king of the House of Avis, Joao I, depicted astride a horse. The statue is the work of the sculptor Leopoldo de Almeida.
Transit: Subway: Rossio; Tram: 15, 17, 28, 28B; Bus: 7, 8,14, 37, 40, 43, 59.
Hospital de S. José
Before the earthquake a large hospital, the Todos-os-Santos Hospital, stood on this site. It is easily recognizable in old views of the city. In 1755 the hospital was housed in the 16th C. former Jesuit monastery of Santo Antao-o-Novo, where it still exists today as the Hospital de S. José.
Museum of Ethnography
The Museum of Ethnography is attached to the Geographical Society (Sociedade de Geografia). This was founded in 1875 and moved into its present accommodation in 1907. The building in the Rua das Portas de Santo Antao contains conference rooms, several fine old halls and a specialist library. Statues of the most important people in Portuguese history stand in the spacious entrance hall.The somewhat antiquated Museu Etnográfico on one of the upper floors was founded in 1892. A guided tour includes the opportunity to look at exhibits from overseas which document Portugal's era of colonialism. Tools, weapons, textiles, masks, wooden carvings, old toys and ceramics can be seen in show cases arranged according to their country of origin. Of interest is a wooden statue of Anthony, who was held in Angola to have magic powers, in direct contrast to the importance which St Anthony has for Lisbon. Also included among the exhibition pieces is a chair belonging to Pedro V (1855-91), king of the Congo.The old rooms in which the collection is housed are also very impressive: the large hall (Sala de Portugal) with its beautiful gallery, which is also used for conferences and concerts, and several smaller halls (Sala Algarve, Sala Padroes, Sala da India), which have recently been partly renovated.
Lisbon's city hall, called the Paços do Conselho, stands on the east side of the Praça do Municipio. A building, whose east wing accommodated the city council, was built on this site in 1774 but was completely burned down in 1863. In 1875 the current building was completed.The Neo-Classical facade appears very plain in contrast to the interior. Allegorical figures in the tympanum represent freedom, the arts, the sciences, trade, etc. The interior of the city hall has been lavishly and prestigiously arranged in an eclectic stringing together of the most varied styles. Enormous wooden doors lead off from the stair well, which is covered by a cupola roof, into the individual rooms. The walls are wood paneled and covered in part with lavish wood carving. Vivid wall decorations and painting made to look like carving have been closely juxtaposed just like Neo Baroque and Neo Classical creations of form. The ceiling decoration in the rooms is by famous Lisbon artists such as José Malhoa and Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro; various busts are the work of the sculptor Teixeira Lopes.
Transit: Tram: 24, 25; Bus: 1, 2, 9, 11, 13, 14, 25, 25A, 40, 43, 44, 45, 83.
A so called pelourinho, an 18th C. pillory, stands on the rather unspectacular square in front of the city hall. From the 12th until the 18th C. pelourinhos were erected in many towns in Portugal; they served less to punish convicts but were far more a symbol of the town's jurisdiction. The rather fragile looking pillory in front of the Lisbon city hall evokes Manueline associations: it consists of three stone bands which in turn have been wound into a spiral. The pillars are crowned by a bronze armillary sphere.
After the disaster of the earthquake excavations were made under the foundations of the houses that had been destroyed and underground springs dating from Roman times were discovered. Today they are occasionally opened to the public and can be reached through an entrance in the Rua da Prata (between the Rua da Conceiçao and the Rua da Sao Juliao).
Ermida Nossa Senhora da Vitória
Located inconspicuously in the most westerly corner of the Rua da Vitória is the Nossa Senhora da Vitória chapel. An earlier church dating from 1556 was destroyed by the earthquake. It was rebuilt in 1765 and restored in 1940. The uniform and sparsely decorated interior radiates a unique atmosphere, which emanates mainly from the poor candle lighting.Natural light only penetrates through a small window and a few fanlights. The small interior, with just one aisle, has a barrel vaulted ceiling, which is continued at a lower level above the chancel. On the side walls two small altars and tiling attract the visitor's attention.
Igreja de Madalena
On the eastern edge of Baixa the portal of the Igreja de Madalena on the small Largo da Madalena stands out, having been integrated into an 18th C. facade with a single tower. The church was built in 1783, the substantially older portal comes from a small 12th C. church. The height of the single aisled interior and the bright light entering through the high window above the eight side altars comes as a surprise. The ceiling is decorated with fifteen symmetrically arranged medallion paintings. The painting on the high altar is by Pedro Alexandrino.
Animatógrapho do Rossio
The Animatógrapho do Rossio in the Rua dos Sapateiros was one of Lisbon's first cinemas. It was opened in December 1907 by the Cardoso Correia brothers. They placed particular emphasis on decorating the Art Nouveau facade (which has since been slightly altered) in a typically Portuguese style; tiles hand-painted by Jorge Pinto and Baroque-style wood carving adorn its front. The Animatógrapho remains a cinema today - though not showing particularly high quality films.
Igreja de Sao Nicolau
The Igreja de Sao Nicolau on the Rua da Vitória was founded in the 13th C. The construction of the present church was begun in 1780 and completed in 1850. It is noteworthy on the one hand because of its location - the uniformity of the buildings is somewhat less monotonous here - and on the other because of the tiling on the exterior walls. The painting in the interior is the work of Pedro Alexandrino.
Map of Lisbon Attractions