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Travel Guide of Baixa and Chiado, Lisbon for: Altis Avenida Hotel 4.0

Baixa and Chiado, Lisbon, Lisbon District

Baixa & Chiado Summary

Pros

  • Historic heart of the city that buzzes with activity day and night
  • Almost countless dining options, from authentic pastry shops to foodie joints
  • Gorgeous public plazas and weekly outdoor markets
  • Packed with sights like the Elevador Santa Justa, Praca do Comercio, and Rossio Station
  • City's most famous shopping along Rua Garrett
  • Most of Lisbon's historic trams run through the area
  • Beautiful riverfront scene near Praca do Comercio
  • Scenic views from spots like Miradoura Santa Caterina
  • Tons of hotel options

Cons

  • Much of Baixa caters almost exclusively to tourists
  • Dining options can be a bit pricier than less touristy parts of town
  • Trams and sights are often intensely crowded
  • Not the quietest parts of the city

What It's Like

Occupying most of the low ground that sits between the Tagus River and Lisbon's seven hills, Baixa and Chiado form the nerve center of the city's historic core. For most of the day, the plazas and streets of these two districts are packed with everyone from group tours to young skaters, locals hitting up fresh produce markets, and couples in town for a few romantic days. And that lively vibe is only made all the more attractive due to the shabby-chic beauty of it all. In any direction, the city's iconic tram cars might be spotted zipping under a memorial arch, while ornate Pombalina buildings hide everything from the world's oldest bookstore to Portugal's most famous pastries. 

Baixa -- formally Baixa Pombalina -- is one of the most touristy parts of Lisbon. Exploring here is significantly easier than in other central Lisbon neighborhood, thanks in large part to the flat streets. That makes wandering from the stunning riverfront setting of Praca do Comercio through the long blocks of weathered-just-so classic buildings to Rossio Station easy and eye-catching. Along the way sit countless pavement cafes and restaurants, as well as major sights like the Elevador Santa Justa, which climbs improbably between Baixa's narrow-set buildings. While almost every block is packed with tacky souvenir shops and overpriced restaurants, if you wander inland from the river a bit farther, you'll reap rewards. Head to Praca da Figueira, where trams scenically zip around the perimeter, past famous pastry shops like Confeitaria Nacional. On the weekends, the plaza is packed with local vendors selling all manner of food and drink.

Just to the east and up a hill from Baixa sits Chiado. While certainly not calmer than its neighbor, Chiado does feel a bit more Portuguese, particularly as you move west, away from the plazas at the neighborhood's center. However, don't skip the plaza altogether, as it's home to Cafe a Brasileira, where Lisbon's artistic and literary elite once drank and dined away the night (including Fernando Pessoa). These days, the plaza buzzes with skaters, musicians, tourists, and locals -- many of whom have spent their day shopping along Rua Garrett, where you'll find the world's oldest bookstore, Bertrand Books.

If you head farther west in Chiado, you'll be rewarded, as it becomes a bit more locals-only. Be sure to queue up for the legendary pasteis de nata at Manteigaria (a new outlet that makes pastries so good that they rival Pasteis de Belem), or wind off onto one of the side streets that dip toward the river. Here, you might stumble upon the Miradoura Santa Caterina, where groups of friends pass the day drinking beer and wine while overlooking a stunning sweep of the Tagus River before them. At night, head down to the riverfront, where the streets are lined with foodie joints all leading to ever-bustling Praca da Ribeira, a massive food court that's packed with vendors selling international and local fare.

Where to Stay

Baixa and Chiado, in addition to Restauradores to the north, are home to the bulk of Lisbon's hotels. And that's a good thing for travelers who only plan on being in town for a few days, as it puts everything from a metro station (aptly named Baixa-Chiado) to the Tagus Riverfront and Rossio Station all within easy reach. Baixa and Chiado are also bordered by some of the most famous neighborhoods in the city, with Alfama rising to the east of Baixa, and party-hard Bairro Alto to the north of Chiado.

However, along with all of that centrally located ease comes crowds -- day and (mostly) night. You'll be elbowing both local residents and tourists out of the way in either neighborhood, though much of Baixa tends to shut down in the evenings, giving certain stretches between Praca do Comercio and Praca da Figueira an almost desolate vibe. The area around Praca dos Camoes tends to stay lively into the night, and the partiers from Bairro Alto are often straggling down through Chiado until late at night. 

Keep in mind that noise can be an issue, particularly in the most central parts of Chiado and those areas that border Bairro Alto. It's a bit quieter in the evening in Baixa, but be prepared to find yourself among the busiest parts of the city during much of the daytime and evening hours. 

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