A Room with a View – Lisbon’s Neighborhoods (Part 1)
Posted by Chiara Dalla Libera (Triptrotting Local Ambassador in Lisbon)
Let’s explore Lisbon’s most popular and hidden neighborhoods with the Local Ambassador Chiara.
Avenida da Liberdade
Avenida da Liberdade is the long and wide avenue that goes from the big roundabout of Marques de Pombal to Praça Dos Restauradores. Avenida da Liberdade was ideated with the reconstruction of the city after the earthquake of 1755, such as all downtown Lisbon (Baixa), by Marques de Pombal taking inspiration from the Parisian boulevards. Cars, trees, water channels, traffic lights, expensive shops, bars and theaters live peacefully together each one with its own space, but taking advantage of their central position.
It is quite peculiar how you can have a drink in one of the kiosks in the pedestrian parts of Avenida and have the feeling that you are in the middle of a park and not a very busy avenue. The quiosques are a great spot to meet after work as there are several companies based close by. On both sides you can find shops from all the main luxury brands with their glamorous windows that embellish the avenue, but not for everyone’s pocket.
Cultural life is also vibrant in this part of town: Tivoli theatre, cinema Sao Jorge and Teatro Maria Vitoria always have new shows going on and Cinema Sao Jorge has a dense calendar of festivals (Festival do cinema Frances, Festa do cinema Italiano. Doc Lisboa, IndieLisboa, etc).
The Avenida is the perfect location for several events, parades and running competitions. Some examples are the parade for Santos Populares on the 12th of June to celebrate the day of Saint Anthony, the Vogue Fashion Night Out and the Vodafone Mexefest.
A must-see for tourists while for locals it only represents a distinctive feature of Lisbon’s landscape: even if residents can get in for free it is considered a way too touristic place and locals know better places where to go to enjoy astonishing views over the Portuguese capital, such as the Miradouro of Nossa Senhora do Monte. Close to the castle there is one of the most characteristic bars in town: Chapitô, a school of circus that works also as a restaurant and bar, with an amazing view over the river in a charming environment. Another great spot with a great view is the Pensão Ninho das Águias, even if you are not based here you can come to have a drink in their beautiful terrace.
Alfama is the heart of Lisbon, once you get lost, because you will get lost, eventually, in its narrow and labyrinthic streets, magical things will happen. First of all you will go back in time having a coffee in one of the bars with their furniture from the 80’s, then you will feel like the city is far away and you are trapped in a small town where the neighbors know each other and probably already know your name and where you are from as street-watching and gossiping are the two main sports of the bairro (=neighborhood).
Alfama is a unique place, an intense human and Portuguese experience: Alfama has the face of its inhabitants, the sound of its Fado, the smell of the food coming out of the open doors and windows and the taste of an amarguinha (almond liquor with ice and squeezed lemon).
Feira da Ladra is the peculiar market that happens every Tuesday and Saturday morning in Campo Santa Clara: here you can find any sort of item from a broken ping pong ball to an antique mirror.
The Sé is the Lisbon’s main cathedral, located between Alfama and Baixa: when you arrive from the organized perpendicular intersection of streets of Baixa and you walk past the Sé, the street pattern changes completely gradually you venture into Alfama and its chaotic netlike of streets and alleys. It seems that the cathedral is Alfama’s main door and that the peculiar mapping of the neighborhood helps to “defend” itself from the foreigners and to preserve its authenticity and secrets.
A typical picture of Lisbon is the façade of the Sé with the yellow tram #28 passing in front: it is an absolute classic, but this shot should definitely be part of your photographic experience of the city!
Obviously it is a quite touristic area, but there are a couple of nice spots: on the right side of the cathedral you can find a nice coffee place called Cruz Credo with tables outside and a cozy interior, while, on the left side (you need to walk a little bit up the hill though), there is my favorite souvenir shop in town with colorful tiles and other typical objects.