Baixa was our base for exploring Lisbon. We dithered about which neighbourhood to stay in until we stumbled on Browns Central Hotel. It happened to be in Baixa, choice was made and it was thumbs up all round, the hotel and the area ticked all our boxes.
Baixa is attractive, felt very safe at all times of the day and evening plus is packed full of restaurants, bars, shops and a splash of interesting history. The streets are grid-like and even someone with the worst sense of direction (like me) would find it impossible to get lost here.
The whole area was developed after being flattened in the 1755 earthquake. Before then opulent palaces stood here, these were replaced with simple buildings for tradesmen and merchants. The neighbourhood starts at Commerce Square and the streets retain their original names and match the trades of the people who once worked here.
Baixa was always buzzing anytime we strolled through. The Rua Augusta is pedestrianised with stacks of street sellers, artists and no end of restaurants, cafes and shops – albeit extremely touristy. We didn’t eat in this area, better, less touristy options can be found just a short distance away.
My real Baixa highlight was the Santa Justa Elevator – so beautiful and quirky. This is a 45 metre high, neo-gothic iron tower with a functioning elevator. The ironwork structure is beautiful – you can spy the elevator from different view points in the city.
We visited in the evening and joined a relatively short queue to ride the elevator to the top. Anytime we passed there was always a line, it seemed to be a lot longer during the day time, our wait was very short.
If you buy a day travel ticket for the metro/tram etc. in Lisbon it is also valid for the elevator – which I thought was great value.
We stepped into the gorgeous polished wood carriages and I instantly felt transported back in time to a grander age. The lift whisks you to the top in style.
The elevator was built between 1898 and 1901 to the plans of an architect who was an apprentice of Gustav Eiffel. It was built to transport people between the low lying streets of Baixa to Carmo Square – the lowest and highest points of the city. As well as being a Lisbon must, it still eliminates what would be a steep and hard walk.
Originally powered by a steam engine, it was converted to an electrical motor in 1907 which still powers the lift today. It is now classified as a National Monument in Portugal.
Riding the elevator in the evening was perfect for us. We were enchanted by the twinkling city lights below when we stepped out onto the viewing platform. There are some stunning panoramas of the castle from up here too.
Just steps away from the viewing platform is a lovely little restaurant – Bella Lisa Elevador. We dined here – the menu is a Portuguese/Italian mix, Son was ecstatic to get some pasta. All of us enjoyed our food, the restaurant was quiet but with a lovely ambiance, views over to the castle and wonderful service plus extremely reasonably priced. We finished in time to catch the last elevator back down to Baixa again – a perfect end to a perfect evening.