One of the oldest structures in Lisbon, the Convento do Carmo was completely destroyed by the earthquake of 1755. Well… almost completely destroyed. The roof collapsed, but a handful of the supporting arches survived, along with some chambers. Today, the ruined remains of the church have been preserved as a striking memorial to the biggest natural disaster in Portuguese history.
When Lisboans want to shop, they head to the neighborhood of Chiado, found between Baixa and Bairro Alto. This upscale “middle ground” is known for its historic shops, churches and theaters. Braced for madness, we explored it on a sunny Saturday, two weeks before Christmas.
As Western Europe’s oldest city, it almost goes without saying that Lisbon would have a fascinating history. This was the de facto capital of the European Age of Exploration, and has lived through both tremendous heights of wealth and power, and abysmal lows. Here’s a concise rundown of the most important events in they city’s story.
After the earthquake of 1755, the Royal Palace was moved from Praça do Comércio to more stable ground. The neoclassical Palácio da Ajuda would be the occasional home of Portugal’s royalty until the end of the monarchy. We visited the palace, and also the neighboring botanic gardens.
If a city can be said to have a birthplace, Lisbon’s is the massive stone bluff which soars over the Tagus River Basin. This hill was home to the earliest humans to populate the area, and has served as a fortress and a castle for centuries of Romans, Moors and Christians. Today, the remains of the Castelo de São Jorge serve mostly tourists, who show up in droves to take in the best views in the city.
Rivaling the nearby Praça do Comérico in history and prestige, is the Praça do Rossio. Officially named Praça de Don Pedro IV, in honor of the former king who stands atop a massive column in the plaza’s center, Rossio has been at the heart of Lisboan life since the earliest days of the city.
What better place to begin our exploration of Lisbon, than the square which has long served as its entrance gate? The Praça do Comércio, usually called the Terreiro do Paço (Palace Yard), is situated at the base of the Tagus River, where ships laden with riches from around the world once came to shore.