Baixa-Chaido: A Neighborhood Guide

Our resident's guide to getting to know Baixa and Chiado, Lisbon

May 27, 2024
panoramic view of Baixa Chiado neighborhoodpanoramic view of Baixa Chiado neighborhood

Lisbon was recently crowned Europe’s best city for digital nomads for good reason. If you haven’t visited yet then I guess it’s on your list, or you wouldn’t be reading this guide. Lisbon has some great neighborhoods to choose from, but for first timers- we recommend Baixa or Chiado. These two neighborhoods are side by side, and right in the heart of the city. For this guide we’ve grouped them together as you’ll most likely spend plenty of time in both. Here we’ll tell you why they are great choices, and what you need to know if you’re staying here.

The Lowdown

Baixa is Lisbon’s downtown area. The name means low in Portuguese, and it’s one of the few areas of Lisbon not on a hill- excellent news if you’re hard of walking. The story of modern-day Baixa begins with tragedy, it was almost completely destroyed in the great earthquake of 1755. After the devastation, the Prime Minister at the time- the Marquis of Pombal, was entrusted with the rebirth of the district. So began construction of the world’s first grid city layout. The term “Pombaline” was also coined, in reference to the type of architecture. Nowadays the area is famous for its monuments, shops, restaurants, and many plazas.

Neighboring Chiado is hillier, with narrower streets, and more bohemian. Being so close to the center means it’s still a well connected business hub, but this area is more famous for trendy bars and restaurants.

What to see in Baixa-Chiado

Las Praças

Plazas are a great feature of most towns and cities in Portugal. They are nice places to meet up, and hold events. They are also normally lined with excellent bars, restaurants, and interesting monuments. Baixa and Chiado are particularly blessed when it comes to plazas, and there are some that you’ll no doubt frequent regularly while you’re here.

Praça do Comércio is the most famous in the city. Home to Ribeira Palace until it was destroyed in the earthquake, now the plaza is vast and open. Its location on the Tagus makes it enormously popular, and you normally find people relaxing on the marble steps that lead down to the river. In the center is a statue of King José I, and at the back, leading to the city, is the fabulous Arco da Rua Augusta. You can climb to the top for a very worthwhile €3, and get spectacular views over the river.

At the other end of Rua Augusta you’ll find Praça da Figuera, where the old market was. Also Praça Dom Pedro IV, known as Rossio, and considered the center of Lisbon. Another worth mentioning is Praça dos Restauradores, a particularly impressive plaza. Most recognizable for its central obelisk, celebrating Portugal’s independence from Spain in the 15th century.

Elevador de Santa Justa

The Santa Justa elevator is a beautiful, cast-iron elevator that connects Baixa with the Bairro Alto neighborhood. Built in 1902, it offers stunning views of the city from the top. It seems to come out of nowhere- its base is in a narrow street, and you often don’t see it until it’s right on top of you. Be prepared for long lines if you approach from ground level, as it is a popular attraction. To avoid the long queues it’s best to do it in reverse, and get on the lift at the top. That does mean you have to make your own way there, which your legs might not appreciate.

Further up the hill towards Príncipe Real, are the gardens and viewpoint of São Pedro de Alcântara. Another great spot for a panorama of the city, it’s a good place to get a look at everything you need to visit while you’re here.

Churches and the like

Lisbon has all manner of religious buildings to visit. You won’t want to miss the Sé de Lisboa- Lisbon Cathedral. The oldest church in Lisbon dates back to the 12th century. A mix of Gothic and Romanesque architecture, it’s worth a visit for its beautiful stained glass windows and magnificent bell tower.

Convento do Carmo is a Gothic church that barely survived the earthquake of 1755. The remains of the convent are interesting in themselves, and these days it’s also a museum which houses an impressive collection of art and artifacts- including a 14th-century wooden sculpture of Christ and some shrunken heads. Faithful Christians visiting the church are supposedly entitled to 40 days of indulgence, very handy if you’re spending time in Lisbon.

The Basílica de Nossa Senhora dos Mártires is one of three Baroque / Rococo churches on Chiado’s main street- Rua Garrett. The exterior may not be much to shout about, but inside it's one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.

Where to eat and drink in Baixa-Chiado

Baixa is tourist central, and also where many people work. This means you can find overpriced restaurants in amongst great value places that cater to locals. Chiado is better known for stylish bars and restaurants, with a good range of prices. In terms of nightlife, both areas are places you’re more likely to start your night in than finish it. There are some great bars and terraces for a drink, and if you do want to take the night further- the two most popular areas in Lisbon for nightlife are right on your doorstep. Barrio Alto is a little further up the hill from Chiado, and Cais do Sodré is just downriver from Baixa.

Some restaurant highlights are Taberna de Baixa- a cute, family-run establishment serving traditional Portuguese food. As with most Portuguese restaurants, they serve excellent cod, and excellent port. Less common are their slow-cooked pork cheeks, which are delicious. Bastardo is actually a hotel restaurant but its menu is original, creative, and very tasty.

If you want to take advantage of the views at Praça do Comércio, then you don't need to worry about the standard of the food in such a tourist hotspot. Most places here are actually pretty decent- Terreiro do Paço and Populi get our vote for the best of the bunch. If you’re after something from a little further afield, Boa-Bao serves exceptional cuisine from all over southeast Asia.

Café A Brasileira is a historic cafe that dates back to the early 20th century. Once a popular gathering place for intellectuals and artists, it still retains its old-world charm today, and has a great terrace. Be sure to try their famous bica, a strong and delicious Portuguese espresso. Café Nicola is one of the best places to see live Fado- Portugal’s typical, melancholic folk music.

You can also see live music at O’Gillins Irish pub, which might be an option if you’re in Lisbon for a bit longer, and feeling homesick. The rooftop bar at the Hotel Mudial is one of the best places in the city if you fancy some spectacular views with your cocktail.

Finally, don’t forget to try a Ginhinja bar while you’re there. There are lots of these little bars throughout the city, dedicated to the cherry liquor once used as medicine. These days it’s still massively popular among older locals, and drinking some in one of the special bars makes you feel just like a native.

Where to shop in Baixa-Chiado

Armazéns do Chiado is the neighborhood’s shopping mall, and contains upmarket boutiques alongside more typical chain stores. They also have a decently-priced food court. Also in Chiado are Rua Garrett and Rua do Carmo, both hugely popular places for shopping. If you are looking for the really high end shopping area- north of Baixa lies Avenida da Liberdade, Lisbon’s luxury shopping street.

Specific shops to keep an eye out for are A Vida Portuguesa, a great choice for typical Portuguese souvenirs. Also Livraria Bertrand- officially the oldest bookshop in the world still in operation.

Where to stay in Baixa-Chiado

Baixa and Chiado are the most popular areas in Lisbon for both business travelers and tourists. So as you might expect, there are a number of hotels in the area. If you’re staying a little longer though, why not take a look at one of our uniquely designed apartments. We service them for you, and make sure each one is furnished with everything you’ll need to enjoy your stay from day one.

Wherever you stay, and whatever you’re into, you’ll no doubt have a great time in Lisbon. There’s so much to see and do, and the food and drink here are wonderful. We hope you enjoy yourself while you’re here, and whether it’s your first time or your 10th, we bet you’ll be back for more.