Baixa, (downtown Lisbon), seen as the heart of the city, was completely destroyed by the 1755 earthquake. The Marqués de Pombal, was the chap responsible for rebuilding Baixa and he devised a grid pattern for the area that included earthquake-proof construction. The grid was built to precise geometric specifications, with streets, flanked by neoclassical buildings, named after different trades; fanqueiros-firefighters; douradores-gilders; sapateiros-shoemakers, prata-silversmiths; comercio-traders; correeiros- saddle makers; and, ouro-goldsmiths.
In the centre of Praça dos Restauradores is the Monumento dos Restaurdores, (Monument to the Restorers), the obelisk monument commemorates Portugal’s independence in 1640, from sixty years of Spanish rule. The ‘restorers’ are the soldiers who died restoring independence to the country. The district of Baixa starts here and continues on to the River Tagus. Looking over the square is the Art Deco, Eden Theatre, it opened in 1931 and was one of Lisbon’s main theatre/cinema buildings. It closed in 1989 and converted into a hotel in 2001.
Praça de Dom Pedro IV, is known locally as Rossi Square, (Rossi train station is here) two baroque fountains, one at each end, are the main features of this square. The monument in the centre has a statue of Dom Pedro IV at the top of the column, around the base are representations of justice, strength, wisdom and moderation, said to be qualities attributed to Dom Pedro IV.
There are stunning examples of neoclassical architecture in Baixa, however some buildings are in a poor state of repair, renovation plans for the whole district, mean extensive building work is currently being undertaken. Some of the area is pedestrianised, and restaurants line the middle of the streets tempting tourists to stop and eat.
The Elevador de Santa Justa, a neo-Gothic iron tower, also known as the Elevator of Carmo, transports people up the hill to Chiado, and provides views over the city and the river, from the viewing platform. Built in 1902, originally powered by steam, it was electrified in 1907. It is the only public vertical lift in the city.
At the end of Rua Augusta, one of the main pedestrian streets of Baixa, is the Arco da Rua Augusta. Designed as a symbol of Lisbon’s recovery from the devastation of the earthquake, the building wasn’t actually completed until 1875.
As part of the restoration of the building in 2013, a lift was installed to allow public access to the top of the arch. The lift only goes up so far, then there are two sets of very narrow, steep, steps to climb, before one gets to the top, for a birds eye view of the straight, patterned pavements of Baixa, the Praça do Comércio, and the River Tagus.