Bairro Alto and its Bohemian Nightlife

Wed, 03.10.2018

Learning more about the creation of Bairro Alto

On the last tour, on the 3rd of October our Portuguese language school took our students to Bairro Alto. As you probably know this neighbourhood is known for its nightlife, with its bars and restaurants. During the day, it’s completely deserted. It seems like all the neighbourhood is asleep during the day and only wakes up for the nightlife.

Indira Leão, our history teacher, accompanied us in this tour. We started in Largo Camões, where, until the 15th century belonged to the outside part of the city wall. In that time, only existed there olive trees and gardens. In 1755, the Great Earthquake destroyed the palace of the marquises of Marialva, that was situated in the Camões square. With the wreckage of the palace, there was built a poor neighbourhood called Casebres do Loreto. The Casebres were demolished in the second half of the 19th century. They were substitute by the actual square and statue of Camões inaugurated in 1867.

Then, we went to the mall Espaço Chiado that was built inside the Ferdinand’s wall. This wall was used to protect the city and divide it. It was built in the second half of the 14th century in honour to the king of that time, D. Fernando.

Indira also told to us that Bairro Alto was a target of an urbanistic project during the beginning of the 16th century. The king wanted to develop the area of Bairro to house all the merchants that were profiting with the Portuguese overseas expansion.

The nightlife and the Bohemia that, nowadays, characterize the Bairro start in the second half of the 19th century.

After the tour we exchange ideas of this afternoon in a nice terrace, as you can verify by the photos:

Discovering a neighbourhood with 500 years of History

Probably, most of us have already been in Bairro Alto with our friends to socialize and to have a drink. This is the most bohemian neighbourhood of Lisbon and the favourite of the younger generation. However, during the day, Bairro is a completely different place: many restaurants, taverns and Fado houses are closed. It’s quieter and it seems that you are in a sleeping neighbourhood, which is preparing itself for the nightlife. You’ll have the chance to verify this huge contrast on our next tour on the 3rd of October.

Our history teacher, Indira Leão, will take us to discover the secrets within Bairro Alto. It used to be a forest area, with many olive groves, and was located outside the city walls. In 1498, the king D. Manuel I started a development project in the area that we know as Bairro Alto. The urbanistic development of the neighbourhood was a way of hosting the merchants that were profiting with the Portuguese “Discovers”. In that same time, Praça do Comércio became an important political and commercial spot in Lisbon. Due to that importance, the king transferred also the Portuguese court to Praça do Comércio.

Despite the transformations that Bairro Alto went by through the centuries, it maintained its popular origin. At the end of the 19th century, the Fado music flourished here as well as in Alfama and Mouraria. Nowadays we still have a typical house of Fado called A Severa. In that same time, Bairro was turned into a spot for intellectuals and journalists, because many newspapers were settled there.

After our tour we’ll experience this Bohemian facet of Bairro in a nice esplanade!

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