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Baixa to Alfama Walking Tour - Page 2
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This is the second section of the Baixa and Alfama Walking Tour of Lisbon and this part details the route between Praça Dom Pedro IV to Alfama. The walking tour continues by heeding south from Praça Dom Pedro IV along the pedestrian street of Rua Augusta. This street has numerous open air cafes and street artists selling their wares. Leading off to the right is the Elevador de Santa Justa, designed by Raul Mesnier de Ponsard an apprentice of Eiffel, who build the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
The Elevador de Santa Justa is a wonder of iron construction creating a work of art from a bland piece of functioning machinery. The elevator transports passengers from Baixa to the ruins of the Igreja do Carmo. From the top of the Elevador de Santa Justa there are great panoramic views of Baixa and Rossio. The Rua Augusta ends at the magnificent arch, the Arco da Rua Augusta, and the grand square Praça do Comércio. The clock face on the Arco da Rua Augusta is surrounded by statues of the Viriatus, Nuno Álvares Pereira, Vasco da Gama and the Marquis of Pombal. The Arco da Rua Augusta enters on to the the most import square of Lisbon, the Praça do Comércio, this was the old commercial hub of Lisbon; were sailors traded their exploits from the new world and arrange finances for further voyages.
Lisbon was built from the trade which passed through here and this helped funded the construction of the grand government buildings which surround the square and are painted in the traditional colour of Lisbon, yellow. In the centre of the square is a statue dedicated to King John I who is symbolically crushing snakes. King John I was the ruling king during the 1755 earthquake.
A pleasant detour from the walking tour is a ferry ride across the River Tejo. The ferry terminal is at Terreiro do Paço in the eastern edge of Praça do Comércio and the trip provides wonderful views of Lisbon’s waterfront and the Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge. The ferry trip is especially cooling during the hot summer months and as designed for commuter cost the same as a cup of coffee.
After the ferry ride leave Praça do Comércio along the street Rua Da Alfândega in an eastwards direction, this non distinct street hides the remains of one of Lisbon’s most ornate churches the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Misericordia. The Nossa Senhora was completely destroyed during the 1755 earthquake; all that remains is the front wall and main entrance that has been integrated into the surrounding buildings. The Rua Da Alfândega opens into a small square which contains the interesting Casa dos Bicos (House of Spikes) built with a facade influenced by the Italian Renaissance architecture "dei diamanti". Presently the building is undergoing a massive reconstruction so the spiked wall is not easily seen.
Take the next left, opposite direction to the River Tejo and uphill, this leads into the maze of the Alfama district. Alfama has many narrow streets winding up the steep hill towards the castle and is the oldest district of Lisbon. Alfama had the dubious reputation of being the seedy low life area of Lisbon; full of sailors and dockers, rough bars and houses of ill repute but in the midst of all the depravity the sweet sound of Fado originated and evolved.
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