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The Chiado charm

The Chiado charm
Located on one of Lisbon´s hills, the Chiado evokes the bourgeois charm of its 19th century origins. The neighbourhood was then the cultural and social heart of the city, home to the São Carlos Opera House, the São Luís and Trindade theatres, bookshops and the grand stores, inspired by their French and Italian precursors, dictating the fashions of the time. There were also all the most elegant and popular cafes and restaurants, such as A Brasileira.

Previously, this had been one of the ways out of the city on the way to the farms and convents that dotted the surroundings. The squares around the two churches, the Loreto and Encarnação, still represent gates in the ancient walls built by king Fernando in the 14th century. The remains of these walls can still be found in some of the buildings in this neighbourhood. The Chiado was named as far back as the 15th century. Opinion is divided as to whether it is in memory of the poet António Ribeiro (1520-1591), who is honoured by a statue in Largo, or of Gaspar Dias, owner of a tavern on Rua Paiva Andrade. Both went by the nickname Chiado, that in the 16th century, meant sharp or malicious.

The boundaries to the Chiado are ambiguous. It can be concluded they certainly include the Largo do Carmo, the stretch of the Rua Garrett where there is the Church of the Mártires (Martyrs), the Largo do Camões and the Largo Trindade Coelho and its Church of São Roque. Heading down to the river, close to the theatre district, there is another point of the interest: the Chiado Museum.

As dawn broke on 25th August 1988, a devastating fire swept through the huge Grandella department store. Over 1500 firemen, 300 fire engines and 15 hours of fighting the flames proved incapable of preventing the destruction of a section of one of Lisbon´s most characteristic neighbourhoods. The restoration project was awarded to the renowned architect Álvaro Siza Vieira. Winning the European Architectural Award, he respected the original history and architecture in managing to maintain the external Pombaline designs typical of the 18th century while ensuring the interiors were fully modernised. The people of Lisbon gained the great satisfaction of getting back "their" Chiado.

The neighbourhood is relatively small and can easily be explored on foot. The pleasure to be had from perusing the retail establishments, nipping into a café for a rest, swiftly pays off any effort.

Stay on for the evening and wander the adjoining Bairro Alto. Its narrow streets are packed with bars and restaurants to suit every taste. Bairro Alto is certainly one of the most entertaining and fashionable nightlife districts of Lisbon.


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