Downtown Lisbon, also called Baixa Pombalina or simply Baixa owes its name to the Marquis of Pombal.
The Marquis of Pombal (king’s Joseph I Secretary of the State) was responsible for the reconstruction of this city’s area after the 1755 earthquake.
The 1755 earthquake was the largest ever recorded in Europe and devastated the entire Lisbon downtown area.
“Bury the dead and heal the living” it’s a famous Marquis catchphrase that started Lisbon’s relief and rehabilitation after the tragedy, resulting in the first urban planning in history, as well as the first anti-seismic constructions that were tested with marching troops simulating an earthquake, at that time.
Baixa was designed with a set of straight and perpendicular streets organized around central Rua Augusta, and it is located between the riverside and the brightful squares like Praça do Comércio, Rossio and Praça da Figueira, and spreading out between Cais do Sodré, Chiado and Carmo, on one side and the Sé and Castelo de São Jorge on the other.
These streets were named after the various crafts and artisans of that time like cobblers (Rua dos Sapateiros), leatherwork and saddles (Rua dos Correeiros) or gold (Rua do Ouro).
In Roman times this area was the center of port activities, fish salting, and fermented fish sauce production. The different stages of evolution and Baixa’s occupation can be seen in the Rua dos Correeiros Archaeological Center (free admission)
Baixa is also characterized by the grandiosity of its buildings and today, many of its streets are pedestrian and connected to monumental squares, packed with people, whether locals or tourists.
Illustration by Nuno Tuna