Chiado, Lisbon

Chiado Square in Lisbon, Portugal, and its immediate area are bordered by two other well-known city neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are Bairro Alto and Baixa Pombalina. The best known cafe in Chiado is A Brasileira, once a favorite gathering place for artists and writers--most notably, the poet Fernando Pessoa. The Chiado section of Lisbon is home to several famous theatres and museums, and it is recognized as both a cultural and shopping area, especially around Carmo and Garrett Streets.

During a serious fire in 1988, severe damage was caused to a total of 18 buildings in the Chiado area. Some of these structures were completely destroyed. With the aid of a major rebuilding plan managed by the skilled architect, Alvaro Siza Vieira, the entire neighborhood has since been rejuvenated. Chiado currently has some of the most expensive realty property prices in Portugal. During the height of the Roman era, there were villas in Chiado. The neighborhood was an agricultural area, and in the early 1200s when Christians regained control of Lisbon, a few convents were formed, including the St. Francis Convent (in 1217) and the Carmo Convent (in 1398).

By the year 1375, a new Lisbon city wall was constructed. This took place during the reign of King Fernando I and actually encouraged and enhanced the urban growth of Chiado. In fact, the wall’s primary gate was within the Chiado Square. Later, during the 16th century, the neighborhood just beyond the city wall which is currently Bairro Alto was also developed and improved. There was extensive property damage to Chiado during the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, and the wall and its main gate were actually destroyed in the first part of the 18th century. Fortunately, the Marquis of Pombal’s renovation project to reverse the destruction of the earthquake included the rebuilding of Chiado. Churches were restructured, and new roads were built to connect the Chiado neighborhood to the Baixa Pombalina.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, Chiado became a commercial hub with numerous stores and shops of all types. Some of these early business establishments are still in operation, such as the Bertrand Bookshop, which was opened in 1747. Another long-lasting retail business is the Paris em Lisboa, a clothing shop first established in 1888. The Teatro Nacional São Carlos, the Lisbon opera house, was founded during this time. More theatres and museums were opened, including the Archaeological Museum, which was housed in the building that was previously Carmo Church. Chiado’s theatres and cafes became social gathering spots for aristocrats, intellectuals and Lisbon’s artists. Following the 1960s, this charming section grew into a major area of much interest to Lisbon’s visitors and tourists.

Today, Chiado and its adjoining neighborhood of Bairro Alto form Lisbon’s artistic, cultural and bohemian center. Famous, as well, for its colorful nightlife and popular boutique shopping with top designer brands, this hub of creativity is also home to excellent restaurants. Frequently visited sites of interest include the Chiado Museum featuring contemporary arts of Portugal, the region’s opera house reflecting strong design influence from La Scala, and a beautiful domed basilica called Basilica da Estrela.

Architecture throughout the region is tasteful and charming, and there are many historical buildings, sculptures and monuments to see. Portugal is known for the warmth and friendliness of its people, and the Chiado neighborhood is the perfect place to experience this native hospitality. Restaurant and shop owners are gracious and extremely helpful, as are Chiado residents whenever visitors need advice or directions to a museum, theatre, restaurant, shop or hotel. Chiado and adjoining areas have much of great interest to offer for local residents, tourists and travelers of many diverse types, and visitors of all ages and walks of life are always welcome.