Saturday 9 June 2012

Lisbon Bairro Alto Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 3.4 km (2.1 miles), terrain contains one hill

Lisbon Running Routes:
Best Lisbon Running Routes: Overview
Park of Nations (Oriente)
Ancient Alfama  
Elegant Lisbon Downtown  
Belem World Cultural Site  
Cool Bairro Alto

For other running routes, see the Route List

Here's a short route that will take you through Lisbon's coolest spot for nightlife: the Bairro Alto (High Town), on the hill just west of the Baixa downtown. If you haven't been up there yet, now is the time to get to know this lively little neighborhood. There is a lot of creative energy in the air up there. That's one thing that I really like about Portugal and Spain: the people aren't usually very rich, but they have a very creative touch, and they exercise it in low-budget ways, like you'll find in Bairro Alto.

NOTE: see the Destinations Tips page for tips about spending your free time in this great town!
There are actually several small neighborhoods up there, each with its own style: Chiaro with its elegant cafés and lively plazas, Bairro Alto with its bohemian restaurants and boutiques, and Principe Real with its wonderful green plaza and the botanical garden.

Let's start the run in the heart of downtown, right at the Praça Dom Pedro IV (Rossio Square). Here at the base of Dom Pedro's column, on the wavy black and white mosaics, you can see where you are going when you turn towards the west: the hill with the ruins of the Carmo monastery just a few blocks away.
Dom Pedro V
Face the south and then run towards the southwest corner of the plaza, and start running uphill on Rua do Carmo. You'll pass the Santa Justa lift on the left side (people pay to take the lift and avoid what you're doing right now! It was built by Gustave Eiffel, who built the Eiffel Tower). When the street gets to its highest point, turn right and continue up Rua Garrett until the first side-street to the right. This is the Chiaro neighborhood.
Santa Justa lift to Chiaro
Turn right on Calçada do Sacramento to continue uphill for two blocks until you get to the little plaza in front of the Carmo monastery ruins. The monastery, like most of Lisbon was destroyed in the earthquake of 1755. During the day, you can go inside the courtyard and see the ruins close-up, well worth doing. The jacarandas in the plaza are beautiful when blooming.
At Carmo monastery
Now turn around and run the same way back to Rua Garrett, where you turn right and continue past the expensive shops and cafés for the next few blocks. "A Brasileira", on the right side, is Lisbon's most famous café, and its most elegant, if maybe overrun by tourists. 
The café A Brasileira
You will soon come to an open square, Praça Luís de Camões, named after Portugal's most famous poet. This is also one of the most important tram stops in the city, and the ancient, creaking trams come clanking by every few minutes.

Bairro Alto begins right here, to the right. Bairro Alto is actually quite small, just a rectangle four blocks wide and eight blocks long. But it's a fascinating place: an old, working-class quarter that has become home for a variety of alternative shops, bars and restaurants. Most of the streets are pedestrian streets, or at least have very few cars.

Turn up Rua do Norte, and you'll pass some of the cooler shops. The neighborhood seems to be moving towards more tourist restaurants and fewer cool shops, though.
Bairro Alto street scene
After two blocks, turn left to go up a side street, then turn right to continue northwards up Rua do Diário de Notícias (Newspaper Street), which is full of restaurants and outdoor seating. This is definitely one place to come back and spend an evening during your visit. Several restaurants host live fado music, others have street musicians standing out front.

Run until the street ends, where you turn right and come out at the Miradouro (scenic outlook). Take a loop through this pleasant, shaded plaza. There is a second level below with a formal gardens full of statues. The views to the castle and the river are worth a quick stop. There is also a café there where you can eat sandwiches and drink a glass of wine or beer later, if you come back.
At the Miradouro
Now continue northwards up Rua Dom Pedro V. On your right, you'll pass the Lost In bar. Out back they also have one of the best views in Lisbon from their little patio.

You are now in the Principe Real neighborhood, full of students from the university up the street. There are some interesting bars, and amazing antique stores along this street.

In a few blocks, you'll come to Praça do Principe Real on the left, one of my favorite plazas anywhere. Cross the street into the plaza, and you'll go by one of the widest trees anywhere (I mean the branches of this amazing cedar are held out wide on top of a metal support structure).

Principe Real cedar
Behind it is a fountain with more jacaranda trees, and a café next to some massive banyans.
Café among banyans
If you go through the plaza to the north side, you'll have a view out over the steep west side of the hill.

NOTE: If you are running during the daytime, before about 6 p.m., you might want to add a small but beautiful loop through the botanical garden, the Jardim Botanico. It is just a few blocks further northwest past the plaza, behind the Museu National de Historia Natural, on the right. You have to pay a couple of Euros to get in, but it's a tropical paradise within, one of my favorite places anywhere.
In the Jardim Botanico
Now head back through the plaza again to the corner where the wide tree is. Cross the street again at the zebra stripes and turn down the little side-street, Rua Mãe de Água. Rua Mãe de Água ends after a few meters, and a stairway continues on down the hill. The way crosses a street and continues as a stairway down to the next plaza. Just keep heading straight downhill on Rua Mãe de Água, passing the Hotel Botanico.

In two more blocks, you'll pass Praça da Alegria on the right. This beautiful little plaza is full of exotic tropical trees (seems like every plaza around here answers that description). Run across this half-circular plaza then turn left to continue downhill.
Strange tree in Praça da Alegria
A few meters further, and the street comes out at Avenida da Liberdade, Lisbon's great boulevard.

Now, you turn right and run the last few blocks past the Rossio train station back to Rossio plaza.

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