Bairro Alto, a hill that lasts for 500 years

The silence of the day in the narrow streets, cut only by one or another phrase that could be heard in a Portuguese village, contrasts with the movement and the music of the nights. Popular in its origin, at the gates of a cosmopolitan Lisbon, between Chiado and downtown, Bairro Alto emerged, first with fishermen, then with Jesuit priests, nobles, craftsmen and even with a certain bohemia resulting from fado and prostitution.

This was also the neighborhood that served as a headquarters for some of the great Portuguese newspapers. And this mixture contaminated the spirit of the place, which has existed for 500 years and lives marked by contrasts.

It was a neighborhood that was born outside the city walls and became, centuries later, one of its most characteristic urban centers, surrounded by palaces, convents, churches and small squares, on a hill that survived almost without damage to the earthquake of 1755.

It is a chain of alleys with small grocery stores, taverns, goldsmiths stores, exclusive gift shops; in Lisbon where clothes can still be seen hung out on the windows and balconies, as well as cages with birds on the facades and bougainvilleas on the walls of the houses; an open window can let out the sound of a guitar or the voice of a woman singing. There are men smoking on the steps, with a slow look, contrasting with the rhythm and the hustle lived down the street…

A neighborhood full of stories

There are also stories that deserve to be told; stories of many decades, still hidden. The truth is for many years, along with fado singers/artists, prostitutes, drunks, sailors and sellers of all type of products, journalists, writers, and many intellectuals have been populating the streets; therefore, the newspapers offices and their respective typographies coexisted with the bohemia and left their dynamic fingerprint on this famous Lisbon hill.

The book "O Bairro dos Jornais – As histórias que marcaram o Bairro Alto e os seus jornais", by the journalist and professor Paulo Martins, collects testimonies and reconstitutes the life of one of Lisbon's most emblematic neighborhoods in some of its most vital moments. One of these testimonies is from Norberto Araújo (1889-1952), a journalist that wrote in three historical newspapers from there: "O Mundo", "Diário de Notícias" and "Diário de Lisboa". Norberto says that "there is no street or building where the life of the​ ​press had not been rumored: literary journalism, journalism in serious attempts and journalism of caprice and adventures.

Bairro Alto represents the history of the journalism in Portugal: by typographies, at a time when journalists worked at home and only delivered the texts to be printed; by the newspaper offices that were being created; and by the daily life of the majority of journalists — so many restaurants and bars were chosen to be their second home, from the end of the working day until dawn.
Nowadays, only one newspaper remains: A Bola, a sports one, that takes place at Travessa da Queimada; the only legacy left by the legendary newspaper neighborhood.

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