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Secrets that few people know in Bairro Alto

Lisbon street in black and white
It is one of the mythical neighbourhoods of Lisbon and a must stop for all who want to know the seven hills of the city. For decades the bohemia of the narrow streets offers entertainment for all tastes, from the most intellectual to the most alternative, from rock to the typical fado.

In the beginning it belonged to the people connected to the sea, then the clergy found several addresses on this hill and even the nobility settled in Bairro Alto. Perhaps the cultural mix since the fifteenth century marked the identity of this district of Lisbon forever.

Besides the stories about thieves, brothels and artists, the Bairro Alto holds other secrets, some can still be seen and touched if we know where to look for.

The narrowest building in Lisbon

Rua da Atalaia has in its numbers 195 and 197 the narrowest building in Lisbon. Despite having two doors, the facade is just two meters wide, making it the finest building in the capital. We already had in Lisbon the narrowest building in Europe, with only 1.60 meters wide, but it was demolished in 2008, making this building in Rua da Atalaia the finest in the city.

The building with more medals

The building with more plaques in Lisbon, and perhaps even in the country is on Rua João Pereira da Rosa, more precisely at number 6. The seven evocative medals that adorn the pink facade of this building tell the story of how it served as address of some of the great names of portuguese culture. Writers, journalists and poets lived in this house and we can hardly imagine the discussions that these walls have witnessed.
The painter Bernardo Marques, the writer Ramalho Ortigão, the historian Joaquim Pedro de Oliveira Martins, the poet José Gomes Ferreira and António Ferro were once the tenants who made the number 6 of Rua João Pereira da Rosa a landmark in Bairro Alto.

Portuguese freemasonry opens (some) doors

Secret organizations attract prying eyes and give rise to many myths. Perhaps to clarify some of the legends and assumptions, the Museu Maçónico Português (Portuguese Museum of Freemasonry) opens its doors for visits from Monday to Friday, from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.


During the period of less activity of this society, the Grémio Lusitano, in Bairro Alto, opens its doors to show objects related to the history of this exclusive club, and to share more about its symbology.

São João Baptista’s Chapel

São Roque’s Church
The Church of São Roque needs no introduction, as it is one of the landmarks in Bairro Alto and it is visited by thousands of people every year. On the outside it may seem like another church in Lisbon, but inside there are hidden lateral chapels planned in detail.

One of the most outstanding is the São João Baptista’s Chapel, which have been the most expensive building of his time. It was commissioned to Rome, to the papal architect by King John V in 1742 and its construction included materials such as ivory, agate, porphyry and lapis lazuli. However, the most curious fact is that this chapel was built in the Vatican for the Pope to celebrate mass, then disassembled and sent to Lisbon.

Depot of Marinha Grande

Created in 1769 by the Marquis of Pombal, the Royal Glass Factory of Marinha Grande was the first glass factory in Portugal. As the name implies, the factory was established in the city of Marinha Grande, where the glass continues to be blown by hand and is recognized as a product of prestige and quality.

Marinha Grande's first store was founded in Lisbon more than 120 years ago, at 234-242 Rua de São Bento. Although it is already outside the limits of Bairro Alto, it is worth visiting the Depot of Marinha Grande and admire some of the pieces that are available, such as the famous pointed set colored glasses.

Pieces of Cybele temple

In front of number 2 of Travessa do Almada is one of the facades of what was once the palace of D. João de Almada de Melo, the first viscount of Vila Nova de Souto. Under this palace is a Roman temple of the second century. Unknown to most of the people, the temple dedicated to the goddess Cybele, the Great Mother of the ancient Greeks and Romans, was discovered in 1749 but covered again by the new building. Nevertheless, four tombstones in Latin were recovered and placed in the facade of the palace in Travessa do Almada.

Many people pass through them every day, but few are those who notice the peculiarity of those stones, which are thousands of years old and mark the location of a place of worship, even though it is under the ground.

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