By day, the narrow seventeenth-century streets of the upper town, or Bairro Alto – high above the central city, to the west of the Baixa – have a quiet, residential feel, with children playing and the elderly sitting in doorways. Two of the city’s most interesting churches – the Convento do Carmo and Igreja de São Roque – are located on the fringes, as are some of the city’s most bohemian boutiques, making the quarter well worth a morning or afternoon’s exploration. At night, its character changes entirely, as it’s here that you’ll find many of the city’s best bars, restaurants and fado clubs. Many of the Bairro Alto’s most interesting thoroughfares lie west of Rua da Misericórdia, a confusing network of cobbled streets, whose buildings are often liberally defaced with graffiti. Traffic is restricted to residents only, and though dodgy characters offering hash still lurk on the corners round the market building on Rua da Atalaia, it’s essentially safe at any time if you keep valuables out of sight.
You can approach the Bairro Alto on two amazing feats of engineering in the form of its funicular-like trams, which were originally powered by water displacement, and then by steam, until electricity was introduced. Most conveniently, the Elevador da Glória, built in 1885, links the quarter directly with Praça dos Restauradores, departing from just behind the Palácio da Foz tourist office. The Elevador da Bica climbs up to Rua Loreto at the foot of the Bairro Alto. A third approach, by the Elevador de Santa Justa, has its exit at the side of the Convento do Carmo.Read More