Downtown Lisbon, 250 Years of Urban Renaissance

View over downtown Lisbon

It took some time after the Great Earthquake of 1755 for Lisbon to have a reconstruction plan for its downtown area. After all, the city was left almost completely destroyed and its renaissance had to be carefully thought out. The final plan was completed in 1758, and it took decades to come to life.

For this year’s 250th anniversary of the project, the Lisbon City Hall has presented an exhibition explaining the evolution of downtown Lisbon as seen today, through official documents, photographs, and videos. The highlight is the huge model of the city as it was before the earthquake that was temporarily moved here from its permanent home in the City Museum.

The exhibition takes place in a gallery underneath the arches of Comercio Square, and can be seen until November 1st, the anniversary of the devastating earthquake. In addition to explaining what was Europe’s first neoclassical town planning using a grid of streets lined with uniform buildings, the exhibition also opens the debate of what should be done in the future in this historical district and presents the projects already in the works.

The city center is in urgent need of rejuvenation, with many of the buildings being given a new life. New residents that are seen as catalysts for a renewed Baixa district is the upcoming Design and Fashion Museum, as well as the conversion of many buildings into hotels. The hope is that with a lively, cleaned up Baixa, the area will be recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site for its singular architectural plan. After you see the “Lisboa 1758, The Baixa Plan Today” exhibition you’ll agree that it is a surely deserved distinction.

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