by Project for Public Spaces
Rua Augusta is the main street of Lisbon's central shopping district. A pedestrian street, the views up and down the hills of the city, and through to the Praça do Comércio, are incredible. All manner of streetlife and activity abound.
Rua Augusta, like all successful streets, performs two key functions: it takes you somewhere, and you enjoy simply being on it. The street is a huge sidewalk, with cafes and shops along it, as well as temporary vendors and information kiosks down the middle and at intersections.
The street itself is beautiful, made up of Lisbon's famous black and white pavers, and designed such that each intersection offered a view of the adjoining hillside neighborhoods. In addition, either end of Rua Augusta is capped by a focal point, the Praça do Comércio on one end, and the Rossio on the other. Not only do these points draw the walker along, they also are important destinations in the city itself.
While Rua Augusta is a bit touristy, and the cafes, while famous are somewhat tired, it has an amazing life its own, and features so many great innovations in maintenance and practice that it deserves to be featured. See photos for more details.
History & Background
The Baixa was once the commercial heart of the city, but that role is fading. These streets once housed all the city's banks and many of their tradespeople, including jewelers and shoemakers. Surrounding streets bear the names of the trades (Rua do Ouro, Rua dos Sapateiros, etc.) and, thanks to rent control, some shops remain.
The Baixa lies on a true rectangular grid, laid out by the Marquês de Pombal in 1755 after an earthquake decimated large parts of the city.