St. Paul's Cathedral, Tate Modern and Bankside.
Start: St. Paul tube station.
End : London Bridge tube station.
Weather: If your first half day is grey and gloomy and the other half is brighter and more smiling - opt for this itinerary.
Distance: 3 km. Most of time is spent inside the sites themselves.
St Paul's Cathedral is the UK's major cathedral and setting for many state occasions including royal weddings. Being the cathedral of the capital city, St Paul's is officially the spiritual home of Great Britain. The dome is the masterpiece of the building, erected after the Fire of London. Designed by famous English architect Sir Christopher Wren, the current cathedral was completed in 1708, after the Great Fire of London ruined Old St Paul’s in 1666. During the construction of the dome and galleries, architect Wren was wrenched up and down in a basket at least once a week to inspect the work in progress. By the time work was completed in 1708, Wren was 78 years old and watched on as his son placed the last stone in position. The injunction on the memorial tablet over Wren’s grave in the crypt – ‘Si monumentum requiris, circumspice’ (if you are expecting this monument, look around you) – has inhibited more than it has encouraged.
The cathedral has always been associated with significant British events, including the funerals of Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Winston Churchill, as were the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, Diamond Jubilee celebrations for Queen Victoria and the 80th birthday service for Queen Elizabeth II.
OPENING TIMES: Mon to Sat 8.30 - 16.00 (last entry). Guided Tours at 11.00, 11.30, 13.30 & 14.00. PRICES: On the door: 15 GBP (Adult), 6 GBP (Child), 14 GBP (Concessions), 36 GBP (Family), FREE (Under 5s). Free admission for London Pass holders.
Note: Photography is not allowed inside the cathedral.
The cathedral miraculously survived the Blitz in World War II when most of the surrounding area was flattened by German bombing raids. It consequently served to act as an inspirational symbol of British strength in the nation's darkest hours.
With your entrance ticket, head inside and pick up your audio/video guide, available in nine languages. You’ll tour the cathedral on your own, listening to the audio commentary and using your touch screen for historical events and information about the significance of the cathedral throughout English history.
The Cathedral Floor:
You can take part, free, as a visitor in the Sunday service and be impressed by the ground floor and the Nave:
We go up the steps and enter the cathedral through the west portico. The first breathtaking view that visitors encounter when they enter the cathedral is from the Nave, which is the long central section of the cathedral that leads to the dome. This is the only place you can watch and take photos - without paying the pricey admission fees. This is the public and ceremonial space, designed for congregations at large services.
All Souls Chapel - North Aisle. To the left of the entrance is the All Souls Chapel, which is currently dedicated to Lord Kitchener and the military servicemen who died in World War I. Lord Kitchener was the Field Marshal who restructured the British Army during World War I:
St. Dunstan's Chapel - head up the main steps, and enter (like the former chapel) on the left-hand side. Inside you'll find the queue to buy tickets but keep to the left and you can enter St. Dunstan's Chapel for free at any time. This is open for prayers all day but is well-frequented by visitors too. As its name suggests is dedicated to St. Dunstan, who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 959. The chapel has some appealing features including two mosaics: one an adaptation of a fresco by the famous Italian painter Raphael, and the other is a memorial to Archdeacon Hale, a 19th century English churchman who operated in London;
Heading down the nave you can see, on both sides, the unusual semi-circular recesses, which break up the aisles on both sides. It is said that they had been placed here with the intention to convert these recesses into lines of chapels for individual private worship and prayer. These recesses are, for the most part, now used to house the tombs and shrines of the past military heroes of Great Britain.
The North Quire Aisle contains the sculpture Mother and Child by Henry Moore (who is commemorated in the crypt):
In the north aisle, indeed, almost filling the north aisle in the Cathedral Floor, is the massive memorial to the Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, the British commander who defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815:
Another notable tomb on the cathedral ground floor is that of Major-General Charles George Gordon, a British army officer and administrator who died in combat in 1885. His tomb is often covered in flowers by those wishing to pay their respects to General Gordon:
South Quire Aisle is on the right hand side beyond the dome area. This aisle contains the effigies of two Bishops of London and also a marble effigy of John Donne. Donne was a Dean of the cathedral and one of Britain's finest poets, who died in 1631. It is one of the few effigies to have survived the Great Fire of London. He was an English poet and Dean of St. Paul’s from 1621 to 1631. Donne’s tomb here is by far the best preserved. It is one of the few tombs to survive the destruction of the old St. Paul’s in the Great Fire of London in 1666:
The Quire is at the east of the cathedral's cross-shape and the continuation of the nave beyond the dome area at the east of the cathedral. This is where the choir and the priests sit during services. The quire was the first part of the cathedral to be built. The choir stalls on both sides are worth a close look, they were carved by Grinling Gibbons, a master woodworker who was frequently called upon by Wren. And pause to watch the wrought-iron screen separating the altar from the aisles. They were created by Jean Tijou, who was also responsible for the magnificent gates at Hampton Court Palace.
The Grand Organ was installed in 1695 and has been rebuilt several times. It is the third largest organ in the U.K. It is one of the cathedral’s greatest artifacts:
At the far end of the Quire you can see the High Altar. Originally, the cathedral had a simple, large Victorian marble altar and screen, which were damaged by a bomb in World War II. The present high altar dates from 1958 and is made of marble and carved and gilded oak. It features a magnificent canopy based on a sketch by Wren:
The Apse at the east end of the cathedral, behind the High Altar. This chapel is called the Jesus Chapel but also known as the American Memorial Chapel. It honors American servicemen and women who died in World War II, and was dedicated in 1958. Almost 30,000 Americans gave their lives while on their way to, or stationed in, the UK during World War II. It is kept in front of the chapel's altar:
All of their names are recorded in a roll of honor that is on display in a glass-encased book next to the chapel’s altar, where a page is turned everyday so different names are displayed:
A flight of steps leads down into the cathedral’s crypt, with its memorials, tombs and monuments of important Brits like Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington. It occupies the whole area under the cathedral and contains the tombs of many notable figures, including the painters Constable, Turner and Reynolds and the scientist Alexander Fleming. Under the south aisle lies the simple tombstone of Sir Christopher Wren. The sarcophagi of Wellington and Nelson may also be seen. Nelson's coffin was made from the main mast of the French flagship "L'Orient".The Nelson monument has allegorical reliefs representing the North Sea, the Baltic, the Mediterranean and the Nile.
AS we said this crypt is now used to hold the tombs and memorials to prominent figures from British history. Here, is the tomb of the cathedral’s architect, Sir Christopher Wren. He was buried here after he died in 1723 at the age of ninety-one.
Nearby is the tomb of the famous landscape painter, J. M. W. Turner:
Nelson's Tomb. Lord Nelson was famously killed in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and buried in St Paul's after a state funeral. He was laid in a coffin made from the timber of a French ship he defeated in battle.
The black marble sarcophagus that adorns his tomb was originally made for Cardinal Wolsey, Lord Chancellor during the reign of Henry VIII.
One of the famous military heroes buried in the crypt of St. Paul’s is Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington:
On the Crypt wall there is a bust memorializing Lawrence of Arabia, a British officer who raised and led an Arab rebel force against the Ottoman Empire across the Middle East. He played very important role in the liberation of the Middle East from the Turks:
The Crypt also contains a large scale model of Wren's second proposed design of St. Paul's, called the Great Model. A more recent addition to the Crypt is the Chapel of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), which was dedicated in 1960.
The Great Model is so called after the enormous wooden model Wren had made, and which still survives. It does not represent Wren's first thoughts, nor does it reflect the Cathedral as built; but it does appear to show what Wren would have liked to build, if he had not been subject to the opinions and wishes of the Dean and Chapter. The quality of the joinery is superb, and it is adorned with exquisitely-worked cherubs' heads, flowers and festoons. As originally completed, some of the detail was sumptuously gilded, and there were tiny statues on the parapets, which are thought to have been Wren's first commissions to Grinling Gibbons:
The Crypt from the Cafe':
The climb to the galleries: The stairs are pretty narrow (and majority of them are spiral). There is a warning sign for those with claustrophobia. In order of climb, the three main galleries are the Whispering, Stone, and Golden galleries:
No visit to St Paul's Cathedral would be complete without the climb to the galleries and dome. There are 259 steps leading up to the Whispering Gallery, which runs round the dome at a height of 33m above the ground. It is so called because of its remarkable acoustic properties, which make it possible to hear even a whisper across the dome's total width of 35m. From here visitors can see Thornhill's paintings in the dome and gain a breathtaking impression of the size and proportions of the nave below. The Whispering Gallery is a circular walkway halfway up the inside of the dome. The Whispering Gallery gives you a magnificent view of the cathedral:
From the Whispering Gallery a further 117 steps lead up to the Stone Gallery round the outside of the dome:
The views from the Stone Gallery, which runs around the lower edge of the dome, are of course spectacular. This one is looking across the Millennium Bridge to the Tate:
View from the stone/outer gallery across the Thames to the Tate Modern:
Southwark Bridge from the Stone Gallery:
Paternoster Square, from the Stone Gallery:
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre from the Stone / Outer Gallery:
For the fit or ambitious, you can climb 530 steps to the Golden Gallery, an observation platform atop the dome of the cathedral. It is the smallest of the galleries and runs around the highest point of the outer dome. From there you can look out over the modern skyline of the city of London and panoramic views of the capital. It is 166 steps above the Stone Gallery. From both of these galleries there are superb views of London. The ball on the top of the lantern will hold ten people.
The Shard from the Golden gallery:
The Millennium Bridge from the Golden gallery:
The three curving galleries lead up to the Dome - at 111.3 m. high, it is one of the largest in the world and one of the best viewing points in the City. St Paul's is built in the shape of a cross, with a large dome crowning the intersection of its arms:
Looking up to the famous dome of St. Paul’s you can see the paintings by the English painter, James Thornhill, depicting the climax moments of St. Paul’s life.
On the cathedral’s floor directly below the center of the dome is a Latin inscription on a circle of black marble, which reads: “SUBTUS CONDITUR HUIUS ECCLESIÆ ET VRBIS CONDITOR CHRISTOPHORUS WREN, QUI VIXIT ANNOS ULTRA NONAGINTA, NON SIBI SED BONO PUBLICO. LECTOR SI MONUMENTUM REQUIRIS CIRCUMSPICE OBIIT XXV FEB AETATIS XCI AN MDCCXXIII.” It translates in English as, “Here in its foundations lies the architect of this church and city, Christopher Wren, who lived beyond ninety years, not for his own profit but for the public good. Reader, if you seek his monument - look around you. Died 25 Feb. 1723, age 91.” (see above on Wren's tomb in the Crypt):
Surrounding the imposing dome of St. Paul’s are arches with mosaics from the end of 19th century:
Gardens surrounding St Paul's Cathedral. Opening hours: everyday from 6.00 to 20.00 in the summer and 6.00 to 16.00 in the winter, unless a special event or service is taking place, in which case the garden may be closed.
The churchyard of St Paul’s is a restful albeit public thoroughfare. There are benches where you can sit and enjoy the sun, watch the squirrels and/or people, and study the beautiful carvings and sculptures that decorate the exterior. Take photo of the imposing cathedral from a bench in the surrounding gardens, which have a pretty rose garden and a range of interesting plants and trees (including plane and walnut).
Look out for the granite memorial inscribed with “Remember before God the people of London 1939-1945”. The quote was used by Churchill but actually written by Sir Edward Marsh in relation to WWI. Memorial to the people of London who died in the blitz 1939 — 1945. This commemorates the 30,000 Londoners who died in air raids. Cut from a single block of limestone:
A statue of John Wesley stands in the northwest corner of the churchyard. Erected in 1988, it is a bronze cast of Manning’s early 19th century marble statue to be found at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster:
Nearby, in the cathedral’s north-east churchyard, a plaque marks the location of St Paul’s Cross:
Looking around outside, behind the Cathedral in St. Paul’s Churchyard, you will notice a statue with a gilded representation of St. Paul at the top:
The gardens were formed in 1878 when the ancient burial grounds of St Paul's, St Gregory by St Paul’s and St Faith the Virgin under St Paul’s were combined.
St. Paul Cathedral from the Festival Gardens (S.E to the cathedral). The statue is of Poet John Donne:
The Cathedral was completed during the reign of Queen Anne and there is a statue of her in the west- front of St. Paul's:
West facade of St. Paul:
St. Paul from the North-West (Paternoster Square):
From the South-West:
South Front of St. Paul:
From the South-West (near the Information Office):
St. Paul from the South-East:
The new Paternoster development master-planned by Sir William Whitfield, who also designed the deferentially stone-clad Juxon House at the south-west corner, was completed in 2004 by the arrival of the resurrected Temple Bar. The Temple Bar, which now guards the passage between St Paul's and Paternoster Square. Temple Bar, a Wren designed stone archway that once stood on Fleet Street to mark the westernmost extent of the City's influence, was rebuilt at the cathedral side entrance to the square in 2004:
Do not miss this modern sculpture east of Paternoster Square, near the St. Paul:
Paternoster Square (north-west to St. Paul) was flattened during the Blitz, now redeveloped and home to the London Stock Exchange and big names in banking
The main monument in the redeveloped square is the 23m. tall Paternoster Square Column - a Corinthian column of Portland stone topped by a gold leaf covered flaming copper urn, which is illuminated by fibre-optic lighting at night. The column was designed by the architects Whitfield Partners and also serves as a ventilation shaft for a service road that runs beneath the square. It is sometimes referred to as the 'pineapple':
The uncharacteristically bland sculpture by Elizabeth Frink, Paternoster – Shepherd and Sheep (1975), serves to confirm the difficulty of measuring up to Wren’s great building.
Originally St Paul’s was pressed around by housing and the shops of the book and print trade, above which rose much of the upper screen walls, cornice line, towers, drum and dome. This was a building whose rich detailing could be appreciated close-to, but the whole could be seen only from a distance. The surrounding buildings, devastated during the Blitz of the Second World War, were replaced by the more open, traffic-free Paternoster precinct of 1962–7, following the masterplan by Lord Holford. This was largely demolished (one small block survives above St Paul’s Underground Station) and replaced after protracted discussion, the inhibiting intervention of Prince Charles, and the forging of an unholy alliance between market forces, architectural political correctness and sentiment: this is a no-win site.
We leave the St. Paul's Cathedral - heading to the South Bank. This is the Firefighters Memorial, presumably sited just outside St Paul's because of the events of the night of 29 December 1940:
We'll cross the Thames over the Millennium Bridge. On leaving St Paul's make your way to the south side of the cathedral, Cannon Street. There is a Tourist Office here (wealth of data) and close by a wide pedestrian thoroughfare descending down to the River Thames. Head southeast on St. Paul's Churchyard and turn right onto Godliman St. Turn left onto Queen Victoria St. Turn right onto Peter's Hill and continue onto Millennium Bridge.
Along Peter's Hill:
The southern end of the bridge is near the Globe theatre, the Bankside Gallery and Tate Modern.
The north end next to the City of London School below St Paul's Cathedral. The bridge alignment is such that a clear view of St Paul's south façade is presented from across the river, framed by the bridge supports. The Millennium Bridge, officially known as the London Millennium Footbridge, is a steel suspension bridge for pedestrians crossing the River Thames in London, linking Bankside with the City of London. It is sited between Southwark Bridge (more to the east) and Blackfriars Railway Bridge (more to the west). Construction of the bridge began in 1998, with the opening in June 2000. It is a 325m steel bridge linking the City of London at St. Paul's Cathedral with the Tate Modern Gallery at Bankside. The bridge is a pedestrian only suspension bridge built for the year 2000 celebrations. It became famous due to the fact that the walkway swayed so much it was deemed unsafe and shut down. The bridge had reopened and offers a rigid platform to cross the River Thames without the noise of traffic. The view is always magnificent from both sides and photogenic. Walking the opposite direction, in night time, from the South Bank to the City of London is a marvelous experience with all the lights up and down the river, and with the lighted cupola of St. Paul's in front of you. St. Paul at dark:
The Millennium Bridge at sunset:
The view of St Paul's Cathedral; from Millennium Bridge:
View of St. Paul's Cathedral from across Millennium Bridge to the south:
View of the North Bank - from the Millennium Bridge:
View of St. Paul from the Tate Modern grounds:
On the other side of the bridge is the Tate Modern Art Gallery situated on Bankside. Tate Modern displays the Tate collection of international modern and contemporary art from 1900 to the present day.
Opening times: 10.00–18.00, Sunday – Thursday, Last admission and ticket sales to special exhibitions is at 17.15. 10.00–22.00, Friday – Saturday, Last admission and ticket sales to special exhibitions is at 21.15.
Seven main points on the Tate Modern:
1. Its historic. Built after World War II as Bankside Power Station, it was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, architect of Battersea Power Station. The power station shut in 1981; nearly 20 years later, it opened as an art museum, and has enjoyed spectacular popularity ever since. Opened May 2000. The gallery attracts five million visitors a year to a building intended for half that number. There are some historic pieces in the building. Monet's Waterlilies and a couple of Picasso's adorn the walls. Not a lot of places in the world where one can see something of that magnitude.
2. Its unique and different - nothing similar to this project - either in London or around the globe. Well, the truth is that there are more and more places in the world imitating Tate Modern's idea. Everytime you visit the Tate - you'll find something different. The Tate Modern is quintessentially a London/UK experience. Tate Modern is more than just an art gallery. The amazing space of the Turbine Hall - has housed a succession of installations which have caught the imagination of the public. Thanks to its industrial architecture, this powerhouse of modern art is awe-inspiring even before you enter. In the main galleries themselves, the original cavernous turbine hall is still used to jaw-dropping effect as the home of large-scale, temporary installations.
3. It is popular and professional. The gallery attracts five million visitors a year to a building intended for half that number. Beyond, the permanent collection draws from the Tate’s collections of modern art (international works from 1900) and features heavy hitters such as Matisse, Rothko and Beuys – a genuinely world-class collection, expertly curated.
4. It is free. The best thing about the Tate Modern is that it is free to get in. That means you can pop in a quick browse and not be worried about getting value for money on an entrance fee. Hard to complain about anything when there is no investment asked of you. There is a voluntary donation bin at the entrance where they ask for a modest £4 donation.
5. Its location. It is convenient. In the middle of everything. One doesn't have to go out of the way to visit the Tate Modern as its essentially convenient to and within any path to any other tourist site in London. It sits on the South Bank of the Thames adjacent to the Globe Theater and directly across the Millennium bridge from St. Paul's Cathedral.
6. Its future. It is ambitious. the Tanks, so-called because they occupy vast, subterranean former oil tanks, will stage performance and film art. As for the rest of the extension, a huge new origami structure, designed by the Swiss-Jewish Architects Herzog & Meuron (who were behind the original conversion), will gradually unfold above the Tanks until perhaps 2016
7. It is breath-taking. If nothing else, its a nice place to catch your breath and take a break from the weather. And here' we start. The 6th floor balcony also offers a very nice view of the London skyline. The first thing we suggest you to do is climb to the restaurant, prepare your camera and take astonishing pictures of London from the balcony or through the cafe' windows.
There are also stunning views down inside the building:
The galleries group artworks according to movement (Surrealism, Minimalism, Post-war abstraction) rather than by theme.
Pablo Picasso, Nude Woman in a Red Armchair (1932):
Bust of a Woman, Pablo Picasso (1944):
“The Three Dancers”, Pablo Picasso (1925):
“Weeping Woman”, Pablo Picasso (1937):
Pablo Picasso, Nude Woman with Necklace (1968):
Pablo Picasso, Bowl of Fruit, Violin and Bottle (1914):
Portrait of Henry Matisse (1908):
There is plenty to see with some amazing work dotted about the place although I find some of the modern art a bit hit and miss:
John Latham 1960:
Michaellangelo Pistoletto - Venus of the Rugs 1974:
Victor Pasmore - "Stromboli" - 1986:
Exhibition in 2010: Bolshevist and Communist Revolutionary Posters:
The Exquisite Forest. Pop-Art Video:
The café on the riverside and espresso bar on level 3 serve refreshments and light meals from breakfast to evening:
View to the north bank from the Cafe' in the 3rd floor:
We continue EASTward along Bankside (for 2 minutes) toward the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Open: Monday - Sunday. Exhibition: 9.00 – 17.30, Tours: Monday, 9.30 – 17.00, Tuesday – Saturday, 9.30 – 12.30, Sunday, 9.30 – 11.30. Tours depart every 30 minutes. Tour - Adult: 13.50 GBP.
Built on the bank of the Thames , the Globe is an impressive reconstruction of an Elizabethan theatre where many of Shakespear's plays were first performed. The wooden circular structure is open in the middle - but those who bought seats tickets have roof over their heads.
Standing means watching a performance from the yard - and therefore with one of the best views of the stage - you are not sitting. Please do not bring any items to sit on - no shooting sticks, or any sort of stool is allowed. Many plays last for up to three hours, if you are uncomfortable standing for this length of time it is possible to purchase a sitting ticket from £15.
Performances operate only in the summer. These performances are once-in-life experience with the best actors in London. There is a guided tour including the nearby Rose theatre foundations. Open all year around and beneath the Globe Theatre is the Globe Exhibition which brings Shakespeare personality, plays and times to life.
Shakespeare's company erected the storied Globe Theatre circa 1599 in London's Bankside district. It was one of four major theatres in the area, along with the Swan, the Rose, and the Hope. The foundations of the Globe were rediscovered in 1989, igniting interest in a fitful attempt to erect a modern version of the amphitheater. Workers began construction in 1993 on the new theatre near the site of the original. The latest Globe Theatre was completed in 1996. Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the theatre on June 12, 1997 with a production of Henry V. The Globe is as faithful a reproduction as possible to the Elizabethan model, seating 1,500 people between the galleries and the "groundlings". The stage and the wooden hemispherical seating arrangement is breathtaking and has acoustic effects that even small objects falling have magnified sound made.
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse: The Shakespeare's Globe opened a second theatre - it has named its new 340 seat Indoor Jacobean Theatre The Sam Wanamaker Theatre, named after the organisation's founder, American actor and director Sam Wanamaker. Performances open to the public from January 2014, and allow Shakespeare's Globe to present plays throughout the year. The theatre has two tiers of galleried seating and a pit seating area and is predominantly lit by candles.
Get tickets early as they sell very quickly.
It is wise to hire a cushion or blanket as the seats are made of wood - or remember to bring your own.
Cheaper tickets are available in the 'pit' which is standing only.
The standing rule seems to be enforced by the staff and it is not easy. Be aware, especially on hot / wet days.
Some actors are spitting while playing...
On the other hand - If you're standing, get there early so you can be near the front and rest your arms on the stage.
You can move into some vacant seats for the second act.
There's not many bad views to be had, but if you're in it for cheap then 5 GBP gets you a standing ticket in the yard, letting you experience like contemporary crowds would have in Shakespeare's time.
The north bank from the Globe Theatre:
Continuing 2 minutes further to the east, along Bankside - you arrive to the Southwark Bridge. Southwark Bridge seen from the south bank of the Thames. Tower 42 and 30 St Mary Axe (Gherkin) can be seen above the bridge:
It is 10-12 minutes walk, along the Thames, eastward to the London Bridge Street and another 2-3 minutes southward, along London Bridge to the London Bridge Underground station.
City of London - Modern and Historical Architecture:
I recommend you to do what no guidebook, no other web site or normal person was daring to offer you: start at the Bank Square (see below: never in cold or windy days) and explore, in-depth, 3-4 streets, from the 9 streets that converge on the Bank junction area: Prince, Threadneedle, Cornhill, Lombard, Mansion House, King William, Walbrook, Queen Victoria and Poultry. From this selection - do not miss: Threadneedle (!), Cornhill, Lombard (!), Mansion House and Walbrook. I highly recommend to end with the Threadneedle / Cornhill / Lombard streets - continuing this itinerary to Bishophsgate and many other architectural masterpieces in the City of London. If you don't stick with our itinerary - end with King William Street and head to the Monument or the Thames. I suspect that our offer will consume half of your day.
Start: Bank tube / DLR stations.
End : Tower tube / National Rail / DLR stations.
Weather: Only in acceptable weather. Avoid this route in rainy, windy or cold days. The Bank environs and the southern parts of the City of London are very cold when the temperatures are low. We end our route in the St. Katherine Docks (a pure contrast to the urban City) - and, there, you must face a smiling sun.
Duration: one busy day.
Orientation: half-a-day for exploring the Bank and its adjoining streets, continuing northward into the heart of the City, exploring many famous, architectural monuments/buildings and heading southward to the Thames two banks. Prepare your camera - you'll shoot tens or, even, hundreds of photos.
Note or warning: The Bank underground station is such a maze. The worst designed station on the network with very poor crowd flows and very long walks to change lines. This is probably one of the most confusing stations as it has like 9 different exits. You have to walk long distances to find your line. Additionally, it's sort of a conjoined twin with the Monument station. Even though Monument is several streets away the connection is just a little stretched. Avoid interchanging at this station at all costs. A change from the Central line to the District line (which is really at Monument) actually involves a hike which has many a tourist wondering if they'll ever get out. Moreover, It's not even a flat route. There are stairs/escalators that go up and down several times. Get out from the underground station ASAP.
The junction itself is also a maze - but this trip blog (the only one that) will make order in what you'll see outside.
Another warning: Avoid coming to the Bank in a windy day. Very unpleasant to walk or stay in the Bank square when the wind blows. It is quite cold in the Bank square and the adjacent streets. Leave this itinerary to warmer days.
Tip: The best time to go through the Bank is at the weekend. Take the time to walk around what now becomes an almost ghost town, while the markets sleep for the weekend. The buildings old and new are fascinating.The City itself is another story. Explore it only during weekdays.
Bank Station numbered Exits:
These are numbered clockwise around the Bank Concourse.
1. Poultry, Cheapside and Guild Hall, 2. Princes Street, Threadneedle Street and Bank of England, 3. Royal Exchange, Stock Exchange and toilets, 4. Cornhill, Leadenhall Market and Lloyds, 5.King William Street and Lombard Street, 6. King William Street, Lombard Street, Fenchurch Street, The Monument and London Bridge 7. Mansion House, 8. Cheapside, Queen Victoria Street, 9. Walbrook.
The City is the oldest part of London and was already 1,000 years old when the Tower of London was built. It is uniquely independent from both Westminster and the Crown, has its own local government, the Corporation of London, and today is mainly a financial centre. It also has its own police force which is independent of the Metropolitan police, whose jurisdiction nevertheless surrounds the City.
Bank junction is also the location of one of London's busiest tube stations, Bank. Bank and Monument are interlinked London Underground and Docklands Light Railway (DLR) stations that form a joint, public transport complex (under the length of King William Street). The stations have been linked as an interchange since 1933. Bank station, opened in 1900 at Bank junction, named after the Bank of England, opened in 1900. Monument station, named after the Monument to the Great Fire of London, opened in 1884.
The Bank junction from the 2nd floor of the Royal Exchange:
Bank junction is a major road junction in the City of London. Today, it is, mainly, the historic and financial centre of London. Traffic is controlled by traffic lights and give-way lines. The majority of people passing through the junction are doing so on foot.
Eight or nine streets converge on the Bank junction area. (clockwise from the North):
Prince's Street (northwest, towards Moorgate), (the picture below: NatWest building, 1 Prince Street, built at 1932):
Threadneedle Street (northeast, towards Bishopsgate),
On the left side of Threadneedle Street is the Bank of England. Founded in 1694, the first purpose-built building on Threadneedle Street, completed in 1734 to the design of George Sampson, was first extended by Sir Robert Taylor and then rebuilt by Sir John Soane behind massive screen walls in his masterpiece of 1788–1827. Soane’s work was swept away in Sir Herbert Baker’s bombastic rebuilding of 1921–39, in which he raised seven storeys of offices behind Soane’s perimeter walls. At the north-west corner of this large site, Soane’s elegantly arranged Tivoli Corner columns survived Baker’s onslaught. There is public access on the east side from Bartholomew Lane to the Bank of England Museum (free admission), where Higgins Gardner in 1986–8 reconstructed Soane’s top-lit Bank Stock Office of 1792–3:
On the right side of Threadneedle Street is the Royal Exchange. Sited at the physical and functional heart of the City with the Bank of England across Threadneedle street and the Mansion House opposite. This is the greatest of the City’s nineteenth- century exchanges, built to the designs of Sir William Tite (1841–4). This is the third exchange on the site, following previous halls of 1566–70 and 1667–71. Originally open, the arcaded central courtyard was roofed in 1883. General trading stopped in 1939, replaced by specialist exchanges elsewhere. It was converted by Fitzroy Robinson in the 1990s into an upmarket shopping centre with some interiors preserved together with an important group of paintings of 1895–1922 around the walls of the ground-floor courtyard. These are largely obscured by the shops. We recommend entering the building and climbing to the 2nd floor (see later) The intrusive security tends to inhibit investigation. The sculpture (1842–4) in the west front is by Richard Westmacott Junior: Commerce holding the Exchange Charter. In front, Aston Webb’s Great War (WW1 - not WW2 !) memorial was unveiled in 1920. About the statue of the Duke of Wellington - see later when we browase, again, quickly the main buildings around the Bank junction.
Tower 42 and on its left the NEW Stock Exchange:
Threadneedle Street, back side of the Royal Excange:
Cornhill Street (east, towards Leadenhall Street),
The St. Michael church, with the exception of the tower, was completely destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. The present Church was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren between 1669 and 1672. Interior of St.Michael:
Do not miss the Gilbert wooden carved doors at 32 Cornhill (Cornhill Insurance):
The Jamaica Wine House, St Michaels Alley, Cornhill. Excellent interior, good service and the beer is well looked after. One of London’s oldest pubs, the Jamaica Wine House - known locally as The Jampot - has a fiery history. Literally. Indeed, the coffee house that originally stood here was damaged in the Great Fire of London in 1666, and the current building is a 19th century public house. On the wall of the current building of the Jamaica Wine House visitors can read the memorial plaque attesting that “Here stood the first London Coffee house at the sign of the Pasqual Rosee’s Head 1652.”:
Lombard Street (southeast, towards Gracechurch Street, leading to King William Street),
View of Lombard Street from the Bank. On the left - St. Mary Woolnoth Church:
St. Mary Woolnoth is an Anglican church in the City of London, located on the corner of Lombard Street and King William Street. The present building was designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, built 1716–27:
Lombard Street from the glass doors of St. Mary Woolnoth Church. Open: Mon - Fri: 09.30-16.30 (but, quite frequently, it is closed without explicit note):
Trade coronation in the front of a building from the period of Edward VII, son of Queen Victoria, 1902, in Lombard Street - which was the financial centre of London before opening of the Royal Exchange in the Bank junction:
This sign of the grasshopper appears at 68 Lombard St and marks the site where Sir Thomas Gresham (c1519 -1579) lived. He was an English merchant and financier who was a trusted agent of Queen Elizabeth I and founder of the Royal Exchange. Gresham's original building was destroyed in the Fire of London:
Walk until the end of Lombard Street. You won't regret it. View southward from the end of Lombard Street (junction with Gracechurch Street) to the Monument and the Shard:
Mansion House Street (south, runs to the east of Mansion House. Mansion House Street is the short street at the front of Mansion House (which connects Poultry, Queen Victoria Street and the Bank junction). The Mansion House is the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London, built in the 18thC in Palladian style. Superb reception rooms and banqueting hall. Large gold and silver vaults. Note: don't mix it with the Mansion House tube station which further to the west (on Queen Victoria Street).
In-house guides only permitted to conduct tours around the house. Only groups admitted, no individuals. Guided tours information: when: every Tuesday at 14.00 (Lord Mayor's Diary permitting). How long: one hour. Meeting point: the A-board near the porch entrance to Mansion House (this is in Walbrook, exit 8 from Bank tube station). Cost: 7 GBP adults, 5 GBP concessions. You pay the guide in cash. How to book: arrive at the meeting point by 13.45 for a 14.00 start. Visitors are admitted on a first-come, first-served basis. Tours cannot be booked in advance. The maximum number for the tour is 40 persons. It is well worth the time if one can fit it in your schedule. Remember that this building is only open for an excellent hour tour on Tuesdays. One can view five or six beautiful rooms used for government functions and enjoy many fine paintings (see "Art Collections" below).
The first floor had a roofless courtyard (later covered to form the Salon, the entertainment space) and the great Egyptian Hall. The second floor has a ballroom and private apartments of the Lord Mayor and family. The third and fourth floors contain meeting rooms and staff rooms. The cellars have storage space and once held prisoners' cells, reflecting the former use of the Mansion House as the Lord Mayor's Court.
Mansion House Art Collections: The guided tour of Mansion House, basically means a tour of the extensive 17th Century Flemish Art collection.
The Lute Player, Frans Hals, 1624-1628:
A Young Woman Sewing, Nicholaes Maes, 1655:
King William Street is a road in the City of London, the historic nucleus and modern financial centre of London. It runs from its northern end at a junction with Lombard Street by the church of St Mary Woolnoth, southeast to Monument junction, where it meets Gracechurch Street and Cannon Street.
North end of King William Street looking towards Monument station:
Rothschild Bank, 1 King William Street:
Offices Building, 33 King William Street:
Walbrook (south, towards Cannon Street), a narrow street just behind Mansion House.
St Stephen, Walbrook is a church erected to the designs of Sir Christopher Wren following the destruction of its medieval predecessor in the Great Fire of London in 1666. Opening Times: on weekdays only, from 10.00 until 16.00. It is usually closed at weekends. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1672. The first domed church in Britain. The plain exterior of the church hides a Classical interior. Surprisingly, a beautiful church interior. The white arc of the dome spins the viewer round:
Don't miss the Walbrook Building (seen also from Cannon Street):
Queen Victoria Street (southwest, towards Blackfriars), starts at the Mansion House Street at Bank junction and ends at the New Bridge Street and Victoria Embankment.
City Magistrate’s Court, No 1 Queen Victoria Street: A building designed by John Whichcord, built 1873–5 as the National Safe Deposit and including four storeys of armoured safe deposit vaults underneath, partly converted to cells for the new courtrooms (1988–91).
Poultry (west, towards Cheapside). Poultry is a short street, an eastern continuation of Cheapside, between Old Jewry and Mansion House Street, towards Bank junction.
No.1 Poultry: This wedge-shaped plot with fronts onto Poultry and Queen Victoria Street was the site of a major planning dispute – the highpoint of opposition to wholesale redevelopment. A group of High Victorian buildings were demolished to make way for a development instigated by Lord Palumbo, who wished to create a new square – Mansion House Square – with an eighteen-storey tower by the Architect Mies van der Rohe (designed 1962–8 but delayed by lease acquisitions). This scheme was rejected in 1985, and the strongly articulated, stridently postmodern, colourful, wedge-shaped building, with playfully arch detailing, by James Stirling, Michael Wilford and Associates, was erected 1986–98. There are good views of the City from the rooftop garden:
The main Buildings around the Bank Square:
The Royal Exchange - across the road from Bank tube station:
Also in front of the Royal Exchange is a memorial to those Londoners who served and died in World War I:
I recommend that you'll enter the Royal Exchange building and pave your way to the aristocratic cafe' in the 2nd Floor. Marvelous view over the Bank junction:
From the ground floor of the Royal Exchange, through the building pillars - you can also a nice view of the square:
Outside the main entrance to the Royal Exchange is a statue of the first Duke of Wellington (Arthur Wellesley), on horseback and overlooking Bank junction. The statue was inaugurated in year 1844:
Standing on the northeast corner of Bank junction is the Bank of England, headquartered on Threadneedle Street since 1734:
(photo from 2010):
Behind the Bank of England is Tower 42 (the high, light blue, glass building). Behind the Royal Exchange is "the Gherkin" top edge:
Former Threadneedle Street head office of The American City Bank, which became London, City & Midland Bank:
On the south side of the junction is Mansion House. Mansion House is the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London. It is a combination of palace, town hall and law court complete with its own lock-up. Its prime role is as the official residence of the City's Lord Mayor, who holds office for a one year term. The building was designed in the 1700's. It is used for some of the City of London's official functions, including an annual dinner, hosted by the Lord Mayor. The Guildhall (covered under another couple of trips around the City of London) is another venue used for important City functions.
Regus House, Poultry Rd #1:
After exploring the Bank Square and 4-5 adjecent streets - we return to the Bank square and head north-east along the Threadneedle street until its end.We are going to explore several famous architectural highlights in the City. A few (minor) sections of this route overlap sections of "A rainy day in the City and the Docklands" trip.
From there we slightly turn left to the Bishopsgate. We continue until No. 22-24 - where The Pinnacle tower is still in construction. The Pinnacle will be on your right and Tower 42 on your left. The Pinnacle is a skyscraper that was expected to become the tallest building in the City of London and the second-tallest in both the United Kingdom and the European Union, after The Shard (also in London). Its construction began in 2008 but is currently on hold subject to re-approval issues. Work started in September 2008 but has stalled since March 2012. It is planned to get height of 290 m.
From the north-west corner of The Pinnacle you can see an impressive view of the Gherkin. The Gherkin was designed by Norman Foster and built during the years 2001–2003. The building is one of the city's most widely recognized examples of contemporary architecture. Its formal address is: 30 St Mary Axe and was previously known as the Swiss Re Building. The Gherkin was completed in 2003 and opened in 2004. The Gherkin height is 180 m. It stands on the former site of the Baltic Exchange, which was extensively damaged in 1992 by the explosion of a bomb placed by the IRA:
Tower 42 is, presently, the second-tallest skyscraper in the City of London and the seventh tallest in Greater London. Its former name was the National Westminster (NatWest) Tower, having been built to house the National Westminster Bank's international division. Its formal address is 25 Old Broad Street - but its full grandeur can be clearly seen from Bishopsgate (near the junction with Undershaft). The Tower 42 was formally opened on 1981 by Queen Elizabeth II. Its height is 185 m. It was surpassed by two towers in Canary Wharf: One Canada and Heron Tower. In 2011 it was bought by a South African businessman. You'll admire its size and height from further places along our route.
Continue walking along Bishopsgate northward and cross the Camomile Street (on your right) and Wormwood Street (on your left).After 2-3 minutes walk you'll see, on your left, at Bishopsgate 121 the Saint Botolph-without-Bishopsgate Church and Gardens. St Botolph was the patron saint of the travelers. The building is Classical in style, of red brick with stone detailing;
Adjoining the church is a charming pub, The White Hart (actually, on the cross-roads with Liverpool Street:
Return southward along Bishopsgate and turn left onto Camomile Street and right onto St Mary Axe in order to approach and appreciate again, the Gherkin tower:
Walk along St Mary Axe, southward (The Gherkin on your left) until its end, until it meets the Leadenhall and Lime streets. This junction is marvelous, breath-taking and, here, you get one of the most iconic sights of London - the Lloyds TSB complex, The Gherkin, 52-54 Lime Street Building, Willis Building and 122 Leadehall Building - all around you (feeling like a grasshopper...). Several facts on the Lloyds TSB building. The building takes its name from one Edward Lloyd who founded a coffee shop on this site in 1688, from where maritime insurance was conducted. The building was opened by Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh on November 18th 1986. Address: 1 Lime St, London. Construction started: 1978. Opened: 1986. Floors: 14. Architects: Richard Rogers, Mike Davies. Architecturally, the Lloyd's Building draws heavily on architect Richard Rogers' earlier Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris. The Lloyds TSB was the first in a trio of City office buildings designed by Richard Rogers; it was followed by 88 Wood Street in 1998, and the Lloyd's Register of Shipping Building in 2000 (The Strand). Architectural style: High-tech architecture. The building's extravagant design led to numerous awards. The Lloyd's Building is one of the finest examples of British High-Tech architecture and has been described as a 'mechanical cathedral':
At the heart of the building is a huge atrium, 14 floors and 76 meters tall. On the ground floor of the atrium sits the Lutine Bell, salvaged from the French frigate La Lutine which surrendered to the British in 1793. The bell is rung once for good news and twice for bad, and the expansive atrium carries the sound to everyone in the building.
On 122 Leadenhall Street stands the 225 m tall Leadenhall Building which is currently under construction and very close to its completion. It is designed (again) by Richard Rogers. The Leadenhall Building is adjacent to the Lloyd's building, also designed by Rogers. Let the sights, of this grandiose junction, talk for themselves:
52-54 Lime Street is a skyscraper on the corner of Lime Street and Leadenhall Street, opposite the Lloyd's building and adjacent to the Willis Building. Upon completion in 2017 the building will be 190 m. tall, with 38 storeys. It is designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox. The skyscraper is being built for the Berkley insurance company.
The Willis Building is in 51 Lime Street. It stands opposite the Lloyd's building and is 125 m. tall, with 26 storeys. The Willis Building was designed by architect Norman Foster. The skyscraper features a "stepped" design.Construction started 2004. Completed - 2008.
It is recommended to walk the Lime Street and soak its special, contemporary atmosphere (see "A rainy day in the City and the Docklands" trip). From Lime Street head BACK north (on Lime St) toward Leadenhall St. Turn left onto Leadenhall St. Turn left onto Gracechurch and Leadenhall Market will be on the left. Again, Leadenhall Market is covered in the "A rainy day in the City and the Docklands" trip. Leadenhall Market is one of London’s hidden gems. It is a beautiful covered Victorian market with elegant Victorian roof, colorful (a lot of red) stalls selling flowers and fresh food and covered cobbled streets. There are also shops, pubs and restaurants in this arcaded territory (open only during weekdays !). If you like photography, its a charming place to visit. Surrounded by modern high-rises, this indoor market looks more like a Dickensian film set.
Head southwest on Gracechurch St towards St. Peter's Alley. Turn left onto Eastcheap. Turn right onto Fish Street Hill and turn right onto Monument St. The Monument to the Great Fire of 1666 will be on the right. Opening Hours (Summer/Winter): 09:30 - 18.00/17.30 daily. Admission: Adults £3, Concessions £2. It stands on the point of where The Great Fire of London is believed to have started. Great for a rather different perspective of the city and for photos of St. Paul Cathedral, Tower Bridge and the Shard if you have a good zoom camera. Only 310 steps of spiral staircase that lead the way to the top. It gets increasingly narrow towards the top so be careful ! The cheapest bird-eye view - you can purchase in London:
The 20 Fenchurch skycraper (10 minutes walk from Gracechurch Street - to the east, turn left) from the Monument:
Continue southward to the Thames - arriving to the Grant's Quay Wharf and London Bridge. Grants Quay has been recently improved (2009) with new trees, a lawn area, topiary hedges, granite planters and additional seating and planting improvements.
You get a wonderful view of The Shard from Grant's Quay Wharf:
Walk a bit to the west from the London Bridge to the west to watch the Fishmongers Hall. The Fishmongers company was established to provide regulation and quality to the selling of fish. Today the company is more involved with Fisheries and Fishing, as well as charitable work and education. The company is a "Livery Company": a special kind of trade association:
Return to the London Bridge and walk a bit to the east (with your face to the river - to the left) to see the Billingsgate Market. A Victorian building that was originally Billingsgate Fish Market, the world's past largest fish market (moved to the Isle of Dogs in the 1980s). Nowadays, an hospitality and events venue and it remains a major London landmark (private property):
From the Billingsgate Market you can a wonderful view of the Hays Gallery and HM Belfast on the southern bank opposite:
We stay on the northern bank of the Thames and continue eastward. It is 5 minutes walk to The Tower of London (covered in a special trip). From here, take another magical view of the City (20 Fenchurch skycraper):
But, more sensational are the close views to the Tower, the Tower Hill and the Traitors Gate from the Northern Bank. Do not miss this stretch of the Thames. Remember: we are outside of the The Tower premises:
The Tower Bridge and the Tower Cannons:
The Tower Bridge from St. Katherine Docks:
Our final destination is the very scenic St. Katharine Docks. It is a 5-10 minutes walk from the Tower Hill, further eastward, along the Thames, past the Tower Hotel. The presence of warm sun is mandatory to your visit here. Very surprisingly, unpopular touristic site, but, still, rated as one of the top 3% of the London sites - and still, very accessible and close to the central core of London. One of London's best kept secrets. Now in use as yachting marina. Restaurants, shops, wonderful heritage buildings along the harbor, and moored here 120-180 of yachts and boats (from all around the globe) in the heart of London (including: glorious cruisers like the British Royal Barge of Queen Elizabeth II, the boat that carried Winston Churchill's body down the Thames. Note: The Thames Clipper service also stops at St. Katharine Docks as well.
You can walk back to the Tower Hill complex of stations and catch even more photos of the Tower. Try to watch the Tower Hill from the south-west corner of it - In the afternoon hours, when the sun(...) is in the west. This one taken from the promenade south to the Tower Hill:
One more full rainy day walk in the City (incl. part of the Docklands):
Start: Tower Hill Station.
End: Wapping DLR Station.
From Tower Hill Station head west on Tower toward Trinity Square. Here watch the Trinity Square Gardens and the Memorial Pavilion (WW1 and WW2) to the Navy Fleet: 2400 soldiers "who have no grave but the sea":
Continue westward to follow Tower Hill Rd. Turn right (in the corner where Pret A Manger restaurant) onto Seething Ln. Turn left onto Hart St and Saint Olave Church of England is in the intersection of these two couple of roads. One of the few surviving mediaeval buildings in The City of London and the burial place of Samuel Pepys. St Olave’s survives as a rare example of the mediaeval churches that existed before the Great Fire of London in 1666. The church is open every weekday from 9.00 to 17.00.
From Saint Olave Church (8 Hart St.) continue east on Hart St toward New London St. Turn left to New London St and turn right onto Fenchurch St. Pass Fenchurch Lane on your right and the second road to the right is the Lloyds Avenue. In the the corner you see the Lloyds Register of Shipping (no access inside the building):
Continue a bit on Fenchurch St. and you see the famously bizarre looking Lloyds building designed to be maintained from the outside and keep business running smoothly inside. In the past it was East India company so the building's parts are modeled on the size of the tea chests that the early brokers and underwriters did business with. An exceptional site built on 100s of years of tradition and colonialism...
Continue along Fenchurch Street. A pure typical urban landsacpe. The high building in the picture is the Leadenhale Bldg.:
Take the Lloyds Avenue and continue until its end. Turn right to the Crutched Friars Rd. and walk until its end (it continues as the Hart Lane). Turn left to Mark Lane. We continue with our urban landscaping... You'll see at least two exceptional buildings:
The Minster Court building (a complex of three office buildings, completed between 1991 and 1992. The style is described as "postmodern-gothic"):
and the magnificient Dunster Court building :
From Dunster Court we head to the Leadenhall Market. We return part of Mark Lane. Head north on Mark Ln toward Hart St. Turn right onto Fenchurch St. Turn left onto Billiter St. Turn left onto Fenchurch Ave. Turn left onto Lime St. On your right you see again another side of the Lloyds headquarters complex:
Continue onto Leadenhall Market. I personally loved this place. It is a paradise for photographers. A little historical market, beautifully preserved. Many pubs,cafes & restaurants. Surrounded by modern high-rises. charming ! Well worth a visit !
Return to Lime steet and watch another part of the Lloyds monster:
Do not miss the inspiring display of Robert Indiana "Phe through Zero" in Lime St. just opposite the Lloyds building:
Opposite, you see these porticos:
Continue along Lime St. to its end. Cross Leadenhall Street into St. Mary Axe Rd. The St. Andrew Undershaft church is on your right. This square is the "heart" of the City of London. On your left are the Leadenhall and Arriva Towers:
Continue along St. Mary Axe and on your right is one of the most famous icons of the City of London - the Gherkin. Designed by Norman Foster for the Swiss Re corporate. The security entering this building is understandably annoying. Sometimes, there is a bit of a queue at the entrance reception (you'll need a passport as ID). There are two lifts to take. The view from the bar at the top is simply amazing.
Iron Dinosaurs opposite the Gherkin entrance:
Continue along the St. Mary Axe Rd. passing Bury Rd. on your right to arrive to the Baltic Exchange Building. The historic building was designed by Smith and Wimble and completed in 1903.
In 1992 an Irish Republican Army bomb attack destroyed the façade of the Exchange's offices at 30 St Mary Axe and the rest of the building was extensively damaged in. It killed three people. The bomb also caused damage to surrounding buildings, many of which were also badly damaged. The Baltic today focuses on providing freight market information, dispute resolution and a light regulatory framework for the shipping market.
We return back in St. Mary Axe toward St. Andrew Undershaft church and turn left at Undershaft. Turn left onto Leadenhall St passing the St. Katharine Cree church on our left. Slight right to stay on Leadenhall St and continue onto Aldgate. Turn your head to see striking view of the Gherkin and other icons of the City:
On the far side of the square stands St. Botholp Without Aldgate church. The first written record of this church appears in 1115. The church was rebuilt in the 16th century and then again between 1741-1744:
Continue along Aldgate High Street. Cros Mansell St and walk along Whirechapel High Street. Note the building in No. 88:
Later, along this road, again on your left - you arrive to the Whitechapel Art Gallery. Modern Art. Most of the items are dull and not inspiring. Free admission to the permanent exhibition. Photos are not allowed.
The exterior is more interesting:
Continue along Whitechapel Road (continuation of Whitechapel High Street) crossing White Church lane (on the right side) and Adler St (right). On the right side of the WC Road (No. 32-34) you find the splendid Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Just pop into the Bell Foundry. The whole visit (free) takes 5-10 minutes. A trip in the time machine. Amazing friendly staff. So many bells. Techniques and pictures with a deep smell of history.
In case you are not exhausted and still in fit - take a 20-30 minutes walk to the Docklands area of London. It is a rewarding visit in a part which is, suprisingly, quite close to this part of the City of London...
Continue a bit in Whitechapel Road and head northeast toward Fieldgate St. Turn right onto Fieldgate St. Turn right onto Greenfield Rd. Turn left onto Commercial Rd. Turn right onto Cannon St. Turn left onto The Highway (yes, this is name of the road....). Turn right onto Chigwell Hill.
Turn right onto Pennington St and the Tobacco Dock is on your left. Mysterious. Refurbished. Probably you'll be the sole tourist there. It is a grandiose project of renovation and the result will be admirable:
The future of this district is guranteed. Modern (and expensive) housing projects are mushrooming around:
Walk east to the Wapping Lane. On your left you'll see the St. Peter Docks:
Walk until the end of Wapping Lane. On your right and left sides rests Wapping High Street. A bit on the right see the Gun House, Gun Wharf:
Among the houses you'll see a signpost pointing to the Thames Path. Walk between the block to the Thames Path to gain a wonderful view of the Thames and the northern bank of the river:
From Piazza Venezia to Piazza del Popolo:
Highlights: Church of Jesus, Via del Corso, Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, San Marcello al Corso church, Fontana di Trevi, Piazza Colonna, Piazza di Monte Citorio, Giolitti, Galleria Alberto Sordi, Via dei Condotti, Piazza di San Silvestro, PIazza di Spagna, Spanish Steps, Keats House, Palazzo di Propaganda Fide, Trinita' dei Monti church, Via Margutta, Piazza del Popolo, basilica santa maria del Popolo, Il pincio, Ponte Cavour (the Tiber).
Start: Piazza Venezia. By underground (metropolitana): Linea A: the closest station is Piazza Barberini. From there go to the first Atac (bus) stop on Via del Tritone, and take one of the following buses: 95, 175, 492, 62 or 630. Get off at the stop in Via del Corso, where it crosses Via Minghetti, and walk for 150 metres, south, towards Piazza Venezia.
End : Via Tomacelli / Piazza del Popolo.
Duration: 1 day. I dare guessing that Via del Corso will consume far more time than planned. The street shops and the Gelati (ice-cream) spots around - are irresistible magnets. Don't spend time in shopping. We have a wealth of sites to explore today.
Weather: one of very few itineraries that can be walked in EVERY weather (except the Pincio hill that deserves a nice weather).
Orientation: We start with Piazza Venezia but we leave its in-depth exploration to the "From Vittorio Emmanuele Monument to the Campidoglio" trip. This is very busy day. Consider allowing time for the Pamphilj museum (if not detracted by the entrance price), Via del Corso shops and the aristocratic avenues around (again, prices !), the Santa Maria del Popolo cathedral (artistic treasures) and the climb to the Il Pincio Hill with its extensive views of Rome. There are so many sites not included in this trip and are very close to the sites included (the Quirinale, The Borghese Gallery and Park - to remind few of them). Don't worry - most of them are covered in our other Tipter trips of Rome.
The Itinerary: Before we walk from Piazza Venezia to Via del Corso - we'll turn to Chiesa del Gesu (Church of Jesus) in the Piazza del Gesù. Standing in Piazza Venezia with our face to Via del Corso (north) - turn left (WEST) to Via del Plebiscito, along Palazzo Venezia, to Piazza Gesu and its church. Open: 07.00 -12.30, 16.00 -19.45. FREE. In front of us stands a Baroque-style masterpiece creation from the 16th century. A church with great photo opportunities for those looking for some colorful and beautiful church shots. It is the mother church of the Jesuits order. Officially named Chiesa del Santissimo Nome di Gesù all'Argentina (Church of the Most Holy Name of Jesus at the Argentina). The church served as model for innumerable Jesuit churches all over the world. First conceived in 1551 by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits Society of Jesus, and active during the Protestant Reformation and the subsequent Catholic Reformation, the Gesù was also the home of the Superior General of the Society of Jesus until the suppression of the order in 1773. The church reflects the grandiose wealth and power of the Jesuits order in the contra-reformation period in Europe. Although Michelangelo offered, out of devotion, to design the church free, the endeavor was funded by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, grandson of Pope Paul III. The main architects involved in the construction were Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola, architect of the Farnese family, and Giacomo della Porta. Construction of the church began at 1568 to Vignola's design. Vignola was assisted by the Jesuit Giovanni Tristano, who took over from Vignola in 1571. When he died in 1575 he was succeeded by the Jesuit architect Giovanni de Rosis. Giacoma della Porta was involved in the construction of the cross-vault, dome, and the apse.
Direction of the façade: west. The façade of the church is divided into two sections. The lower section is divided by six pairs of pilasters with Corinthian capitals, while the upper section is divided with four pairs of pilasters:
Outstanding interior. It's off the beaten track for most tourists and long may it remain so. But, you won't disappoint. You enter immediately into the body of the church - a single nave without aisles.
Your attention is focused, immediately, on the high altar.
In place of aisles there are a series of identical chapels behind arched openings.
Every inch of the church is covered with beautiful art. The entire church is stunning but the most beautiful is the sublime ceiling fresco: the Trionfo del Nome di Gesù (Triumph of the Name of Jesus), the ceiling fresco by Giovanni Battista Gaulli. The church members of staff are smart enough to put the mirror on the nave to reflect the details of the ceiling, so you can watch through without any effort or neck pain... Many people think that this is the most beautiful church ceiling in Rome:
Return to Piazza Venezzia and turn LEFT (north) to Via del Corso. Via del Corso. in ancient times called via Lata, and now connects Piazza Venezia to Piazza del Popolo.
At no. 305 (3 blocks from Piazza Venezia, on your left) stands Palazzo Doria Pamphilj.
Full price: €11,00 (audio guide included – subject to availability), concessions or groups, children and young adults between 6 and 26 years old: €7.50. Photos allowed for personal and not commercial use. Flash and tripods are not allowed. For security reasons it is not possible to make videos. You need to add 4 Euros for the right to take photos. Open: every day 09.00 - 19.00. Last entry 18.00. Closed: 25th December, 1st January, Easter. Open to the public November 1st, April 25th, May 1st, June 2nd.
Palazzo Doria Pamphilj courtyard:
Do use the guide as it is done by a member of the Pamphilj family who often tells personal anecdotes and his descriptions help personalize the visit. The commentary on the paintings is excellent as well. The State Rooms are filled with masterpieces while the Gallery of Mirrors with windows on both sides and extravagantly painted ceilings reminds one of Versailles. There are works by: Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian and the Brueghel family.
Caravaggio's Rest on the Flight into Egypt:
Titian's Salomé with Head of John the Baptist, c. 1515:
Olimpia Aldobrandini by Algardi:
The major attraction here is the astonishing (!) portrait of Pope Innocent X by Velasquez which is in a room on its own with a Bernini bust of Pope Innocent:
Further north along Via del Corso, on your right, is the San Marcello al Corso church. Devoted to Pope Marcellus I. San Marcello al Corso, facade by Carlo Fontana:
On the next turn to the right, Via dell'Umiltà, you leave Via del Corso - in order to have a glance at the Fontana di Trevi. We visit this fountain and Navona Fountain several times along our trips in Rome. Trevi Fountain looks different - along different parts of the day and in different kinds of weather. The atmosphere changes with the natural light. It is a very busy site and difficult to take good pictures without a million other tourists in the shot. But, everyone is enjoying the majestic fountain. It is 10-15 minutes detour from our main route. Along Via dell'Umiltà you cross Gallerai Sciarra. Both, Fontana di Trevi and Galleria Sciarra are described in the "Rome Colosseum,Imperial Forums and Markets, Fontana di Trevi" trip. Turn left to Via di San Vincenzo - to arrive to the magnificent fountain. We recommend coming to Fontana di Trevi in the morning hours - when the lion's part of the fountain is sun-lighted. Despite it being a real busy, touristy place, it is a wonderful experience. May I tell you a secret ? At 07.00 or even at 08.00 - the place is completely EMPTY. The artwork and structure are breathtaking. It is spectacular at night when lit up. You cannot resist throwing 3 coins in !!! The Romans collect about 1.25 million dollar a year from the fountain ! Tourists throwing coins into the fountain during the week and, at the same time, the workmen are vacuuming it up during the nights or the weekends. Another secret: There is a miniature fountain on the left side of the Trevi Fountain and legend states that if a couple drinks from the “small fountain of lovers” there, they will be forever faithful to each other...
It is 5 minutes walk (300 m.) back to Via del Corso. From Trevi Fountain head west on Piazza di Trevi toward Vicolo del Forno. continue onto Via delle Muratte ( along market road), 200 m and turn right onto Via del Corso. 50 metres further along Via del Corso and you see Piazza Colonna on your left. On your way along Via del Corso you'll see signpost to the Pantheon, Piazza Navona and McDonald's. It is named for the marble Column of Marcus Aurelius which has stood there since 193 CE. The bronze statue of Saint Paul that crowns the column was placed in 1589, by order of Pope Sixtus V.
Piazza Colonna north side is taken up by Palazzo Chigi, formerly the Austro-Hungarian empire's embassy, but is now a seat of the Italian government. The west side is taken up by Palazzo Wedekind (1838) with a colonnade of Roman columns:
The east side is taken up by the 19th century public shopping arcade Galleria Colonna (since 2003 Galleria Alberto Sordi), the south side is taken up by the flank of Palazzo Ferraioli, formerly the Papal post office, and the little Church of Santi Bartolomeo ed Alessandro dei Bergamaschi (1731-35). The fountain in the Piazza (1577) was commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII from Giacomo Della Porta who was assisted by Rocco De Rossi. In 1830 it was restored, and had two sets of dolphins side by side, with tails entwined, sculpted by Achille Stocchi, set at either end of the long basin. The central sculpture was then substituted with a smaller sculpture and spray:
Head west on Piazza Colonna toward Via dei Bergamaschi, continue onto Via della Colonna Antonina and turn right onto Piazza di Monte Citorio. It is named after the Monte Citorio, one of the minor hills of Rome. The piazza contains the Obelisk of Montecitorio and the Palazzo Montecitorio. The Obelisk of Montecitorio (Italian: Obelisco di Montecitorio) is an ancient Egyptian, red granite obelisk (595-589 BC) from Heliopolis. Brought to Rome in 10 BC by the Roman Emperor Augustus.It is 21.79 metres high, and 33.97 metres including the base and the globe. In the background (north) is the Palazzo Montecitorio, the Italian Chamber of Deputies building. You can use the restroom of Colonna Palace Hotel - in the square.
After using the luxury services of Colonna palace Hotel we head to a Gelateria which is a Roman legend for tens of years - the Giolitti, Via Uffici del Vicario 40. Head west on Piazza di Montecitorio toward Via degli Uffici del Vicario and turn left onto Via degli Uffici del Vicario. There is no place, around the globe, which gets the “Best ice cream anywhere in the world” title more than this "institute". It makes the most amazing smooth, flavored ice cream you have had anywhere (even in the USA). Usually, Giolitti is very crowded and is also visited during guided tours. You've to wait along long queue. We've been there, around 11.00 and it was... empty. Loads of amazing flavors. Huge portions. Price is fine for what you get. It's euro2.50 for a 2-scoops cone. Pay at the counter before going to the Gelato bar to choose your ice cream.
We return to Piazza Colonna and Via del Corso and enter the eastern side of the Colonna square - the Galleria Alberto Sordi. It was constructed, as Galleria Colonna and was built in 1914 on the site of Palazzo Piombino. The building is in the Art Nouveau style:
Zara - in Galleria Alberto Sordi:
We walk further north in Via del Corso. We pass Via di S.Claudio on our right. In the next cross-roads we turn LEFT to Via del Parlamento and to Piazza del Parlamento - a formless square. Here we see, again, the Palazzo Montecittorio or Palazzo Parlamento (its front side):
Piazza del Parlamento - Banca del Campania building on the north side of the square:
We return to Via del Corso and turn left to continue walking northward along the street. We pass Via della Vite on our right. Now, we arrive to three parallel, consecutive, famous roads, all of them ON OUR RIGHT, all of them leading to the Spanish Square (piazza di Spagna): (from south to north): Frattina, Borgognona and Condotti. All the three are very luxurious, dotted with boutiques and shops of the most famous designers in the world: Gucci, Armani, Dior etc'. If we take Via dei Condotti, for example, we 'll pass grandiose shops of: Max mara, Louis Vuitton, Giorgio Armani, Biagiotti Group, Bulgari, Gucci and Dior.
Note: at the cross - roads of Via dei Condotti and Via Belsiana - we'll turn RIGHT to Via Belsiana to make a short detour at Piazza S.Silvestro and have LUNCH at Via della Mercede (see later). When you walk along Via dei Condotti and you cross Via Bocca di Leone - turn right or left for a few minutes to appreciate the pricey boutiques along this road as well. Continuing along Via dei Condotti (noth-east), at No. 86 (on your left) you see Antico Caffè Greco (or, simply, Cafe Greco). It is an historic landmark café which opened in 1760. It is perhaps the best known and oldest bar in Rome. Within Italy only Caffè Florian in Venice (established in 1720) is older. Historic figures including Goethe, Byron, Franz Liszt, Keats, Henrik Ibsen, Hans Christian Andersen, Felix Mendelssohn, Stendhal, Wagner and many others have had coffee there. Today, it is a central hub writers, politicians, artists and notable people in Rome.
Wherever you are now - return to the cross - roads of Via dei Condotti and Via Belsiana. Turn EAST (RIGHT - with your back to Via del Corso) to Via Belsiana to make a short detour at Piazza S.Silvestro and have LUNCH at Via della Mercede at a budget, descent pizzeria/restaurant. Head SOUTH on Via Belsiana toward Vicolo Belsiana, turn right onto Via Frattina, turn left onto Via del Gambero, turn left onto Piazza di San Silvestro. The Basilica of Saint Sylvester the First is also known as San Silvestro in Capite. It is located on Piazza San Silvestre, on the corner of Via del Gambero and the Via della Mercede, and stands adjacent to the central Post Office, while across the Piazza stands Santi Claudio e Andrea dei Borgognoni. Built in the 8th century. It is the National church of Great Britain. The Latin words "in capite" refers to the canonical title of Pope Sylvester the First, to which in capite means in First, in Chief, or in Head. By honorific coincidence, the basilica is also famous for enshrining a fragmented head purported to be Saint John the Baptist, putatively kept as a relic, in a chapel to the left of the entrance. The main reason of visiting this church - is its charming courtyard and its handsome tower.
With your face to the Basilica and your back to the Piazza turn RIGHT (EAST) in Via della Mercede. At No. 46/47 (on your right) there is budget restaurant (not easy to find in the vicinity of Via dei Condotti...). Pizza House / Pizza a Taglio. We had lunch there, twice, and enjoyed the quality of the food, the generosity of the portions and the prices. Main portion of 1/4 chicken with a side-dish and cold water - 6 euros.
Continue walking eastward in Via della Mercede until it meets Via di Sant'Andrea delle Fratte. Turn LEFT in Via di Sant'Andrea delle Fratte - to arrive to PIazza di Spagna at the bottom of the Spanish Steps. It is one of the most famous squares of Rome. It owes its name to the Palazzo di Spagna, seat of the Embassy of Spain. Lovely place to go at sunset. For restroom: with your face to the steps - Babbingtons on the Left and Maccas on the right.
In the middle of the square is the famous Fontana della Barcaccia, dating to the beginning of the Baroque age. It is so named because it is in the shape of a half-sunken ship with water overflowing its bows. The fountain was commissioned by Pope Urban VIII and was completed in 1627 by Pietro Bernini and his son Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The shape was chosen because, prior to the river walls being built, the Tiber often flooded and in 1598 there was a particularly bad flooding and the Piazza di Spagna was flooded up to a metre. Once the water withdrew, a boat was left behind in the square.
On spring 2014 the fountain was under repair and cleaning. A depressing sight and real disappointment.
The spectacular 135-step Spanish Steps were inaugurated by Pope Benedict XIII during the 1725 Jubilee. They were built in order to connect the Bourbon Spanish embassy (down) (from which the square takes its name) to the Church of Trinità dei Monti (up). They were designed by Alessandro Specchi and Francesco De Sanctis after long discussions about how to urbanize the steep slope on the side of the Pincian Hill in order to connect it to the Trinità dei Monti church. The final key was the one proposed by Francesco De Sanctis: a great staircase decorated with many garden-terraces where the scenic effects increase more and more while approaching to it. In effect, the creation of long, deep perspectives culminating in monumental wings or backdrops was typical of the great Baroque architecture. The last time the Spanish Steps were restored - was in year 1995. it's worth climbing the 135 steps to the top for a nice view of the city. It is the widest staircase in Europe and still it feels like it's not big enough for the amount of people who congregate there. Lots of people hanging around, many people like to go and sit on the steps at night after dinner. There are many sellers (who do not understand the word "NO") trying to give roses away and say they are free and then when you have taken them will ask you for money and they can be quite aggressive when you dismiss them so just try to walk past them (the same holds for Piazza di Popolo). From the base of the steps, the view is wonderful with azaleas placed throughout and the height of it all. BTW, Go up the steps and turn right and there is another flight of steps almost identical but not as wide and nobody sits there:
Spanish Steps from Via dei Condotti:
Spanish Steps and Trinita del Monti Church:
At the right (east) corner of the Spanish Steps there is the house of the English poet John Keats, who lived there until his death in 1821. In November 1820, the English poet John Keats, who was dying of tuberculosis, came to Rome at the urging of friends and doctors who hoped that the warmer climate might improve his health. Nowadays it has been changed into a museum dedicated to him and his friend Percy Shelley, full of books and memorabilia of English Romanticism. The English poet John Keats could hear the sound of the fountain's water flowing soothingly from his deathbed. The museum houses one of the world's most extensive collections of memorabilia, letters, manuscripts, and paintings relating to Keats and Shelley, as well as Byron, Wordsworth, Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Oscar Wilde, and others. It is located on the second floor of the building situated just to the south of the base of the Spanish Steps. Open: Monday to Saturday 10.00 to 13.00 and 14.00 to 18.00, Sunday: Closed. The museum is open on most holidays (Italian and English). The museum is closed on the following days: 8 December, 23-31 December, 1 January. Admission prices: Adults (up to the age of 65) €5.00, uUnder 18s and over 65s €4.00:
At the left corner there is the Babington's tea room, founded in 1893. The shop was founded in 1893 by Isabel Cargill and Anne Marie Babington, two English women, with the intention of catering for the many English-speaking people in Rome. At the time of the founding of Babington's, tea in Italy could be bought only in pharmacies. The interiors are in the late 19th century style. The food is mostly traditional English fare:
The Palazzo di Propaganda Fide (in English : Palace of the Propagation of the Faith) is at the southern end of Piazza di Spagna. Its southern facade is in front of the basilica Sant'Andrea delle Fratte, whose cupola and the bell were the work of Borromini. The main facade was created by Bernini (1644), and the front side of the via di Propaganda by Borromini (1646). This setting aside of Bernini's work was a request of Pope Innocent X, who preferred Borromini's style. The work was completed in 1667:
After climbing the 135-138 steps we arrive to Piazza Trinita' dei Monti and Trinita' dei Monti church. A lovely, famous, little, French church on top of the historic Spanish steps, with a beautiful view of Rome from the top. A must visit if you have the chance. After walking up the many stairs to reach the top of the Spanish Steps, the atmosphere in the church is romantic and the view is breathtaking.
A very peaceful place. Worthwhile to visit the small church while the Mass is held. The acoustic is really good, much better than in the big Basilicas and the Chorals are really splendid.
Piazza Trinita dei Monti - view of Villa Borghese park:
Trinita dei Monti church interior- Cesare Nebbia - Christ falling under the Cross (1589 - 1590):
We descend the Spanish Steps the whole way down to Piazza di Spagna. Take the north-west end of the Piazza and continue onto Via del Babuino for 90 m. and TAKE GLANCE AT the left onto Via Vittoria (connects between Via del Corso and Via del Babuino. Very quiet and relaxing road: a total contrast to all other roads around. You may try the Il Gabriello restaurant at Via Vittoria, 51: good food, not pricey (but not cheap), friendly, polite and tranquile.
We continue north-west along Via del Babuino - heading to Piazza del Popolo. Not at No. 150 A the Canova Tadolini sculpting atelier:
Via del Babuino was, once, very aristocratic street but it had been replaced by other roads arounds - one of them is Via Margutta. From Via del Babuino turn RIGHT toward Via dell'Orto di Napoli and, then, turn LEFT onto Via Margutta. Via Margutta originally was home to modest craftsmen, workshops and stables, but now hosts many art galleries and fashionable restaurants. After the film Roman Holiday became popular, Via Margutta developed into an exclusive neighborhood, where various famous people lived, such as film director Federico Fellini. You'll appreciate walking along this road:
Head northwest on Via Margutta toward Vicolo del Babuino (250 m), continue (LEFT, WEST) onto Via della Fontanella (80 m) and turn right onto Via del Corso to face this house at No. 522:
Continue north-west along Via del Corso - arriving, at last to Piazza del Popolo. A power spot, a one-of-a-kind majestic experience. The name in modern Italian literally means "People's Square". For centuries, the Piazza del Popolo was a place for public executions, the last of which took place in 1826. The piazza lies inside the northern gate in the Aurelian Walls, once the Porta Flaminia of ancient Rome, and now called the Porta del Popolo. Beyond this gate lies the Piazzale Flaminio and the start of the Via Flaminia. The gateway was reworked to give its current appearance by Bernini for Pope Alexander VII in 1655, to welcome Queen Christina of Sweden to Rome following her conversion to Roman Catholicism and her abdication:
Looking from the north (illustration, right), three streets branch out from the piazza into the city, forming the so-called "trident" (il Tridente): the Via del Corso in the centre; the Via del Babuino to the left (opened in 1525 as the Via Paolina) and the Via di Ripetta (opened by Leo X in 1518 as the Via Leonina) to the right. Piazza del Popolo was the starting point of the Via Flaminia, the road to Ariminum (modern-day Rimini) and the most important route to the north. The layout of the piazza today was designed in neoclassical style between 1811 and 1822 by the architect Giuseppe Valadier. An Egyptian obelisk of Sety I (later erected by Rameses II) from Heliopolis stands in the centre of the Piazza. Three sides of the obelisk were carved during the reign of Sety I and the fourth side, under Rameses II. The obelisk, known as the obelisco Flaminio or the Popolo Obelisk, is the second oldest and one of the tallest obelisks in Rome (some 24 m high, or 36 m including its plinth). The obelisk was brought to Rome in 10 BC by order of Augustus and originally set up in the Circus Maximus. It was re-erected here in the piazza by the architect-engineer Domenico Fontana in 1589 as part of the urban plan of Sixtus V:
The twin churches (the chiese gemelle) of Santa Maria dei Miracoli (1681) and Santa Maria in Montesanto (1679), begun by Carlo Rainaldi and completed by Bernini and Carlo Fontana, define the junctions of the three roads pouring onto the square. Close observation of the twin churches reveals that they are not exact copies of one another, but they vary in their details and in their symmetrical balance in Baroque fashion.
Until year 2012 the Piazza del Popolo was congested with traffic. Today, it is a pedestrian zone full with musicians playing, performance artists, rose sellers, bubble blowing, Segways rolling and benches to sit on. Very often with big screens set-ups and evening's music activities:
Fountains by Giovanni Ceccarini (1822–23), with matching compositions of a central figure flanked by two attendant figures, stand on each side of the piazza to the west and east, flanked by neoclassical statues of The Seasons (1828). The Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune) stands on the west side, Neptune with his trident is accompanied by two dolphins:
Rome between the Tiber and the Aniene (Fontana della dea di Roma) on the east side, against the steep slope of the Pincio: Dea Roma armed with lance and helmet, and in front is the she-wolf feeding Romulus and Remus:
There's yet another church at the Piazza del Popolo, the Santa Maria del Popolo. It is not easy to recognise this immense Baislica... With your face to the Porta del Popolo (the wall's gate), to the north, it is on the right side of the square, of the gate and the wall. The cathedral is hemmed in between Porta del Popolo (the ancient Porta Flaminia) and the Pincio hill.
It is located right near the Porta del Popolo where it was built in 1477 at the site of an eleventh-century chapel. It is in the small building on the left of the photo below:
In 1099, a chapel was built by Pope Paschal II to Our Lady. The chapel was enlarged and became a church by will of Pope Gregory IX in 1235, and was given to the Augustinian friars, who still oversee it, in 1250.Santa Maria del Popolo was reconstructed by Baccio Pontelli and Andrea Bregno in 1472-1477 on the orders of Pope Sixtus IV and was given to the congregation of Lombard friars in Rome. In 1655-60 the façade was modified by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who was asked by Pope Alexander VII to update the Renaissance church to a more modern Baroque style.
The church contains many impressive works of art, including Rome's oldest stained-glass windows. There are works by several famous artists for example Raphael, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Caravaggio, Alessandro Algardi, Pinturicchio and Donato Bramante. The most famous are two of Caravaggio's most powerful works.
The apse was designed by Bramante. The oldest stained glass window in Rome can be found here, made by French artist Guillaume de Marcillat. Pinturicchio decorated the vault with frescoes, including the Coronation of the Virgin. The tombs of Cardinals Ascanio Sforza and Girolamo Basso della Rovere, both made by Andrea Sansovino, can also be found in the apse:
The Chigi chapel - created by Raphael - and the Della Rovere chapel - embellished with fifteenth-century frescoes - are particularly noteworthy.
The Basso Della Rovere Chapel was built by Girolamo Basso della Rovere in 1471-84. The painted decoration is attributed to Pinturicchio and his workshop. The highlights of the chapel are the great fresco of the Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints Augustine, Francis, Anthony of Padua and a Holy Monk above the altar, the Assumption of the Virgin Mary:
Chigi Chapel: Banker Agostino Chigi commissioned Raphael to design and decorate a funerary chapel for him in 1513. The chapel is a treasure trove of Italian Renaissance and Baroque art and is considered among the most important monuments in the basilica. The dome of the centralized octagonal chapel is decorated with Raphael's mosaics, the Creation of the World. In the central medaillon we can see God in the act of creating the World. The statues of Jonah and Elijah were carved by Lorenzetto. The chapel was later completed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini for Fabio Chigi. His additions include the sculptures of Habakkuk and the Angel and Daniel and the Lion.
Habbakuk and the Angel by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Agostino Chigi's pyramidal wall tomb:
Jonah by Lorenzetto, Chigi Chapel:
The Cybo Chapel (Cappella Cybo) is the second side chapel in the right-hand aisle of the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome. The chapel is regarded one of the most significant sacral monuments erected in Rome in the last quarter of the 17th century.
The chapel with the altarpiece of Carlo Maratta:
The Cerasi Chapel holds two famous canvases painted by Caravaggio - Crucifixion of St. Peter and Conversion on the Way to Damascus (1600–01). These are probably the most important works of art in the basilica. Situated between the two works of Caravaggio is the altarpiece Assumption of the Virgin by Annibale Carracci. The famous chapel is packed with tourists equipped with cameras. It is, most of the time, darkened. You have to wait until one of the visitors will donate a coin - for lighting up the small chapel.
Crucifixion of St. Peter:
Conversion on the Way to Damascus:
After visiting Basilica santa maria del Popolo we exit the cathedral, turn LEFT (EAST) and start climbing the Il Pincio hill: first, the stairs up then the road of Vialle Gabriele D'Annuncio.
The sight of the Piazza del Popolo from the top of the stairs is superb:
Note: there is a restroom on the left side, on top of the stairs - but it closes at 16.40 exactly...
The Pincian Hill (Ii Pincio) lies to the north of the Quirinal, overlooking the Campus Martius (Camp Mars). It was outside the original boundaries of the ancient city of Rome, and was not one of the Seven hills of Rome, but it lies within the wall built by Roman Emperor Aurelian between 270 and 273.
After climbing the stairs we arrive to Piazza Napolone I. The Piazza Napoleone was set from a distance, as Napoleon never visited Rome. It is a grand open space that looks out over Piazza del Popolo, also laid out by Valadier, and provides views to the west, and of the skyline of Rome beyond:
View from Piazza Napoloene I to Vittorio Emmanuele monument:
In the gardens of il Pincio, it was Giuseppe Mazzini's urging that lined the garden paths with busts of notable Italians. Several villas and their gardens still occupy the hill, including the Borghese gardens, linked to Il Pincio by a pedestrian bridge that crosses the via del Muro Torto.The Muro Torto is the winding stretch of the Aurelian Wall, pierced by the Porta Pinciana:
Views of Piazza del POpolo from Il Pincio hill gardens:
Views of Rome from Il Pincio hill gardens:
Statue under the lookout balcony in Il Pincio hill:
After spending one hour walking around the hill, gardens, soaking up Rome views we go down to city river - the Tiber. To walk down find the Viale Adamo Mickievicz and start walking down to the city along this road. Viale Adamo Mickievicz turns slightly left and becomes Viale della Trinità dei Monti (230 m). Slight right onto Via di San Sebastianello (230 m), turn left onto Piazza di Spagna (58 m), turn right to stay on Piazza di Spagna (38 m), continue onto Via delle Carrozze (280 m), turn left onto Via del Corso (75 m) and turn right onto Via Tomacelli. You'll face Chiesa (church) San Carlo al Corso on your right with pretty fountains around:
You can continue to Ponte Cavour (5-7 minutes walk) - but, better catch a bus along Via Tomacelli to your accommodation in Rome.
Maria-Theresien-Platz to Michaelerplatz:
Main Attractions: Maria-Theresien-Platz, Naturhistorisches Museum, Volkstheater, Volksgarten, Schmerlingplatz, Palais Auersperg, Palais Epstein, the Parliament, Reichsratsstraße, Rathausplatz, Rathaus, Rathauspark, Burgtheater, Palais Ferstel, Ferstel / Freyung Passage, Freyung Platz, Palais Kinsky,Cafe Central, Herrengasse, Michaelerplatz (Michaelerkirche, Michaelertract, Michaelertor, Looshaus).
Start: Maria-Theresien-Platz. It is easy to reach by the U Bahn using the Volkstheater stop or by tram; it is also a transfer point for the hop-on hop-off tour buses. On one side of the square is the Naturhistorisches (Natural History) Museum, and on the other side is the Kunsthistorisches (Fine Arts) Museum. Across the Burgring is the Hofburg Complex, and across the Museum Platz is the Museums Quartier Wien. By subway - U2 “Museumsquartier” , U3 “Volkstheater”, Tram D, 1, 2, Bus 2A, 57A “Burgring”.
End: Michaelerplatz (adjacent, north side of the Hofburg).
Duration: 1/2 - 1 day.
Distance: 5-6 km.
Maria-Theresien-Platz is a large, green square that joins the Ringstraße (Burgring) with the Museumsplatz and the Museumsquartier (Museums Quarter). Facing each other from the sides of the square are two identical buildings: the Naturhistorisches Museum (Natural History Museum) (see a separate blog dedicated to this wonderful museum) and the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum). The buildings are near identical, except for the statuary on their façades. The Naturhistorisches' façade has statues depicting personifications of the various continents known to Austrian science at the time—Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. The monumental buildings mirror each other; they have the same neo-Renaissance design with large domes, a creation of the renowned German architect Gottfried Semper. The interior of the museums - designed by Carl von Hasenauer - is sumptuous, and features an abundance of marble stairs, statues and columns. The building south of the square houses the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts) and the building opposite is home to the Naturhistorisches Museum (Museum of Natural History).
America and Australia:
The Kunsthistorisches façade features famous European artists, such as the Dutch Bruegel, among others:
With the demolition of the fortifications around Vienna the opportunity arose to create a new monumental royal complex. By 1870 an ambitious design by Gottfried Semper, dubbed the Kaiserforum, was approved. Construction of this Kaiserforum started the following year and consisted of the creation of two museum buildings as well as two new palace wings (of which only one was eventually completed) - the Neue Burg - and two squares: Heldenplatz and Maria-Theresien-Platz. Plans to connect the two squares across the newly created Ringstrasse by two triumphal arches were never realized due to the outbreak of the First World War.
The area between the two museums is laid out with formal gardens that are decorated with statues, fountains and shrub beds. At the center of the square is a large statue depicting Empress Maria Theresa, namesake of the square - first woman to hold the throne (reigned for forty years, 1740-1780), she supported the arts, reinforced the economy and the military status of the empire. She married for love and had 16 children, the most famous of all being Marie Antoinette (wife of French king Louis XVI and beheaded during the French Revolution). The monument, created in 1888 by Kaspar Zumbusch, shows Maria Theresa seated on top of a large pedestal supported on all sides by Corinthian columns. She is holding a scroll with the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713, an edict issued by Emperor Charles VI that allowed women to ascend the throne. It is remarkable how similar her repose is in this statue to another long-lived European queen, Victoria of England (her statue opposite Buckingham Place). The empress is surrounded by some of her closest advisors. Four of her generals (von Daun, von Khevenhüller, Traun and von Laudon) are shown on horseback. Von Kaunitz, the chancellor of state, Van Swieten, her physician, Liechtenstein, director of the artillery forces and count von Haugwitz, who reformed the economy and strengthened central authority are shown standing near the pedestal. Habsburg splendor, majesty and harmony at their best. It is a great area to enjoy the weather. The statues and the manicured gardening beds are great for taking pictures:
In addition to the monument to Empress Maria Theresa at the square, you will also find a series of four fountain pools with marble statues, each surrounded by large manicured shrubs. There are park benches, found at each fountain as well if you want to have a rest before or after visiting one of the nearby museums:
The Naturhistorisches Museum and the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the square adjoining them were built in 1889. The Naturhistorisches Museum houses displays of butterflies and other insects, and an extensive preserved and stuffed animal collection, the most poignant examples of which include a Przewalskii's horse, a baby Javanese rhinoceros, and a case of dodo remains. Also notable is the museum's famous Mikrotheater, showing slides of microscopic organisms, its two spider crabs which were sent to Emperor Franz Joseph by the Japanese Emperor as a gift, and the first ever human depiction of an underwater scene made from life observation and the diving bell from which it was made. The stairwell contains paintings of Emperor Franz Joseph, Empress Maria Theresa and her stuffed pet lap dog, a miniature hound. The current building was completed in 1889. Today it houses a collection of about 30 million specimens and artifacts. Its collections were founded in 1750 by Emperor Franz I Stephan of Lorraine, the husband of Maria Theresa. Like the Kunsthistorisches Museum - the Naturhistorisches Museum building is great and on its own a reason to come and visit. Be prepared - you can easily spend half or even a full day here. There is plenty to keep you occupied, many interesting exhibits. Also an interesting exhibition on the top floor about the Chernobyl disaster in Russia.
Opening times: THU-MON: 9.00 - 18.30, WED: 9.00 - 21.00. Tuesday: closed. closed: Dec. 25, Jan. 1. Admission: Children and youth under 19 - free, Adults - € 10, Senior citizens - € 8, Students - € 5. Audioguide € 2:
The Venus of Willendorf:
The Kunsthistorisches Museum is described, in detail, in my separate blog "Vienna - Museum of Fine Arts - Kunsthistorisches Museum: 7th heaven for art lovers:
From the Nature History Museum head southwest, turn right toward Museumsplatz and the Volkstheater ("People's Theatre") is on your left. One of the prettiest buildings in Vienna! The Volkstheater station of lines U2 and U3 of the Vienna U-Bahn is located here:
The Volkstheater is located in Neubau, the seventh district of Vienna. It is often said to be the "biggest theatre in the German-speaking world". The Volkstheater was founded in 1889 by request of the citizens of Vienna, amongst them the dramatist Ludwig Anzengruber and the furniture manufacturer Thonet, in order to offer a popular counter weight to the Hofburgtheater. Like the Schauspielhaus in Hamburg, the Vienna Volkstheater was built by the architects Ferdinand Fellner and Hermann Helmer. The founders of this stage had a theatrical stage in mind, in order to expose wider circles of the population of Vienna to classical and modern literature whilst staging these next to more traditional plays. The theatre follows this tradition even today. Nowadays, the repertoire of the Volkstheater includes Austrian as well as German and international classics. Other focal points are comedies and musicals. Most of the time you can't get inside for a tour. To see its interior come to a concert, opera, musical or a play on stage in the evenings. It is incredibly nice under the decorative lighting. The Voklsteather is perfect for the operas you if have time at Vienna:
From the Volkstheater head northwest on Museumsplatz toward Bellariastraße. Turn right onto Bellariastraße and walk 230 m. Turn right onto Burgring and turn left onto the Volksgarten. The Volksgarten (People's Garden) is a public park, part of the Hofburg Palace. It was laid out by Ludwig Remy in 1821. The Volksgarten area was originally used for fortifications. Between 1596 to 1597, a fortress wall was built on the eastern side of park. In 1639, additional fortifications were built on the southern side. In 1809, these fortifications were destroyed by Napoleon's French troops. Between 1817 and 1821, the area near Ballhausplatz square was converted to gardens originally intended for a private garden for the archdukes. These plans were changed through a proposal by the court garden administration to turn the area into the first public park in the city. On 1 March 1823, the park was officially opened. Starting in 1825, the name Volksgarten was commonly used. In 1862, the gardens were extended toward Ringstraße after the city moat had been filled in. The park includes, if you're in Vienna in the right season, stunning rose garden:
At the center of the park is the Theseus Temple, a replica of the Temple of Hephaestus (Theseion) in the Ancient Agora of Athens. The temple was originally built between 1820 and 1823 by Peter von Nobile, an Austrian architect. It originally housed the statue 'Theseus and the Minotaur' by Antonio Canova. The statue is now missing; in 1890 it was moved to the
staircase inside the Kunsthistorisches Museum shortly after the museum opened:
The Cortisches coffee house was built between 1820 and 1823, also by Peter Nobile. Austrian Romantic composers Johann Strauss I and Joseph Lanner performed here. On 10 March 1867, Johann Strauss II conducted the first performances of his Donauwalzer. The Cafè Meirei was built in 1890, originally as a water reservoir. In 1924, it was converted to the Milchtrinkhalle. The Milchpavillon was built in 1951 by Oswald Haerdtl:
At the northern end of the park stands the Empress Elizabeth (“Sissi”) Monument by Hans Bitterlich and Friedrich Ohmann, completed in 1907. At the center of the monument is a statue of a seated Empress Elisabeth by Hans Bitterlich. The dedication of the monument took place on 4 June 1907 in the presence of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria:
At the other end of the park is a monument honoring Franz Grillparzer, created in 1889 by Karl Kundmann. It shows a statue of the poet and playwright Grillparzer in an exedra flanked by reliefs depicting scenes from his plays:
Head southwest on Volksgarten toward Burgring, to exit from the southernmost edge of the park. Turn right onto Burgring, continue onto Doktor-Karl-Renner-Ring and turn left onto Schmerlingplatz. It is named in 1893 after the politician Anthony Von Schmerling:
You can't miss, here, the Palais Auersperg, originally called Palais Rosenkavalier, which is a baroque palace at Auerspergstraße 1. It was in Palais Auersperg, built in 1710 according to plans by Lukas von Hildebrandt, that the six-years-old W. A. Mozart leapt onto the lap of Empress Maria Theresia. Later, he and other famous composers premièred their masterpieces in this magnificent setting, and Emperor Franz Josef and his wife Sisi danced there at resplendent balls. The pale pink and green marbled walls and the sparkling crystal chandeliers also inspired Hugo von Hofmannstahl to write his libretto for "Der Rosenkavalier". With this famous opera, Richard Strauss gave Palais Auersperg and its illustrious guests a memorial for posterity. In our time it has been used as a shooting location for numerous films, including the world-famous "The Third Man". In the beginning of 2006 the Palais was sold again to an old European family. The State Apartments remained the same and are still used for musical purposes. In the upper floor most areas have been changed into office rooms. In the next few years the Palais will be restored and a small museum is planned. Currently the Palais is used for balls and musical events of various kinds; it has eleven rooms and can accommodate up to 1000 guests. You can visit here only during musical events (Vienna Residence Orchestra):
In the west side of Schmerlingplatz stands the Palace of Justice (Schmerlingplatz 10-11). The Palace of Justice (German: Justizpalast) is the seat of the Supreme Court (Oberster Gerichtshof) of Austria. The Neo-Renaissance building erected from 1875 to 1881. In addition to the Supreme Court, the Palace of Justice houses the Higher Regional Court of Vienna and the Regional Court for Civil Matters Vienna and the General Prosecution and the Supreme Public Prosecutor for Vienna:
Palais Epstein, Doktor-Karl-Renner-Ring 3 is in the eastern side of chmerlingplatz. It was built for the industrialist and banker Gustav Ritter von Epstein. The architect was Theophil Freiherr von Hansen, who also designed the adjacent Austrian Parliament Building. Unlike traditional Baroque noble palaces in Vienna, the Palais Epstein was built in the late 19th century and is therefore considered a Ringstraßenpalais. It is up to five storeys high and built in the neo-renaissance style typical of its time. Following the Gründerkrach (i.e. "Founders' Crash", the 9 May 1873 crash of the Vienna Stock Exchange) Epstein had to sell the palais to the Imperial Continental Gas Association, an English gas company, to avoid bankruptcy. In 1902 it was acquired by the State and used as domicile of the Administrative Court. After conversions it became home to the Vienna School Authority in 1922. Following the Anschluss it housed offices of the Reichsstatthalter's building authorities. From 1945 to 1955 the Palais Epstein was domicile of the Soviet Headquarters. After that, it briefly served as a branch of the Academy of Music and Performing Arts and then again for the School Authority until 2002. After a thorough refurbishment it has been a branch of nearby Parliament ever since. A permanent exhibition about the history of the palais and its owners has been set up in the basement and there are guided tours of the bel etage first floor which has been restored to its original state. Guided Tours Palais Epstein: Groups of 10 people on demand. Start of the guided tour is at the Parliament Visitor’s Center. Combination tickets for guided tours of Parliament and Palais Epstein are available (admission: 8 €). Mid-September until mid-July (except on days when parliament is in session): MON - THU: 11.00 , 14.00, 15.00, 16.00, FRI: 11.00, 13.00, 14.00, 15.00, 16.00, SAT: 11.00, 12.00, 13.00, 14.00, 15.00, 16.00. Mid-July until mid-September (except on days when parliament is in session):
MON - SAT: 11.00, 12.00, 13.00, 14.00, 15.00, 16.00:
The Austrian Parliament building is a bit north to Schmerlingplatz (see Tip below). We devote a special Tip (below) to this wonderful construction between the Hofburg Imperial Palace and the Palace of Justice.
From the Parliament complex head north on Reichsratsstraße toward Rathausplatz and continue straight onto Rathausplatz:
The town square in front of Vienna's city hall is called "Rathausplatz". Rathausplatz is an amazing place. A masterpiece of architecture. One of the greatest city halls, with the statues of all the mayors along the path, leading to its main entrance. The square is busy all the year round. During the Summer are various local fairs, with wine and food stalls. There are so many reasonable choices of cuisines to choose from. Every summer, from the end of June until the beginning of September, the square in front of Vienna’s City Hall becomes a nightly tribute to the city’s status as a global music capital, by playing host to the vibrant Rathausplatz Music Film Festival. Every evening at dusk, a different music-centric film plays on a giant screen displayed above the square. The selection is diverse—from operas to ballets to jazz to rock concerts—which can be refreshing for those worn out by Vienna’s constant onslaught of classical. The festival doesn’t just offer audio delights either—a wide selection of international cuisine is available daily from 11 a.m. until midnight. Provided by twenty of the top restaurateurs in the city, the aim is to provide a “culinary world tour” for festival-goers. There is a Christmas market (Adventmarkt and Silvesterpfad) from mid-November to the New Year. Every year there is an ice-skating rink (Wiener Eistraum) in the early months of the year. The range of events put on by the municipality is phenomenal. Vienna is to be applauded for producing such excellent entertainment for its people and for the tourists. Enjoy visiting Rathausplatz at night - allowing outstanding views of the Rathaus building when it is illuminated with floodlights:
On your right is the Rathaus. A Gothic structure that was built between 1873-1883. It is well served by trams though slightly less so by U-Bahn as the station entrance is tucked away a couple of minutes behind the Rathaus. The Rathaus is a very beautiful town hall on one side of the Ringstrasse and a definite must see; on the other side is the Burgtheater which is much less imposing. In the night, it is very nice lighted. Building with stunning fairy-tale details and wonderful symmetry, especially backlit by the setting sun. The free building tour, little under a hour, is offered Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 13.00. The tour is in German only but they will give you an audio guide in English, French, Spanish or Italian with a photo ID. The guide takes you around the huge building (don't try this if you can't do stairs) and tells you what number to listen to on your audio guide while he speaks in German. A couple of beautiful rooms to see. Pay particular attention to the fine wood ceilings and to the gorgeous chandeliers:
The entrance to the Wappensäle in the Rathaus is via Feststiege II (festive staircase II) in Lichtenfelsgasse 2:
The Rathauspark is on the eastern side of the Rathausplatz. About 20 food and beverage stands in the center with plenty of seating. The green areas of the Platz have a huge number of wooden benches. THere would be never lack for a seat. Several nice statues.
From the Rathausplatz head east, turn right toward Josef-Meinrad-Platz and walk 100 m. crossing the Universitatsring. Turn left to arrive to the
Burgtheater, Universitätsring 2. After the Comédie Francaise, the Burgtheater in Vienna is Europe’s second-oldest theatre. Today, the Burgtheater, originally known as the K. K. Hoftheater nächst der Burg, complete with its three affiliated venues – the Akademietheater, Kasino and Vestibül – and a permanent ensemble of more than 80 actors and actresses, is one of Europe’s largest theatres and plays a major role in the German-speaking theatrical world. Every season, the Burgtheater and its affiliated venues welcome approximately 400,000 theatre-goers to some 800 performances. The stage of the Burgtheater is one of the biggest theatre stages in the world. The main stage is 28,5m wide, 23m deep and 28m high. At the opening in 1888 the stage technology was already innovatory and has been modernized on many occasions. During the reconstruction after World War II, which was accomplished in 1955, a stage equipment was installed that is still revolutionary today. The revolving stage consists of a rotating cylinder and four hydraulic lifts. With the help of this technical features the scenery can be changed within 40 seconds. It is the biggest automatic and computer controlled stagesystem in Europe. The Burgtheater auditorium holds 1175 seats, it has standing room for 84 visitors and 12 places for disabled visitors. Apart from the stage-art the Burgtheater plays an important part in architecture and interior design of the 19th century in Vienna. The magnificent decoration, especially the two imperial staircases painted by Gustav Klimt, his brother Ernst Klimt and their companion Franz Matsch as well as the main foyer and the many statues, busts and paintings of famous writers and actors can be visited during a daily guided tour. Opening hours: The programme is published on www.burgtheater.at on the 1st of each month for the following month. The Burgtheater and all its four venues are closed during July and August. All plays and performances are in German language, if not indicated otherwise. Ticket sale & information: Beginning on the 20th of each month, the ticket sales start for the following month. (e.g. the ticket sale for Novemer starts on the 20th of october). Ticket Prices:
Burgtheater & Akademietheater: EUR 5 / 8 / 12 / 19 / 27 / 35 / 43 / 51
Standing room EUR 2,50. Burgtheater ticket office: Phone: +43 (0)1 51444-4440, Universitätsring 2, 1010 Wien. Last Minute and Reduced Ticket: For designated performances: one hour prior to the performance all remaining tickets can be bought 25% off the full price (as marked on the online-schedule or at the box office, except matinees and special events). Reduced tickets for 8€ are available at the ticket offices for students, apprentices and unemployed (necessary identity card).
Guided Tour „Burgtheater – behind the scenes“ - SEP-JUN only: Daily 15.00. (Subject to change), MON - THU: 15.00 in German with English summary. FRI - SUN: 15.00. German and English. Admission (SEP-JUN):
Adults EUR 6,50, Seniors EUR 5,50, Students EUR 3,-, Children EUR 3,-.
Guided Tours „Burgtheater – behind the scenes“ - JUL – AUG only: Daily 15.00 German and English. Admission (JUL-AUG): Adults EUR 5,50, Seniors EUR 4,50, Students EUR 2,-, Children EUR 2,-.
Meeting Point: in the hall at the main entrance
Duration: 50 minutes. No registration required. Ticket sale 15 minutes prior to guided tour.
Information and Contact
Phone +43(0) 1 514 44-4140
Fax: +43(0) 1 514 44-4143
Universitätsring 2, 1010 Wien
From Josef-Meinrad-Platz, in the south side of Burgtheater - head east on toward Löwelstraße, 65 m. Continue straight onto Löwelstraße, 17 m. Continue onto Bankgasse, 230 m. Turn right onto Herrengasse, 98 m and
turn left onto Strauchgasse. The Palais Ferstel is in Strauchgasse 4. The famous Palais Ferstel is located in one of the oldest districts of Vienna, the Palais Quarter in the 1st district. Palais Ferstel is one of the most interesting buildings belonging to the Wilhelminian Era and by 1900 formed the social centre of Vienna comprising of its Café Central, ballrooms and salon areas. The large Ferstel ballroom, together with the arcade courtyard and side rooms, form an elegant and stylish setting. The building originally housed the Austro-Hungarian National Bank and the Stock Exchange as well as bazaar and a café popular with artists and men of letters. The palace was built in the 1850s to plans provided by the architect Heinrich von Ferstel. This prestigious building in the style of those put up along the Ringstrasse boulevard still catches the eye today because of the use of Venetian and Florentine elements in its design:
Head northeast on Strauchgasse toward Heidenschuß, 94 m and turn left onto Freyung Platz. A pretty, triangular historic square surrounded by imposing Baroque palaces. In the centre is a large fountain topped with a figure representing Austria. At its base four other figures symbolizing the principal rivers of the past Austro-Hungarian territory: – the Danube, Elbe, Po and Vistula:
In the north-west edge of the Freyung square stands a beautiful baroque building which turned out to be a Palace. Palace Kinsky (Freyung # 4)was originally built in 1717 for Count Wirich Philipp von Daun who was Austrian field marshal in the war of the Spanish succession. His son Leopold Josef Graf Daun became a field marshal of Empress Maria Theresa. In 1784, the Bohemian Kinsky family bought the Palace. The yellow-white façade happens to be on the narrow side of the Palace, it goes back much further in depth (to the west). At the main entrance there are two arcs which enclose the central window, and two allegorical figures: on the left - the wisdom and on the right - the justice. The emblem of the Kinsky is situated over the window. The interior is richly-decorated, has a lovely staircase, frescoed ceilings, mirrors and statues and expensive parquet floors. The Palace was used for the final-status negotiations between Serbian and Kosovo Albanians in EU-sponsored negotiations. The palace is used for auction events, houses shops and a restaurant:
At Freyung # 3 is one of Vienna's oldest palaces, the Palais Harrach, built around 1600. It has a magnificent gold Coat of Arms above the arched entrance:
Other palaces around: Hardegg (Freyung 1), Lamber (Freyung 5), Ferstel (Freyung 2 - see above), Schönborn-Batthyány (Renngasse 4), and Windisch-Graetz (Renngasse 12). Renngasse is to the north-east of Freyung square. Opposite the Palais Kinsky stands the Schottenstift or Schottenkloster (Scottish Monastery). The monastery goes back to the 12th c. and is called although the monks were Irish. In that time these monks were called "Iro-Schotten". It was founded in Vienna in 1155 when Henry II of Austria brought Irish monks to Vienna. The Baroque church we see now is from 1648:
South to Palais Ferstel and Freyung Platz is the Freyung Passage, on Strauchgasse, home to Café Central - a Viennese institution, corner Strauchgasse / Herrengasse. The marble-clad passage with pilasters and vaulted ceiling, was built by an Austrian Architect in 1860. It contains luxury stores with beautiful window displays. ,detailed wrought iron, painted ceilings and lovely old lamps - all make made this one classy passage-way ! Inside, in a small inner courtyard covered by a hexagonal glass dome, there is a tall fountain was in the centre with a statue of the Danube water nymph (Donaunixen), who is holding a fish in her hand:
This famous traditional Central café with its 130 year history was first opened in 1876 and at the turn of the 20th century it was a popular meeting point for leading lights in the world of art, literature, politics and science such as Arthur Schnitzler, Sigmund Freud, Peter Altenberg and Leo Trotzki ( once met with his fellow socialists). Then, like today, the legendary literature café was a meeting point for all ages. The fountain here has a statue of the Donaunixen (Danube water-nymph), with a fish in her hand:
The Freyung Passage links the square of the same name with Herrengasse, one of Vienna’s most atmospheric streets. This is a lovely area for a stroll, as little back streets provide contrast with the grand town palaces that line the wider ones such as Herrengasse (see below) and offer surprises at every turn. There are several small courtyards with smart shops and equally smart cafés, and you could easily while away a couple of hours in this part of the city.
We walk along Herrengasse with our face to the south. The section of the street between the Freyung and Lobkowitzplatz squares was known during the Middle Ages as Hochstraße (High Street). After Vienna began to establish itself as the imperial capital, the nobility (known in German as Herren or Lords) increasingly migrated to the city to be close to the Hofburg Imperial Palace, the residence of the Habsburg rulers. There are several palaces along our way in Herrengasse:
Palais Herberstein (built in 1897, at Herrengasse 1-3). Built in 1896-1897. It replaced an older structure, Palais Dietrichstein, which was famous for its Café Griensteidl, where a group of young poets and writers known as Jung-Wien gathered on a regular basis. After the café was demolished, they moved to the nearby Café Central, now the most famous of all cafés in Vienna. In 1990 a new, reconstructed Griensteidl Café opened in Palais Herberstein,
Palais Wilczek (former Palais Lembruch, 1737, Herrengasse 5),
Palais Modena (today Federal Ministry of the Interior, 1811, Herrengasse 7),
Palais Mollard-Clary (1689, Herrengasse 9) (see next paragraph),
Palais Niederösterreich (formerly Niederösterreichisches Landeshaus, Herrengasse 13),
Palais Ferstel (formerly Österreichisch-ungarische Bank, 1856–1860, Herrengasse 14, entrance also at Freyung 2) (see above),
Palais Batthyány (integrates parts of the former Palais Orsini-Rosenberg, 1716, Herrengasse 19),
Palais Trauttmannsdorff (1834–1838, Herrengasse 21),
Palais Porcia (1546, Herrengasse 23).
Further south, in this road, on your right is Palais Mollard-Clary, Herrengasse 9. A Baroque palace, built from 1686 to 1689 for Count Mollard (Reichsgraf von Mollard). In 1760, it was bought by Count Franz Wenzel von Clary-Aldringen. Emperor Joseph II held his famous "round tables" here. Since 2005 it has been used by the Austrian National Library and houses the Globe Museum, the Department of Music and the Department of Planned Languages and Esperanto Museum:
The Herrengasse ends, in the south, in Michaelerplatz. Michaelerplatz is one of Vienna's most famous squares, thanks to its proximity to the Hofburg, Vienna's imperial palace. Many tourists head straight for the palace, but there are some other noteworthy sights around the square as well:
The oldest building at Michaelerplatz is the Michaelerkirche, long the parish church of the emperors. The Michaelerkirche (St Michael's Church) is the former parish church of the Austrian monarchy. Church St. Michael date from as far back as the first half of the thirteenth century. It was originally built in 1221 but regularly expanded and modified to such an extent that it now consists of a mix of architectural styles. Experts believe that the altar room was built between 1327 and 1340, the lower parts of the tower later. In the ensuing centuries, the church was rebuilt and added to several times. The tower is still Gothic and dates from the fourteenth century. The neoclassicist facade was designed in 1792. Of note is the sculpture group above the Baroque porch, depicting the Fall of Angels and created by Lorenzo Mattielli. Guided tours: Wedenesdays 13.00 and 15.00, except on holidays - German/English. Meeting Point: in front of the church. St. Michael's used to be the parish church of the Imperial Court, when it was called Zum heiligen Michael. The church is a late Romanesque, early Gothic building dating from about 1220–1240. There is a document giving 1221 as the foundation date of the church, but this is most probably a 14th-century forgery. it has stood in its present form since 1792. Opening hours: MON - SAT, 07.00 - 22.00, SUN, 08.00 - 22.00, on holidays 08.00 - 22.00:
St. Michael´s Crypt - The crypt was created in the 16th and 17th centuries, as a result of the closure in 1508 of the graveyard that had been located around the church. Today, the church is visited mostly for its interesting catacombs. From 1631 to 1784, about 4,000 people were buried here. Today, one can still see hundreds of coffins adorned with flowers or skulls, as well as mummified corpses. The most famous person buried in the catacombs is Pietro Metastasio, who wrote some of the librettos of Mozart's operas:
The domed Michaelertrakt is one of the most exuberant wings of the imperial palace. It was originally designed in the 1720s by Josef Emanuel Fischer von Erlach, but the project stalled and it wouldn't be until 1888, when the old Burgtheater was demolished, that construction really started. Michaelertrakt, the semicircular St Michael's Wing of the Hofburg dates from 1888-1893. Austrian architect Ferdinand Kirschner followed von Erlach's original Baroque design and completed the wing in 1893. Two monumental fountains emphasize the grandeur of the building. The dome covering the roof is one of Vienna's most famous sights. Through the Michaelertor (see below) gateway is a round vestibule leading to the Palace apartments and various collections:
At the center of the wing is a monumental gate, the Michaelertor. Along the sides of the three entrances are colossal statues of Hercules. At either end of the Michaelertrakt are large wall fountains with sculpture groups. The fountain on the right, the 'Mastery of the Land', was designed in 1897 by Edmund Hellmer and symbolizes the Austrian army. The fountain on the left is known as the 'Mastery of the Sea'. It was sculpted in 1895 by Rudolf Weyr and symbolizes the Austrian naval power.
"The forces on land" (1897) - Fountain with statue group on the outside of the St. Michael's tract. This interesting fountain is located on the corner of the left (south) side of the Michaelertor.It was sculpted by Rudolf Weyr in 1895 and symbolizes the Austrian Navy. It is made of white marble and it depicts a young woman on a ship, dominating the "powers of the sea" (God of seas Neptune, sea dragon):
Michaelerplatz is dominated by the impressive neo-Baroque Michaelertor, the entrance gate to the Hofburg:
Opposite the palace is one of Vienna's first modern buildings, the Looshaus. It was built in 1911 the Looshaus caused quite a controversy due to its modern façade void of decorations, very unusual in Baroque Vienna. Adolf Loos was influenced by the nascent skyscraper architecture that he had seen on a trip to the United States, and employed a business-like style with straight lines and little or no decoration.
At the center of the square is an open area with Roman and medieval remains. Excavations at Michaelerplatz unearthed remains of a Roman house as well as some medieval foundations and remains of the former Burgtheater. The ruins are now exposed and can be seen from street level:
The Vienna Prater (Luna Park), Messe Wien, St. Francis of Assisi Church (Kirche zum Heiligen Franz von Assisi), Mexikoplatz, Reichsbrucke (Empire Bridge), the way to the Donaustadt (Danube City).
Transportation: U-Bahn Praterstern drops you off at the main entrance.
Location: Together with the Danube itself, Donaukanal creates a large island, separating the districts of Brigittenau (20th district) and Leopoldstadt (2nd district) from central Vienna. The famous amusement park Prater with the giant Ferris wheel (Riesenrad) is located on this island, as well as Austria’s main football stadium and the venue of Euro2008 final game (Ernst Happel Stadion), Messe Wien (huge exhibition and congress centre), and one of Viennese biggest train stations, Praterstern.
The Wiener Prater is a large public amusement park in Vienna's 2nd district (Leopoldstadt). It is the oldest amusement park in the world. The Prater was firstly mentioned in a document in 1162 under the reign of emperor Friedrich I. In 1766 emperor Josef the II. donated the area to the people of Vienna. From this point on the Prater was steadily extended with bowling alleys, cinemas, Cafés, green lawns, football stadium and a trotting race track. The park itself is huge. It is not only amusement park but also part of the Austrian heritage. The "Wiener Prater" is open 24 hours each day - 7 days a week. Entrance is free of charge. Attractions, restaurant businesses, arcade shops and other leisure facilities are all waiting for your wallet. The attractions themselves are charged. Fees for individual attractions vary between € 1,50 and € 5,00 depending on size and genre. The Pratercard is the cashless payment method of the Prater. Top up the card with the desired credit at one of the numerous selling points or on the Internet and get a 10% discount. Additionally you will receive a free ride (attraction chosen by the system) for every 100 Euros charged to the card.
Tips: Some attractions are closed from November to March. In the high season come early in the morning or during the late afternoon hours. You need to pay for the entry via money slot for the toilets - bring some change. Go on the giant wheel for the absolute best view of the city. You can rent bicycles and go around the large luna park and the green park behind. If you have Vienna Card - you are eligible for coupons - for using the Prater attractions. Come during the Octoberfests - from the 25th of September to 12th of October.
Praterturm: The Praterturm is THE new landmark of the Prater and of Vienna. Built in 2010 its height of 117 meters makes it the highest flying swing in the world. A must-do for everyone who loves height and speed ! A very very tall tower, which has a circular set of chairs on chains. It spins you in giant circles around the tower as you go up the tower and then down. The speed is slow, but the height of the thing is enormous. Not for the faint of heart. 5,00 €.
The Giant Wheel - Wiener Riesenrad: The giant wheel was built in 1897 and is one of Vienna’s landmarks. Its outline can be seen from a long distance. A glorious relic of bygone times: the star of Orson Welles "The Third Man", James Bond and 'Before Sunrise' films. Smooth, slow ride with good views. It has wooden covered- wagons (look fragile) that seat about 15 people. The view from the top of the wheel across the city and beyond is terrific. 9,00 €. The ride lasts about 10 minutes.
The Wiener Grottenbahn (the tunnels train): The Grottenbahn is an ideal adventure for children and adults. The train passes through thirty grottos populated with fairy tales creatures. 2,00 €.
Liliputbahn - - a gauge light railway: another landmark of the Prater. A round trip over the 4 km long route through the Prater and the Hauptallee (main alley) takes approximately 20 minutes. The over 75 year old attraction is probably the funniest railway in Vienna. Another Liliputbahn is located at the Donaupark. 4,00 Euro - adult 2,20 child under 12 yrs.
Rollercoaster: Attention: might be a safety problem for small children - since the safety belt doesn't tighten well around their little bodies. Adult - 2,70 € , children - 2,25 €.
The Messe Wien Exhibitions Centre is in the north-east edge of the Prater complex. Vienna is rated amongst the top congress destinations in Europe. It got a firm push ahead due to the opening of the new Messe Wien Exhibition & Congress Center in 2004. The events facility offers around 46,000 sq mt of prime exhibition space that has been spread across three exhibition halls. It also has a multi-functional facility of 9,000 sq mt that can be used for hosting events related to entertainment. Geting to Messe Wien by public transportation: U2 UNDERGROUND LINE „Karlsplatz – Seestadt“ - the ideal exit to entrances A and Congress Center: station „Messe-Prater“, the ideal exit to entrance D: station „Krieau“. BUS line 11A „Heiligenstadt - Seestadt“ - exit to all entrances: station „Krieau“. BUS line 80B „Kaiserebersdorf - Seestadt“ - exit to all entrances: station „Krieau“. We pass through the Messe Wien in our way to the Danube Park, Reichsbrücke (bridge over the Danube and to the famous Uno City:
We shall take the most interesting route to the Danube river (and not the shortest one). It is approximately 20 minutes, 1.7 km. walk to the Reichsbrucke (Empire Bridge) and Mexiko Platz. From the Messezentrum Vienna head SOUTHEAST toward Vorgartenstraße, 88 m. Turn left onto Vorgartenstraße, 180 m. Turn right onto Elderschpl, 140 m. Continue onto Machstraße, 160 m. Turn left onto Handelska, 700 m. (you already see the river and its piers (Blau Donau Schifahrt). Slight right to stay on Handelskai, 300 m. Slight right, 40 m. You arrive to Mexikoplatz. On your left is the St. Francis of Assisi Church (Kirche zum Heiligen Franz von Assisi). St. Francis of Assisi Church is located in the south-eastern part of Mexikoplatz (Mexico Square – the church also used to be called Mexikokirche in the past), next to the beginning of the Reichsbrücke (Empire Bridge), which connects Vienna city centre with Donaustadt and UNO-City. The church is one of the most beautiful churches in Vienna and from a distance it looks more like a fairytale castle. A peculiar style that is very reminiscent of those toy Playmobil castles (....), with rounded towers and almost perfect blocks. You can visit it almost every day, but the highlight is its exterior architecture, which has remained almost intact over time. It looks like it´s just been built yesterday. Built between 1898 and 1910 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria. It was consecrated in 1913. Its three red-tiled towers are visible several km. away. The church, which is directly situated near the Danube, is now home to the Vienna English Speaking Catholic Community who holds weekly masses at the church since moving there in 2009.
The Mexikoplatz (Mexico Square), formerly known as Erzherzog-Karl-Platz (Archduke-Karl-Square), commemorates the fact that Mexico was the only country outside the Soviet Union to protest against the Anschluss of Austria to Nazi Germany. It is located on the banks of the Danube at the metro stop of Vorgaten Strase. It's right on the banks of the river, opposite the UN building in Vienna. The square, in itself, is not much to shout about, it´s only about 30 square meters, with its benches and other furnishings, but what is striking about it is the imposing St. Francis Cathedral.
Climb the stairs and pass the river from west to east over the Empire Bridge (Reichsbrucke) - Vienna's most famous bridge, linking Mexicoplatz in Leopoldstadt with the Donauinsel in Donaustadt on the other side of the Danube. It is definitely worth it to walk on the Reichsbrücke from one side to another to see St. Francis of Assisi Church from different angles (especially with the Danube river and the boats in front of the church). From the bridge which crosses the river, you can take beautiful pictures of the cathedral with the Danube river below. Far from being a tourist spot, it´s quite far from the center, but it´s not a bad idea to catch the subway and take a walk around. It is, at least, interesting and different from other monuments you will find in Vienna:
We arrived to the Uno City. We devoted a special blog to the Uno City and its surroundings. See you ! The metro (U-Bahn) line that goes through Reichsbrücke is U1. Stations near Reichsbrücke include Vorgartenstrasse (near Mexikoplatz on the city centre side), Donauinsel (on the island in the middle of the bridge), and Kaisermühlen-VIC (next to the UNO City). The closest U-Bahn station is the Donauinsel station on the Danube island - actually, part of the Reichsbrucke.
From Liberty Square (Szabadság tér) to Deák tér::
We leave the Liberty Square and continue southward along Október 6. utca. An interesting street with historical buildings:
# 3: Three-story, romantic style house with classicist elements:
# 7a: The big and rich architecture building built by József Hild Martin Marczibanyi. The Marczibanyi palace was bought in 1866 by the Hungarian Geological Institute:
# 13: was designed in year 1909 by Alexander Kriegler:
# 15: Schiffer house. Designed by Erno - in 1911. Builder: Schiffer Miklós:
# 16-18: designed by Building: Louis Wolf, Louis Marcus and built at 1912:
Note the Hummus bar in Október 6. str. 19. Vegetarian friendly.
Open: MON - FRI 11.30 - 22.00. SAT, SUN: 12.00 - 20.00. Price is more than reasonable for the quality and size of the portions. A really busy popular place with informal seating and complementary mint tea on arrival:
In the intersection of Oktober utca and Zrinyu utca look to your left to see, again, the St. Stephen's Basilica:
In the end of Október 6. utca, on your left - you arrive to Erzsébet tér. Erzsébet Square (Erzsébet tér) was named after Elisabeth, 'Sisi', wife of Habsburg Emperor Franz Joseph, in 1858. In Budapest's varied history, Erzsébet tér was first renamed to Stalin in 1946 and to then to Engels in 1953, only to get its original name back in 1990. Erzsébet Square (Erzsébet tér) is the largest green area in Budapest's inner city. The square's main attraction is the Danubius Fountain, located in the middle of the square, symbolizing Hungary's rivers. The fountain, built in 1880, originally stood on Kálvin tér. When Kálvin tér was rebuilt after WWII the fountain was relocated to Erzsébet tér:
Today, Erzsébet tér gives home to the Design Terminal, the former bus depot turned design center, a Bauhaus style building featuring design and fashion related exhibitions, to WAMP, Budapest's monthly design fair and to a cultural center called Akvárium Club:
In the spring Erzsébet tér transforms into one of the nicest green spots in the city center:
Walking several steps further southward, in the south-west edge of the park is the Kempinski Hotel Corvinus. Behind it is Deák tér:
Circular walk from Pest to Gellért Hill, Újbuda and Lágymányos:
Main attractions: Deák Ferenc tér, Ferenciek tere, Klotild Palace, Párizsiudvar, The Inner city Franciscan church / The Kárpátia restaurant, Március 15. tér (March 15 Square), Erzsébet híd (Elizabeth bridge), Rudas Baths, Döbrentei tér, statue of St. Gellért, (Szt Gellért Szobor), Gellért Hill lookout viewpoint, The Citadel (Citadella), The Hungarian Statue of Liberty (Szabadsag Szobor), Szent Gellért rkp., Szazabad hid (Liberty/Liberation bridge), Szent Gellért tér (Gellért Square), Danubius Hotel Gellért, Gellért Hill Cave and church (Gellérthegyi Barlang) (Sziklatemplom), Móricz Zsigmond körtér (Móricz Zsigmond square), The Church of Szentimreváros or the Parish Church of St. Imre, Feneketlen tó (Lake without a bed) (bottomless lake), Október huszonharmadika utca, Lágymányos Info / Science Park, Petőfi híd or Petőfi Bridge, Budapest Technical University (Budapesti Műszaki Egyetem), Central Market Hall ("Nagycsarnok"), Váci utca (Váci street), Kristóf tér, Vörösmarty tér, Deák Ferenc tér.
Tip 1: From Deák Ferenc tér to Gellért Hill (north and south).
Tip 2: Gellért Hotel Baths.
Tip 3: From Danubius Hotel Gellért back to Pest centre via the southern parts of Buda.
Start and End: Deák Ferenc tér.
Distance: 13-15 km.
Duration: 1 day.
Orientation: we walk from Pest centre to the Gellért Hill at the Buda side. Most of the walk is in open spaces. So, reserve the route for a fine day. In the Buda side most of the itinerary is hiking (climbing up ) along the hill slopes. You'll enjoy the wonderful scenery, the panorama of the Danube and Pest from the hill heights, the flower beds along the paths of Gellért Hill and its statues and other monuments. This route includes historic sights on top of the the hill and some of the best spots to take photos of the city. The second half of the day is along the southern parts of Buda - a mixture of old and modern architecture. In the late hours of the afternoon we walk back to Pest through several iconic landmarks of Budapest: the Danube and 2 or 3 of its bridges, the Garnd Market, Váci utca and Vörösmarty tér. It is a long walking day in open spaces.
Weather: Avoid this route in a rainy or very hot day. The ascent to Gellért Hill is quite demanding. Your sole shelters are in: Danubius Hotel Gellért (and its baths) and Gellért Hill Cave and underground church.
Our first destination is Ferenciek tere. We take not-the-shortest route from Deák Ferenc tér. Head east on Deák Ferenc tér toward Károly krt.
60 m. Turn right to stay on Deák Ferenc tér, 45 m. Continue onto Károly krt, (Charles Boulevard) 300 m. This si one of the main thorough-fairs of central Budapest. Walk along the north side of the avenue, raise your head to catch the wondeful mosaics on top of most of the buildings - mainly, on the southern side of the Boulevard:
Turn right onto Vitkovics Mihály utca, 250 m. Continue onto Pilvax köz
110 m. Turn left onto Petőfi Sándor utca, 70 m (named after famous poet of the 1848/49 Revolution and War of Independence). Continue onto Ferenciek tere, 70 m. You can arrive to Ferenciek tere from Deák Ferenc tér by taking the Metro M3 (North-South) line. The square was formally named Kígyó tér in 1874, then renamed Apponyi tér (for Albert Apponyi) in 1921, then Felszabadulás tér (Liberation Square) in 1953, then its earlier name of Ferenciek tere in 1991. It is an important junction, as several bus lines from Buda pass though or terminate here. It is also the station closest to the geographical city centre of Budapest. The station's name was Felszabadulás tér ("Liberation" Square) before 1990. Other means of transporet to this square: Bus: 5, 7 (BKV bus line number 7 connects Pest and southern Buda), 8, 15, 107, 110, 112, 115, 133, 178, 233, 239. Tram: 2. Ferenciek tere (Franciscans’ Square) is right in the middle of the city. The square hosts an posh gourmet restaurants and the fashionable shopping avenue Váci utca opens from here. The square gets its name from the Franciscan Church located in this square, first built in 1743. Among its important sights: the twin buildings of the Klotild Palace (Hotel Buddha Bar), one on each side of the Kossuth Lajos utca, and the Párizsiudvar (Paris Court ) with its dazzling decorations. The Court under the building - once a shopping passage - boasts of a hall with a gorgeous mosaic-glass dome for a roof. The Franciscan Church, the Nereids’ Well, and the University Library are also worth your attention.
The National Scientific Library in the square:
Klotild Palace: Distinguished architects Kálmán Giergl and Flóris Korb were commissioned to design and construct the four-floored neo-baroque twin palaces in 1889-99. The unique historical building stands on the corner of Váci Street since 1900, being the first one to feature an elevator in Hungary. Cheesy shops were opened downstairs, offices for rent operated on the 1st floor, the 2nd 3rd and 4th floors made rooms for luxurious residences. During the siege of Budapest in 1945 the building was badly damaged. In 1950 the building interior was entirely redone. Around 1960 the facades were renovated. In autumn of 2003 Mérték Architectural Studio Ltd. got the assignment from Graziano Beghelli, who purchased the Klotild Development Ltd, to design the reconstruction and renovation of Klotild Palaces building II. The project took 8 years to finish. The unique historical building forms a perfect address for one of Hungary's most iconic boutique hotels, opened in June 2012 (Buddha Bar Hotel). According to a legend, the contractor of the 2 palaces named them after his daughters, in order not to mix them with each other while delivering materials to the construction site. The truth is that Maria Klotild was the name of the Austrian Princess who owned the site and ordered the constructions. The building Matild just got her name from the citizens of Budapest, most likely because of the similar sounding. These two palaces are almost mirror images of each other and were both designed in Spanish-baroque style. They both act like the gates of Pest and as the guards of Elisabeth Bridge:
Parisi udvar is an early 20th century French style department store that was long time in state of disrepair, and, now, is presently in state of renovation. A small hall with shops, the inner part of an eclectic building. Párisi udvar's main entrance lies at a central location along Ferenciek tere, one of Budapest's oldest squares. In 1817, at a time when the area was one of the busiest in the city, József Brudern decided to build a large store here. The building, known as Brudern-has (Brudern House), was designed by the Hungarian architect Mihály Pollack. Inside was a shopping arcade that was modeled after the Passage des Panoramas, a glass-covered passage in Paris. This was probably the reason why the house was also known as Párisi-haz (Paris House). In 1907 the Belváros Savings Bank acquired the property and organized a competition for the construction of its new, prestigious headquarters. They received forty-three submissions and a design by Flóris Korb and Kálmán Griegl was chosen as the winner. The bank's board of directors however decided to select a different architect, German-born Henrik Schmahl. Construction started in 1909 and the building was completed in 1913, one year after Schmahl's death. The new building, also called Brudern House, was mixed-use, with a sumptuous shopping arcade on the two lower levels and room for offices on the upper levels. The arcade was named Párisi udvar (Parisian Court) as a reference to the original arcade. Today it is often written as Párizsi udvar (Párisi is the old spelling). You can easily miss the entrance to the Párizsiudvar building as it seems closed at the first glance. Exterior of the Párizsiudvar building is gorgeous, even if it is run-down. You just need to find the entrance (it is on the left side, when you are looking from the main street). The building exterior is magnificent.
The interior is so beautiful, it must have had great atmosphere when it was still in use. Definitely try to walk inside of Parisi Udvar. It is full with beauty and atmosphere: beautiful exterior facade, stunning glass roof lantern, wood panels, curved glass shop fronts, marble, iron work.
The Inner city Franciscan church: A 13th century a monastery and church used to be on where the Inner City Franciscan Church stands today. The current Baroque shape dates back to the 18th century. The relief on the left side wall of the church commemorates the Great Flood of the river Danube in 1838. The relief is dedicated to Miklós Wesselényi, a real Hungarian hero. He was saving people by his boat from drowning in the river. Some frescoes are the works of Károly Lotz. The Baroque main altar and the statues decorating the altar are worth attention:
Kárpátia étterem: The Kárpátia restaurant, in this building, is a 140-year-old restaurant, which started to operate in the late 19th century and became popular among the citizens of Pest very soon. The restaurant was decorated in the 1920’s by different famous Hungarian artists (frescoes, windows and furniture):
Coming from Petőfi Sándor utca to Ferenciek tere - you turn TO THE RIGHT (south-west) at Ferenciek tere to Kossuth Lajos utca. Continue onto Szabad sajtó útca, 210 m. Continue onto Erzsébet híd (Elizabeth bridge) crossing the Danube from Pest to Buda. The bridge spans over the Danube at the narrowest part of the Danube in the Budapest area, spanning only 290 m. Elizabeth Bridge was named after Queen Elizabeth, the spouse of Francis Joseph I assassinated in Geneva in 1898. Today, her large bronze statue sits by the bridge's Buda side connection in the middle of a small garden (see later below). The original Erzsébet Bridge, along with many other bridges all over the country, was blown up at the end of World War II by retreating Wehrmacht sappers. The Elizabeth Bridge is the only Danube bridge in Budapest that would not be rebuilt after its destruction of World War II. Instead, a completely new bridge was built between 1960 and 1964, nearly two decades after the destruction of the original Elizabeth Bridge. the Elizabeth Bridge is the most elegant bridge of Budapest, attracting the well-deserved attention of tourists due to its charming shape and snow-white color:
On the Pest side of the bridge is the Március 15. tér (March 15 Square). 15 March was the day when the revolt against the Habsburgs in 1948-49 started - a national holiday in Hungary. Nearby (east side of the square) is the oldest church in Budapest, the Inner City Parish Church (Belvárosi plébániatemplom), which was built in the 13th century. It was built on the ruins of an ancient chapel where St Gellért was buried. At the entrance two statues welcome people; St. Jadwiga and St. Kinga are inviting you to the peaceful place. On the Eastern side of the church you can find a statue for St. Florian, wich was erected in 1723 to prevent fires:
There is a display of some ruins in the middle of the 15 March square: Those are the remains of the Roman fort, called Contra Aquincum. The Romans built a fort here in the 4th century AD, to make sure the “Barbarians”, who have been repeatedly attacking the Empire from the East, will not cross the river and take their camp on the Buda side by surprise:
In the NORTH side of the square, facing café, you’ll see a lower building, the Péterffy Palace, today called 100 éves restaurant (the 100-year-old restaurant) (Százéves Étterem). Unbelievable that this little house is a ‘palace’, since it lies below the current street level. When Pest was still enclosed by walls, all houses were like this size or even smaller.The building bears a Baroque-like look and impression. The restaurant was first opened in 1831. The picture right below is taken from Wikipedia:
Also interesting to know that this was the square where Franz Josef, the Emperor of the Astro-Hungarian Empire was crowned in 1867.
The view from the Pest side, near Erzsébet híd - to the Royal Palace in the Buda side (from south to north):
The view to Gellért Hill from the Pest side, on the Erzsébet híd:
Near the Buda end of the Elisabeth Bridge, before crossing the street to Gellert hill
- you see the statue of Sissy, in a very quiet and small garden (Döbrentei tér). It was, originally, set up here in 1932. It was removed during the Communist era but re-installed later at Döbrentei tér where you can see it until today:
Almost at the foot of the bridge are the Rudas Baths. Opening hours: MON - SUN: 06.00 – 20.00, FRI - SAT: 22.00 - 042.00 ! Some days are exclusive for either of the sexes. The weekends are co-ed (bathing suits required); on alternating weekdays men only/women only (with suits or nothing). Prices: Daily thermal-pool-wellness ticket: weekdays - 4 500 HUF, weekends - 4 800 HUF. Daily thermal ticket with cabin usage: weekdays - 3 100 HUF, weekends - 3 400 HUF. Multinational, but, still local hangout, popular place. Might be crowded. Recommended when your are BACK from the Gellért hill:
The Buda side is down beneath the Gellért Hill. The ascent to the top of the hill is a bit of a trek in the heat or in the rain. A slightly challenging hike 900 m. - 1 km.). It might be a bit grueling or oppressing to climb the zigzaging path and the steps up to the top. Not for those with mobility issues. But, plenty of places to sit and catch your breath. It might be also more breezy - compared with city centre heat. There are several stone benches where you can sit and enjoy the wonderful view.
All through and along the ascent path - wonderful views of the city of Budapest, the Danube river, the bridges and all of the surroundings. The trails are pretty easy to navigate up or down the hill.
Take water with you. There are sellers of bottled water - but they hike the prices. Some people prefer to go in the evening: it's beautiful to watch the sun set over the city and all the lights come on. If it is too demanding for you to climb the hill - take bus 27 from the north-west corner of Moritz Zigismond ter. The bus has a stop near the restaurant on the hill - and from there you have to walk 7-10 minutes further up the hill till the Citadella.
Facing the bridge stands the elevated statue of St. Gellért, (Szt Gellért Szobor) with an artificial waterfall, marking the place from where the local pagans put him in a barrel and threw him to his death down the hill into the river Danube in the year 1046. The statue is situated halfway up the hill. The monument, designed by Gyula Jankovits and erected in 1904, is in honor of the 11th century bishop St Gellért who converted the Magyars to Christianity. Below the memorial is a man-made waterfall. We arrive to the statue by climbing the steps and the path that lead from Elizabeth Bridge:
The panoramic views of Buda hills from the bottom parts of Gellért Hill:
The Gellért Hill (Gellérthegy) is the largest hill in Budapest, and thus the prime site for the Citadella and the Liberty Statue, which can be seen from just about anywhere in Budapest. The former name, Pesti-hegy referred to the large cave (now Gellért Hill Cave) in the hillside. The word is of Slavic origin and means "oven" or "cave". Gellért Hill is home to a great number of natural values. It has geological significance, as tectonic lines at its foot are responsible for thermal water springs found throughout Buda, such as the Árpád, Rákóczi and Mátyás springs. Caves in Gellért Hill are subject to national preservation, including Cave Iván and its chapel, as well as the spring caves of the Gellért and Rudas baths. In the 18th century the hillsides of Gellért Hill were covered with vineyards. The Tabán district at the foot of the hill was an important centre of wine-making in Buda.
The view is the most wonderful from the top of Gellért Hill towards the Castle of Buda and you can see the whole curve of the Danube:
The same view from year 1850:
and to Pest (the Parliament, St. Matthias Basilica, Chain bridge):
Now an affluent residential area, a number of embassies and ambassadorial residences line the streets which wind up the hill. Since 1987, the area is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site as part of "the Banks of the Danube". Near and on the hilltop - you'll see several ornate mansions and houses:
At last you arrive to the lookout viewpoint. The site is approached via a very large number of tacky souvenir stalls, and is overwhelmed by coaches and herds of tourists:
The Citadel (Citadella) on the Gellert Hilll is one of the most emblematic locations of Budapest and it is also a popular lookout. Actually, at the top of the hill, from the Citadella (Citadel)there is a view down both directions of the Danube. From its terraces you have one of the best views of the city with the Buda Castle, the Parliament, the Danube bridges, the whole Pest side and the hills of Buda. The Citadel was built after the 1848–49 Hungarian uprising by the ruling Habsburg Austrians, as it was a prime, strategic site for shelling both Buda and Pest in the event of a future revolt. The Citadel was built by the Habsburgs to show their domination over the Hungarians after they were defeated in the War of Independence in 1848-49. In fact, the Citadel has never reached the requirements of modern warfare, the 220 meters long and 60 meters wide fortress with 4 meters high walls and 60 cannons only served to deter the Hungarians. Though it was equipped with 60 cannons, it was used as threat rather than a working fortification. After the Habsburgs and the Hungarian Conciliation they demanded the destruction of the Citadel, but the garrison marched out only in 1897, and then symbolically damaged the main gate. Gellért Hill also saw action in the Second World War and the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, when Soviet tanks fired down into the city from the hill. After many debates in 1960 it was decided the formation of the tourist center.
You can get into the Citadella for free after 19.00. Do walk to both ends of the Citadella. Despite being a little small, the bunker museum in the Citadelle was interesting and worth the 3 € price as a very tidy toilet is included in the price. A few Soviet WW2 cannons are also situated on the top. The Citadel on the Gellert Hill has several exhibitions. Three of these can be seen in the glass cases in the courtyard of the fort and an other one is the outer north side of the Citadel. These four are free of charge. For the Second World War wax exhibition located in the building you have to buy ticket:
A view from the Citadella to the Chain and Margaret bridges:
A view from the Citadella to the Elizabeth bridge:
A view from the Citadella to the Szazabad hid (Liberty bridge) (south of Elizabeth bridge):
The Hungarian Statue of Liberty (Szabadsag Szobor): In 1945 the Communism captured Hungary and many statues were built to commemorate its glory. The Liberty Statue, a large monument, was The Statue of Liberty by sculptor Zsigmond Kisfaludy Stróbl erected in 1947 by the Soviet Red Army to commemorate their victory in World War II, the end of the Nazi rule and the ’liberation’ of Hungary by the Red Army. It presents a woman Holding a palm leaf in her hand. On both sides symbolic figures can be seen: the young man's victory over the dragon represents the defeat of fascism. More statues were also built, but they have been relocated to the Memento Sculpture Park. After the fall of Communism, the statue received a new inscription which says: “Memorial for all those who sacrificed their lives for independence, freedom and the success of Hungary”.
If you had enough of stairs - you can take a different path back from the top of Gellért Hill to the bottom. This winds gently through flowers-beds and gardens:
On our way down - we see the Danube between Elizabeth bridge (Erzsébet híd) and the Liberty bridge (Szazabad hid):
One more photo of the statue of St. Gellért, (Szt Gellért Szobor)- on our way down the hill:
We return to the foot of Gellért hill at Szent Gellért rkp. We walk along Szent Gellért rkp. from (our back) north to (our face) south, from Erzsébet híd (Elizabeth bridge) (well, a bit south to the bridge...) to Szazabad hid (Liberty bridge). It is approx. 500-600 m. walk. The constuctions of the Ottoman occupation, that are still standing today are medicinal baths found at the foot of the hill:
Then, we arrive to the Szazabad hid (Liberty/Liberation bridge). The bridge was built to plans resulting from a design competition held in 1893. Originall, it was named Fővám Square Bridge after the Fővám Palace, which currently hosts the Budapest Corvinus University, formerly known as Budapest University of Economics. The bridge was designed by János Feketeházy, chief engineer of the Hungarian Railroads at that time. Construction was started in June 1894. It was inaugurated by Francis Joseph I, who hammered in the last silver rivet on the Pest side on 4 October 1896, at the festivities held for the thousand-year jubilee of Hungary. The bridge was named Francis Joseph after the Emperor. Two years later, in 1898 tramway traffic was started on the bridge. Liberty Bridge is the third oldest and shortest bridge of Budapest. During World War II, on 16 January 1945, Francis Joseph Bridge, as every other bridge in Budapest, was blown up by retreating German troops. After the end of the war, it would be the first bridge to be reconstructed. Its state was not irreparable, only its central parts had to be rebuilt. It was reopened for traffic on 20 August 1946, its new name being Liberty Bridge. It meant also the first time after the liberation of Hungary that a tram connecting Buda and Pest crossed the bridge:
Having reached the Buda end of the Liberty bridge, you get to Szent Gellért tér (Gellért Square) at the foot of Gellért Hill, at its southern tip. The square has several magnificent landmarks. Bear in mind that there is a path leading from here to the top of Gellért Hill with the Citadella and the Liberty Statue. It takes only a 20-25 minutes' comfortable walk. There is a Metro station of Line 4 (green line) beneath the square. In the square, in front of the Cave Church's entrance is a statue of Saint Istvan, for whom the grand basilica across the river is named:
The square is dominated by the Danubius Hotel Gellért, Szent Gellért tér 1 and its Baths, sometimes called the "Grand Old Lady" of Budapest. Danubius Hotel Gellért is one of the oldest and most famous hotels in Hungary. Built between 1916 and 1918 in Art Nouveau style, it's an iconic four-star hotel with the most elegant thermal bathhouse of Budapest. In 1894, the construction of Szabadság Bridge, along with the reconstruction of Gellért Square, was under way. The building of St. Gellért Hotel and Spa started in 1911, but WWI delayed the works. The hotel, built in the Art Nouveau style of the palace-hotels of the turn of the century, was finally opened in September 1918. The traditional, one century-old hotel is still a symbol of Budapest. The building was built by Ármin Hegedűs, Artúr Sebestyén and Izidor Sterk, their style greatly influenced by the works of Ödön Lechner. The characteristic entrance is decorated by reliefs by Aladár Gárdos, while the main entrance to the bath holds grand statues representing the process of healing by József Róna. When the four-storey hotel opened, it had only 176 rooms. All suites had bathrooms, with the supply of both mineral and thermal waters. Soon after the inauguration of St. Gellért Hotel and Spa, the so-called Aster Revolution broke out and the building was utilized for military purposes. Later, consolidation of the political and societal situation enabled the general public to use the hotel and bath for its original function again. The hotel quickly became a hub for social life thanks to its grand interiors, terraces and pools. In October, 1921 the International Convention of Hoteliers was held here. The guestbook was signed by famous individuals. Along with the Governor of Hungary and government officials, European royal families’ dukes, duchesses, mayors, maharajas, poets, writers, musicians, and aristocrats all stayed in the Gellért. Juliana, Queen of the Netherlands, also spent her honeymoon here. In 1927, the outdoor wave pool was built by Artúr Sebestyén and in the same year 60 new rooms were added to the hotel. The wave pool produces waves to the cheers of bathers with the original machinery to this very day. The Jacuzzi pool was opened in 1934. Restaurants of the hotel have always been operated by the leading professionals in the field. From 1927 it was Károly Gundel, who rented and ran the dining rooms. His professionalism contributed greatly to the rise of the Gellért to the level of international grand hotels. Events in the Gellért were carried by newspapers around the world. Gundel created three famous dishes here: the Rothermere Zander, Bakony Mushrooms and Pittsburgh Veal Cutlets. World War II severely damaged the building. The Danube wing burned down completely, and the Gellért Hill wing partly. Reconstructions began in 1946 on the hill side, and in 1957 on the river side. Today’s rooms Duna, Márvány, Gobelin, and the Tea Saloon, as well as the Eszpresszó, were built in 1960. There are two famous dessert specialities from the Gellért. Posztobányi Pudding or Gellért Pudding, rich in dried fruits, and the chocolate-filled Gellért Roll, made by a secret recipe which so many have tried to duplicate. The real Gellért Roll can still only be tasted in the hotel. Until the 70’s, Hotel Gellért was at the forefront of Hungarian tourism. The hotel trained exceptional staff and was a pioneer in numerous innovations in the industry. It was the first hotel in Hungary where guests could pay with their own countries’ currencies, airport taxis were first employed here, and the Gellért was also the first to place minibars in the rooms. The hotel’s Brasserie Restaurant was also the first catering unit to start Swiss plate service. The Gellért accommodated world famous guests again. Violin virtuoso Yehudi Menuhin was the first among them after World War II. Richard Nixon, Julius Raab and Bruno Kreisky, Austrian chancellors, Shah Pahlavi from Iran and his family, the King of Nepal, the Dalai Lama, Agostino Casaroli, Secretary of State for the Vatican, Nobel Prize winner Heisenberg, American scientist Sabin, actors Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn, Marina Vlady, Alberto Sordi, Jane Fonda, cello virtuoso Pablo Casals, violinist Isaac Stern, pianist Arthur Rubinstein, conductors Carlo Zecchi, Gábor Carelli and Roberto Menzi, composer Dmitri Shostakovich, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Hungarian-born Oscar award winning cameraman Vilmos Zsigmond. At present the Gellért has 234 rooms, out of which 13 are suites, 38 are superior doubles, 94 standard doubles, 49 singles with baths, and 40 singles with showers. The rooms, facing the Danube, have balconies with stunning views of Budapest. Today the bath and the hotel have different owners. Hotel Gellért is a member of the Danubius Hotels Group chain, and operates under the Danubius Classic Collection brand, which guarantees a special atmosphere and impeccable service. The bath is run by Budapest Thermal Waters Co. Ltd., and was recently renovated. The open-air wave pool and terrace is now supplemented by a thermal water pool. The Gellért is one of the most frequented and most well-known tourist sites in Budapest. Beautiful decorations of the hotel include the tiles produced by the Zsolnay factory, the columns in the Jacuzzi, and the colorful statues. In Gellért Bath most health spa treatments are available (such as balneo-therapy, mechano-therapy, electro-therapy, mud treatments, etc). It has a complex physio-therapy section and inhalatorium:
Diagonally opposite the bath entrance is the Gellért Hill Cave / Rock Chapel (Gellérthegyi Barlang) (Sziklatemplom), home to the only Hungarian-founded Christian order, the Paulines (the order of St Paul, the only monastic order in Hungary). Take about an hour from your schedule and visit the Cave Church. The design of this grotto church is based on the Shrine at Lourdes. During the Communist regime the chapel was walled in, and the order was disbanded and some leaders were prosecuted and jailed. For years, no one went into the church, but when it was announced that Pope John Paul II would be coming to Budapest, restoration work was quickly undertaken so that the chapel could receive papal blessing. At the same time, the church was dedicated to Polish victims of World War II in honor of the pope's home country. This church is very interesting and unique, as it consists of a number of chambers inside the cave. It has a very peaceful atmosphere and the audio commentary is very informative. The last room is full of beautiful wood carvings, don't miss it. Quite cool inside, so make sure you dress appropriately. Prices: only 500 HUF (about £1.25) including an audiotape guide. Heartily recommended. A stunning site:
We leave, now, the Gellért hill area. We have, approximately, 900 -1000 m. walk from the Danubius Hotel Gellért to Móricz Zsigmond körtér (sqaure) via Bartók Béla útca. Skip, now, to Tip 3 below.
Braga - the historical centre:
Start and End: Braga Railway station.
Distance: 8 km.
Duration: 1 day.
Main Attractions: Arco da Porta Nova, Largo da Praca Velha, Misericórdia, Sé Cathedral of Braga, Old Archbishop´s Palace and Castles Fountain, Paço Arquiepiscopal, Santa Barbara Garden, Igreja do Carmo, Convento do Pópulo, Braga Castle, Reitor Da Igreja Dos Terceiros, Praça da República, Avenida da Liberdade, Largo Carlos Amarante, Palacio do Raio, Convento dos Congregados, Jardim da Avenida Central.
Orientation: Sometimes called the “Portuguese Rome” for its religious air and many churches, Braga is an ancient town in northwest Portugal. Though it is often described in tourist guides as ‘over-religious’ & ‘buttoned-up’ I did not find it so at all. It has a great balance of commerce, tourist sights and religious places. And it’s very friendly. Its history and livelihood are tied to Christianity dating to the 3rd century. This route offers the central sites that can be visited along 1 day. The city’s 12th-century Sé (Cathedral) is still one of the most popular attractions. The second most known attraction lies outside of town - the renowned Bom Jesus de Monte pilgrimage sanctuary, with its striking Baroque stairway. But the Bon Jesus de Monte is NOT included in this itinerary. Instead we concentrate around the historical centre sites. Most of them less reputed - BUT, believe me - you'll love most of them. To visit the Bom Jesus and another couple of more reputed churches or monasteries - you'll need, at least, additional 4-5 hours.
Bear in mind: although Braga is an orthodox town - it is vibrant, sophisticated, sensual and very young. There are wonderful squares, cafe's, restaurants, gardening beds and wonderful buildings. A Portuguese MUST.
Weather: Do yourself a favor - visit Braga in a bright day ! Do not go on a bleak weather day
Transportaion: Catch the Metro in Porto to Campanhã Station or São Bento Station and then get a train to Braga. Duration: 65-75 min. Price (aprox.): 3-4 €. More or less - every hour. From Campanhã Station or São Bento Station - local electric trains of the Porto Urbanos network run to Braga about once every hour every day, with extra faster trains in weekday rush hours. There are simple to use ticket machines in the station's hall. The machines take notes as well as coins. NB these 'Urbanos' tickets are NOT VALID on Alfa Pendular or Intercity trains. Urbanos trains are (mostly) bright yellow! Note: If you do use one of the Alfa Pendular fast trains the trip to Braga will cost you a whopping €14,20 to save about 30 minutes. First train from Porto S. Bento to Braga is at 0615 on weekdays, 0645 weekends and holidays and the last trains are at 2245 then a late train at 0115am daily. These stop at Porto Campanhã five minutes later. Be sure to check timetables at the Portugal Railways Official website; look for Urbanos Porto on the front page. Trains from Braga to Porto run daily from 0434 to 2034 daily, then at 2134 (weekends), 2234 (weekdays) and 2334 daily.
The national long distance bus (coach) network Rede-Expressos has frequent daily service between Porto Batalha bus station and Braga. Times at www.rede-expressos.pt - tickets cost 6€ and can be purchased on line. Journey time 1 hour. (The TRANSDEV bus company runs a bus once each hour from the airport to the city centre Batalha bus station. Details at http://www.transdev.pt/aeroportoporto/).
The railway station in Braga is on the western edge of the city centre, a few minutes walk along a mainly pedestrian street will get you there. None of the city buses directly connect the railway station and main bus station. We shall start our itinerary from the railway station.
The bus station in Braga is a closer to the city centre, in Avenida General Norton do Matos. Taxis outside if you need one.
Braga, the capital of the Minho region, is considered the third most important Portuguese city. Internationally famous as a popular tourist destination, Braga attracts visitors with its monuments, magnificent gardens, cuisine and the animated social and cultural life. Probably the main religious center in the country, Braga is known for its baroque churches, magnificent 18th century houses and elaborate gardens and squares. Known, in the Roman era as “Bracara Augusta”, it was also the headquarters of the Portuguese bishopric in the XII century. Braga’s long history can be seen in its monuments and churches. The most impressive church is the Sé, which has several styles, from Roman to Baroque. Braga is also proud of its splendid houses, especially those from the 18th century.
Braga was Portugal's first city; when Portugal was founded there was only one city on the whole of its territory and that was Braga. The remains of ancient settlements in Braga are thousands of years old and are proven to date back to the Bronze Age.
Braga is one of the oldest Portuguese cities and one of the oldest Christian cities in the world. It was founded in the Roman times as Bracara Augusta and boasts more than 2,000 years of history as a city. Situated in the North of Portugal, in the Cávado Valley (Vale do Cávado), Braga has a population of about 174,000 inhabitants. It is the centre of the Great Metropolitan Area of Minho (GAM - Grande Área Metropolitana do Minho) with a population of around 800,000 inhabitants. Founded by a Celtic tribe called Bracari and later occupied by the Romans (who made it the administrative center of Gallaecia, or present-day Minho and Spanish Galicia), it became the seat of a large archbishopric and the country's religious capital in the 11th century.
Braga has a lot to offer, both in terms of culture and entertainment: its night life, cinemas, theatre, exhibitions, museums and art galleries are exceptional. It is a city vibrant with culture and tradition, where history and religion go hand in hand with technology, industry and university life. There are lots of places to visit in Braga. The historic city center, with the cathedral and other churches, museums and traditional shops. The cathedral is almost 1000 years old, and while in there you can have a guided tour to its treasure. You can also visit the beautiful Braga Municipal Stadium, used for the 2004 European Football Championships held in Portugal. The stadium is on the northern part of the city and it is advised to take a cab. While in Braga, looking east or south-east will probably make you sight two distinct sanctuaries on a mountain just outside the city. The higher one, Sameiro, with a beautiful Church with lots of paintings and gold decorations, and the other one, Bom Jesus do Monte, with a beautiful park around it. While in Bom Jesus, you can ride the Bom Jesus funicular, the oldest funicular in the world moved by water balancing. Although Braga is known in Portugal as "Cidade dos Arcibispos" (Archbishop's Town) and has a clear religious connotation, it isn't related to the faith or devoted Catholicism of its inhabitants. That name comes from the fact that the town has many churches and sanctuaries.
One fact I heard from every inhabitant, in this city, during my visit: Braga is the most fertile city in Portugal - though it is the most orthodox one. Braga has one of the youngest populations in Europe (it was proclaimed to be the European city with the youngest residents in 1989), which makes the city dynamic and energetic. In the past 30 years the District of Braga increased in population by 25 per cent. The district shows parameters of development and quality of living above the national average, which are surpassed only by those of the metropolitan areas of Porto and Lisbon. From statistics and simple calculations one can easily infer that, together with its strategic geographical situation and its rate of development, the aforementioned parameters make this district one of the most attractive regions in terms of investment.
With the railway station (Estacao Braga) on your back - head north-east (and, later, eastward) along Rua Andrade Corvo (the most right climbing up street).
You arrive to an extensive square with non-functioning fountain - Largo das Hortas (public resthouse).
Largo das Hortas - view to the north and city walls:
After 300 m. from our start of climbing up - we arrive to Arco da Porta Nova, Rua Dom Diogo de Sousa. The Arch of the New Gate (Arco da Porta Nova), is a Baroque and Neoclassical arch, designed by André Soares in the late 18th century, in the civil parish of Sé, municipality of Braga. The triumphal arch which decorates the western entrance to the medieval wall of the city, was opened in 1512 and traditionally used to present the city's keys to dignitaries and celebrities. The arch representing the principal entrance to the medieval city. It is surrounded by an urban environment, within one of the city's primary arterial roads, in a space between the Campo das Hortas and Rua D. Diogo de Sousa. In its immediate vicinity (on the left, north side) is a medieval tower, which now houses the Museu de Imagem. King Ferdinand completed the wall of city of Braga around 1373, a project begun during the reign of his predecessor King Denis. THe walls' project called also for constructions of a Torre da Porta Nova (Tower of the New City Gate). Sometime in the 17th century, Archbishop José de Bragança, ordered the reconstruction of the Porta Nova gate, to include the extension of Rococo decoration. The historic arch was used by the municipality, throughout the 20th century, to promotional and marketing campaigns.
The front façade of the arch, looking from west to east along the Rua do Dom Diogo de Sousa:
The front façade of the arch, looking from east to west along the Rua do Dom Diogo de Sousa with the image of Our Lady of Nazareth:
On your right - Largo da Praca Velha. This square is a beautiful place near the Arco da Porta Nova. Its old buildings, brightly colored, its restaurants give you a special atmosphere and giving welcome to tourists and visitors to the city:
Continue east, along the pedestrians-only road of Rua Dom Diogo de Sousa. On your right is the Misericórdia. It is a church built in 1562, the time of Archbishop Bartolomeu Martyrs (1559-1558). it is considered the most important legacy of the renaissance period (Florentine style) in the city, despite the profound changes it suffered in the 18th and 19th centuries. Its monumental Retablo had been built during the years 1735-1740. Its lateral facade is from 1660. Over the centuries it has been the object of several renovations, acquiring the current appearance in 1891. It Is classified as a Public Interest since 1977. The altar is carved authored by Marceliano de Araújo. It is included in the set of buildings in the Se' Cathedral of Braga. Standing against the Cathedral, it is easy to miss...
The interior of the church was remodeled in the Baroque period. The altarpiece is absolutely fabulous and clearly expresses the art of Marceliano de Araujo.
Opposite - the famous Sé Cathedral of Braga, Rua Dom Paio Mendes 10, Rossio da Sé. Open, during the summer months: 09.00 - 12.30, 14.00 - 18.30. No photos allowed inside !!! Taking pictures is strictly prohibited in the premises of the cathedral. So, be cautious !!!Entrance is free. It costs 5 euros per person for the guided tour in the chapels and the museum. Braga is the city of churches, and the Sé is the ex-libris. Due to its long history and artistic significance it is also one of the most important buildings in the country. Built in the 12th century by Count Henry of Burgundy and Dona Teresa. Following his demise, she was chased out of town because of an illicit love affair, but in death Henry and Teresa were reunited in their tombs in the Chapel of Kings. You can visit the Treasury of the Cathedral and the Museum of Sacred Art, an upstairs repository of Braga's most precious works of art. On display are elaborately carved choir stalls from the 18th century, embroidered vestments from the 16th through the 18th century, a 14th-century statue of the virgin and a Gothic chalice from the same period, plus the custódia of Dom Gaspar de Bragança. In the cloister is a pietà, a reflection of human grief.
Main façade of Braga Cathedral. The entrance gallery (galilee) with three arches is gothic (end of 15th century), but the towers and upper storeys are early baroque (17th century). he original romanesque Western façade of the Cathedral of Braga has been totally suppressed, except for some archivolts and capitals of the main portal, heavily decorated with animal and human sculptured reliefs. The figures of one archivolt, with hens, foxes and a minstrel, may be telling a moralistic song like the Roman de Renart, of French tradition. Between 1486 and 1501, an entrance gallery (a galilee) in late gothic style was built preceding the main portal. The galilee has ribbed vaulting and is decorated with statues and gargoyles, the gargoyles were used for spouts so rain wouldn't ruin the side of the buildings. The beautiful manueline metal gate was originally in the interior of the cathedral, but was moved to the galilee in the 18th century. In the early 16th century, Archbishop Diogo de Sousa modified the main romanesque portal, sacrificing the inner archivolts. The upper part of the façade and towers were totally modernised in the 18th century and are unremarkable. The Southern façade of the cathedral has an interesting Romanesque portal.
The entrance from Rua Cabido:
In the courtyard - the Museum of the Se' Cathedral of Braga:
Side entry to the Cathedral:
The main chapel of the apse, rebuilt in 1509 under Archbishop Diogo de Sousa by basque architect João de Castilho. The exterior of the chapel has beautiful late Gothic and Manueline tracery with gargoyles and pinnacles, matched in the interior of the chapel by intricate ribbed vaulting. The outer wall of the main chapel has a beautiful early-16th century statue of the Madonna breastfeeding Jesus (Madona do Leite) between the coat of arms of Portugal and Bishop Diogo de Sousa, sponsor of the Manueline renovation. Under the window there is a Madonna with the Child under a gothic canopy between the coat-of-arms of Portugal (left) and that of Archbishop Diogo de Sousa (right):
Braga Se' Cathedral has three aisles covered by a wooden roof, a transept and five Eastern chapels in the apse. None of the chapels is original Romanesque anymore: the main chapel is Manueline, while the others are heavily decorated in baroque style. In the north wall outside of the cathedral there is a small chapel, of early Romanesque design, that may be a remnant of the late 11th building. This chapel was left outside of the final cathedral, perhaps due to a change of design in the 12th century.
The nave is essentially romanesque thanks to a "purifying" reform in the 20th century that suppressed most later additions, although most original capitals of the columns have been lost. D. Afonso, son of King John I, is buried in a 15th-century tomb made of bronze, which can be seen in the nave of the Cathedral. Head to the north exit of the nave, where you will find the small but well-stocked Museum of Religious Art.
Head over to the desk and for a small price you can visit the treasury, the choir and the chapels.
A high choir was added near the entrance of the cathedral in the Baroque period. You can't help but to stare at the detail of the work. This choir is beautifully decorated with a painted ceiling and sculptured gilt wood (Talha Dourada) choir stalls executed around 1737 by Miguel Francisco da Silva. In front of the high choir there are two gilt wood organs, carved by renowned sculptor Marceliano de Araújo in the 1730s, heavily decorated with baroque and fantastic motifs. These are among the most impressive gilt wood works. Be sure to take the tour of the choir (a small fee) to see the monumental twin baroque organs with exuberant carvings of various cherubs and creatures:
There are twin organs that are just magnificent. These carved woodworks
are by Marceliano de Araújo (1737-1739). The organs are still played during major church events. The organs are the loveliest I have ever seen. I could look at them for hours. The highlight is supposed to be on Sundays - when someone starts to play them. The feeling is heavenly gorgeous:
The cloister offers access to three chapels, which sit adjacent to the cathedral. Visit the tombs of the ArchBishops of Braga. The treassury holds an invaluable amount of gold, diamonds, art, sacerdodal clothing from the 16th, 17th, and 18th century and not to mention some of the best pieces of Ivory in the country.
The first of these, the Capela dos Reis, is built directly onto the nave and is home to the Tombs of Henry and Teresa, the mother and father of the first king of Portugal, as well as the mummified body of Archbishop Lourenço Vicente Coutinho, one of Portugal’s leading 14th-century religious protagonists. It also has the mumified ArchBishop of Braga from the 16th century. You can still see his teeth, hair and jewels.
Next comes the Capela de São Geraldo, which is home to some interesting ceramic works (Azulejos), showing scenes from the life of St Gerald, Braga’s first Archbishop who lived from 1096 to 1108. Words can not do justice...
The Capela da Gloria is home to more Azulejos, as well as the tomb of Archbishop Gonçalo Pereira, who commanded the Minho forces against the Moroccans in the battle of Rio Salado:
Exit the Se' Cathedral (we shall return to its rear facade) northward. Continue walking eastward along Rua Dom Diogo de Sousa and you arrive to Largo do Paço. The buildings with the facades facing the Largo do Paço, are the work of the Archbishops Manuel de Sousa, D. Agostinho de Jesus and D. Rodrigo de Moura Teles. The set of houses can be divided into three wings. West wing: Erected on the initiative of D. Agostinho de Jesus (1587-1609), as attested by his coat of arms, inscribed in the balcony facing the Largo D. João Peculiar (where this archbishop watched the processions) and the center sustained gallery by columns. In the central building of the coat reads the Latin inscription: "D Agostinho de Jesus, Archbishop of Braga and Primate of the Spains":
North Wing: It was also built by D. Rodrigo de Moura Teles. Beneath the coat of arms of the archbishop, is the Latin inscription: "O quam domus antiqua dispari domino dominaris", year 1709 The expression can be translated as "O The old house is different that the Lord has you!" , sentence uttered by Frei Bartolomeu dos Martires when he got there. He added modestly, recalling his predecessors: "How unworthy today what comes to mind your place," the Latin phrase that is due to Cicero:
In the centre stands the Fountain of the Castles - Fonte dos Castelos from year 1723:
The Praca do Paco square is surrounded by buildings of the Episcopal Bracarense, hence its name. It is open only from the south side to the Rua do Souto.
Rua Dom Diogo de Sousa changes its name to Rua do Souto - but still remains pedestrians only road:
We shall explore the hidden sides of the Cathedral of Braga - before continuing (east) to the historical centre of Braga. From the beginning of Rua do Souto - turn right to Rua de Nossa Senhora do Leite which, later, turn right to Rua de S. Joao:
From Rua de Nossa Senhora do Leite - turn right agian to see the rear facade of the Se' Cathedral of Braga. We arrive to a closed square - Roseo de Se' - where we can admire the bell towers, on the southern side of the Cathedral. The Southern façade of the cathedral has an interesting Romanesque portal:
Note the stunning reliefs on this facade while standing in the Roseo de Se':
Turn right to Rua Dom Paio Mendes to see the western facade of the Se' Cathedral. The original romanesque Western façade of the Cathedral of Braga has been totally suppressed, except for some archivolts and capitals of the main portal, heavily decorated with animal and human sculptured reliefs:
Return to Rua Dom Diogo de Sousa / Rua do Souto (the pedestrians roads). Continue walking along the elegant road. You pass Rua da Doutor Justino Cruz on your left. You will be striked by the modern, elaborate architectural commercial centre on your left (north) side. On your right Rua Francisco Sanches with pretty tree-lined avenue:
We turn LEFT (north) to Rua da Doutor Justino Cruz (immediately, on your left, a wonderful porcelains shop. The architectural mix of old and new is admirable. On your right - a dragon statue:
and behind it - the Millenium building:
On your left - the Santa Barbara Garden. It is a municipal garden alongside the eastern wing of the historical Archbishop's Palace of Braga. The garden is located in the northeast corner the Archbishop's Palace, on an elevation. It consists of geometric designs carved from beds of boxwood, decorated with cedar topiaries. In the center of the garden there is a fountain with the statue of Saint Bárbara at the top. It was originally established to enhance the exterior of the palace back in the 17th century and to this day it sets the ancient palace walls off to perfection, framing it in greenery and, on sunny days with the blue skies above. Today’s garden is, however, a modern interpretation of the original space, having been completely re-landscaped in 1955 in keeping with the romantic style of its original period. Plaques on the site identify Jose Cardoso da Silva as the designer and landscaper. The plants, blooms and landscaping are well tended and always found in immaculate condition, making the Santa Barbara Garden a veritable feast for the senses. Do not miss the gardens !!!
The Archiepiscopal Palace (Paço Arquiepiscopal) is seen from the Praca do Paco square and from the Santa Barbara Garden. The Palace is a set of three different buildings with distinct characteristics and time periods: The South wing, defining the Paço Square (see above), is composed of various buildings from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries:
The Eastern wing (facing the Santa Barbara Garden is of Gothic style and dates to the 14th and 15th centuries (see later in this route). The oldest building is set facing the Santa Barbara Garden, being known as Medieval Palace of Braga. It was erected in the late Middle Ages through the initiative of Archbishops Gonçalo Pereira and Fernando the Warrior, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. It is currently occupied by the District Archive Braga:
The Western wing (facing the Municipio Square) (see above) was built in the 18th century in the Portuguese Northern Baroque style. Town Hall Square: The building facing the square was erected by the Municipality José de Bragança in the early eighteenth century, with the authorship of the architect André Soares, Baroque design. This building was consumed by fire on April 16, 1866, been rebuilt under the guidance of architect Manuel Fernandes de Sá, during the 1930s. Currently it is installed the Public Library of Braga:
The remains of the medieval arcade of the palace forming the southwest corner of the garden:
Rua da Doutor Justino continues north as Rua do Carmo (on our left is Praca Conde de Agrolungo, and, later, hotel Ibis). On your right, in Rua do Carmo - Igreja do Carmo (Our Lady of Carmel church):
Nearby (east to the church) , I had dinner in Restaurante cantinho do carmo (see Tip below).
Return to Ibis Hotel in Rua da Doutor Justino Cruz / Rua do Carmo. With your face to the south - turn RIGHT (west) to Rua Conde de Agrolongo. The spacious Praca Conde de Agrolongo is on your left. Furher, west, on your right, an impressive building with amazing Azulejos inside - LAR Conde de Arlongo - a retirement hostel for elders. You are not allowed to step inside. What a miss !
In the south side of Praca Conde de Agrolongo stands a modern sculpture opposite pretty-tiled buildings:
Close to the LAR Conde de Arlongo, and belonging to the same architectural block there is an ancient convent / church Convento do Pópulo. The 16th century Church of Populo was built on the orders of archbishop Brother Agostinho de Jesus, as his burial monument. He passed away in 1609, with his remains transferred in 1628 to a wooden tomb, ordered by the city of Braga, and located in the main chapel. The original Mannerist style underwent substantial change in the 18th century when the façade was rebuilt in a neo-classical style according to a design by Carlos Amarante. The church is dedicated to the Virgin after the Church of Saint Mary of Populo in Rome. It is well worth a visit for its elaborate finishings including the blue and white tiling attributed to Policarpo de Oliveira Bernardes (18th century). By no means - do not miss the tile panels that make up the walls of the grand staircase of the building of the Convent of Pópulo:
Exit the huge square from its south-east corner. Continue EAST along Rua do Souto. Turn Left (north) Rua do Castelo:
On your right, in Rua do Castelo - Braga Castle (Castelo de Braga) + Torre de Menagem. It is a historical fortification and defensive line encircling the city of Braga. While, in fact, the only remains of this structure are the various gates and towers along its perimeter, the main keep tower is the only true remnant of the medieval castle. The old castle, today demolished, had an approximate rectangular plan, with towers on each vertice. Of the walls of the city, only the gate, tower of Santiago, tower of São Sebastião and Porta Nova remain. The demolition of the grounds began in 1858 in the Largo do Barão de S. Martinho, with the destruction of the Souto Gate, followed by the Eastern and São Bento Gates, still in the 19th century. After the beginning of the 20th century, many other lines of the castle were destroyed between the Arco da Porta Nova and Rua dos Biscainhos, and from Rua dos Biscainhos and Rua do Alcaide. Few remnants of the medieval lines remain today. The ancient wall can be seen in some of the backyards of homes along the Rua do Anjo and Rua de São Marcos. Still further, there still exist the Gate of São Tiago, even if partially altered due to the construction in the second half of the 18th century, through the addition of the Capela da Senhora da Torre:
on your left, in Rua do Castelo - Reitor Da Igreja Dos Terceiros. The Church of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis dates back to 1690. The facade, is in the Baroque style, presents a broken pediment, surmounted by a cross and the arms of San Francisco. Inside, the ceiling is vaulted in stone, the altars are gilded and the walls are tiled with motifs signed by Nicolau de Freitas. The church is not open, regularly, to the public:
The Retablo with Azulejos and list of all Bishops:
You arrive to Avenida Central. Turn RIGHT (east) to the Praça da República. The Praça da Republica Square is Portugal at its best. It is a wide, expansive space with a fountain at its heart and surrounded by grand architecture from a variety of periods that define the history of this historic city. This is a square that opens up between the wide Largo de San Francisco and Barão de São Martinho and Avenida Central and Avenida da Liberdade. The Republic Square, popularly referred to simply as Arcade. The square was opened in the late Middle Ages. The name Arcade is due to existing archway (west side with the Igreja da Lapa), erected on the initiative of D. Rodrigo de Moura Teles in 1715, in place of another, earlier, dating back to the time of D. Diogo de Sousa. It was here, from the late sixteenth century. Here were marketed food products which were supplied to the city. The space was transformed into a public garden in the mid nineteenth century and the works of the present building of the arch, with the municipal engineer Joaquim Pereira da Cruz project, was completed in 1885. Between 1761 and 1904 the square was named Lapa and off, between 1904 and 1910 - Largo Hintze Ribeiro. Finally, with the establishment of the Portuguese Republic (1910), the square received the current name. In the centre - illuminated fountain. The fountain is named the Vianna fountain, and in fact many locals simply refer to the Praça da Republica Square as “Vianna”. In the south-east corner of the square - the Tourist Information office. A MacDonalds is in the middle if you need a stop. By day, the Praça da Republica Square is the perfect place for hanging out, people watching and admiring your surroundings from the comfort of a café chair, with a pastel de nata, rich, freshly brewed coffee or a light local beer for company. Things are livened up regularly by a variety of street artists who come to entertain the crowds. By night the mood changes and the Praça da Republica becomes a popular dining destination, especially in summer when it is possible to sit outside and enjoy the balmy evening weather as you taste some of the gastronomic delights of one of Portugal’s leading culinary centres:
In the west side - Igreja de Lapa and the Arcade (Archway):
The oldest café in the city is the Vianna Café, which lies in the heart of the square and has been a leading congregation point for residents and visitors alike since it was opened as long ago as 1858:
Turn SOUTH along Avenida da Liberdade. A WONDERFUL AVENUE. Magnificent buildings on the east side, manicured flower-beds, cafe's. Portugal at its best. Braga carpeted it with flowers. An utmost pleasure !
From this protesting signpost - you can learn a lot about the economic situation in Portugal 2014 (and about its advantages to foreign tourists...):
On the first crossway - turn RIGHT (WEST) to Rua Doutor Gonçalo Sampaio. In the END of this road - you arrive to Largo Carlos Amarante. This is a wonderful square with admirable gardening and a couple of important, interesting and pretty buildinmgs: The Hospital de São Marcos (right side of the following photo) and the imposing Igreja de Santa Cruz. In the center of the square is a granite fountain shaped flower, surrounded by a small garden area and some stone benches to sit:
Igreja de Santa Cruz - what a facade !!!. IBuilt during the years 1625 - 1631. The tower is from 1735. The Retablo from the XVIIIth century:
The Hospital de São Marcos:
Return to the Avenida da Liberdade and continue southward. Turn, again, right (west) in the next crossway to Rua Raio - to see the (under construction works) the Palacio do Raio. It is an example of the late Baroque, early Rococo style of decoration by Portuguese architect André Soares, notable for his influence in the northern Baroque movement. The construction of this ornate palace was ordered by João Duarte de Faria, a knight of the Order of Christ, who was a rich merchant. The commission was given to André Soares in 1754–1755, an architect already famous in the Braga region for his artistic and engineering projects. In the context of Portuguese art, André Soares was part of the end of the Baroque period, and beginning of the Rococo; his style used the structure of the Baroque, but the decorative style of the Rococo. In 1760, the staircase was painted. A century later, the residence was acquired by Miguel José Raio, then Viscount of São Lázaro (in 1867), thus, over time, becoming known as the Palace of Raio. In the future will be the Interpretive Center of Memories of Mercy of Braga - the estate institution of ancient and traditional health care in the region. fIt will be fully rehabilitated to accommodate the museum center, as well as the documentary collection of the institution. It will contain collections and machines used in medical care, as well as other utensils of ancient hospitals. The Completion is scheduled for mid-2015 the initiative has a budget of € 4.2 million that will be used in the comprehensive rehabilitation of the building. A masterpiece !!!
The second-floor balcony with ornate decoration and monolithic lintel, and flanking sculptures:
Walk back in Rua Raio. Now, your back is in the south-west and your face are in the north-east. Cross Avenida da Liberdadeand look to your left:
and continue north-east along Rua Raio. Turn LEFT (after the parking lot) to Rua Dom João Cândido de Novais e Sousa. Cross from south to north the Jardim da Avenida Central
to see the Convento dos Congregados, Avenida Central 98. A garden with lush greenery, flowerbeds and benches located in the historic city center. A fountain, a lake, a bandstand and statues of individuals. The convent is a 18th-century Baroque Basilica designed by the architect André Soares. It is flanked on the top by two bell towers, one of which was finished in the 1960s:
Walk eastward along the Jardim da Avenida Central until you arrive to Largo Senhora A. Branca:
Return west to the Praça da República and continue west to: Rua do Souto, Rua Dom Diogo de Sousa, Rua Andrade Corvo - back to the Estacao de Braga (Braga Railway station).
Sant-George Castle and Alfama.
Start: Largo Martin Moniz.
End : Praca de Comercio.
Duration: 1/2 day.
Distance: 6-7 km.
Weather: Arrive to Sant-George Castle as early as possible to avoid high temperatures while in Alfama.
Take the Metro to Largo Martin Moniz. We start from this extensive square. There are several places in Lisbon that still remain unmentioned in tourism guides. It's one of Lisbon's biggest squares but has been one of the most overlooked over the last few years. Martim Moniz, a multicultural area, is still one of them. It seems like you’re in the Orient. There are small Chinese groceries, Turkish kebab houses, Indian restaurants and stores, and by the smell you can say you’re in Chinatown or Little Bombay. Great conglomeration of ethnic supermarkets and colorful lifestyle. it's been brought back to life and now attracts all kinds of locals and tourists. Inside the Mouraria shopping center, located in the Martim Moniz square, you’ll find Popat Store. There are African products, dried fish, coconut milk, Okra and hot Piri-piri. Ask the shops owners to find the most exotic spices and products from any corner of the world. On weekends there's a market offering everything from grocery products to clothing. The square is therefore now a meeting place, always accompanied by a view of the Sant-George Castle.
Take Tram 28 from Martin Moniz to Portas do Sol. From there it is 5 minutes walk to Castle Sant-George. Martin Moniz is one of the terminals of Tram 28. It's perhaps Lisbon's most popular activity: A ride back in time over hills and medieval streets in vintage trams that are still part of the city's public transportation network. Line 28 of Lisbon's iconic trams was inaugurated in 1914 and today it has a 7km route between Martim Moniz Square and the neighborhood of Prazeres (between Graça and Estrela in a shorter journey). It survived the rise of the automobile and of the bus by being the best way to squeeze through the narrow streets and corners of the older districts, for being an attractive tour, and for its clean energy. It's now an essential part of Lisbon's life, a city that would lose part of its soul without the constant rattling of these singular yellow, ringing "wagons". The trams are known as ‘electricos’ in Portuguese, so look out for ‘electrico 28’. The 28 line uses about fifty turn-of-the-century cars, built in wood with a capacity for twenty seating passengers and 38 standing (although many more cram in). The average intervals between each one is 15 minutes and the entire trip takes between 40 minutes and one hour (at a maximum speed of 50km per hour), depending on the obstacles (traffic and doubled-parked cars) along the way. The ride to Sant-George Castle takes 10 - 15 minutes. The first one starts the day just after 6AM, and the last one departs shortly after 11PM. Tickets can be purchased from the driver but most passengers use re-chargable / pre-paid cards, including most tourists who buy the Lisboa Card (recommended to avoid having to get a ticket each time you board, and to save money). Upon entering (always through the front door), validate your ticket by scanning it on the machine behind the driver. As you step on and off, watch your wallet and other possessions as this being a major tourist attraction it's a favorite target of pickpockets who easily blend in with tourists. It passes the Saint George’s (São Jorge) Castle, the famous viewpoint (miradouro) Portas do Sol (Gates to the sun) (see below) and the legendary fleamarket ‘Feira da Ladra’ in Alfama, Graça, Mouraria, Bairro Alto, (Lisbon’s bohemien haunt of artists and writers, and posssibly one of the best spots in Europe for a night out). Last stop: Cemetery ‘Prazeres’ (Cemetery of ‘Pleasures’), really worth a visit !
Tram 28, near Lisbon’s legendary flea market ‘Feira da Ladra’ ('Market of Thieves'):
The best stop for St George’s Castle, and there we drop, is at the Largo Portas do Sol viewpoint, which affords delightful views down to the river Tagus, with its boats docked in the harbour and the Alfama rooftops dropping away below. Next stop on the tram 28 route is St George’s Castle itself, sitting at Lisbon’s highest point, perched right on top of a hill and overlooking the Alfama and the river Tagus. Portas do Sol, is a panoramic viewpoint where you can relax or enjoy the cocktail bar and a restaurant offering delicious coffee and light fare:
Statue of St. Vincent - Patron of the City of Lisbon with a boat (symbol of the city) in his hands:
From the square walk south to Largo de Santa Luzia and, immediately, turn right to climb Travessa de Santa Luzia. There are brown signposts leading to Castle of S. Jorge. This is a shady road with houses decorated with Azulejos on your left:
The steep road bends left to Rua do Chão da Feira, bends again left and we arrive to the Entrance gate to Castle of Sant Jorge:
Here, starts Rua de Santa Cruz do Castelo and, 2-3 minutes climb and you face the tickets office of Castelo do Sao Jorge. Open (Last admission: 30 minutes before closing time): 1 November - 28 February (Closed - December 25 and January 1) 09.00 - 18.00, 1 March - 31 October (Closed - May 1) 09.00 - 21.00, Periscope - Tower of Ulysses | Subject to weather conditions 10.00 - 17.00. Prices in euros: Adults 8,50, Students < 25 years old 5,00, Families (2 Adults and 2 children < 18 years old) 20,00, People with disabilities 5,00, Senior (> 65 years) 5,00.
Castelo do Sao Jorge:
In brief: It’s located on one of the seven hills in the city and a huge part of the castle was destroyed by the Great Earthquake of 1755. However, the main structures were recovered and, these days, visitors can enjoy the magnificent castle, the views and many cultural activities that are promoted on its grounds. This fortification is situated in the area most difficult to access at the top of the hill, making use of the natural slopes to the north and west. The purpose of the castle was to house military troops and in case of siege. The elite who lived in the Alcáçova (Citadel). Unlike most European castles it was not meant as a residence.
Saint George's Castle can be seen from almost everywhere in Lisbon. Its oldest parts date from the 6th century, when it was fortified by the Romans, Visigoths, and eventually the Moors. It served as a Moorish royal residence until Portugal's first king Afonso Henriques captured it in 1147 with the help of northern European crusaders on their way to the Holy Land. It was then dedicated to St. George, the patron saint of England, commemorating the Anglo-Portuguese pact dating from 1371, and became the royal palace until another one (that was destroyed in the Great Earthquake) was built in today's Lisbon's Comercio Square. It is now an oasis of peace, but just past the main gate is a statue of King Afonso Henriques and a series of cannons, reminders of the castle's original purpose. What remains of the Alcaçovas Palace where medieval kings lived, is a stone building now housing a restaurant, and round the back, a small archaeological museum in three underground chambers (including the one where Vasco da Gama was once received by King Manuel). Most of the castle was destroyed over the years, especially in the Great Earthquake of 1755, but still includes a long extension of walls and 18 towers. Visitors can climb the towers and walk along the ramparts for the most breathtaking views of Lisbon, or relax in the gardens where peacocks, geese and ducks walk around. One of the Castle's inner towers, the Tower of Ulysses, holds the Câmara Escura, a periscope that projects sights from around the city.
Immediately, after your entry - you face a bronze statue of Afonso Henriques, the Portuguese monarch who took the castle from the Moors. This statue is a copy of the 19th-century original by the romantic sculptor, António Soares dos Reis, which is located near Guimarães Castle in central Portugal:
This is one of the most intact castles in Europe with much of the ramparts and keeps still intact. It is awesome to be able to walk the perimeter of the old ramparts and get up into the turrets. It still retains eleven towers, the most outstanding being the Torre de Menagem (Tower of the Keep), Torre do Haver ou do Tombo (Tower of Riches or Trumbling Tower), Torre do Paço (Tower of the Palace), Torre da Cisterna (Tower of the Cistern) and the Torre de São Lourenço (Tower of St. Lawrence) located on the hillside. Ruins of older structures and a cistern still remain in a second courtyard. Also found here is a small door on the northern wall called the Door of Treason which allowed secret messengers to enter or exit when needed.
Tower of Ulysses:
Don Manuel I "O Venturoso", King of Portugal (1495 - 1521):
On your way out - you'll see the Icon of Sant Jorge, protector and defender of Portugal:
Part of the castle grounds are being dug up for archaeological purposes, as it’s known that the hill has been inhabited for millenia. The museum on the grounds has artifacts that date back to roman times. The ruins are of two times, some Roman, and some Islamic.
And the views of the city from the castle are breathtaking. I think you can see the ocean from here. Due to its exceptional location, Castelo de S. Jorge stands out among Lisbon’s belvederes for its unique and majestic sights:
Within the inner courtyard of the castle ruins a small park with water courses and with some animal enclosures has been laid out. Peacocks sit in the old trees or walk along the paths, here and there there are quiet corners in which little fountains babble. There were peacocks roaming the grounds. It is weird. I wonder if they’re natural to the area.
Another cool thing about the St. George Castle are the falcons and owls that you could hold and have your picture taken with for money:
We leave Castelo do Sao Jorge and return to Portas do Sol in the same way. With our face to the Tagus river (south) we take, on our RIGHT, the stairs down to Alfama. The flight of steps (starting from Bar Cerca Moura) is DOWN along Rua Norberto de Araújo. On your right walls from the Vizigoth period, the 10th century:
Alfama is Lisbon's one of the most picturesque and rewarding for walkers and photographers thanks to its medieval alleys and outstanding views. It survived the 1755 earthquake, and a walk through this old-fashioned residential neighborhood is now a step back in time. It is an Moorish-oriental village within a city still made up of narrow streets, tiny squares, churches, and whitewashed houses with tile panels and wrought-iron balconies adorned with pots of flowers, drying laundry, and caged birds. It was settled by the Romans and Visigoths. It was also an important Jewish quarter in the 15th century. But it was the Moors who gave the district its atmosphere and name (Alhama, in Arabic, means spring or bath - a reference to the hot springs found in the area). The Moors were also responsible for its web of streets created as a defense system, while at the same time enabling their homes to remain cool in the summer. Most of the older residents have lived here all their lives and retain a strong sense of community. An increasing number of wealthier people are investing in their properties and moving in. Several renovated buildings directly below the Sant-George Castle have been converted into some of the city's most atmospheric and unique hotels or pensions. The quarter has a quality that needs to be experienced to be truly appreciated, and the best way to get to know it is wander around admiring the postcard-perfect views, visiting the churches, and walking up to the Sant-George Castle for the most breathtaking panorama of the city and the greatest sunsets.
Turn LEFT in the first intersection to Calçadinha da Figueira.Soon, you arrive to Beco de São Miguel:
After 5 minutes of walk you'll see the white towers of the Sao Miguel Igreja (church). The original church was built in 1150 and was renovated several times in the 13th C. and 17th C. After the earthquake it had to be almost completely rebuilt, although old parts of the building were incorporated, such as the valuable carving. The ceiling is of Brazilian jacaranda wood:
With your face to Sao Miguel church - turn right to Calçadinha de São Miguel. From there, immediately, left to Beco de Cardosa. Climb the stairs. On your left:
On your front:
In the end of the flight of stairs - turn right to Rua Castelo Picão:
Turn right to Beco das Cruzes. Bend left along this alley:
In the end of the stairs - climb LEFT to Rua da Regueira:
After 180 m. steep climb in Rua da Regueira - we arrive to Largo do Salvador. Turn RIGHT to Rua de Guilherme Braga. Bend slightly, with the alley, to the right - arriving to Largo de Santo Estêvão and Santo Estêvão church. The church was founded in the 13th C. by Dinos I. It originally consisted of five aisles, a unique feature in Lisbon. The earthquake almost completely destroyed it and it was rebuilt in 1773 to an octagonal plan. The ceiling paintings in the chancel and the sacristy come from the original church. The small square in front of the church offers a fine view across the quarter to the Tagus:
Largo de Santo Estêvão:
Go down with the stairs with your face to the sea:
In the end of the stairs you arrive to Escadinhas de Santo Estêvão. On your right a splendid, typical Portuguese fountain with Azulejos:
Continue descending along the flight of stairs and you arrive to Rua dos Remedios. Do not turn left (we finished with climbing up...). Turn RIGHT, and look on your right on this Manueline door / entrance portal dating from before the 1755 earthquake:
Continuing along this road and we arrive to a broad street with a nice square - Largo do Chafariz de Dentro. On the Largo do Chafariz de Dentro is located the unobtrusive fountain of the same name. It was called Chafariz de Dentro (inner fountain) as it was unusually positioned, i.e. within the old city walls. Originating from the 14th C., it once also bore the name "Horses' Fountain", as the gargoyles portrayed two bronze horses heads. These were stolen in 1373 by Spanish troops. The fountain was built in its current form in 1622. Here you find the Museu do Fado. OPENING TIMES: Museum: Tuesday to Sunday, from 10.00 to 18.00 (last admission: 17.30). Closed on 1st of January, 1st of May and December 25th. Documentation Centre: Monday to Friday, from 14.30 to 18.00 (by previous appointment), Museum School: Monday to Friday, from 14.00 to 20.00. PRICES: Admission – 5.00€, Reduced admission prices for: under 30 years of age and adults over 65 years of age and other pensioners, organized groups and families, Lisboa Card. Go ONLY if you want to know what Fado is and it's history. How to make a museum about music? Answer: include substantial selection of Fado and the artists to listen to. The €5 entrance includes an audio guide which as well as the usual voice overs includes a vast array of music samples. There are many photos of fado singers within this small museum and for each one you can dial the number into the guide and hear a sample of their singing. You can sit on a comfy chair, tune the headphones and choose from a menu of singers - this gives you songs to enjoy while reading about particular singers. Sights and songs with the same ticket:
Opposite the Museu there is charming market of handicrafts and antiquities:
With your back to sea - cross the market and turn left to Rua de Sao Pedro, a narrow and shady alley/road. The Rua de Sao Pedro starts at the northwestern boundary of the Largo do Chafarizde Dentro. This narrow street is very lively. In addition to the open air handicrafts market - there is also an early-hour fish market which takes place here every morning. Building number 6-10 is representative of the houses in this quarter:
On your right you cross Rua da Galé and on your right Largo de São Rafael:
Turn sharply down LEFT to Rua da Judiaria. On your right a fountain with running water. Continue walking down along the steps. Again, another fountain with water. This is Lisbon's oldest fountain, the Chafariz d'El Rei. Rua da Judiaria is the center of the former Jewish quarter. It originates from the 13th C., although a fountain possibly stood on this site in Moorish times. The current fountain dates from the 18th C. The King's Fountain is built right by a piece of the old city wall. Not only did Lisbon's inhabitants come here to fetch water, ships anchored in the harbor were also supplied with water from this fountain. The high demand for water must have led to fights amongst the users as an official decree passed in 1551 regulated exactly the withdrawal of water according to sex, race and position.
Pass through the Arco do Rosário to the Largo do Terreiro do Trigo. During the 16º century it was built a small palace upon the wall. We can still see the windows of it, in the characteristic "Manuelino" style.
Turn RIGHT to Rua Cais de Santarém and you see the wall with the empty windows of it:
There is "hole" in the wall. Pass through the "hole" and turn left to Travessa de São João da Praça. This small road continues west as Rua de São João da Praça. Walking further WEST along Rua de São João da Praça - you pass Pois Cafe (#95) on your left. If you want a break in general with an eclectic but homey atmosphere, this is where you want to go. Not only do they have books to peruse through here, but you can have your cake and eat it too! Their cakes are delicious. Depending on time of day and availability, it's hard to go wrong with any of them. The place is cozy, with large tables if you need to work, and comfortable couches if you're there to just relax. They have free Wi-Fi, which is always a plus.
Continue west along Rua de São João da Praça. It changes its name to Cruzes da Sé. On your right is the Lisbon Se' (Cathedral). It is 650- 700 m. walk to Praca do Comercio. It is a good idea to spare the second half of the day (if it is not so hot...) to Belem. You catch Tram #15 from Praca do Comerci to Belem. Head west on Cruzes da Sé toward Largo da Sé, 67 m. Slight left onto Largo da Sé, 40 m. Continue onto Largo Santo António da Sé, 51 m. Turn left onto Rua da Padaria, 26 m. Turn right onto Rua de S. Julião 170 m, Turn left onto Rua da Prata, 100 m. Continue straight onto Praça do Comércio.