Remolares neighborhood… Does it ring a bell? The famous CAIS DO SODRE in Lisbon was once the neighborhood of Remolares.
Today (2020), it is a real park for tourists. In the past, it was many things: a parade area for famous and rich people, a square for World War II spies, a prostitution area, sailors, and a danger to public health. Here is a brief written portrait of the most famous pier in Lisbon.
WHERE IS CAIS DO SODRE?
Cais do Sodré is in the heart of the city of Lisbon. Within walking distance you will find a huge number of sites and places worth visiting. Here is a map of the city to guide you!
CAIS DO SODRÉ NOWADAYS
Those who visit cais do Sodré today will find a renewed space, with the Ribeira das Naus garden dominating the landscape and offering a magnificent view of the Tagus.
At night, the entertainment and alcohol is abundant in the many bars and restaurants that can be found there.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN CAIS DO SODRÉ?
There are many attractions near Cais do Sodré. To get to know the place well (and calmly), we recommend a full day of sightseeing, interrupted by a good lunch! To help you organize the sequence of your visits we have prepared a map with the main attractions in the area. We hope you find it useful!
PRAÇA DO COMÉRCIO
A must-see for all tourists visiting the capital! Formerly called Terreiro do Paço, Praça do Comércio is probably the most visited square in Lisbon. It was the place where the kings of Portugal lived for 2 centuries. Today, it still belongs to the Portuguese state and is the place where we find several public departments.
It is a square of great dimensions (36 thousand square meters), and one of the largest on the European continent. The square was renovated after the 1755 earthquake, led by the Marquis of Pombal. The various buildings that can be found in the commercial square have, over time, been used by different government departments. Today, there are also many hotels, restaurants, bars, and cafes that use the spaces that once belonged entirely to the government. This is where we can find the famous Martinho da Arcada coffee shop! The oldest café in Lisbon and the one that was one of the favorite cafés of the great and immortal Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa.
CAIS DAS COLUNAS
Nobody knows for sure when the Pier of Columns was built. It is only known to have been finished before the nineteenth century. It was to the Pier of columns that many of the vessels that brought important heads of state that, in other times, visited the capital of Portugal arrived. It can be said that this mythical place was, for a long time, a kind of golden entrance of the city Today is only a pier used by cacilheiros that make the connection between the city of Lisbon and Cacilhas (on the South Bank of the Tagus).
It should also be said that in the Pier of Columns many people dared to bathe naked. This fact, if it still causes strangeness today, was in the past cause for great controversy and indignation. This construction is undoubtedly a landscape element of great fame and importance in this area of Lisbon.
ARCO DA RUA AUGUSTA
Triumphal arch that stands on the north side of the Praça do Comércio. The construction follows the Pombaline reconstruction (after the 1755 earthquake), but only in 1873 the monument was completed. In the upper part and also in the lower part of the arch, we can observe several sculptures that represent different personalities of the Portuguese history (Nuno Alvares Pereira, Viriato, Vasco da Gama, Marquês de Pombal).
BOAT CACILHAS – CAIS DO SODRÉ
Cais do Sodré is also a point of departure and arrival for many people who live on the other side of the Tagus River. For those who want to appreciate Lisbon from another perspective, we highly recommend the boat trip between Cacilhas and Cais do Sodré. The boats used for this crossing are delightfully old and open on the upper deck. This configuration will allow you a magnificent view of the city of Lisbon and Cais do Sodré in particular. The trip is particularly pleasurable during the summer months.
The trip only takes about 8 minutes and the frequency between boats is quite high. A ticket costs just over 1€ and if you avoid rush hours, the boat will be almost empty. In Cacilhas be sure to have lunch or dinner in one of the many good restaurants you will find there. Not to be missed!
CAIS DO SODRÉ TRAIN STATION
The train leaves from the railway station in Cais do Sodré. The station was built in the late 19th century and opened its doors on September 4, 1895. It is now a monument of public interest.
Also at Cais do Sodré you can take the Cascais line train. I am a 43 year old Lisboner, and I have taken the train between Cais do Sodré and Cascais countless times. I can assure you that it is always a great pleasure! The trip takes about 30 minutes and this time should be used to enjoy the marginal and the beaches of the Cascais line.
RIBEIRA DAS NAUS GARDEN
On a beautiful sunny day, Ribeira das Naus is now one of the most sought after places in Lisbon. It was restored in the last decade and was in the past a shipbuilding yard. Today it presents itself as a wide space, with an extensive lawn, with a river beach and a huge staircase that connects the space to the Tagus River. On a mild day (and there are many in Lisbon), the space is flooded with people who head there to enjoy the sun, the river view, and to rest. The sunset is something that should be on your list of things not to miss in Lisbon!
HISTORY OF CAIS DO SODRÉ
But let us now go back to the 19th century. We are now in the center of the Remolares neighborhood. The gardens of today give way to dirt and a river beach where mud predominates. The situation is serious and a danger to everyone’s health. Why? The explanation is simple:
“Since city waste was frequently dumped, it became a serious threat to public health.”researchers
In the 19th century, Cais do Sodré began a process of renovation and expansion. The works lasted approximately 12 years (between 1855 and 1867). In this process, structures (warehouses) were built to store the goods that were arriving at the wharf. These goods came, in the main, from small boats and fishermen who lived in the Lisbon area and its surroundings. Fishing men sometimes associated with businessmen linked to the import and export of products. It should be noted that, at this point in history (1860), the area of Cais do Sodré was beginning to be inhabited by businessmen who decided to live there because of its proximity to the pier and the business they could do there. With the commercial dynamics that began to develop at the end of the century (1890-1900), cais do Sodré was already a reference in the city of Lisbon and also a national reference.
We cannot forget the many artists (writers, poets, and intellectuals) who frequented the cafés in Lisbon at that time. During the 1920s, there was already an offer of cafés and clubs for different segments of the population. The upper class of society frequented sophisticated cafés and clubs.
These places were not accessible to the lower classes of society (sailors and people who worked in the port of cais do Sodré). This is how the bars and clubs of cais do Sodré emerged. It was in rua Nova do Carvalho (nowadays known as “rua cor de rosa”), that several cafes and taverns opened that housed the lower class of the Lisbon society of the 20’s and 30’s of the last century.
Later, between 1930 and 1980, clubs like “Jamaica”, “Europa”, “Tamisa – today called Tokyo”, “Texas Bar – where Busic-Box is today” and “Shangri-la – today called Cais do Sodré Bar” appeared. The famous “love boarding house” owes its name to the time when sailors and prostitutes used to meet there. The “pensão do amor” rented out its rooms by the hour.
The 90’s of the last century and the beginning of the 21st century were difficult for Cais do Sodré. With the dynamics of other areas of Lisbon (Bairro Alto, Santos, Docas, Alcântara), Cais do Sodré was given over to crime, street prostitution and hard drugs. This transformation motivated the departure of part of the residents to other areas of the city.
But everything changes! In the last 15 years, we have seen a positive change in Cais do Sodré. With the increase in tourism and the investment in bars, restaurants and tourist accommodations, Cais do Sodré is once again a prime area of the city. Today everyone has a good opinion about Cais do Sodré (maybe the exception are the older residents who live there saturated with the noise of the nightlife)! It is a place that attracts many tourists, many university students (Portuguese and foreign), and many young businessmen and entrepreneurs. There, they feel they are in the heart of the beautiful old city of Lisbon.
RESTAURANTS IN CAIS DO SODRÉ
SOL E PESCA
A small restaurant in rua nova do Carvalho (the famous pink street in cais do Sodré), where you can eat canned fish, tapas and preserves. It has an overall rating on Google of 4.3 and more than 890 comments. The space is small, with a decoration related to fishing and a family atmosphere.
The positive comments mention the sardines with chilli as a house specialty and also the friendliness of the staff is commented on several times.
PORTUGÁLIA IN CAIS DO SODRÉ
It is located behind Cais do Sodré. The quality of the food is good and the price is affordable (about 35€ for 2 people). The restaurant has a beautiful view of the Tagus River. It has many comments on google (more than 1250 comments) and an overall rating is 4.1. The positive reviews emphasize the quality of the beer, the Portugália steak and the good seafood.
CAIS DO SODRÉ BARS
The bars in Cais do Sodré have attracted many people since the beginning of the 20th century. The first concentration of bars and taverns took place in Rua Nova do Carvalho, today known as the Pink Street. It was in this street that the first bars were opened and frequented by sailors, local people, employees of the Port of Cais do Sodré, and prostitutes, who used to meet their clients there. Over time, and in other areas of Cais do Sodré, restaurants and nightclubs were also born. Some of these spaces still exist today, but under different names. Nowadays, with the growth of tourism, it is difficult to choose the place and the bar to go to. Here is one recommendation.
PENSÃO DO AMOR
A building rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake and part of the pombaline renovations. Much more than just a bar, it is now a reference in Lisbon’s nightlife. It opened in 2011 and represented a sign of the change that would happen in the atmosphere of Cais do Sodré. The Pension do Amor was once the place where prostitutes and sailors (from the four corners of the world) used to meet. It was home to four boarding houses that rented rooms by the hour.
The bad reputation of the place is definitely behind. Today, the space is sought after and visited by people from all over the world, attracted by the warm decoration, in red tones, and which does not hide its past. There, culture has found its space. Theater, poetry, concerts, every day there is room for different forms of cultural and artistic expression. The Pension do Amor is today a place of culture, of meetings, of discussions, of passions, and also a place that you cannot miss visiting and getting to know. But the charms of the Pension do Amor are not limited to its decoration and culture. Eating and drinking well is easy in this place. The space does not dispense also a visit to the last room of the local bar where you will meet the erotic boutique Purple Rose. There you will find room for love and even lust. But be aware that staying overnight here is definitely a thing of the past. The Pension do Amor no longer offers this possibility, but it is a guarantee of a night well spent.
WHAT CAN YOU SEE NEAR CAIS DO SODRÉ?
To get to know Cais do Sodré in a calm and tranquil way, we suggest 1 full day. In case you don’t have enough time, know that near this point of the city, there is a wide range of tourist attractions that deserve a close visit. We chose 4 attractions that are within walking distance from Cais do Sodré, a distance that can be covered on foot (taking the car to this part of town is a nightmare when it comes to parking). To help you organize your tour, we have prepared a map. We hope you find it useful!
From Cais do Sodré to Castelo de São Jorge is 1500 meters (1.5 kilometers). A somewhat steep route that can be done in 20 minutes on foot. Beautiful and imposing! The first defensive structures that gave rise to the castle date back to the 1st century B.C. Over time, the Castle of São Jorge underwent several renovations. But it was in 1940 that it underwent a major renovation. From the top of the highest hill in Alfacinha, you can enjoy a magnificent view over the city and the Tagus River! Fabulous!
850 meters and only 12 minutes separate Cais do Sodré from the Santa Justa elevator. The elevator was inaugurated in 1902! It is surely one of the symbols of the city. It was built in cast iron and has a neo-gothic style (a style characterized by verticality). It is also called the Carmo elevator. For those who enjoy panoramic views it is a visit not to be missed!
From Lisbon’s Cathedral to Cais do Sodré, there are 1.3 kilometers that can be covered in a 17-minute walk. Monument with more than 800 years (it was erected during the 12th century). Lisbon’s Cathedral (also known as Santa Maria Maior church) was built after the city was conquered from the Moors. It combines different architectural styles and is a Portuguese National Monument. Must-visit religious monument!
From Cais do Sodré to Time Out Market, it’s only 300 meters away in 4 minutes. In the also called Mercado da Ribeira, you will find numerous restaurants organized in stalls in a large, renovated and cosmopolitan space. If you want to know everything about this space click on the image!