Watching Porto's downtown develop is like viewing a film on fastforward. The pace of change in this part of the city - which just a decade ago seemed to be in a deep slumber - has been over more rapid. So what does the future hold for the Baixa?
We don't need to say that much about the the Baixa because it more or less speaks for itself: it's in a state of permanent revolution. One week a new restaurant opens on one corner, the next a bar springs up on another. A slew of residential properties are also being renovated.
Whereas Porto was once the victim of the same doughnut effect as Lisbon - with older residents dying off and younger ones moving to the suburbs - Now the doughnut has a richfilling. Plenty of people now want to live downtown, and there are even some low-cost residential developments, such as the studio flats dreamed up by Espaco Plano B, aimed at students and other youngsters.
In the near future, emerging trends - retail clusters such as bookshops or the Sítios e Memórias (Places and Memories) initiative bringing together shops in Rua Mouzinho da Silveira and Rua das Flores; parties organised by several bars in the same street, such as Porto Sounds and Alta Baixa; or to simultaneous art inaugurations - are set to become more marked. Meantime, ever more disused buildings are being turned into boutique hotels, such as the one planned in Rua da Galeria de Paris, or into short-break apartments. Other abandoned spaces are emerging as bases for creative professionals or micro-business. Portugal may be in crisis, but for the Baixa that represents an opportunity. After all, this is a city that made unpromising tripe into a tasty and renowned dish."
Locals say sitting in the old metal-frame chairs here and scoffing ice cream is no greedy indulgence but a spiritual experience. For three decades, the place has turned out cakes, crêpes and of course ices. Of the 57 varieties of the latter on offer, the biggest seller is the chocolate one that was baptised with the parlour's name - or is it vice versa? The Portuguese word sincelo refers to the ice that forms from raindrops in sub-zero temperatures. "