Alfama, life in the typical district of central Lisbon

Alfama, traditional neighborhood of Lisbon
Alfama, traditional neighborhood of Lisbon

Alfama is one of the most traditional neighborhoods of Lisbon, full of life and history, is the winner of the neighborhood festivals of St. Anthony of Lisbon 2016 and that celebrate every year in June, is the most typical district of Lisbon. Is that neighborhood that best shows what it's like to be alfacinha and smells and lights of Lisbon. In Alfama, you can see an authentic travel card and that of course in very few places in Europe: out with clothes, women talking about a window to the other, cats on the Windows and dogs walk calmly in the middle of the street, open doors, the fish grilling outdoors and, at the same time, it is possible to see what it would be like the Portuguese capital before the 1755 earthquake This historic district has not been nearly hit by him.

Typical streets of Alfama
Typical alleys of Alfama, with staircases connecting the streets along the slope

All these features that keeps are only possible because Historic Alfama has not lost its identity over the centuries. This neighborhood of Lisbon has existed since the Foundation of the Portuguese capital, since the days of the Phoenicians and Carthaginians (people of the Middle East and North Africa). With the Romans, Alfama saw grow its importance with the introduction and development of fishing industries. At this point, you can see that there were two well-defined regions Alfama: one that stretched from the current Roman theatre to the Lisbon Cathedral and the Casa dos Bicos and another from Ribeira to the rua dos Correeiros, already on the edge of Alfama. Within these two regions, there was a pedestrian route linking them to each other, was the great road of the time in Lisbon.

History of Alfama, since the old times

At the time of the Arab occupation, was the castle that was the Centre of power and Governing Mayor's House. The castle is of Arab origin and is situated at the top of the city and of Alfama. The positioning of the Castle provides a privileged view over the whole city and the Valley and Riverside, where he was born. At the top of the Castle, there is a viewpoint where you can see, on one side the Costa do Castelo, Mouraria roofs and Martim Moniz. Apart from this view, you can still see the downtown Lisbon and São Roque, the ruins of Convento do Carmo and the miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara. Your eyes may continue to view Lisbon, focusing this time, Alfama, easily identifiable by their roofs and narrow and winding streets, passing by the Cathedral and the river Tejo. In this viewpoint, it is still possible to see the noble and new city with broad avenues and modern and buildings under construction.

It is during the Islamic period that the wall is all built and where it gets its current name: alhama (baths), which then resulted in Alfama. In Alfama existed a zone of hot baths near the port. The Lisbon historic district of Alfama has urban characteristics similar to North Africa because it reflects the medina or "souk". This influence is still in tribal and family organization of Alfama. As a major center of power was in the Muslim period, Alfama has a large Central mosque, which was later replaced by the current Lisbon Cathedral. With the reconquest of the first King of Portugal, Afonso Henriques in 1147, Don Moors and Jews were in Alfama and other neighbouring districts of Lisbon, as the Mouraria, but as Alfama was very far from real power, was politically autonomous until the 16th century with regard to the Jews until the 18TH century in relation to the Moors. Despite this autonomy, the King of Portugal was keen to make its presence felt in the region, notably through the construction of the Church in order to appease the insecurity. That's how the Royal authority managed their presence more physical form in Alfama. As an example of this we have São Miguel churches and São Pedro .

Viewpoints of Alfama
Of Alfama can enjoy the view of the city of Lisbon, the Tagus River and the roofs of the characteristic
Lisbon Cathedral
Lisbon Cathedral

In addition to the Muslims, there were Jews living in Alfama which led to the creation of a Jewish quarter (neighborhood inhabited by Jews) in this historic neighborhood of Lisbon because it used to be considered second-class citizens. So they were sent to the boundaries of the Portuguese capital. Alfama began to lose importance. This sending Jews to Alfama didn't stop that they had a huge emphasis on epic of discovery and in everyday life in the port, in trade and in the financial world. This Jewish quarter, was known as the Jewish quarter of Alfama or Jewish quarter Little Pedro's Tower. As this neighborhood wasn't hit by the earthquake of 1755, still today there is a street in the Jewish quarter in its original form. Had a synagogue, possibly built in 1373/74 against the orders of King Ferdinand I, which led to the payment of fines. This synagogue was built after the dramatic invasion of Henry II of Castile at the time of his attack on Lisbon in 1373. However, we do not know its location. With the middle ages, begins its decline due to the emergence of new locations in the city where the wealthiest classes moving, passing in sea-related people: fishermen, varinas, and other crafts.

Although the neighborhood of Alfama wasn't practically nothing affected during the 1755 earthquake, the area was left abandoned by the central Government until the 20th century. The New State almost nothing done, and after the April 25 passed exactly the same, having been being identified as Alfama a dangerous place of the city. Come to think in demolishing the neighborhood and completely rebuild it, but this turned out not to be done.

FADO, Portugal's music is born in Alfama

image of Amalia in Portuguese pavement
image of Amalia in Portuguese pavement

Despite its decline from the middle ages, Alfama saw a musical style today UNESCO intangible heritage, FADO, which means destiny, longing, nostalgia. Fate appeared in the 19th century, at first in the street, in bars and in places of prostitution, precisely in Alfama. This musical genre is starting to gain prominence with Maria Severa Onofriana (1820-1846), known as Maria Severa. It is thanks to his involvement with the count of Vimioso that fate begins to be heard in court and win another kind of highlight. As dedication to the neighborhood of Lisbon fado was born, Alfama had over the decades several fates are dedicated to him, as Amalia Rodrigues (Alfama) Mariza (Alleys of Alfama) or Ricardo Ribeiro (Fame of Alfama).

In this neighbourhood you can feel and see this musical style so typically Lisbon. Only in Alfama there are more than 50 sites where it is possible to view and listen to FADO, whether on the street or in a restaurant or even at a coffee shop or in a hidden alley. A festival atmosphere representative fado singer that lives in this neighborhood, is the CaixaAlfama Festival which is held every year in this Lisbon quarter and who lives in this unique environment that exists here. Brings together big names of Portuguese FADO, some born in Alfama, as Raquel Tavares, and others like Khomeini, Ricardo Ribeiro, Gisela John, Katy B, Fatima Rebordão and many others.

Places to visit in Alfama


  • Roman Theatre
  • Castle of St. George
  • Museum of decorative arts
  • Museu do Fado


  • Lisbon Cathedral
  • Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Conceição Velha
  • Chapel of the Lord Jesus the good news
  • Church of São João da Praça
  • St. Michael's Church
  • Church of God boy


  • Palace of Vila-Flor
  • Palace of Salvador
  • Palace of the Marquis of Lavradio
  • Palazzo Belmonte


  • Chafariz D'El-Rei
  • Fountain of Inside
  • Fountain of the beach
  • Duke Alcaçarias
  • Doña Clara baths
  • Alcaçarias of the Baptist
  • Doctor's baths


  • Center For Judicial Studies
  • Terreiro do Trigo
  • General Schools
  • Baron Street
  • Casa dos Bicos
  • Older traffic sign
  • Sidewalk Amália Rodrigues
  • 16TH century House
  • Garden of Cock Wilted
  • Flea market