Alfama, birthplace of Lisbon
Alfama is the cradle of Lisbon and it was here that the almohadas (some times referred to more generically as the moors – or even more generically as arabs) founded a small settlement, which grew and later became Lisbon, from 8th century.
Don’t miss your chance to stay in a historic, refurbished and redesigned Alfama-flat, Alfama II.
Alfama means ‘fountains’ or ‘baths’ in Arabic and originally there were quite a few of those around – not anymore though. Alfama is made up of three of parishes of which one, the most famous probably, is called São Miguel. Alfama is an intriguing and charming neighbourhood and it contains many important historical attractions as well as many Fado bars and restaurants.
The famous writer, Fernando Pessoa, wrote about Alfama in his ´Lisbon – what the tourist should see´ – here is an excerpt;
´On our way back to the Baixa, that is, the central and low part of the city, we pass by one of the most picturesque quarters of Lisbon – Alfama, the old fishermen’s quarter. This still retains a great part of its ancient aspect. The tourist will get a notion no other place can give him of what Lisbon was like in the past. Everything will evoke that past here – the architecture, the type of streets, the arches and stairways, the wooden balconies, the very habits of the people who live there a life full of noise, of talk, of songs, of poverty and of dirt.´
A major milestone date in Lisbon history is Sunday 1 November in 1755 when a combined earthquake, tsunami and fire (!) devastated the city. The fire was due to the fact that as it was a Sunday many candles were lid in churches which caused devastating fires as well. In Baixa and Chiado the devastation was total whereas it was only partial in Alfama.
During Muslim rule , that is between the years 711-1147 , one could speak of 2 Alfamas :
One was Alfama High. This was more aristocratic , located within the Moorish in the eastern part of the present parish of Sé. The other was Alfama neighborhood of the Sea which was the popular suburb .
The neighborhood of Alfama is probably the nicest part of Lisbon city . There was a period of decline during the Middle Ages , when the wealthy residents moved to the part of the West Alfama , leaving the neighborhood for a population of fishermen and sailors – poorer people .
Most buildings withstood the earthquake of 1755 . Although virtually no Moorish houses exist, the neighborhood retains a bit of the atmosphere of that time ( like a casbah with its narrow streets , stairways and clothes to dry on the windows ) . The most blighted areas were targeted for deep restoration as life unfolds quietly around the small grocery stores and taverns .
Alfama is a sight in itself – possibly the only of its kind in Europe today with its narrow and winding streets and a way of living that hasn’t changed for decades. Alfama has numerous churches worth visiting including the Santo Estêvão, São Miguel and last but not least the combined monastery and church of São Vicente de Fora. Neither should you miss the beautiful views of Alfama and surroundings; from the viewpoints Portas do Sol and Santa Luzia.
One of the very best views you will get in Alfama from the ‘Alfama mirador’. This name is not quite correct as it is in fact called ‘Largo Portas do Sol’. You will have a great view of the Alfama/old Lisbon plus the river as well as the river bank on the other side of the river Tagus. And yes, it is for free!
If you have questions about the Lisbon Oasis vacation flats, then please consult consult our FAQ Cristiano Ronaldo