In this tour through Alfama we intend to explore a little of the old city, but with a low level of strain and therefore, instead of climbing the hill, we will be walking perpendicular to the Tagus River, towards the Cathedral.
This time we decided to visit the Castle and its neighbourhood. In order to reduce the difficulties that arise from the high slope of the hill, we chose to use two lifts that take us directly to the middle of the castle hill.
We propose a visit to Mouraria. Its name is a very practical one and indicates that this was the place where the Moors lived in the city. After the conquest, the old masters of the city were not expelled because we needed people to live in the new conquered city. Thus, a new neighbourhood is born, first outside the walls, but later, protected by the wall of Dom Fernando.
This is the route with the least accessible path for people in wheelchairs, since part of the streets, besides their natural inclination, have a type 3 floor. For those with more conditioned mobility, we propose the use of one accessible transport. This route has 4 stages with several monuments and points of interest to visit.
The Lisbon Cathedral was dedicated to St. Mary Major and since its construction that it has been the seat of power of the Catholic Church in Lisbon. The Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon is the head of the Catholic Church in Portugal.
The construction began in 1150, only three years after the conquest of the town at the site where before stood the Grand Mosque of Lisbon.
Today the Cathedral reflects the city's history: built to be also a point of defence, it suffered earthquakes and disasters, changes in style according to the taste of the time: the Romanesque is yet prevalent, but the Gothic, and the Neoclassical in its main chapel are also there.
Inside at the left of the main door, we find a baptismal font in a small corner of the wall, decorated with tiles referring to St. Anthony's miracles. There, at the end of the twelfth century, a little baby boy named Fernando Martins (later known to the world as St. Anthony of Lisboa and Padua) was baptizedBack to top
The St. Anthony Church is one of the most beautiful in Lisbon. Located opposite the Cathedral, it is the place where, according to tradition, the house where St. Anthony was born stood.
The original temple was totally destroyed by the 1755 earthquake. Two years later, in 1757, the works of reconstruction of the present church began. It was built to the tastes of the eighteen century, markedly baroque and neoclassical. Its architect, Mateus Vicente, will also be the author of the great Basilica da Estrela in Lisbon.
Part of the work was paid by the children of Lisbon, who went door to door requesting a penny for St. Anthony.
More than a church, this temple is a shrine devoted to St. Anthony.
Tradition has it that the young couples at the time of their wedding visit the church and offer flowers to Saint Anthony.Back to top
Located next to the Santo António Church and close to the places where Santo António was born and lived at the beginning of his life, this museum reveals the dimension of Santo António and its relation with Lisboa.
Here we get to know Santo António and the way that over the centuries Lisboa and the Alfacinhas have lived with their most beloved Saint: the traditions and the image.
A museum not to be missed in order to find out more about the traditions and this part of the soul of Lisbon.Back to top
The Aljube Museum reveals the resistance movement that went on during the Estado Novo dictatorship (Fascist period between 1928-1933 / 1974).
Aljube is an Arab word that can mean imprisonment and in Portugal several were the jails called Aljube.
The building is of sad memory for the Lisboetas: It was the Church prison until the nineteen century, when it was transformed into a women’s prison. From 1928 onwards, it became a prison for "political and social prisoners". Memory should not be forgotten so lessons can be learned.Back to top
This museum located on the site of the old Roman Theatre is composed of 2 areas: the ruins and the museum building.
A visit allows us to learn about one of the most emblematic buildings that Lisbon has ever had.
The construction began in the reign of Augustus, being inaugurated during the reign of Nero and for nearly 400 years was a centre of culture and civilization in the westernmost city of the Roman Empire. With the fall of the Empire the theatre is abandoned and, little by little, falls into oblivion. The earthquake of 1755 allows for its rediscovery and today it is possible to visit it!
Saint James Church is one of the oldest churches in Lisbon, being referred to as early as 1160. It became a ruin in consequence of the 1755 earthquake, and only in 1773 were the restoration works concluded.
The facade was rebuilt at that time with a small bell tower at the right.
Nowadays it is still at São Tiago Church, Lisbon, that the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia, Spain starts!Back to top
The Santa Luzia and São Brás Church is the headquarters of the Order of Malta in Portugal and from the beginning, it was closely linked to the conquest of Lisbon.
Built by the knights of the "Sovereign and Military Order of St John of Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta" (the Order of Malta), at the time it was adjacent to the old wall, close to the old Portas do Sol and a defensive structure in addition to a religious one.
From the original church of the twelfth century, nothing remains. Nowadays it is one of the few churches built according to the Greek cross, in a clear reference to the Eastern origin of the Order. Inside, the highlight is the ancient tombstones. Outside, next to the garden and belvedere, on the right side of the Church, 2 panels of blue and white tiles with the themes of the conquest of Lisbon and the old Terreiro do Paço (the King’s courtyard) can be seen.Back to top
This Square is one of the most beautiful belvederes in Lisbon. Built on a terrace between the Tagus and the Castle, here stood once one of Lisbon’s gates (the gates of the sun), which got this name as they are were facing East where the sun rises.
At the belvedere, we can admire the Tagus and the old "Alfama", with the streets winding between the houses and their churches.
Next to the belvedere, as we look to the right we see part of the old fence, the primitive wall that surrounded Lisbon. Traditionally it is known as Moorish Wall, or simply the “old Wall”, since it was already here when the city was taken in 1147. As we continue to look to the right we see one of the ancient towers of the fence, which is part of a palace that houses the School Museum of Decorative ArtsBack to top
Installed in the sixteen century Azurara Palace, the School Museum is the wish of the banker Ricardo do Espirito Santo Silva. When visiting the museum, we discover the Portuguese decorative arts from the 15th to the 18th century: "Furniture, Textiles, Silverware, Chinese Porcelain, Portuguese Faience and Tiles, Painting, Drawing, Sculpting, Binding, etc."Back to top
The Church and Convent of the Child God (Menino Deus), was built during the reign of João V, and by 1711 it was completed. It survived the earthquake and its name is linked to the miraculous statue of the Child God that its interior houses. The construction of this church is associated with the invocation of protection for the heir to the throne of Portugal, the future D. José I, who at the time was months from birth.
It’s a pure baroque church in a single octagonal space (with 8 sides), a jewel of the style in Lisbon.
The baroque was an artistic movement that had its origin in Rome in the seventeen century. Its architecture distinguishes itself by the maintenance of the classical structures of the Renaissance (such is the case of the columns), but with the introduction of a more exuberant decoration. In Portugal, this style is visually present for example, in the gilded carving, in the painting and, of course, in the use of tiles for decoration.Back to top
This is one of the most beautiful terraces in Lisbon. From here we can admire São Jorge Castel on the left as well as the Mouraria Hill and Praça do Martim MonizBack to top
The Graça church and its convent are one of the oldest temples in Lisbon.
The foundation of the convent dates back to 1271 and initially belonged to the order of the Augustinians (Saint Augustine). Victim of successive earthquakes, its current baroque layout is the result of reconstruction works after the earthquake of 1755.
Its highlight is the bell tower erected to the left of the facade.
Out of curiosity, to the left of the entrance to the chapel, lies Afonso de Albuquerque, 2nd Viceroy of India, conqueror of Malacca and one of the greatest Heroes in the History of Portugal.
The Great Procession of Senhor dos Passos da Graça
The worship of Senhor dos Passos da Graça dates back to the sixteen century, specifically to the year 1586 when the Brotherhood Santa and Vera Cruz (the Holy and real Cross Brotherhood) was founded in a chapel of the Church of Graça. In our days, there is a great procession linking the Churches of Graça and São Roque, on the hill in front, recreating the Via Sacra in JerusalemBack to top
Being one of the most important icons of the city of Lisbon, its existence is linked to the payment of a promise made by Dom Afonso Henriques upon the conquest of the city of Lisbon in 1147.
The sixteenth-century church was built on the site of the primitive church erected in the twelfth century. Its construction marks a revolution in Portuguese architecture with the introduction of Mannerism in Portugal.
In addition to its connection to Martyr St. Vincent, The Monastery is also the pantheon of the Patriarchs of Lisbon and the Kings of Portugal of the 4th dynasty.
In a simplified way, Mannerism tells us that "it is done in the manner of", that is to say, it is an artistic expression with an aesthetic closely related to the style of its author. It will be this artistic "freedom" that will allow the passage of style based on the Renaissance classics in the sixteenth century to the Baroque of the seventeen and eighteen centuries.Back to top
The Church of Santa Engrácia is the National Pantheon where the Presidents of the Republic and some of the most outstanding figures of the twentieth century in Portugal rest, such as the fado singer Amália Rodrigues or Eusébio, forever known as the Black Panther of football.
The Church is perhaps the monument that took the longest time to be built in Portugal: its construction took about 284 years! Between 1682 and 1966.
The works were quite erratic and stood still for many years ... so many that it ended up being used as barracks, war warehouse and army shoe factory after the extinction of the religious orders in 1834.
December 7, 1966 is the date of the completion of the works Only in the twentieth century were the dome as well as the facade sculptures built
Its interior has a magnificent marble floor, held in Mannerist and Baroque style, where there is a striking play of light between the light and dark shades, just like the Portuguese loved in the eighteenth century.
"It looks like the works of Santa Engrácia!" This is one of the Portuguese popular expressions that have its origin in the time elapsed during the construction of the Church of S Engrácia and is used when some construction work is taking too long.Back to top
The Santa Clara field owes its name to the former convent of Santa Clara, built there in 1294. Unfortunately, it was totally destroyed by the earthquake of 1755.
Nowadays it is one of the most beautiful areas of the city, an open field with majestic views of the Tagus River and monumental buildings such as the National Pantheon or the Church of São Vicente de Fora. This is one of the best places to spend an evening in Lisbon.
For most “Alfacinhas”, Santa Clara is the place of the flea market (Feira da Ladra).Back to top
Feira da Ladra is one of the most typical Lisbon fairs, having its roots in the thirteen century, at the fair that was held next to the Castle, in Rua do Chão da Feira. Nowadays, it stands in the Santa Clara field, from São Vicente Arch to the Navy Hospital: the hillside is crowded with people selling and buying second-hand objects, from furniture to paintings or dishes. There is a bit of everything!Back to top
The square (Chafariz de Dentro) is one of the hearts of Alfama, considered by many to be its Rossio (main square) where once the Chafariz gates were located.
During the Castilian siege of 1373, this part of the city was quite punished because it wasn’t protected. The city had grown and the castle wall did not reach this part of Alfama. Dom Fernando I would have a new enormous wall built to protect the whole city.
Here, besides enjoying the street cafés (like Má Fama), there are still some restaurants where we can listen to fado. To the right, we can admire some buildings with medieval layouts as well as the fountain (Chafariz)Back to top
In these two streets, it is possible to live the spirit of the Alfama quarter with its traditional commerce and communities. Both streets adopted names derived from their old parish Churches. Both were from the twelfth century, but St. Peter's was totally destroyed by the earthquake. Nowadays São Miguel Church still stands, in the street with the same name.
Fado was born in these streets and in other similar ones. Some of the houses have tombstones with ships. Nowadays their importance is almost unknown, there is no certainty of their full meaning, but it is thought that they are connected to the old Senate of Lisbon.Back to top
In the intersection of Rua dos Remédios and Beco do Espírito Santo stands the Nossa Senhora dos Remédios Chapel. As we walk through the street, we can admire its Manueline doorway, all that remains of the primitive hermitage dedicated to the holy spirit (Espírito Santo). In the centre, it is still possible to admire a shield with a dove, symbol of the Holy Spirit.Back to top
Fado is the song of Lisbon, born in the streets of Alfama and Mouraria, it mirrors the Alfacinha soul. From Lisbon, it spread to the rest of the Portuguese world and, since 2011, Fado is part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The Fado Museum opened its doors to the public on September 25, 1998 and has since been an instrument for promoting this popular song and the whole cultural movement associated with it.
This is a museum not to be missed!Back to top
The original temple of the twelfth century did not reach our days since the Church was extensively restored in Mannerist style with 2 lateral bell towers between the seventeen and eighteen centuries. It survived the earthquake with only a few damages. In the interior one can admire rich decorations in gilded, baroque carvings from Dom Joao V period (eighteen century).Back to top
The Tower belongs to the old city fence. It was an advanced tower built when the city was still in the hands of the "Moors." Given the abundance of fountains in Alfama, the function of the Tower would probably be that of protecting the essential fountains in case of siege of the city.Back to top
The São Pedro wicket is one of the oldest doors of the fence. As it is smaller than a gate, it is called a wicket. Even today it is possible to see part of the fence that connected the Tower of São Pedro next to this wicket.
As the street indicates the wicket of São Pedro was used as the access to the small Jewish quarter that stood in this place and was abolished in 1496.Back to top
The Church was rebuilt at the beginning of the reign of Dona Maria I. Its interior is marked by the taste of the late eighteen century, a baroque style with gold carving. Do not miss the image of the Virgin in the epistle side (right). From the original temple dating from the Twelfth and thirteenth centuries nothing survived the earthquake.
Inside a church, the left-hand side is called the side of the gospel and the right hand side the side of the epistle. The explanation for these names is simple and has to do with the fact that during Mass the gospel is read on the left hand side and the epistles on the right hand side!Back to top
From the Chão do Loureiro belvedere we can admire the so-called Baixa Pombalina and the Tagus River. Monuments such as the Arch of Rua Augusta or Praça do Comércio can be admired here.
The lift is incorporated into the disabled access route to the Castle of São Jorge.Back to top
The São Crispim staircase owes its name to the hermitage that is located next up the hill in Rua de São Mamede.
In the middle age this was one of the accesses to the Castle, having at its end the Alcofa Gate that gave access to the Castle.Back to top
Bairro do Castelo is commonly regarded as the oldest neighbourhood of Lisbon. It has its own identity, which makes it distinct from Alfama or Mouraria. What all inhabitants of Lisbon have in common is that they are all called “Alfacinhas"! But to distinguish them, there is the neighbourhood where they live and it is common to have a healthy rivalry amongst the several popular neighbourhoods.
Between 1248, when the Royal Family started to have its main address in Lisbon, and the reign of Dom Manuel I (sixteen century), the Castelo was the most important neighbourhood in Lisbon. The Royal Family lived in the Castle, and its neighbourhood was home to nobles and wealthy merchants.
Nowadays in the Castle neighbourhood, it is possible to appreciate good restaurants and craft shops where you can find typical Portuguese products. Take a visit to the Grupo Desportivo do Castelo in Rua do Recolhimento: here the residents meet and here is the best place to listen to the best “stories” of the neighbourhood.
The Church was one of the first to be built (if not the first) after the conquest of the city by Dom Afonso Henriques . It was almost certainly built on an old mosque and its construction inside the castle would show everyone who the new lords of Lisbon were.
The original church was destroyed by the earthquake of 1755 and the one that stands today was rebuilt with a neoclassical facade. It is not one of the most “richest” churches in Lisbon and that is due to the fact that, by the time of reconstruction in the eighteen century, the castle neighbourhood no longer had the importance it had had centuries earlier.
One of the interesting features is the fact that its bell tower was built on an old tower of the castle's fortress wall. The best place to see the tower is from the belvedere Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen (Graça).Back to top
The Recolhimento belvedere is one of the newest attractions of the castle neighbourhood. Since 2015, it allows for a view over Graça hill with São Vicente de Fora monastery in close-up. If we look down, we can admire Alfama, Largo das Portas do Sol and the Tagus River.Back to top
Archaeological excavations show that the occupation of São Jorge hill goes back, at least, to seventh and eighth centuries before Christ with the Phoenicians. About 1700 years later, taking advantage of the old Roman walls of the city, the Moors build a castle on this hill, and from this time onwards the castle also starts to be the palace of the governors and kings.
And so it was until the beginning of the sixteen century. King Dom Manuel I decides to change his address to a new palace next to the Tagus River. From this point on, the Castle ceases to be the centre of power and reassumes the defensive role of the city. Centuries passed and the great earthquake of 1755 leaves the Castle in ruins.
In the early twentieth century, the castle is guarded by the Portuguese Army, who transforms it into a large barracks.
Between 1938 and 1940 the Castle will receive works of restoration and conservation. The barracks disappear and the ancient towers and fences are uncovered and rebuilt with the aim of reviving the old medieval castle. This goal is achieved and today it is impossible to think of Lisbon and not remember its imposing castle, always vigilant and on guard not letting anything bad happen to Lisbon.
Legend has it that as long as crows live in the Castle, Lisbon cannot be defeated!Back to top
The church was one of the few monuments to survive the earthquake of 1755. The original church, probably from the twelfth century, was destroyed by a fire in the early sixteen century and today this monument reflects both the reconstruction carried out at the time of the reign of Dom Manuel I and the great reconstruction carried out in the seventeen century.
São Cristóvão (St. Christopher) is a small pearl that brings us to a Lisbon before the earthquake of 1755. In its interior, in addition to the works in gilt carving and the tiles of the seventeen century, we can admire a set of 36 paintings by the Mannerist Master Bento Coelho da Silveira.Back to top
The São Cristóvão staircase, like the stairs of St. Crispim among others, are the answer Lisbon found to overcome the steep slope of the castle hill.
They are typical staircases with small nooks where you can imagine fado singers (fadistas) and musicians singing and playing along the stairs. As we climb, we find a mural with Saint Christopher surrounded by fadistas and if we look up we can see the facade of São Cristóvão Church.Back to top
These are 2 of the most typical streets of Mouraria, rich in restaurants and typical shops. In Rua das Farinhas, it is possible to see on the walls of some buildings headstones and tile panels, alluding to São Mamede and São Marçal and the crows of São Vicente.
Largo dos Trigueiros is one of the most beautiful in Mouraria, with cafes where it is possible to have a brunch in the morning. As we enter Farinhas alley we can see on the walls the work of the artist Camilla Watson, with photographs of local residents.Back to top
The origins of this temple go back to a remarkable period of the History of Portugal. In 1496 and as a way of marrying the daughter of the Catholic kings of Spain, Dom Manuel I signed the edict of expulsion of the "heretics" (Moors and Jews). The various mosques in Lisbon were closed and some became churches. Such is the case of Coleginho Church.
In 1538, the Church and attached houses were handed over to the new ecclesiastical order, The Jesuits, making this the Jesuits' first home in the whole world.
Its Sacristy has a fabulous tile panel with the triumph of St. Augustine.
In 1938, Coleginho Church became the parish headquarters of Nossa Senhora do Socorro.Back to top
Casa Fernando Maurício is part of the Fado Museum (in Largo do Chafariz de Dentro). In it we can find and listen to the greatest legacy for Portuguese music that Maurício gave us: his fados!
Known as the King of Fado, Fernando Maurício had a unique voice and the songs sung by him reflect the spirit of Fado and Mouraria.
To visit Mouraria and not experience Fado is to miss out on one of the main facets of this Neighbourhood.Back to top
Martim Moniz square is relatively new and surely is the most international place in Lisbon, with more than 50 ethnicities and nationalities living or working here.
At the time of the capture of the city, an arm of the Tagus River flowed through this area. Over the centuries, the city grew and the river was pushed away.
If you look down at Mouraria today from the Castle, try to imagine the streets and houses in Praça do Martim Moniz, and you will have an idea of how this part of Lisbon looked until the end of the 1940's. Of what there was once, only Rua da Mouraria and Nossa Senhora da Saúde Chapel remains: everything else disappeared to give place to the square we have today.
It is not by chance that this square was named Martim Moniz. History is also made of heroes and the legend says that this was to be the first hero of the Christian Lisbon!
Martim Moniz died during the seizure of the city, being trapped in the wall's gate, not allowing it to be closed, which gave the Portuguese the chance to put an end to the siege and enter the city.
Fernandina Wall / Fence
The Fernandina wall owes its name to Dom Fernando I, the king who had it built. The need to build it was linked to the defence of Lisbon, which had grown and surpassed the ancient Moorish walls.
With the end of the 2nd war with Castile, Don Fernando realizes that Lisbon is vulnerable and gives orders for the construction of a strong wall to protect the city.
Built between 1373 and 1375, its construction was one of the most important phenomena in the development of Lisbon. All inhabitants of Lisbon and its surroundings participated in its construction, and in just 2 years a huge wall surrounded Lisbon with its 46 doors and wickets, such as the one of São Pedro in Alfama, and 77 towers. A work of military engineering that will be fundamental in the city´s defence as early as 1384: for 4 months and 27 days, Castile tries to conquer Lisbon, being defeated by this wall ...... and the plague that also did not help at all!
In Praça do Martim Moniz we can see the tower of the Pela and an inscription that commemorates the construction of the wall.Back to top