Tour Locations | The Soul of Alfama
LOCATION 2 | The Soul of Alfama
Miradouro de Santa Luzia - Upper Terrace
Stop here for a moment on the upper terrace.
The upper level of this viewpoint is one of the greatest charms of Lisbon. Portuguese cobblestone pavement, cut in small garden beds and topped by a pergola of stone and wood, coated with traditional Portuguese tiles.
Head to the balcony and find a place to sit while I tell about this fantastic location.
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The Santa Luzia church was built by the Knights of Malta during the reign of King Afonso Henriques, in the 1100's.
At the center of the bougainvillea garden is a bust of Lisbon historian Júlio de Castilho, and behind it are two tile panels. One illustrating St. Jorge's Castle being taken over from the Moors in 1147, and the other showing Comércio Square before its destruction in the 1755 earthquake.
On the pergola balcony, to your left, you can enjoy views to the Pantheon, the church with the dome, and São Miguel Church below, right in the heart of the Alfama.
To your left, in the distance, you'll spot the Vasco da Gama Bridge. Yes, in homage to the discoverer of the route to India in 1500s. It connects Lisbon's North Eastern bank to the South Bank.
Lisbon is one of the oldest cities of Western Europe. It's been inhabited by various peoples, pre-Celts and Celts during the Iron age, Greeks, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Suevians, Visigoths, Moors and, more recently, Christians. When I say ‘more recently’, I mean in the last 900 years.
Visiting Alfama is stepping into a small village within the city, where everywhere you turn is a postcard view. You'll find vivid colours, arches, tile panels, street art, fountains, colourful balconies, tiny streets with potted plants, clotheslines, and stunning river views.
It was founded in the time of the Romans or perhaps even earlier and then given shape by the Moors. They built alleys and houses as they were needed, without much urban planning.
The more tangled the streets became, the better they liked it because it was a more effective defense mechanism against intruders. The intruders were, for sure, going to get lost if they tried to find their way through the maze of streets and alleys.
The Royal Palace was relocated from the Castle and built by the waterfront in the 1500s. After that, the district of Alfama became a home for sailors and fishermen.
Modest homes sprang up in the crowded network of alleys and tiny squares following the original maze created by the Moors.
After the huge earthquake of 1755 which destroyed large parts of Lisbon, the majority of the buildings in Alfama survived. This allowed it to keep its original layout almost intact.
Many alleys and alleyways of Alfama were depicted in watercolour paintings by Roque Gameiro, a painter that chose as his muse “The Old Lisbon” in the late 1800's. The painter wanted to capture the real life of these picturesque locations before they became extinct. They were full with sailors, street vendors, water-sellers at the time called Galicians, and fishwives.
In 1912, the newspaper “O Século” referred to the Alfama neighbourhood this way: "Because the houses are small and dark, people live on the street. Hence the enormous legion of kids, similar to ants, that swarm the neighbourhood. People work, cook, wash, and sew at the door of their houses.”
Nowadays, Alfama still keeps its original maze-like feeling, heritage and unique features.
Are you ready to discover the soul of Alfama?
When you're done here, stroll through the little garden, walk back to the main road of the tram 28, walking around the little church with the red door.