The Old Quarters of Lisbon: Alfama, Graça and Mouraria

Alfama, Graça and Mouraria are the oldest quarters of Lisbon. Colorful, vibrant, full of History and with an energy of their own. Definitely the heartbeat of the city is here. Come and explore old Lisbon with us!

If I was asked “where in old Lisbon would you like to live” I would try to find a place in one of these neighborhoods: Alfama, Graça or Mouraria.

Nothing of it (infrastructure wise) is appealing: the streets are narrow and steep, you have more (overpriced) local grocery stores than big chain supermarkets, not enough parking, the houses are old and tiny and need too much maintenance, there’s no such thing as a sense of privacy.

I would still move. I like the sound of the city’s heartbeat here. It’s different and vibrant. People will treat you like a neighbor regardless of the fact you have lived here all your life or for just two weeks. I bet they will even help you move the furniture up to your third-floor-one-bedroom-one-bathroom apartment in a building with no elevator.

Statue of St. George at the entrance of the castle in Lisbon | Alfama, Graça and Mouraria are the oldest quarters of Lisbon. Colorful, vibrant, full of History and with an energy of their own. Definitely the heartbeat of the city is here. Come and explore old Lisbon with us!

Statue of St. George at the entrance of the castle

The three are close — you will go from one to the other easily before realizing you are already visiting a new neighborhood. The three are rivals — when the time comes on June 13th to dispute the best “Marcha” the locals will show their claws and defend their ground; don’t worry it’s all peaceful battling. The three share common traits — the Arabic influence on architecture, the clothes hanging out to dry, the façades covered in tiles, some abandoned buildings here and there.

Alfama – From the Arabic “Al-Hama” (the fountains)

Some say it’s like a village inside the city where everybody knows everybody. It’s disorganized yet organic: it’s a mix of styles and sizes and houses built in unthinkable places. Nothing in Alfama is an eye sore. Regardless of the lack of planning when it came to housing (then again nobody actually worried about it back in the day) everything is fresh and laid back and welcoming. You’re not meant to understand it. You’re meant to embrace it and let go.

Lisbon Cathedral | Alfama, Graça and Mouraria are the oldest quarters of Lisbon. Colorful, vibrant, full of History and with an energy of their own. Definitely the heartbeat of the city is here. Come and explore old Lisbon with us!

Lisbon Cathedral in Alfama

Mouraria – The neighborhood of the Moors

After Lisbon’s conquest by the Christian, the first King of Portugal Afonso Henriques built this neighborhood for the Moors, hence the name Mouraria.

A typical street of Mouraria in Lisbon (the old moorish quarter) | Alfama, Graça and Mouraria are the oldest quarters of Lisbon. Colorful, vibrant, full of History and with an energy of their own. Definitely the heartbeat of the city is here. Come and explore old Lisbon with us!

A typical street of Mouraria (the old Moorish quarter)

It is known as the birthplace of Fado and today it is still a city inside the city, with a mix of cultures: Muslim, Indian, Pakistani, Chinese. These communities keep to themselves. Most “outsiders” won’t venture beyond the commercial hub of Martim Moniz, closer to downtown. If you happen to wander further inside its streets you feel a sense of shelter. People may find odd to see you there, but you’re still welcome. If they don’t engage in many conversations with you, don’t take it personally.

Graça – On the highest hill of the city

Statue of St. Vincent (patron saint of Lisbon) in Largo da Graça | Alfama, Graça and Mouraria are the oldest quarters of Lisbon. Colorful, vibrant, full of History and with an energy of their own. Definitely the heartbeat of the city is here. Come and explore old Lisbon with us!

Statue of St. Vincent (patron saint of Lisbon) in Largo das Portas do Sol

Probably the one with the most cosmopolitan vibe of the three, Graça is famous for its lookouts, taking of course advantage of its privileged height. Most people will stop and enjoy the view from Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner (also known as Miradouro da Graça), enjoying Lisbon from above at the cafe. I prefer to walk a bit further up to the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte — less crowded, clear 360 views. A bit more windy, but worth the walk. It seems like the love locks are starting to trend here.

View of Lisbon from Miradouro Senhora do Monte in Lisbon | Alfama, Graça and Mouraria are the oldest quarters of Lisbon. Colorful, vibrant, full of History and with an energy of their own. Definitely the heartbeat of the city is here. Come and explore old Lisbon with us!

View of Lisbon from Miradouro Senhora do Monte

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4 Comments

  1. 1
    • 2

      Lisbon is a melting pot of cultures through its many Centuries of History. These old quarters are like a time capsule.

  2. 3

    I’m with you and would move into the old quarter in a heart beat. Lovely to hear how welcoming the locals are too.

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