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Lisbon Historic Center

The historic center of Lisbon is the most ancient area of the city, encompassing a variety of neighborhoods renowned for their significant historical heritage. Many buildings, streets, and urban elements in these areas are indeed over a century old, with some structures dating back to medieval times.

Lisbon medieval neighborhoods in the city center

  • Alfama: As one of Lisbon’s oldest districts, Alfama is notable for its labyrinthine streets, authentic Fado houses, and the imposing São Jorge Castle. Its origins trace back to the Moorish occupation of Lisbon.
  • Baixa Pombalina (Downtown Lisbon): Reconstructed after the devastating earthquake of 1755, Baixa was planned under the Marquis of Pombal. It features a grid-like street plan and Pombaline architecture. Elements predating the earthquake are still evident in some structures.
  • Chiado: A sophisticated district famous for its historic cafes, theaters, and bookshops. The area houses churches and theaters dating back to the 18th century and earlier, a long-standing status as a commercial and cultural hub.
  • Bairro Alto: The neighborhood known for its bohemian vibe, nightlife, and 16th-century buildings and streets that retains much of its original layout.
  • Mouraria: Mouraria is steeped in the history of Fado. Its urban fabric retains the medieval layout from its time as a Moorish quarter following the Christian reconquest.
  • Castelo: Dominated by the São Jorge Castle, the Castelo neighborhood offers historical insights with its medieval walls and ancient structures. The castle dates back to the 11th century Moorish period.
  • Graça: Perched atop one of Lisbon’s seven hills, Graça is celebrated for its 17th-century church and scenic overlooks. As one of Lisbon’s oldest suburbs, it features an array of historical buildings, with some predating the 18th century.

… mediaeval neighborhoods outside the central Lisbon

  • Belém: Although the Belém district lies slightly outside the central city area, it features the Jerónimos Monastery and the Tower of Belém, some of the oldest and most prominent monuments in Lisbon, dating back to the Age of Discovery in the 16th century.

… historical Lisbon neighborhoods from the 18th and 19th centuries

Located north and west of the center, these areas developed as Lisbon expanded, particularly after the reconstruction of the Baixa in the 18th and 19th centuries.

  • Avenida da Liberdade: This grand avenue marks the 19th-century northward expansion of the old city from Rossio. It is characterized by luxury shops, grand buildings, and theaters, reflecting the opulence of the time.
  • Príncipe Real: Situated just beyond Bairro Alto, this neighborhood is known for its 19th-century mansions, lush gardens, and an eclectic mix of trendy and traditional shops and establishments.
  • Santos: Formerly recognized as the city’s design district, Santos features buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries and for its antiques and design shops.
  • Cais do Sodré: became particularly notable from the late 19th century into the 20th century, long been associated with maritime activities due to its proximity to the Tagus River. It has historically been a landing point for fish, a marketplace, and a gathering area for sailors. In the 20th century, retaining some of its historical maritime character, it continued to be known for its bustling environment, with bars, nightclubs, and restaurants that attracted sailors from the many ships that docked in Lisbon’s harbor.

… historical Lisbon neighborhoods from late 19th and 20th centuries

Located west of the previously mentioned neighborhoods, these areas developed in the later stages:

  • Estrela: Renowned for the Estrela Basilica and the adjacent Estrela Garden, this district evolved into an important residential and political hub during the 19th century.
  • Santos-o-Velho: Traditionally an industrial and port district, it features a blend of 18th- and 19th-century architecture.
  • Rato: This locale, while experiencing development later on, still holds historical significance with several 19th-century constructions.
  • Campo de Ourique: Emerging as a fully developed residential neighborhood by the early 20th century, it is known for its community atmosphere.
  • Lapa: known for its luxurious mansions and embassies, indicative of its status as a wealthy residential area. The development of Lapa as an upscale neighborhood began predominantly in the late 18th century, continuing well into the 19th century, particularly after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake.
  • Alcântara: situated beneath the 25 de Abril Bridge, has an industrial history stretching back to the 19th century, marked by factories for porcelain, textiles, soap, candles, and oils. The LX Factory, established in the 1840s, signifies the area’s industrial origins. In the early 1990s, Alcântara underwent a transformation from an industrial hub to a cultural quarter, with the development of pubs and discotheques and the conversion of the Santo Amaro Docks from warehouses to restaurants and discoteks.

Development Timeline of Lisbon’s Historic City

Lisbon’s storied past spans several millennia, with each era contributing distinctively to its growth:

Roman and Moorish Periods

The earliest settlements in Lisbon trace back to ancient times, with Roman and Moorish influences evident before the formation of Portugal as a nation. Notably, the remains of a 1st century CE Roman amphitheater are showcased at the Museu de Lisboa – Teatro Romano, situated in Alfama. We can view the main ruins of the theater from a designated walkway encircling the protected site.

Medieval Expansion

During the medieval period, particularly following the Reconquista in the 12th century, Lisbon saw significant expansion. The Monastery of São Vicente de Fora, embodying over 800 years of history and showcasing Manueline and Baroque architecture, stands in Alfama near the National Pantheon. Neighborhoods from this era, like Alfama, preserve the characteristic narrow streets and densely built environment.

16th and 17th Centuries

The Age of Discoveries in the 15th and 16th centuries transformed Lisbon into a pivotal global trading center. Prosperity during this time led to the creation of new districts to accommodate an economic boom. Noteworthy landmarks from this period include the Torre de Belém, Jeronimos Monastery, Discoveries Monument, and the Casa dos Bicos, among others.

1755 Earthquake and Marquis of Pombal’s Reforms

The 1755 earthquake, alongside subsequent tsunami and fires, wrought extensive destruction upon Lisbon, leading to a comprehensive reconstruction of the Baixa district. Guided by the Marquis of Pombal, an innovative grid plan was adopted for the new layout, which had a profound impact on the future urban development of the city. To understand this pivotal moment in Lisbon’s history, one can visit the Quake – Lisbon Earthquake Museum, which provides insights into the seismic event and its aftermath.

Industrialization and Expansion in the 1800s

The 19th century was a period of significant change for Lisbon, with industrialization acting as the catalyst for the creation of new neighborhoods and the extension of existing ones. Notable landmarks from this era include the Aqueduto das Águas Livres, completed in 1748, which is a testament to the engineering advances and public health initiatives of the time, providing the city with crucial water supply. The Rua Augusta Arch, another iconic structure, was built to commemorate the city’s reconstruction after the 1755 earthquake and represents the triumph of Lisbon’s spirit over adversity.

Estado Novo Regime

During the Estado Novo period (1933-1974), substantial modernization and urban planning efforts took place. New districts were established, and existing areas were expanded or renovated, integrating wider streets and modern housing. This is exemplified by the architectural style of “Português Suave,” particularly evident in the Avenidas Novas.


The Carnation Revolution of 1974 initiated a democratic and economic resurgence in Portugal. This era saw the expansion of public transportation, the establishment of new cultural facilities, and the revitalization of waterfront areas. Landmarks of this period include 25 April Revolution Monument by João Cutileiro in Parque Eduardo VII.

Lisbon is a city with milleniums of History!

Examples of the latest homes for sale in Lisbon Historic Center

Lisbon Historic Center Neighbourhoods

Santa Maria Maior

Santa Maria Maior is Baixa's and surroudings parish Santa Maria Maior is a parish in the historic heart of Lisbon, Portugal. The area is a blend of old-world charm and modern influences, offering various districts with distinct characteristics catering to tourists,...

Baixa • Lisbon (Downtown)

Lisbon Downtown is "Baixa" Pombalina Baixa, also known as Baixa Pombalina, is the downtown district of Lisbon, recognized for its historical and architectural significance. The area is named after the Marquis of Pombal, who directed its rebuilding after the earthquake...


Misericórdia is a civil parish located in the historical and cultural heart of Lisbon. For further details about this area, please refer to the dedicated articles on the neighborhoods of Misericórdia Parish: Bairro Alto: an area famous for its bohemian atmosphere and...

São Vicente

São Vicente, Lisbon São Vicente is a parish located in the south eastern part of Lisbon, known for Graça neighborhood and its historic residential areas that feature homes with traditional Portuguese architecture in narrow streets, the Panteão Nacional (17th-century...


Chiado, Lisbon Chiado in Lisbon is a historic and cultural district renowned for its blend of neoclassical architecture, high-end shops, cafes, and a rich literary and artistic heritage, considered a must-visit place in Lisbon In Chiado, you can expect to find a...

Bairro Alto

Bairro Alto • the nightlife neighbourhood in Lisbon Bairro Alto, located in a top hill of Lisbon, is a renowned bohemian neighborhood famous for its vibrant nightlife. This area is characterized by an abundance of bars, restaurants, and fado houses, offering a diverse...


Bica, located in the heart of Lisbon, is a vibrant neighborhood best known for its iconic funicular, the Bica Elevator. Combining its historic roots with a modern and bohemian lifestyle, it presents an alluring destination for wealthy visitors or investors interested...

Príncipe Real

Príncipe Real, an upscale neighborhood located north of Bairro Alto, is known for its charming historic architecture, culinary delights, trendy boutiques, beautiful gardens, and antique shops. Its rich history, sophisticated atmosphere, and potential for investment...

Cais do Sodré

Cais do Sodré, a historically rich neighborhood of Lisbon, combines its vibrant maritime past with a trendy and modern atmosphere. Notable for its riverfront location, vibrant nightlife, and prime real estate, this dynamic neighborhood is an attractive choice for...

São Bento

São Bento, a charming neighborhood in Lisbon, perfectly represents the city's traditional allure while offering lucrative investment opportunities and sophisticated living. Known for its historical buildings, the Portuguese Parliament, and the antique stores lining...


Estrela • district of Lisbon - Portugal Estrela is a parish is a parish in Lisbon known predominantly for its cultural districts and luxury areas, falling under the Historic Center Zone of the capital city. Covering an area of 4.60 square kilometers and hosting a...

Campo de Ourique

Campo de Ourique is a parish situated towards the western-central part of the city. It's a well-known area that features traditional residential area, design like the american square neighbourhoods, that have evoluted to incorporate some commercial areas, making it...


Alfama • Lisbon neighbourhood, Portugal Alfama is the oldest neighborhood in Lisbon, with its origins dating back to the year 1200. Situated on the top of a hill, the district is divided between two parishes: part of it belongs to Santa Maria Maior (where the Lisbon...


Mouraria, located in the heart of Lisbon, is one of the oldest and most authentic neighborhoods in the city. Renowned for its diverse cultural heritage and vibrant street life, it's a captivating destination for affluent visitors or investors interested in a unique...


Bairro do Castelo, a historic neighborhood resting atop one of Lisbon's seven hills, boasts a deep-rooted history intertwined with Portugal's monarchy. Characterized by its narrow, winding streets and unparalleled panoramic views, the district is a treasure trove for...


Graça, perched atop one of Lisbon's seven hills, is a captivating neighborhood known for its traditional charm, panoramic viewpoints, and historic sites. Its alluring combination of unique character, cultural richness, and real estate opportunities make it a...

Penha de França

Penha de França, Lisbon Penha de França is situated towards the eastern part of Lisbon, primarily characterized by residential structures, making it a mainly residential zone. It offers a range of housing options, from traditional apartments to modern condominiums....

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