Many don’t know, most of Lisbon was destroyed after the earthquake in 1755. Thousands of people lost their lives and much of the Moorish, or Islamic, influence in style and architecture was lost as well. Many people it was due to the size and magnitude of the quake, but others believe the near immediate tsunami and fire that followed, the same day, caused the remaining damage. Till this day, the oldest district to survive the Lisbon Earthquake is the area of Alfama. Still highly prevalent is the culture and familial generations of the Moors.
Alfama – (if you click the video, know that Rick Steves pronounces Alfama incorrectly).
Inhabited by the fishermen and the poor during the reign of the Moors, similar conditions are common today. Brimming with maze like streets and steps, small communes, but bustling with life, Alfama is alive with quaint restaraunts and bars for tourists and locals. Many of the people who go to enjoy a cold drink or authentic Portuguese dishes are serenaded by singers of Fado – a traditional genre of music of Portugal that follows a particular structure and sound.
Castelo de São Jorge
Castle of St. George dates back to the 6th century during the time of the Romans and Visigoths. From there, the Moors took over before until captured by Afonso Henriques, Portugal’s first king. It was christened St. George’s castles after the patron saint of England, honoring the Anglo-Portuguese agreement from the 14th century. The castle acted as a royal palace until the construction of the Ribeiro Palace, today’s Praça do Comércio or popularly referred to as Terreiro do Paço. Ribeiro Palace was later destroyed in the quake of 1755.
Just past the main entrance you’ll find a statue of King Afonso Henriques followed by a series of cannons to remind us of the castle’s original function. Though most of the castle is gone, visitors can still see the architectural remnants of what once was through the expanse wall and still standing towers.
Arco da Rua Augusta
Arco da Rua Augusta, or in English, Arch of Augusta Street, is a six column, larger than life arch in Terreiro do Paço. It’s like seeing l’Arc de Triomphe connecting the two sides of les Champs Elysees. Ok…. Maybe it’s not that large, as I have a difficulty with size concepts, but it’s massive. And during my stay, I used this monument as a reference point whenever I got lost – which was often.
This arch was built during the city’s reconstruction from the 1755 earthquake and now marks the beginning of Baixa. Adorned with statues of varying historical figures, it’s also decorated with the Portuguese coat of arms. Inside the arch, yes…you can enter inside, houses a steep, cramped spiral stairwell that takes you to the very top showcasing views of St. Georges Castle, Lisbon Cathedral, Ponte 25 de Abril, the Tagus River.