The Soul of Alfama

In Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood, Alfama, an outdoor art exhibit celebrates local residents.

Artist Camilla Watson

Alfama is one of the most charming and characteristic neighborhoods in Lisbon. Here, you’ll find some of the top tourist attractions like the Sao George Castle, the Lisbon Cathedral, and the National Pantheon.

One of my favorite restaurants, Roda Viva, a place that serves Mozambique dishes, is up a narrow alleyway staircase in Alfama, as well.

The residents of Alfama run the gamut from immigrants coming from former colonies to young hipsters to elderly residents who have made Alfama home for decades.

Artist Camilla Watson created an art installation in Alfama celebrating these long-time residents called Alma de Alfama (The Soul of Alfama). Her pictures capture something quite magical in her subjects.

Best of all, Ms. Watson’s portraits aren’t hung in a gallery. They are placed outdoors on the walls of buildings in Alfama, often near where the subjects lived and worked. So, you’ll be walking around the neighborhood and randomly stumble upon an evocative picture which is always a delight.

Portraits in Mouraria

Collage of portraits in Mouraria, Lisbon (photo: Brent Petersen)

Near Alfama, just on the other side of the castle, is the Moorish Quarter, Mouraria. This is where the musical style Fado was started by prostitute Maria Severa. Mouraria was also one of the poorest and least desirable neighborhoods in Lisbon. So, it has been slow to gentrify and is a great place for adventurous tourists to explore.

Lisbon’s famous Tram 28 runs right through Mouraria, making the neighborhood easily accessible.

One of my favorite restaurants in Lisbon, The Food Temple, is in Mouraria.

There’s also lots of street art, including a tribute to the famous Fado singers who got their start here.

Like Alma de Alfama, Camilla Watson completed a portrait project of residents of Mouraria. It is called “A Tribute.”

It’s wonderful to see art installations dedicated to an often forgotten population. And, best of all, many of the subjects of these photos are still around and can be seen wandering the local streets of Alfama and Mouraria.

About the Author

Brent Petersen is the Editor-in-Chief of Destination Eat Drink. He currently resides in Setubal, Portugal. Brent has written the novel “Truffle Hunt” (Eckhartz Press) and the short story collection “That Bird.” He’s also written dozens of foodie travel guides to cities around the world on Destination Eat Drink, including in-depth eating and drinking guides to Lisbon, PortoSintraMonsaraz, and Evora in Portugal. Brent’s podcast, also called Destination Eat Drink, is available on all major podcasting platforms and is distributed by the Radio Misfits Podcast Network.

Author: Brent