dossier BAIRROS: Nuno Pires Soares . Types of Neighborhood(s) in Lisbon

Abstract:The term "neighborhood" has gained prominence in the past years as far as the collective imagination is concerned. In Lisbon we can find over a hundred places which are generally called "neighborhoods". In many of these places, the term "neighborhood" and the name of a place are one and the same and they overlap.

We propose a classification of the neighborhoods in Lisbon based on landscape and historical and urban research. Thus, we identified and classified mostly rather homogeneous places of different times and times. We especially focus on physical and visible aspects of these places.

Keywords: Lisbon; Neighborhoods; Urban Morphology


Nuno Pires Soares, e-Geo Centro de Estudos de Geografia e Planeamento Regional, FCSH, UNL



Types of Neighborhood(s) in Lisbon


Introductory notes


The concept of neighborhood is understood very early in our lives. Its definition derives from the early experiences in exploring the surroundings of our house. We get to know the nearby streets and places with someone older when going shopping, to the café or to the garden.


This is how the place, our childhood world, is built whose center is our house. The neighborhood is obviously one of these learning stages regarding space.


This spatial construction, because it takes place in childhood, is present throughout your life and is associated with an image of a past happiness, satisfaction and well-being, i.e., a nostalgia regarding happiness that no longer exists because the people in that place are no longer the same, or because the physical spaces have changed, or because some years later you see and understand that place in a completely different way.

We all have our childhood neighborhood, a place we idealized as one of security and knowledge where you were more or less happy. And when we talk about neighborhood again, we think of a place of memories, happiness, protection. The neighborhood will surely be a place we can identify with if it promotes us socially or the place we would rather omit if it does not. Today, belonging to a place within the great metropolis is of great importance in view of the local scale in the uniformity of contemporary globalization.

In the big city, children are born in places with no history, places with which the parents identify at a very superficial level.  However, the children are building their neighborhoods, which will later be remembered and rebuilt. If the parents still feel as new residents in those places with no memory, the children are already natives and may perhaps later write about " my neighborhood ... we played...".

The current relevance of the neighborhood within the framework of urban space has to do with the awareness that place identity needs to be promoted in the big metropolis and that the lecal scale is privileged to foster knowledge and participation. Therefore, urban life is recreated in contexts where it is lacking for several reasons (architectural, social, urban). This will be an ideal city, in this case based on the idea of neighborhood and harmony/quality that you aim to (re)build considering that housing spaces built in the the last decades, despite their good conditions, are almost always the opposite in terms of living experience, of closeness and collective contentment.

The term "neighborhood" has gained prominence in the past years as far as the collective imagination is concerned. Real estate and shops have recovered and promoted that image. The neighborhood in the sense of a place where you live and mingle, where there are all sorts of shops and services, where you walk around and where you can meet people like you. The place's scale and identity are always part of the neighborhood.

In Lisbon we can find over a hundred places (1) which are generally called "neighborhoods". In many of these places, the term "neighborhood" and the name of a place are one and the same and they overlap. Noteworthy is also the fact that around forty places have the word "neighborhood" ("bairro" in Portuguese) as part of their name  (Bairro Alto, Bairro do Alvito, Bairro do Calhau, Bairro do Condado etc.).

The definition of "neighborhood" exists in administrative and financial terms - fiscal neighborhood and administrative neighborhood. Besides these very specific contexts, there is no objective and universal definition of neighborhood.

There is clearly a need by city dwellers to reference its different places not only using street names but using a wider easily recognizable classification. The administrative classification "freguesia" or the division using "parish" are inadequate and unknown to most city dwellers. Whether in the country or in the city, all places have a name and in the city of Lisbon the name of the place is usually the name of the neighborhood. Even if the name is provisional (2) or is not officially acknowledged or even if the place is known by more than one name. We dare to state that all places have a name even if it is not well-known by most people or even if outsiders do not see it as a place. This is how most of us feel at sea, some recognize waves and wind, and others identify places, their specificities and memories.

But a neighborhood's name does not always last in collective memory. There are several cases in which the name faded and disappeared with time. Examples of this are Bairro Londres, Bairro Andrade or Bairro Camões. Few Lisbon residents will know where these neighborhoods are. The names can fade rather rapidly because some of these places neither had nor built an urban or sociological identity and quickly began to lose residents and their original buildings being replaced.



The answer to the question "what is a Neighborhood"? is not easy and will always be limited, incomplete and dated in view of the concept being so wide. This is also the case of many other urban "concepts" which are under discussion in terms of definition and spatial and/or social limitation.


Ours is a (re)reading of Kevin Lynch's (3) idea of neighborhood (a starting point). This option is obviously associated with the importance this urban researcher gives to space and its perception.

"An urban neighborhood ... is a homogeneous area (by means of continuous indications within that area) ... Homogeneity may be seen in spatial features such as narrow and steep roads...; in the type of; in its style or topography. Sometimes it is a continuity in terms of color, texture, material, flooring, details in the facades, lighting, vegetation or outlines. The more these elements overlap, the greater the feeling of homogeneous region. (...) Where physical homogeneity meets habits and social category, the effect is unmistakable".


Based on urban reading we consider that the neighborhood's main identifying elements would be the perception of space homogeneity - both in architecture and in urban design morphology (urban morphology) - associated to the knowledge of the historical time they were built.

There is thus evident focus on understanding landscape associated with historical and urban research. Therefore, mostly relatively homogeneous places from different types and eras are identified and classified; many spaces difficult to classify were not considered. These were very heterogeneous places in terms of architecture and urban planning, which does not prevent these from being homogeneous in terms of living experience and social categories.

If we focus our attention to the physical and visible elements rather than on sociological and anthropological ones, the neighborhood may be more or less visible and acknowledged as such by the external observer. There are neighborhoods that are only acknowledge by their residents and/or the residents of nearby neighborhoods. They are not visible to outsiders but are real neighborhoods for all those that inhabit and acknowledge it.


2. Proposal of types of neighborhoods

The first distinguishing feature is morphological and includes two classes: Planned neighborhoods and unplanned neighborhoods. The first class includes all neighborhoods where a planned organization of its urban morphology is visible which occurred prior to the construction of its buildings, regardless of the time they were effectively built. The plan may be more or less regular in terms of geometric design. The second class includes all unplanned neighborhoods and all in which no prior plan is identifiable. This class encompasses all neighborhoods with an organic plan, i.e., all that expanded naturally along old paths and roads and are often the result of a number of individual buildings erected throughout time. 

Each of these classes - planned and unplanned Neighborhoods - includes subclasses in chronological order that reflect different expansion periods of Lisbon. These subclasses are defined in detail regarding urban morphology and some of the most important neighborhoods are mentioned. This is not a complete but rather an illustrative list of the neighborhoods.


Table nº1

Types of Neighborhoods in Lisbon






Urban morphology / image










Before 1755



Symmetrical plan, similar to topography, no square or structuring route. Rectangular or trapezoid blocks.



- Vila Nova do Olival or Vila Nova da Oliveira


-Bairro Alto and Madragoa (Bairro do Mocambo) . 16thc


-  (...)





Reconstruction by Marquis de Pombal


Regular urban morphology, orthogonal with explicit and accurate architectural rules.


- Baixa (Downtown)

- São Paulo Square (Cais do Sodré)


- (...)




18thc urban expansion

(Ressano Garcia)




Regular urban orthogonal morphology, architectural rules unable to create a strong overview image. Tertiary process enhanced the lack of uniformity.




-Bairro de Campo de Ourique

- Avenidas Novas

- Estefânia


- (...)






Working-class neighborhoods and schemes

Varied regular urban morphology, - neighborhood structure (streets and blocks), buildings erected along a small street and multi-family buildings.


-Bairro Operário da Calçada dos Barbadinhos.

-Bairro Estrela Douro

-Bairro Grandella

-Bairro Clemente Vicente (Dafundo)


- (...)






First quarter of

20th century



First Social Housing Projects New image of carefully planned neighborhood in terms of urban morphology and of architecture. They aim to be the opposite of the grim working-class neighborhood. This new concept of neighborhood implies the inclusion buildings for collective enjoyment



-Bairros Social do Arco Cego

-Bairro Social da Ajuda


- (...)






 Privately built neighborhoods Small and medium plots very limited by previous structures (either of the property itself or of roads). The financial and business structure of these enterprises is very weak and the municipality, in many cases, had to take on the conclusion of the constructions and their infrastructure and sanitation.




- Bairro Camões

- Bairro Andrade,

- Bairro das Colónias,

- Bairro de Inglaterra


- (...)





Estado Novo




- Bairro Aldeia


Social Housing Projects

Urban and architectural type easily identifiable due to the quality of the scheme. At the time, its relative distance regarding the city evidenced its uniqueness; many influenced the city expansion.






- Encarnação,

- Madre Deus

- Caselas

- Alvito

- Serafina


- (...)





Major urban projects


- Alvalade

Very big neighborhood. The plan is based on "neighboring units" and uses principles of social and spatial integration.



- Alvalade (1945)

- Olivais Norte

 Closely follows the principles of the Athens Charter.  Organic and simple plan.



- Olivais Norte






-          - Olivais Sul

-          Organic urban morphology. More complex and hierarchical urban cells and with local shops. Concern with social amenities.



- Olivais Sul (1960-72)

-   Chelas

Organic urban morphology. Includes several criticism to the Athens Charter. Focuses on circulation and linear and continuous distribution of amenities.




-Chelas (1965)




Public planned neighborhoods built by privates.

(extension of the Alvalade plan).



- Roma Av

- EUA  Av.

- Bairro de São Miguel

- Bairro de São João de Deus

- João XXI Av.

-  Madrid Av.

- Infante Santo Av.


- (...)





Small and medium-sized plots, very limited by prior structures. High-rise buildings, the outlines are not as marked and the concept of block has faded. The type of construction continues in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.


- Benfica

- Lumiar

- Carnide


- (...)















(before the 18thc.)



Organic irregular design, most of it of Medieval origin and the result of unstructured expansion of city due to prior structures (streets and roads and register structure).

Variable geometry following the topography of the places.



- Alfama

- Castelo

- Mouraria

- Graça

- São Vicente

- Pena


 - (...)
















Irregular organic designs. Found essentially in the city's periphery. Very similar to others found in councils near Lisbon. Most of the buildings in these neighborhoods were illegally built




- Alto Chapeleiro

- Ameixoeira

- Galinheiras

- Liberdade

- Rio-Seco


- (...)











3. Selection of neighborhoods for the study.


Six neighborhoods were selected as case studies. The criteria used for the selection aimed to include neighborhoods representative of different eras and different geographical positions in the city so as to encompass time and space diversity. We aimed to include diversity in terms of social class though this was a rather superficial and vague intention as these features are not included in the list and are based on our empirical knowledge of the city. The neighborhood selection also took into account the need to exclude case studies about which there is much literature, as is the case of Bairro Alto, Bica, Alfama, Chelas, Olivais, and social housing neighborhoods. Alvalade, though already studied, was eventually included because it was a good example of a planned neighborhood during Estado Novo and because its planning and scale have endured the passing of time.

The neighborhoods selected for the study were:

. Graça and Ajuda Unplanned old neighborhoods

. Galinheiras Unplanned 20thc neighborhood

. Campo de Ourique Planned 18thc neighborhood

. Alvalade Planned neighborhood built in Estado Novo

. Telheiras Planned neighborhood from the 1970s and 1980s


The selection of case studies was made after careful and thorough debate. The neighborhoods of Ajuda and Galinheiras were the most discussed case studies and the last to be included and led to very interesting results. This is clear when analyzing the survey results.  


4. Final remark

Defining different types of neighborhoods in Lisbon aimed to better adjust the objectives of the project. The result is a simple but operational analysis grid based on clear homogeneous territory units. Badly defined and "marginal" places were excluded; in many cases, these are "channels" or places with few residents now and where the tertiary process in predominant.

In fact, a city's space cannot be entirely divided into neighborhood type of subunits. Therefore, there are many places that are not called or experienced or acknowledged as such. Even if they are called neighborhood and are coherent and harmonious in terms of urban design or in terms of architecture, if they do not have shops and services that defined the center of the neighborhood, they may be just places. In almost all types of neighborhoods there are such places, with no shops and no social life.

Simultaneously, the resident population has been increasing, especially young couples, in the context of "gentrification"; this is taking place in the city center and in many neighborhoods built during Estado Novo and even in places that undergone tertiary process in the 1970s and 80s.

The idea of neighborhood gains prominence and is linked to living experience more in tune with the new city usage patterns because it promotes urban regeneration, the use of public transportation, traditional shops and walking around the city. The concept of neighborhood is still present in most individuals' imagination, both young and old. The neighborhood is built and rebuilt in many ways and in a mix of some history and many stories.



(1)   See the Chelas Plan that kept the names of its project areas until the 1990s: (former area I); Bairro do Armador ( former area M); Bairro do Condado (former area J); Bairro da Flamenga (former area N1) and Bairro dos Loios (former area N2).

(2)   An interesting case is that of the old neighborhood Londres, which few know by that name today. It is in Berna Av, to the left when traveling from Praça de Espanha. Tertiary space which corresponds today to an undefined area of Avenidas Novas.

(3)   Lynch, Kevin (1960) The Image of the city, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the President and Fellows of Harvard College, Massachusetts.



Attachment: List of Neighbourhoods


Bairro do Alto da Ajuda


Quinta de São João Batista


Bairro do Alvito

Cidade Universitária de Lisboa

Quinta de São Vicente


Bairro do Arco do Cego

Cova da Moura

Quinta do Cabrinha

Alta de Lisboa

Bairro do Armador


Quinta do Charquinho

Alto da Faia

Bairro do Calhau


Quinta do Grafanil

Alto da Serafina

Bairro do Caramão da Ajuda


Quinta do Jacinto

Alto de Santo Amaro

Bairro do Casalinho da Ajuda


Quinta do Lambert

Alto do Chapeleiro

Bairro do Castelo


Quinta do Lavrado

Alto do Lumiar

Bairro do Condado


Quinta do Loureiro

Alto dos Moinhos

Bairro do Relógio

Forte da Ameixoeira

Quinta do Marquês de Abrantes

Alto Pina

Bairro Dois de maio


Quinta do Morgado


Bairro dos Atores


Quinta dos Ourives


Bairro dos Alfinetes




Bairro dos Funcionários da Cadeia de Monsanto




Bairro dos Loios


Rio Seco

Bairro Alto

Bairro dos Retornados


Santa Catarina

Bairro América

Bairro Estrela d'Ouro


Santa Clara

Bairro Andrade

-Neighbourhood Grandella


São Bento

Bairro Azul

Bairro Lopes


São Domingos de Benfica

Bairro da Ajuda

Bairro Madre Deus



Bairro da Bica

Bairro Novo


Sete Céus

Bairro da Cruz Vermelha

Bairro Novo de Belém


Sete Rios

Bairro da Encarnação

Bairro Novo de Benfica


Tapada da Ajuda

Bairro da Flamenga

Bairro Novo do Grilo

Paço do Lumiar


Bairro da GNR

Bairro Padre Cruz



Bairro da Horta Nova

Bairro São João de Brito

Parque dos Príncipes

Vale de Alcântara

Bairro da Liberdade



Vale de Santo António

Bairro da Rocha

Bela Flor


Vale Formoso de Cima

Bairro das Amendoeiras

Bela Vista


Vale Fundão

Bairro das Calvanas




Bairro das Colónias


Poço do Bispo


Bairro das Estacas

Braço de Prata

Pote de Água


Bairro das Furnas

Cabo Ruivo



Bairro das Salgadas

Calçada dos Mestres

Quinta da Calçada


Bairro de Alcântara

Calhariz de Benfica

Quinta da Luz


Bairro de Caselas

Campo de Ourique

Quinta da Torrinha


Bairro de Inglaterra


Quinta das Conchas


Bairro de Santa Cruz

Casal Ventoso

Quinta das Laranjeiras


Bairro de Santos

Casal Vistoso

Quinta das Lavadeiras


Bairro de São João


Quinta das Mouriscas


Bairro de São Miguel


Quinta de Barros



Source: Vox Populi




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LYNCH, Kevin — (1960) The Image of the city, Massachusets Institute of Technology and the President and Fellows of Harvard College, Massachusets. Portuguese translation: A imagem da cidade, Lisboa: Edições 70, 1982.

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Nuno Pires Soares(1958) lecturer at Faculade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, since 1985. Research and lecturing fields: Urban Geography and Thematic Mapping.