Bairro Alto: a city is much more than an amusement park

[article written by Leonor Duarte, within the Cine Café Turistificação: Alto Bairro (Turistification: High Neighbourhood)]


Yesterday, at Lisboa Vadia, the lisboners could assist to the film “Alto Bairro” and to discuss the gentrification and turistification of Bairro Alto.

We noticed, with some annoyance, how this neighbourhood has been losing the life that distinguishes it, mostly its daytime life, whether because of local shops, shops from other fields, as fashion, bookstores, among others, that close, or because former residents who leave. These are the factors that show how Bairro Alto is being a victim of a phenomenon that is being talked about around, which is gentrification. And the debate was so zippy, that it was difficult to finish.


cine café Alto Bairro

There are some people that think that the Bairro has become an amusement park, a big open air bar and that people who go there to have fun, they forget or they don’t even know that there live residents. On the other hand, the small traditional trade has been disappearing, as a consequence of the desertification, and more recently, of the rent law and real estate speculation. There is no more clinical post and pharmacy, there is only one barber left; and, in one of the beautiful bookstores where John Malkovich used to hang out…now you can only eat an ice cream.

So we ask: what do we want to the historic area of Lisbon? Do we want a residential area with tourism, bars and shops, or a turistified park in a Venice style, which, as predicted, in 2030 won’t have more habitants?


The city must be thought for its habitants or only for the exponentiation of private profits?


Other doubts have been arising: what’s the gain for the public entities with the monoculture of the mass tourism? What will happen to Lisbon if a serious incident or accidents dispel the tourists? What’s the responsibility of the alcoholic drinks lobby, in the unrestrained opening of bars? Why do not authorities enforce the law that protects the good environment in Bairro? Why are the authorities so permissive with the opening of temporary accommodation?

In Bairro Alto there are entrepreneurs that feel injured, social solidarity networks that get lost, weekly leaflets proposing the purchase of houses, ceilings falling off on top of the residents. Fabiana Pavel, architect and researcher, reinforced the idea that Lisbon’s charm lives in the daily life and that’s exactly that that is disappearing.


The tourism has been bringing reconstruction and employment but, as it goes, the tourists will come to see each other…


There was also who stressed substantive issues as the necessity of fighting for social and cultural values a little lost and who showed themselves worried with the attitude of youngsters.

And meanwhile – how cool! – the majority of the present people, that filled the bar at a point where there was no more sits for everyone, we can say, were youngsters!


There was the proposal of organizing a resident’s march to demand more care and intervention of the public entities.


Thank you to AMBA (Bairro Alto Residents Association), to the “Real Ficção” producer and to the film director, Rui Simões, to Fabiana Pavel and everyone who showed up.

Next month there will be more: we will assist, on March 15th, to the film “Cidade Guiada”, and we will talk about the effects of the tourism in the Mouraria neighbourhood, where will be present the director Catarina Leal, Joana Jacinto from the Project Lisbon Sustainable Tourism, and also João Seixas, researcher in the area of urbanism.

Stay tuned!



Are you from the area of architecture, urbanism or urban design and you have interest in the problem of the gentrification in our city? We were just looking for you! Sign in on the Master Class “Tourism Gentrification and City-making”, conducted in partnership with Stadslab!



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