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A History Of Lisbon, Explained In 10 Songs


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Deloris Mclane



Welcome to a musical journey through the vibrant city of Lisbon. Often referred to as the “city of seven hills,” Lisbon is a place of rich history, cultural diversity, and artistic expression. From its ancient Alfama district to the modern architecture of Parque das Nações, every corner of this city resonates with a unique charm and a captivating story to tell.


One of the most engaging ways to delve into the history and soul of Lisbon is through music. Lisbon has been a constant muse for musicians and songwriters, inspiring countless melodies that reflect the emotions and experiences of its people.


In this article, we will explore the fascinating history of Lisbon through ten influential songs. Each song encapsulates a particular period, event, or aspect of the city’s heritage. From traditional fado music to contemporary anthems, these songs provide a soundtrack that unveils the layers of Lisbon’s past and present.


So, grab your headphones, sit back, and let’s embark on a musical journey that will transport us to the heart and soul of Lisbon!


“Lisboa Menina e Moça” by Carlos do Carmo

No exploration of Lisbon’s musical history would be complete without mentioning “Lisboa Menina e Moça” by Carlos do Carmo. This iconic song, released in 1977, pays tribute to the city by beautifully capturing its essence and the unique bond between its inhabitants and their beloved Lisbon.


Carlos do Carmo, one of the most celebrated and influential fado singers in Portugal, became synonymous with this anthem, which has since become a symbol of Lisbon’s identity. With his deep, soulful voice, do Carmo delivers the lyrics penned by José Carlos Ary dos Santos, painting a vivid portrait of Lisbon’s streets, neighborhoods, and the enduring spirit of its people.


The song highlights the various elements that make Lisbon so enchanting. It speaks of the city’s narrow streets, historical landmarks like Castelo de São Jorge, and the iconic Rossio Square. The lyrics also emphasize the role of fado, Lisbon’s traditional music genre, which is deeply intertwined with the city’s cultural fabric and emotions.


“Lisboa Menina e Moça” showcases the intimate relationship between Lisbon and its residents. The song immortalizes the sentiment of nostalgia and longing for the city, making it a poignant anthem for Lisboetas living both within and far away from their beloved hometown. It touches upon the bittersweet emotions that arise when reminiscing about the past, the struggles of everyday life, and the profound sense of attachment to a place that holds so many memories.


Over the years, “Lisboa Menina e Moça” has become a cherished classic, resonating with people of all generations. Its lyrics and melody have the power to evoke a strong sense of pride and connection among Lisbon’s residents and serve as a reminder of the city’s enduring spirit throughout history.


Whether you’re strolling along the Tagus River or exploring the cobblestone streets of Alfama, listening to “Lisboa Menina e Moça” will transport you to the heart of Lisbon, allowing you to immerse yourself in its vibrant atmosphere and timeless beauty.


“Grândola, Vila Morena” by José Afonso

One song that holds significant historical and cultural importance in relation to Lisbon is “Grândola, Vila Morena” by José Afonso. Released in 1972, during the era of Portugal’s authoritarian Estado Novo regime, this song became an anthem of resistance and hope for the Portuguese people.


Written and performed by José Afonso, a prominent singer-songwriter and political activist, “Grândola, Vila Morena” played a crucial role in the Carnation Revolution of 1974, which led to the overthrow of the dictatorship and the establishment of democracy in Portugal.


The song’s lyrics are poetic and powerful, invoking a sense of unity and the longing for freedom. “Grândola, Vila Morena” refers to the town of Grândola in the Alentejo region, which became a symbol of resistance during the regime. The phrase “Vila Morena” represents the spirit of the people, encompassing their determination and desire for a better future.


On April 25, 1974, when the military coup against the regime was set in motion, “Grândola, Vila Morena” was broadcast on the radio as a signal to the revolutionaries. The song became the designated secret code, encouraging people to take to the streets and stand against the oppressive regime.


By choosing this particular song, the revolutionaries demonstrated their commitment to a peaceful revolution, fostering a spirit of unity among the people. It represented a turning point in the country’s history and is often seen as the soundtrack of the revolution.


To this day, “Grândola, Vila Morena” holds a special place in the hearts of the Portuguese people. Its message of solidarity and freedom resonates with generations who remember the courage and sacrifices made during that pivotal moment in time. The song serves as a reminder of the power of music to incite change and unite people in their pursuit of justice.


When you listen to “Grândola, Vila Morena,” you can’t help but feel a sense of the indomitable spirit that guided Lisbon and Portugal towards a brighter future.


“Fado Lisboa” by Amália Rodrigues

When it comes to fado music, the soulful voice of Amália Rodrigues reigns supreme. Amália, widely regarded as the “Queen of Fado,” captivated audiences worldwide with her emotive performances and heartfelt renditions of this melancholic music genre. One of her most iconic songs that pays homage to Lisbon is “Fado Lisboa.”


Released in 1965, “Fado Lisboa” beautifully captures the essence of the city and the emotional core of fado itself. Amália’s heartfelt delivery, accompanied by the soul-stirring sounds of guitars and mandolins, transports listeners to the narrow streets and intimate taverns of Lisbon’s neighborhoods.


The lyrics of “Fado Lisboa” speak of the longing and saudade, a deep longing for something or someone that is no longer present, which are central themes in fado music. They paint a vivid picture of Lisbon’s atmospheric nights, illuminated by the glow of streetlights and filled with the melancholic strains of fado drifting from late-night cafés.


Amália’s haunting interpretation of “Fado Lisboa” captures the overwhelming emotions that fado evokes – a yearning for lost love, a nostalgia for bygone days, and a deep connection with the city itself. Her performance is filled with passion, pouring out the essence of Lisbon’s soul into every note.


Through “Fado Lisboa,” Amália Rodrigues not only shaped the perception of fado as a quintessentially Portuguese art form but also encapsulated the spirit and essence of Lisbon in her music. She elevated fado from a regional music style to an international sensation, captivating audiences and spreading the beauty of Lisbon’s musical heritage to every corner of the world.


To truly experience the heart and soul of Lisbon, a journey into the depths of fado is essential, and “Fado Lisboa” serves as the perfect gateway. Immerse yourself in the poignant melodies and heartfelt lyrics of this classic fado song, and allow it to transport you to the intimate Lisbon alleys where fado was born.


“Lisbon” by The Walkmen

In 2010, the indie rock band The Walkmen released a song simply titled “Lisbon.” This upbeat and infectious track pays tribute to the city, infusing it with a sense of nostalgia and wanderlust.


The energetic guitar riffs and driving percussion create a catchy melody that captures the vibrant spirit and liveliness of Lisbon. The lyrics of “Lisbon” evoke a sense of longing and a desire to escape and explore a new place.


The song’s lyrics paint a vivid picture of the city, referencing iconic landmarks like the 25 de Abril Bridge and the Tagus River. It captures the essence of Lisbon’s inviting atmosphere, where every corner reveals a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.


“Lisbon” by The Walkmen resonates with those who have fallen in love with the city and its unique ambiance. It speaks to the allure of travel and the excitement of immersing oneself in a new culture. The song’s infectious energy invites listeners to join in on the journey and experience the magic of Lisbon firsthand.


While “Lisbon” may have a different musical style compared to traditional Portuguese songs, it showcases how Lisbon can inspire artists from various genres. The song stands as a testament to the city’s ability to captivate and ignite creativity.


Whether you’re exploring the narrow streets of Bairro Alto or admiring the stunning views from Miradouro de Santa Catarina, “Lisbon” by The Walkmen is the perfect accompaniment to your adventure. Let its upbeat tempo and nostalgic lyrics transport you to the charming streets and vibrant energy of the city.


“Marvina” by Dead Combo

“Marvina” by Dead Combo is a captivating instrumental track that immerses listeners in the enchanting sounds of Lisbon. Released in 2008, the song showcases the unique fusion of genres that defines Dead Combo’s music, blending elements of fado, surf rock, and Western film soundtracks.


The mesmerizing melody of “Marvina” captures the essence of Lisbon’s diverse and vibrant music scene. The duo’s use of guitar and accordion creates a mesmerizing soundscape that evokes a sense of mystery and nostalgia. The song’s evocative and atmospheric quality seems to echo the narrow streets of Lisbon’s old neighborhoods.


Through “Marvina,” Dead Combo creates a sonic representation of the city’s complexity, blending traditional Portuguese influences with modern and experimental sounds. The song reflects the contrasting aspects of Lisbon – the melancholic fado music that echoes through historic Alfama and the vibrant energy of the city’s contemporary music scene.


While “Marvina” is an instrumental track, it speaks volumes about the spirit of Lisbon and its musical heritage. The absence of lyrics allows listeners to interpret the song’s emotions through their own experiences and connections to the city.


Dead Combo’s “Marvina” serves as a reminder that Lisbon’s music scene is constantly evolving while remaining deeply rooted in its rich cultural traditions. Their musical exploration showcases the city’s ability to blend the old with the new, creating a dynamic and eclectic sound that continues to captivate both locals and visitors alike.


As you listen to “Marvina,” close your eyes and let the music transport you to the vibrant streets of Lisbon. Feel the rhythm of the city pulsating through the song and experience the unique blend of traditional and contemporary influences that define the musical essence of this captivating city.


“Santa Luzia” by Sérgio Godinho

Sérgio Godinho’s “Santa Luzia” is a poignant song that pays homage to the historic neighborhood of Alfama in Lisbon. Released in 2000, this beautiful ballad captures the essence and nostalgia of this iconic district.


With his expressive and heartfelt vocals, Godinho takes listeners on a poetic journey through the narrow streets and steep hills of Alfama. The lyrics of “Santa Luzia” paint a vivid picture of the neighborhood’s charm, invoking the sights, sounds, and emotions that make it so special.


The song refers to the Miradouro de Santa Luzia, a scenic viewpoint that offers breathtaking panoramic views of Lisbon and the Tagus River. Godinho’s lyrics delicately describe the beauty of the surroundings, paying tribute to the picturesque vistas that have inspired artists and poets throughout the centuries.


But “Santa Luzia” is more than just a straightforward ode to a physical location. The song also delves into the emotions and stories of the people who inhabit Alfama. It speaks to the sense of belonging and the deep connection that residents have with their neighborhood, reflecting the rich cultural heritage and strong sense of community that thrives in Lisbon.


Sérgio Godinho’s soulful performance in “Santa Luzia” brings to life the essence of Alfama. The melodic arrangement, featuring traditional Portuguese guitars and delicate strings, creates an intimate and melancholic atmosphere that perfectly complements the emotions captured in the lyrics.


Listening to “Santa Luzia” allows us to immerse ourselves in the spirit of Alfama and experience the essence of Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood. Whether you have explored its narrow streets or not, this song will transport you to the heart of Alfama, evoking a profound sense of nostalgia and admiration for this historic district.


Let the poignant melodies of “Santa Luzia” by Sérgio Godinho guide you through the cobbled streets, past colorful tiled houses, and into the soul of Alfama. Discover the timeless charm of this neighborhood and feel the spirit of Lisbon come alive through the beautiful storytelling of this captivating song.


“Alfama” by Mariza

When it comes to contemporary fado music, Mariza is undoubtedly one of the most influential and celebrated artists. In her song “Alfama,” released in 2001, Mariza beautifully captures the soul and essence of Lisbon’s oldest and most traditional neighborhood.


With her powerful and emotive voice, Mariza’s rendition of “Alfama” carries the weight of the neighborhood’s history and the longing for a bygone era. The song speaks to the profound connection between the artist and Alfama, expressing a bittersweet nostalgia for the neighborhood’s past and an appreciation for its present.


The lyrics of “Alfama” paint a vivid picture of the district’s winding streets, its melancholic beauty, and the echoes of fado music that resonate through its alleyways. Mariza’s unmistakable vocal delivery infuses the song with both strength and vulnerability, capturing the essence of Alfama’s spirit.


Through “Alfama,” Mariza pays tribute to the tradition of fado while also adding her own contemporary touch. The song features a fusion of traditional and modern elements, blending the classic sounds of Portuguese guitars and acoustic instruments with subtle electronic undertones.


Listening to “Alfama” brings forth a mixture of emotions – a sense of longing, a deep connection to tradition, and an appreciation for the timeless beauty of Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood. Mariza’s performance encapsulates the essence of fado, with its ability to transport listeners to the heart of Alfama and evoke strong emotions.


Mariza’s take on “Alfama” serves not only as a tribute to the Lisbon district but also as a representation of the resilience and evolution of fado music. She breathes new life into the genre, bringing it to contemporary audiences while honoring its deep-rooted traditions.


Allow yourself to be swept away by the captivating sounds of “Alfama” by Mariza. Let the powerful vocals and poignant lyrics guide you through the streets of Alfama, where tradition and modernity coexist, and immerse yourself in the heartfelt expression of Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood.


“Lisbon Revisited” by Madredeus

In their mesmerizing song “Lisbon Revisited,” the Portuguese band Madredeus takes us on a poetic journey through the streets of Lisbon. Released in 1987, this hauntingly beautiful track is an homage to the city’s captivating charm and its ability to transport us to different eras and emotions.


The ethereal vocals of lead singer Teresa Salgueiro, accompanied by delicate guitar melodies and atmospheric instrumentation, create a dreamlike atmosphere that perfectly captures the essence of Lisbon. “Lisbon Revisited” tells a story of remembrance and rediscovery, evoking vivid imagery of the city’s landscapes and the emotions they evoke.


The lyrics of the song draw inspiration from the works of renowned poet Fernando Pessoa, particularly his book “Lisbon Revisited.” Through their music, Madredeus brings Pessoa’s words to life, infusing them with their own unique blend of melancholy and hope.


“Lisbon Revisited” is a song of introspection and reflection. It delves into the layers of history and culture that define Lisbon, capturing its timeless beauty and the profound impact it has on the hearts of those who wander its streets. The song invites us to explore the hidden alleys, gaze upon the majestic Tagus River, and get lost in the essence of the city.


Madredeus’ “Lisbon Revisited” not only showcases the band’s enchanting musical talents but also serves as a reminder of the lasting impact that Lisbon has on artists and poets alike. Its poetic lyrics and mesmerizing melodies evoke a sense of longing and connection to a place that holds a special significance in the collective memory.


When you listen to “Lisbon Revisited,” you can’t help but feel a profound sense of awe and reverence for the city’s rich history and cultural heritage. Let the gentle melodies and poetic words guide you through the enchanting streets and allow yourself to be immersed in the timeless beauty of Lisbon. 

“Lisboa, Meu Amor” by Paulo de Carvalho

Paulo de Carvalho’s “Lisboa, Meu Amor” is a beautiful song that captures the deep affection and admiration for the city of Lisbon. Released in 1974, this heartfelt ballad has become an anthem that celebrates the unique charm and character of the Portuguese capital.


With his smooth and soulful voice, Carvalho expresses his love for Lisbon, referring to it as “Lisboa, Meu Amor” – Lisbon, my love. The song draws listeners in with its nostalgic lyrics and enchanting melody, creating a sense of intimacy and connection to the city.


The song’s lyrics paint a vivid picture of Lisbon’s streets, landmarks, and the emotions they evoke. Carvalho sings about the Tejo River, the iconic Tagus Bridge, and the captivating viewpoints that offer panoramic views of the city. He expresses a deep appreciation for Lisbon’s history, architecture, and the beauty of its neighborhoods.


“Lisboa, Meu Amor” is not only a declaration of love for the city but also a reflection on the emotions and memories that Lisbon holds for Carvalho and many others. It encapsulates the feeling of being inspired and captivated by a place that holds a special place in one’s heart.


Beyond its sentimental aspect, “Lisboa, Meu Amor” has also become a symbol of resilience and hope for the people of Lisbon. The song was performed during the historic April 25th Carnation Revolution in 1974, serving as a soundtrack for the people’s desire for freedom and change.


Even today, “Lisboa, Meu Amor” continues to resonate strongly with Lisbon’s residents and visitors. It encapsulates the allure of the city, inviting us to be swept away by its charm and to experience the deep connection that many feel for this place.


Immerse yourself in the heartfelt melodies of “Lisboa, Meu Amor” and allow the song to transport you to the beautiful streets and the historic atmosphere of Lisbon. Feel the love and passion that emanate from the music and appreciate the unique spirit that makes Lisbon such a beloved city.


“A Song for Europa” by Pedro Abrunhosa

Pedro Abrunhosa’s “A Song for Europa” is a powerful and thought-provoking composition that reflects on the history and future of Europe, with Lisbon as its backdrop. Released in 2004, this captivating song invites listeners to reflect on the collective identity and aspirations of the European continent.


The song’s lyrics delve into the interconnectedness of nations, cultural exchange, and the shared experiences that shape Europe. Abrunhosa’s introspective and poetic storytelling style evokes a sense of longing and unity as he contemplates the meaning of Europe and the challenges it faces.


“A Song for Europa” resonates strongly with Lisbon as the city serves as the setting for Abrunhosa’s reflections. The lyrics paint a vivid picture of the city’s streets, the Tagus River, and its historical landmarks, intertwining Lisbon’s own history with the wider narrative of Europe.


Through his soulful vocals and the melodic composition, Abrunhosa captures the essence of Lisbon’s vibrant energy and its place within the broader European context. The song’s emotional depth and heartfelt message encourage listeners to consider their own role in shaping the future of Europe.


“A Song for Europa” carries a message of hope and empowerment, urging us to embrace our collective responsibility and work towards a united and inclusive Europe. Abrunhosa’s powerful and evocative lyrics serve as a reminder of the importance of dialogue, understanding, and unity in a diverse and complex world.


Rather than focusing solely on Lisbon itself, “A Song for Europa” expands our perspective to encompass the broader European experience. It encourages us to reflect on the historical and cultural foundations that unite us as Europeans while acknowledging the dynamic and ever-evolving nature of our shared continent.


Listen to “A Song for Europa” and allow the music and lyrics to resonate within you. Let it inspire you to think critically, embrace diversity, and work towards a future in which Europe continues to be a beacon of unity, peace, and progress.



Throughout this musical exploration, we have journeyed through the diverse sounds that tell the story of Lisbon. From traditional fado to modern anthems, each song has provided a glimpse into the rich history, cultural traditions, and vibrant spirit of the city.


Music has the power to evoke emotions, capture memories, and connect us to a place in a way that few other things can. The songs we have explored, from “Lisboa Menina e Moça” by Carlos do Carmo to “A Song for Europa” by Pedro Abrunhosa, have revealed the profound influence that Lisbon has had on artists and musicians throughout the years.


From the narrow streets of Alfama to the panoramic views of Miradouro de Santa Catarina, these songs have taken us on a journey through Lisbon’s neighborhoods, landmarks, and the varied emotions that its people experience. They have showcased the city’s timeless beauty, its melancholic undertones, and its ability to inspire and captivate the hearts of all who visit.


Lisbon’s musical heritage is a reflection of its rich history, blending old traditions with contemporary sounds. These songs have transcended time and continue to resonate with both locals and visitors, serving as a testament to the enduring appeal and enchanting atmosphere of the city.


As you immerse yourself in the melodies and lyrics of these songs, you can truly feel the heart and soul of Lisbon come alive. Whether you have explored the city firsthand or dream of visiting in the future, this musical journey serves as a reminder of the unique cultural tapestry that Lisbon offers.


So, next time you find yourself in Lisbon or simply in need of a musical escape, let the songs mentioned in this article be your guide. Allow the melodies, lyrics, and emotions to transport you to the vibrant streets, the intimate taverns, and the breathtaking viewpoints of this captivating city. Lisbon’s rich musical heritage will continue to inspire, enrich, and captivate for generations to come, as it has done throughout history.