Alcântara (Lisbon): From Industrial District to Tourist Destination. A Survey

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The tourist image of Lisbon and its uniqueness was shaped through the existence of “popular neighbourhoods”, spaces of intense and unchangeable social life where the elements of cultural life are present as a landmark of each different space. Alcântara, Bica, Alfama, Mouraria, and Madragoa are examples of traditional Lisbon neighbourhoods, which today continue to be closely associated with specific representations of the city and of its people’s ways of life within the city As part of the tourism development that Lisbon has been experiencing in recent years, one of the emerging neighbourhoods is Alcântara, a former industrial district that is currently undergoing a functional reconversion. Situated by the river Tagus, next to the museum district of Lisbon (Belém), and not far from the town centre (Baixa), it presents a different tourist supply: besides the traditional local heritage, composed of monuments, palaces and museums, it is probably the best district of Lisbon to recall the industrial era, its buildings, activities and ways of life. This article deals with the transition process of the neighbourhood from an economic fabric based on industry to a tertiary type of area, within which a special reference to the tourism sector is given. As a reaction to the increasing demand of the tourists, several hotels, apartments and other types of local accommodation have emerged in the neighborhood. In Alcântara tourists seek for the trendy local restaurants, unique libraries, modern business opportunities and young entrepreneurs’ shops, which concentrate in former industrial facilities now reconverted into cultural and commercial activities, such as LX Factory and Village Underground. To understand this transformation a qualitative-quantitative method was used. Besides the documental analysis and the field research, a survey was conducted aimed at understanding the type of tourists visiting the district, their motivations and their assessment of the characteristics of Alcântara. The results show that Alcântara is an attractive district for young tourists interested in discovering trendy places. Alcântara’s barycentric position is also significant both in the transport network and in the tourist geography of the metropolitan area of Lisbon.
Alcântara, Lisbon, Urban tourism, Urban redevelopment, Heritage