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Exploring Alfama – Into The Heart of Lisbon

Exploring Alfama – Into The Heart of Lisbon

by Maria Lisboa

Alfama is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Europe and surely one of the most picturesque of Lisbon. This medieval neighborhood escaped the earthquake of 1755 and keeps its Moorish and Jewish roots in many of its traits and characteristics.

Alfama hanging pots

The beautiful views of the city and the Tagus seduce both the travelers and the Lisbon people and a walk through its alleys, squares and viewpoints is absolutely mandatory when visiting Lisbon.

Alfama Overview

On foot, if you are willing to climb the stone paved streets, or on board of the tram 28 (or on a tuk-tuk, the new fashion in Lisbon), you will discover at every turn of its winding streets an image worthy of a photograph.

Tram in Alfama

Essential is a visit to Lisbon Cathedral (Church of St. Mary Major) whose construction began in the second half of the twelfth century, after the taking of the city from the Moors by D. Afonso Henriques (first king of Portugal). The various renovations and reconstructions after the Great Earthquake made today’s Cathedral a mixture of styles, having Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque elements.

Following the route of the tram tracks and passing the Largo do Limoeiro, you will find the Mirador de Santa Luzia, near the church of the same name. The view of the river and Alfama is stunning, allowing sight of the dome of the National Pantheon (Church of Santa Engrácia), the Church of Santo Estevão and the two white towers of the Church of São Miguel.

Continuing the tour we arrive at Largo das Portas do Sol from which extends a wide terrace (Belvedere das Portas do Sol) from where it reaches a magnificent view of the eastern side of Lisbon. On top of the hill on the left of the Pantheon dome, we see the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora. On its slopes, Alfama, on pastel colors  descends, through the narrow winding streets, to the Tagus River.

In the lower part of the neighborhood you will find the Fado Museum and Casa dos Bicos. This 16th-century building, with its characteristic walls covered with diamond shape stones houses, currently, the José Saramago Foundation and the Archeological Site of the Lisbon Museum.

Alfama Castle

All being said, keep your map in your bag, your camera on your hands, and wander around. If in Summer, lunch in one of the many terraces and ask for grilled sardines. A good Portuguese wine wont’ be a bad idea and in the end you can indulge with a sweet desert and, of course, a smoking hot expresso (Portuguese call it Bica). Just like a local!



Maria Lisboa has her own travel blog, The Wanderer’s Chronicles. If you enjoyed this piece, visit her website for more great articles!