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Lisbon has many interesting things to see and to do and the best part of the city is definitely the various neighborhoods, not so much the sights as usually. I love to spend time wandering and exploring around the city, because I feel that I find something new and amazing every time. If I would have to choose a part of the city that is above all others and that I would tell about first, it would for sure be Alfama, the charming old town of Lisbon.
HISTORY, CURVY STREETS AND WONDERFUL VIEWS
Alfama is the oldest part of Lisbon and it’s located right next to the city center, beneath the medieval castle of Lisbon, Castelo de São Jorge. Alfama is full of twists and turns, hills, narrow alleyways and cobblestones all around, just like the old towns in general. Because Alfama is located on a hill, it is also a perfect spot to look at the wonderful views towards the Tejo river and see the orange rooftops of the colourful old buildings and there are amazing viewpoints to enjoy the sunny days. The most popular viewpoint is called Miradouro de Santa Lucia, which is a stunning place to enjoy time and to look at the sceneries around. From Santa Lucia is only a few minutes walk to another fantastic viewpoint called Miradouro das Portas do Sol, that is on a nice small old town square, where you can also hop onto the iconic yellow trams.
Alfama contains a lot of history and the name comes directly from the arabic word al-hamma, which means fountain/spa. Alfama has many lovely restaurants and cafes and there are many great options for us vegans and vegetarians too. Alfama is also one of the only parts of Lisbon that survived as it is through the terrible earthquakes in 1755 and the many old and colourful buildings and cute narrow streets are in its original form still today. The city also maintains these streets and buildings well to prevent decay.
As a home for the fishermen and the less fortunate back in the days, this interesting and beautiful neighborhood is a great place to spend a warm summer day exploring the streets, looking at the views and enjoying the many restaurants around. Alfama is very popular amongst the photographers, tourists and the locals, because the atmosphere is always amazing. The easiest way to get to Alfama is to use the old wooden yellow trams that are already an iconic sight in Lisbon in itself, or by taking a taxi or a uber. There are also many funny tuk-tuk drivers available all around the city and in Alfama that are eager to give you a tour, but the tour will for sure be very bumpy on the cobblestone streets. If you want to avoid paying too much for your tours, I recommend booking a tour in advance* to be sure of what you pay for.
SIGHTS AND GOOD VIBES
After visiting the Castelo de São Jorge on top of the hill and checking the views down to the wonderful Tejo river, the friends of history and sights should also see the Cathedral of Lisbon, the National Pantheon and the roman-catholic Church of Saint Antonius, that are all located in Alfama.
If Lisbon is new to you or if you only have a few days to get to know the city, Alfama is definitely the best place to start your exploring. Alfama will give you everything from sunny viewpoints and sceneries to small boutiques and delicious cafes and restaurants, historic sights from the medieval Castle to the beautiful Cathedral, and of course the great opportunities to follow and photograph the famous yellow trams outside and in – just follow the tracks and a tram will cross your path sooner or later! The most famous line is the number 28*, that goes around all the most important places in Lisbon and in the Alfama neighborhood.
ALFAMA – THE HOME OF FADO
Fado is a traditional Portuguese folk music style developed in the 1820s. Fado is emotional, passionate and melancholic and it lives strongly in Alfama. Fado belongs also to the Unesco World Heritage list. You can go to listen to amazing Fado in Lisbon for example at different restaurants, but remember to book a table in advance to avoid any inconveniences.
Fado is about nostalgia and missing gone times and lost things and fado has always been a way to express emotions even during harder times in history. Fado is really a historical thing to experience in Portugal! You can learn more about fado and the best gems of Alfama for example with this combined tram and walking tour*.
EXPERIENCE DEEPER THAN THE SURFACE
The best pieces and the most interesting hidden gems of Lisbon and the old town can be discovered through a fantastic guided tour*, where the guide tells you all the best spots to visit and the local tips for exploring and also of course the best places to eat! I always use guided tours when I have a tight schedule or when I really want to experience a country deeper than the surface. So far these tours have never disappointed me and after the tour it has been so much easier to go through the city on my own. At the moment all tours are planned with safety and health first and here in Portugal is also mandatory to wear a face mask in public places.
DO YOU LIKE OLD TOWNS? HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO ALFAMA? SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES IN THE COMMENTS BELOW! 🙂
3: Tiina Johanna
Finally in Portugal! Last thursday was an emotional day, because it was my time to leave to Portugal for my new job and my new life. After a very emotional bye-bye at the train station in my home city Tampere, I finally started my long journey towards this new adventure.
Moving abroad has always been a tempting and exciting thought and that it has been also as an experience, but it also includes many new challenges. Traveling during this pandemic also adds some extra obstacles, because you will have to be taking care of many important things, such as a negative Covid-19 test result (in english language) and other related quidelines and rules that you will have to check before traveling. For example, you will have to prepare yourself to wearing a face mask the whole journey through and you should also carry more than one mask with you, so you can change it. A face mask adds obviously extra discomfort to the trip, but you will also have to wear a mask in the country of destination (you need to check these guidelines before going, obviously).
THE CHALLENGES OF COVID-19 DURING TRAVEL
Challenges regarding the pandemic were visible already before my departure in Finland. There were no more direct bus routes from my city to the airport as there has been before, but luckily I found a good train line with only one change in between. I hope that this lack of of direct bus routes will change for the better again at some point now, that traveling will slowly but surely increase again, little by little. There were no direct flights from Finland to Portugal either, so I had to book a flight with one change in the middle. My change was in Amsterdam and everything went smoothly in the end, even though I was a bit nervous about it and I had to wait in the Amsterdam airport for over five hours before my connecting flight to Lisbon took off. Usually I don’t support connecting flight routes inside Europe, because the distances aren’t that long anyway, but this time there was no choice. Lucky for others, it has already been announced that TAP Air Portugal and Finnair will start their direct flights again at the end of June this summer, so thumbs up for that!
At the airports (Helsinki, Amsterdam, Lisbon) were a lot of information about hygiene and how to take better care about your personal hygiene during this pandemic and while traveling. They were also very strict about wearing a face mask and you will have to have your negative Covid test result with you at all times. That it very important and mandatory for traveling right now, so be aware of that. You can also only take your face mask of when you are eating or drinking something.
The flights went smoothly and KLM was a good airline, so I was happy with my choice. They offered free drinks and snacks during both flights and that was a good way to breathe for a while without the mask, so even if you don’t feel hungry, take advantage of this time. The snacks didn’t really taste that delicious, but it was worth it to get breathing break, haha. I can also warmly recommend the connecting flights of KLM, it was not a bad choice at all.
NEW HOME, NEW WORK, NEW AMAZING CITY
I arrived to Lisbon very late in the evening, so I had to spent my first night at a temporary accommodation at a hotel, but the next day I was able to go to the office and take care of some important work-related things and then they drove me to my new apartment, my new home in the center of Lisbon. My first impression of my new apartment was nice and I was pleasantly surprised. I haven’t lived with roommates in many years, but my roommates are all very kind and helpful people, so I am happy about that and I feel lucky. Now I have also started the training for my new job and I am excited to see how it will go. Hopefully well!
I have been getting to know the city a lot and I have done a lot of walking around and exploring. Lisbon seems like a fantastic city and it has a great vibe. It is also easy to walk around everywhere, but I do recommend to use the public transportation also, because there are many big hills and you will get tired of all the walking after a while.
So far I have explored Bairro Alto, which means the “high neighbourhood”, spotted the old yellow wooden trams around, enjoyed the sunny sceneries of the old town Alfama and watched the people in the beautiful Plaza de Comercio square. The different neighbourhoods of Lisbon are all unique and they have their own specialties. There are also lots of amazing cafes and restaurants all around the city and my favourite part is, that there are also fantastic places for vegans! I will be posting more about these later on, when I get to explore them a little bit more.
I will be talking a lot more about my life in Lisbon and all about what this beautiful, new city and country has to offer. I will tell you about the many fantastic cafes and restaurants, but first I will need to get to know them a little bit better. Lisbon has so much to see and do and I can not wait to explore all its beauty!
Stay tuned for upcoming posts and updates and feel free to follow my Instagram for real time updates as well at @tiinajohannaaa. Have a lovely new week!
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO HEAR AND KNOW ABOUT LISBON? SHARE YOUR QUESTIONS AND YOUR PERSONAL TIPS FOR THE CITY IN THE COMMENTS! 🙂
<3: Tiina Johanna