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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