Explore the neighbourhood of Alfama and walk up its ancient and narrow streets to discover the very heart of Lisbon.
The walls of a medieval castle can be seen atop one of Lisbon’s hills. The houses around it form a kaleidoscope of colours that streams down to the Tagus river. The noises of people, cars and seagulls mingle with the melodies of Fado. This is Alfama, and it is Lisbon’s oldest and most traditional quarter.
Alfama is one of the few areas in Lisbon that was mostly spared by the 1755 earthquake — and for this reason there are visible signs from ages past. The medieval period is represented by the Castle of Saint George and the Gothic style of the Lisbon Cathedral. The labyrinth of steep, winding and narrow streets is a heritage of the old Moorish medina. The age of some of the houses can be counted in centuries. And there is even an old Roman theatre with its own Museum!
A tour of Alfama is a little bit like visiting an old village. Often, the streets are so narrow that locals can actually reach out and touch the front neighbour’s window! There are women selling fish on the streets and when you walk into a square you feel like you’ve stumbled on someone’s backyard.
But there are also spacious locations such as Miradouro de Santa Luzia, where you can find one of the best panoramic views of the Tagus river. At terraces and cafés, one can eat and drink with a soundtrack provided by traditional fado singers. And the neighbourhood’s nightlife also contrasts with other livelier parts of the city — here, everything is quieter, although there are also bars, small concert venues and theatres. Finally, a suggestion: do come to Alfama in June, during the
The best way of getting to know a neighbourhood is a tour by foot, but a word of advice is in order: the walk up to the castle is very steep and may be tiresome for older people. Alternative options include buses, taxis or Tuk-Tuk services. Note that non-local car traffic has been banned throughout most of the neighbourhood.