The Alfama district: Lisbon's oldest quarter

Alfama, the city's oldest district, lies on one of Lisbon's seven hills. It already existed in Greek times, and the Romans also chose this district as one of their fortresses. Very popular in the Middle Ages, houses dating back to the 12th century can still be admired here. For many centuries, the area was a favourite haunt of wealthy residents, but today it is a haven for the working classes, fishermen and musicians. In 1755, it was the only district of Lisbon not to suffer from the earthquake. What could be more marvellous than strolling through its streets amidst buildings that guide you to the heart of the city's history, and enjoying one of the most breathtaking views of the Tagus? And St George's Castle. The last detail that will delight tourists in search of authenticity: the fado. It's the very soul of Alfama; this melancholy Portuguese music played in taverns has been lulling the streets of the district since the 19th century.

Aerial view of the Alfama district, Lisbon, Portugal.

- © andre quinou / Shutterstock

Sé Cathedral: the queen that dominates the district

Take the famous No. 28 tram and stop off at Sé Cathedral, one of the capital's oldest monuments, which was not destined for the bright future it enjoys today. Originally built as a simple church, Sé Cathedral has been partially destroyed several times and has since been rebuilt into a magnificent cathedral.

Saint-Georges Castle: the sun king of the Portuguese capital

This is certainly the must-do activity when visiting this area of Lisbon. Saint George's Castle had several lives before it became a popular tourist attraction. Initially, it was built on the ruins of a fortress before being used as a prison and left to fall into disrepair. Following a colossal renovation project, it has been restored to its former glory.

Defense corridor outside Saint-Georges Castle, Lisbon, Portugal.

- © Agnieszka Skalska / Shutterstock

During your visit, you'll find yourself craving something sweet. Stop off at the Pastelaria Santo Antonio pastry shop to sample one of their home-made specialities, each more appetising than the last! Ideal for breakfast or even a snack. Their pasteis de Nata are excellent!

Miradouro das Portas do Sol: the must-see spot in the district

Located just a few steps from the castle, this viewpoint is one of the most impressive in the city. It overlooks the entire Alfama district, with its colourful buildings, pretty orange roofs, intertwining alleyways and the Tagus River flowing in the distance, providing a unique backdrop to Lisbon. The view from the esplanade is literally breathtaking.

Vue aérienne du quartier de l’Alfama et du Tage, Lisbonne, Portugal.

- © Benny Marty / Shutterstock

The church of Saint-Vincent de Fora: the Italian influence

As big as it is white, this monastery has more than one trick up its sleeve and is well worth a visit. With its impressive catalogue of azulejos, the monument houses one of the largest collections of ceramics in the world. The cloister also houses a huge 18th-century organ that is sure to impress musicians. To finish your visit, climb to the top of the church for a panoramic view of the Alfama district, well away from the crowds.

The bell tower of Saint-Vincent church, Lisbon, Portugal.

- © Floriana Avellino / 123RF

Fado: the sweet nostalgia of the medina

The maze of narrow streets in Alfama is a great place to hear a fado concert. Take a stroll down one of the many bars in the district, where the deep, husky voices of traditional singers can be heard. You'll be able to enjoy this tragic yet romantic song, which undeniably contributes to the capital's charm. This melancholy music was sung by the people of Lisbon who lived in the area to express their sorrow or to tell the story of an impossible love affair. Today, these legendary refrains are being brought up to date by talented new performers.

Traditional Fado in a restaurant in the Alfama district, Lisbon, Portugal.

- © Urfl / 123RF

🚌 How do I get there?

  • On foot: about a ten-minute walk from the Baixa.
  • By tram: lines 12E and 28E, "Largo Portas Sol" and "Sé" stops
  • By metro: "Martim Moniz" stop

Practical information

🚌### How do I get there?

  • On foot: about a ten-minute walk from the Baixa.
  • By tram: lines 12E and 28E, "Largo Portas Sol" and "Sé" stops
  • By metro: "Martim Moniz" stop

Where to eat in the area?

La casa Tradiçao is a typical little bistro serving traditional** cuisine with a touch of seasonal innovation. The young chef offers cuisine that is both simple and refined. Dishes can be shared and are of excellent quality.

📍 Address: Tv. do Almargem 4, 1100-020, Lisbon

👛 Price: around €13

Opening times:

  • Wednesday to Friday from 19:30 to 22:30
  • Saturdays and Sundays from 12:30 to 15:00 and from 19:30 to 22:30

Where to sleep?

Hotel 3* Convento do Salvador Lisbon

Hotel 3* Convento do Salvador

Stay in the historic Alfama district.
8.9 Fabulous
£165 / night
by Editorial Team
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