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The Alfama District of Lisbon - A tourist Guide

Alfama is one of the oldest districts of Lisbon, and is a delightful maze of narrow cobbled streets and ancient houses, which lead up the steep hill from the Tejo Estuary to the castle. Contained within this diverse and charismatic district are many historic buildings including the Se Cathedral, the Castle, the National Pantheon and Saint Anthony’s Church.

Alfama lisbon

Originally, Alfama was situated outside of the city walls and was associated with poverty and squalor, where only the poor and disadvantaged resided. As Lisbon grew into an important port, the district retained its lowly status as the tough and deprived district where sailors and dock workers lived. Today, Alfama has shrugged off its grim reputation, being transformed into a fashionable artisan district, while still retaining its character and dilapidated charm.

Alfama’s labyrinth of streets are best explored by simply getting lost in, as around every corner or steep climb is a delightful tiny plaza, unique shop, funky café or wonderful viewpoint. Alfama is an adorable district, which could easily take a full day to explore and this guide will provide an introduction to Alfama.

afama party

Quick Overview of Alfama

Alfama tram

Alfama is crossed by the tram

A Suggested Itinerary for a Day Trip to Alfama

The following itinerary is our suggested route to fully explore Alfama. This Alfama tour could fill an entire day of sightseeing but could be reduced to half a day by finishing after Saint Anthony church. Highlights and sights of Alfama are listed after this section.

Insider tip: For a day trip to Alfama it is advisable to ride the number 28 tram up to the Graca district and walk downhill, instead of walking uphill from Baixa…..

• Ride the number 28 Tram to the Largo da Graca (unfortunately pickpockets are prevalent on crowded trams, so be cautious with valuables)

• Admire the view from the Miradouro da Graça with its wonderful views over central Lisbon and the Castle. (GPS 38.71618, -9.13148)

• See the Magnificent Sao Vicenta church (GPS 38.71474,-9.12842)

• Get lost in the maze of Alfama (or follow the tram tracks) to the Portas do Sol viewpoint and plaza, which is a great location for a drink. (GPS 38.71266, -9.13060)

• See the pretty Azjules tile paintings in the Jardim Júlio de Castilho (GPS 38.71166, -9.13018)

• Experience 18th century Portuguese aristocratic life in the Museu de Artes Decorativas museum, which is housed in the former Azurara Palace (GPS 38.71209, -9.13045)

• Climb up hill to the Lisbon Castle, with its panoramic views and restored keep and battlements (GPS 38.71322, -9.13356)

• View the ancient foundations of the Roman Amphitheatre (GPS: 38.71045, -9.13244)

• The Se cathedral and cloisters (GPS 38.70983, -9.13340)

• Saint Anthony church, constructed on the birthplace of the patron saint of Lisbon (GPS 38.70999, -9.13403)

Tip: This is a convenient place to stop for people wish a half day tour or spend the rest of the day in Baixa

se cathedral lisbon

The Se Cathedral high above alfama

• From the Saint Anthony church walk downhill to the Campo das Cebolas and uniquely styled Casa dos Bicos (GPS 38.70888, -9.13266)

• Skirt the edge of Alfama to the Largo do Chafariz de Dentro the location of the Fado Museum (GPS 38.71108, -9.12792)

• Explore the narrow streets of historic Alfama, including the baroque Igreja de Santo Estêvão

• Museu Militar (GPS 38.71306, -9.12472)

• Visit the Panteão Nacional and climb to the roof with the amazing views over the Tejo Estuary (GPS 38.71499, -9.12469

• Relax in the Jardim Botto Machado which is also the setting for the Feira da Ladra market (Tuesday and Saturday)

• Take the metro back from Santa Apolónia Station (GPS 38.71378, -9.12263)

Portas do Sol alfama

The Portas do Sol view point in Alfama

The difficulties of exploring Alfama…..

Alfama extends from the banks of the Tejo up to the castle and visitors will quickly discover that there are almost no flat streets in Alfama. The entire time in Alfama will be spent climbing cobbled streets or descending stair cases, which can be very difficult for visitors with limited mobility, young families or those struggle with the intense summer heat.

The number 28 tram provides an easier method to travel through Alfama but is incredibly popular with tourists and locals alike. During the hours of 10am to 6pm it is often standing room only, and watch out for pickpockets.

Tours by rickshaws (or Tuk-Tuks) have rapidly become the new gimmicky way to explore Lisbon. They do remove the toil of climbing the steep roads and are ideal to negating the narrow streets of Alfama but are comparatively expensive (€40-50 per hour). Thankfully the Council of Lisbon are forcing them to become electric so less polluting and noisy but still will cause traffic chaos…

Tuk-Tuk tour lisbon alfama

There's so many new gimmicky ways to explore Alfama.....

The Best Sight of Alfama - Lisbon castle

The best tourist attraction of the Alfama district is Lisbon castle. This castle has been entwined with Portugal’s early history and was the location in which the Christian Crusaders defeated the North African Moors in 1147. The castle was left to become a ruin during later years, but was restored to it's once magnificence during the 1940s. From the great vantage point of the battlements and walls, there are wonderful views of central Lisbon.

What is The Best Activity in Alfama?

The most enjoyable activity while in the Alfama district is a ride on the number 28 tram. The tram route connects the district of Graça with Baixa and passes through the streets and hills of Alfama. This narrow and undulating tram route is totally unsuitable for any modern trams, so historic Remodelado trams, which date from the 1930s, provide the service instead. To find out more about the 28 tram route please click here.

Alfama tram 28

The number 28 tram outside the Museu de Artes Decorativas

The best View Point of Alfama

The best view point of Alfama is the Miradouro de Santa Luzia (Santa Luzia Viewpoint). From here there are wonderful views over the tiled roofs of Alfama and out across the Tejo Estuary. The view point is on the number 28 tram route and is close to the castle.

Miradouro de Santa Luzia lisbon

The view from the Miradouro de Santa Luzia

The best undiscovered sight in Alfama

The best undiscovered location in the Alfama is the Largo da Graça, which is often known as the Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen (Sophia Andresen viewpoint). This peaceful, tree shaded plaza, is positioned in front of the Graça Church and provides wonderful views over the castle and central Lisbon. There is a pleasant open air café and this is an ideal place to relax after climbing all the hills of Alfama.

Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen lisbon

The Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen with views over the castle

The best tradition of Alfama district

In need of a boy or girlfriend or better partner? Then the tradition surrounding the statue of Saint Anthony is for you!
The tradition is that you will find a new (or better!) partner if you are able to throw and land a coin in the book of Saint Anthony on the statue in front of his church, the Igreja Santo Antonio. This tradition originates that Saint Anthony is the patron saint of lovers (and Lisbon) and this church was constructed on his birth place.

Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen lisbon

Try for a new boy or girlfiend - get a coin in the book (where the red arrow is!)

Main Tourist Sights of Alfama

The Se Cathedral

The Se is the solid and imposing cathedral that was the religious centre for Portugal. The cathedral dates from the 12th century and was constructed on the site of an important Moorish mosque. To read more please click here.

se cathedral

The magnificent Se Cathedral

Saint Anthony’s Church

Saint Anthony is the patron saint of Lisbon and this church, which is dedicated to him, was constructed on his birth site. Saint Anthony was born in 1195 but the Baroque-Rococo styled church dates from 1767, as the original church was destroyed by the massive 1755 earthquake. To read more please click here.

Saint Anthony church Lisbon

The charming Igreja Santo Antonio Lisbon and statue of Saint Anthony

The National Pantheon

Church of Santa Engrácia is the National Pantheon of Portugal and final burial location of many important Portuguese, including the poet Luís de Camões and the explorers Vasco da Gama and Henry the Navigator. To read more about th Santa Engrácia please click here.

Santa Engrácia Lisbon

Looking down at the Alter in the Santa Engrácia

The Fado Museum

This museum details the history of the haunting music that originates from the Alfama district. Fado is sung by a solo singer and is accompanied by a traditional Portuguese guitar and this mournful yet powerful music reflects the emotions felt by the wives of sailors who had had departed on perilous journeys. To read more about Fado please click here.

Fado street art in Lisbon

Fado street art in Lisbon

Roman Amphitheatre

Lisbon was a major Roman city, below the streets of Alfama there are the remains of a Roman amphitheatre that had a capacity for 5,000 spectators. Close to the amphitheatre is the Museu Teatro Romano, a small museum that displays all of the objects that were found at the site. To read more please click here.

Roman Amphitheatre in Lisbon

The remains of the Roman Amphitheatre in Lisbon

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