The centre of Lisbon is a busy and bustling area, but just 10 minutes walk to the east, you find yourself in Alfama, one of the most historic and peaceful areas of the city. It would be very easy to lose oneself wandering its narrow streets on a sunny day. You may make your way into the district down by the river, but who knows where you’ll end up? However one thing is for certain: you will experience ancient Alfama in all its glory.
One of the most popular ways to discover Lisbon is the number 28 tram. These ‘remodelado’ trams were originally commissioned in 1930, and to this day transport tourists and locals alike around Lisbon. Departing from Praça do Martim Moniz, the tram travels through Graça and Alfama, passing the Sé Cathedral and the Miradouro Portas do Sol, then continues through the Baixa district, and finally up to the Estrela district. These old fashioned trams are a perfectly Portuguese way to enjoy the sights of Alfama.
Standing bold on the top of the hill, the Castelo de São Jorge has one of the best views over the city and the river Tejo in it’s beautiful gardens. This castle was occupied by the moors until 1147 when the castle was conquered by King Alfonso Henriques. Tourists can still roam the grounds and climb the battlements of this ancient fortress, experiencing an amazing 360⁰ view of the city.
Speaking of amazing views, another fantastic miradouro on our list is the Miradouro Portas do Sol. From here, you experience the breathtaking south-eastern views over the roofs of the maze of buildings that fill Alfama, and across the River Tejo. Here you will also find the statue of Saint Vincent, the patron saint of Lisbon, who carries a boat adorned with two ravens, the symbol of the city.
The Sé Cathedral is one of the most impressive buildings in the city. With its two towering bell towers and beautiful stained glass windows, this 12th century cathedral played host to the many religious ceremonies of Portugal’s elite. Built upon what used to be a Muslim mosque, the construction of this monument symbolises the conquest of Portugal from the moors.
Just around the corner from the cathedral, you will find the statue and Igreja de Santo António, patron saint of Portugal. Smaller, but cosier than the grand cathedral, this church adorns paintings and statues of the saint wherever possible. Saint Anthony holds a book in the statue which stands outside this church, and it is said that if you manage to throw a coin onto his open book, that you will find a new partner.
The 13th June is the festival of Saint Anthony in Portugal, and it is in Alfama where most of the celebrations take place with everyone enjoying beer, sangria and sardines. People open up their homes as restaurants and have a big celebration which lasts the whole month of June!
I loved wandering round the narrow streets of Alfama, exploring the old town, finding beautiful little restaurants and fado bars. Just around the corner from the busy tourist centre of the city, this area is as peaceful as it is beautiful, and I was absolutely blown away with the views from the top of this hill. I would definitely recommend a trip around Alfama in the sunshine if you have a free afternoon!