Baroque Churches, Winding Streets, Scenic Vistas, and more
Alfama Welcomes You!
Why Visit Alfama District of Lisbon
- Beautiful architecture
- Narrow, winding medieval streets
- Stunning vistas overlooking Lisbon
- Shops and restaurants
- Local charm
We leaned over a wall and gazed out over the red tile rooftops onto the Tagus River and our ship, the Disney Magic. Two guitarist strummed and sang under the shade of a portico. The bright sun shown down upon the courtyard and flowers. Passersby joined in enjoying the view. A small crowd circled around the musicians. Others ate, drank and laughed together on benches.
Such is a typical scene that we experienced in Alfama. We have visited the this district of Lisbon twice with each of our Disney TransAtlantic cruises. Ships dock on the Tagus River in Alfama; so access is easy.
Without a plan, we picked out a landmark and headed in the general direction. The grand architecture of churches and museums impresses. The true magic of Alfama, though, comes from wandering through its narrow, winding streets.
Around one corner, we stumbled into the Feira da Ladra (Market of Thieves). At another, more street performers played. Each turn brought a new surprise. Heading out in different directions on each of our visits, we saw completely new things, but experienced the same vibe.
What to See
Churches dot the streets of Alfama. They provide architectural highlights to most cities and Lisbon is no exception. Multiple large cathedrals and quaint chapels grace Alfama.
Step inside and take in the details. Local worshippers are almost always present; so be quiet and respectful.
Most maps do not show all of the streets and alleys. Some are so narrow, that only one person can pass at a time. From the Tagus River, Alfama climbs a hill capped with Castelo de Sao Jorge/Castle of Saint George.
Try to seek out the miradouros/overlooks. The views are brilliant. From the Miradouro de Santa Luzia, red tile roofs lead to the Tagus River. The Miradouro da Graca provides a wonderful look over the Baixa and to the Barro Alto districts. Further in the distance, Pont de 25 Abril (25th of April Bridge) spans the Tagus
Tile Clad Facades
A unique feature of Portuguese architecture is the use of tiles to adorn buildings. The myriad of colors and patterns result in strikingly beautiful facades. Throughout Alfama, you encounter these.
Shops and Restaurants
Shops and restaurants line many of the main streets. People live and work in Alfama, though. So, not everything screams tourist trap.
We love Portuguese tiles. They make wonderful souvenirs and can readily be found. In Lisbon, most are mass produced. In Sintra, we watched tiles being hand painted.
On our first visit, we stumbled onto the Feira da Ladra/Market of Thieves. This lively flea market sold a little of everything: art, crafts, clothes, jewelry, furniture; you name it. It was a nice surpise.
Old World Charm
Although tourists fill Alfama, it still maintains a charm and feels lived in. Laundry hangs from windows. An old woman wearing a head scarf gave directions to tourists through the upper half of a Dutch door that could not have been more than 5 feet /1.5 m high.
Take a map, but for the most part, ignore it. The true pleasure of visiting the Alfama neighborhood of Lisbon comes from exploring and finding the unexpected. Pick out a landmark and head toward it.
It is hard to truly get lost. Walk down hill and look for the river. It is that easy.
Alfama is quite hilly. If this is a problem then you will need a tour. Bus and car tours of Alfama do not work well because of the narrow streets. Friends took Tuk Tuk Tours and thoroughly enjoyed them. Others took bike, scooter, and Segway tours.
Search for miradouros/viewpoints. Wonderful views await. Locals and tourists congregate at these and give a lively atmosphere.
Unless you are truly interested in detailed history, walking tours in my opinion are not necessary. If your legs are up to it, then I recommend going it on your own on foot.
We loved wandering the streets of Alfama and hope to return again.