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Alfama

Lisbon's labyrinthine oldest district houses a variety of historical churches, fado bars and restaurants.

TravelCurious Tip

Visit during the Festas dos Santos Populares in June for an authentic, rough and ready party atmosphere

Alfama is Lisbon’s oldest district, one of the only parts of the city not destroyed by the great 1755 earthquake. Spread over one of the seven hills on which the city is built, this is the city’s Arab quarter, and you can tell: with its labyrinth of narrow streets, crooked alleys and steep steps it has the feel of a kasbah. Old as it is, Alfama contains some of Lisbon’s main attractions, including the formidable Castelo de São Jorge and the Romanesque Sé Cathedral.


Between the Old and the New

Alfama has historically been a poor district of Lisbon, populated by fishermen, but it’s becoming trendier ever year. Yet it still retains its ancient charm and distinct village atmosphere. Washing lines hang between pretty, dilapidated buildings, and melancholic Fado music drifts alongside the smells of sardines being barbecued on the streets and pastelerias serving sweet tarts and strong espresso. To catch its more traditional aspect, visit in the early morning, when women are selling fresh fish from their doorways.


28, A Leap Through Time

Take the number 28 tram for a rattling, clunky and completely enchanting ride through history. This route connects the district of Graça with Baixa, passing through the streets of Alfama. The narrow roads and all the ups and downs mean modern trams simply can’t hack it. So instead you’ll be riding in the tiny, historic Remodelado trams which date from the 1930s. Hop off the number 28 tram at the Santa Luzia viewpoint for Alfama’s best view, stretching over its tiled roofs and the gleaming Tagus estuary.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Lisbon
St George’s Castle
An impressive Moorish castle, overlooking the historic centre of Lisbon and the Tagus River.
Roman Theatre Museum
The site of a 1st century Roman theatre, situated on the slope of St. George's Castle.
Lisbon Cathedral (Sé de Lisboa)
This impressive Roman Catholic cathedral dates from 1147 and has survived a number of earthquakes.
Rossio Square
One of Lisbon's main squares since the Middle Ages, Rossio was destroyed and reconstructed after the great 1755 earthquake.
Baixa Pombalina
A particularly elegant district of Lisbon, the Lower Town was among the world's first earthquake-resistant constructions.
Portas do Sol
A spectacular viewpoint looking out over Lisbon and the Tagus river.

Related Tours

First Time in Lisbon: The Private Express Tour
Discover Lisbon, one of the world’s oldest cities and seaports, home to winding cobbled streets, wide piazzas, UNESCO treasures and vibrant yellow trams.
 
  • Begin your three-hour tour at Chiado Square, a cultural hub in the heart of Lisbon
  • Explore the open-air ruins of Carmo Convent, a reminder of Lisbon’s devastating 1755 earthquake
  • Enjoy panoramic views from Lisbon’s ornate iron lift, the Elevador de Santa Justa
  • Experience Rossio and its cobblestone square with Baroque fountains
  • Visit Baixa and Praça do Comércio to learn how Lisbon was rebuilt with distinctive Pombaline architecture after its infamous earthquake
  • Learn about Roman Catholicism at Sé de Lisboa, the city’s grand cathedral
  • Stroll through the steep streets of trendy Alfama, Lisbon’s oldest district
 On this three-hour walking tour, an expert local guide will introduce you to Lisbon, a city stuffed with Medieval towers, Baroque palaces and dome-topped monasteries. Dating back to 1200 BC, Portugal’s capital has always been one of Europe’s key seaports, a powerhouse to rival London, Paris and Rome. On this express tour, you’ll get a flavour of Lisbon’s past, visiting some of its most iconic historical and cultural sights.
 
Rising from the ruins of the 1755 earthquake
 
Meet at Largo do Chiado and journey back in time to the Middle Ages to uncover Jewish and Moorish heritage. Learn about one of the city’s defining moments, November 1st 1755, when a magnitude nine earthquake, one of the strongest ever recorded, hit the city followed by a wave of tsunamis and fires. The ruins of Convento do Carmo lend testament to this historical turning point; its nave remains roofless after caving in on that fateful day.
 
In Baixa, Lisbon’s downtown, commercial centre, you’ll learn how the ruined district was revived by the Marquis of Pombal, who designed a revolutionary new grid pattern for Lisbon, filling the streets with neoclassical architecture and earthquake-resistant buildings. Walk through the grand Arco da Rua Augusta in Commercial Square and ride the skinny, 450-metre-tall Elevador de Santa Justa to appreciate Lisbon’s iconic street plan from an aerial perspective.
 
Colourful culture in Alfama
 
At Rossio Square, you can admire the wave-patterned cobblestones, pavement-side coffee shops and marble monument. The tour ends with a walk around the Alfama district, once a poor area set outside the city walls but now a popular arty district with labyrinthine streets. Wander the steep alleyways where yellow trams wind up to St George’s Castle, past ancient houses, Fado bars and colourful shopfronts. The district is home to Sé de Lisboa, the 1147 Romanesque cathedral that has miraculously withstood the city’s many quakes.

If you’re looking for a quick, informative introduction to Portugal’s multi-cultural capital, then this express tour is the perfect option. 
Private Lisbon Full Day Highlights Walking Tour inc skip the line tickets
Explore Portugal’s capital on this full-day Lisbon walking tour, which showcases everything from cathedrals to castles, praças to palaces and monasteries to UNESCO monuments.
 
  • Take in the panoramic views of Lisbon from the Moorish St George’s Castle.
  • Visit key religious sites including the Sé de Lisboa cathedral and the earthquake-ravaged ruins of Carmo Convent.
  • Soak up the atmosphere in the thriving downtown Baixa district and in Lisbon’s most iconic praças: Rossio and Comércio.
  • Learn about Lisbon in the Middle Ages as you wander the steep gothic streets of the Alfama neighbourhood.
  • Explore the bohemian Bairro Alto, Lisbon’s entertainment district with its bars and Fado music.
  • Stop for a traditional Portuguese lunch (not included in price).
  • Head to historic Belém to see its 17th century palace, UNESCO-listed tower and Jerónimos Monastery.
  • Discover cultural treasures at The National Coach Music and Cultural Centre of Belém.
 On this comprehensive, eight-hour walking tour, you’ll explore Lisbon’s most important cultural and historic sites with an expert local guide. Discover everything from Lisbon’s roots as one of Europe’s most important seaports and magnet for world explorers during the Age of Discovery, to how its progressive city grid plan was developed after the horrific earthquake of 1755. Visit religious monuments, trendy cobblestone districts, historic Belem and so much more.  
 
The origins of Lisbon
 
You’ll begin delving into Lisbon’s history, which dates back to 1200 BC, by visiting key landmarks like the 1st century Roman Theatre of Lisboa and 12th century gothic cathedral, Sé de Lisboa, which has withstood the city’s cataclysmic earthquakes. From the Moorish St George’s Castle, you can admire sweeping views over Lisbon and the Tagus River and walk its impressive stone walls, which date back to the 6th century.
 
Travel back to the Middle Ages in the cobblestone streets of the Alfama neighbourhood, where vibrant yellow trams chug up the steep, narrow roads. Once a poor area located outside of Lisbon’s city walls, Alfama is now one of Lisbon’s trendiest districts and you’ll get to explore its colourful shops, buildings and bars whilst learning about the area’s Jewish and Moorish culture.
 
Back in downtown Baixa, you’ll hear about the magnitude nine earthquake which levelled much of Portugal’s capital and killed thousands in 1755. Rossio Square and Commerce Square are the perfect places to appreciate the revolutionary grid-like city plan and earthquake-resistant buildings that were implemented by the Marquis of Pombal after the disaster. The remains of  Convento do Carmo, with its roofless nave, are a reminder of the damage caused by one of the strongest quakes ever recorded.
 
Belém and Lisbon’s Age of Discovery
 
You’ll get the chance to visit Bairro Alto, a bohemian quarter known for its street art, bars and traditional Fado houses before heading to the beautiful Belém municipality. This area is famous for the 17th century Belém Palace, which was home to the Portuguese Monarchy for centuries. Both the Torre de Belém, a 16th-century fortification tower, and grand Jeronimos Monastery are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which you’ll get to admire.
 
Stop by the Discoveries Monument, which celebrates Portugal’s role in the Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries, then take some time to peruse the world’s largest collection of horse-drawn carriages at the National Coach Museum. Round off the tour with a visit to the Cultural Centre of Belém, the largest museum in Portugal which showcases the country’s cultural and technological achievements. 

Looking for an in-depth tour of Lisbon? Than this full-day highlights tour fits the bill, offering an overview of the city’s most famous sights and historical moments. 
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