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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.
Portas do Sol
A spectacular viewpoint looking out over Lisbon and the Tagus river.
Former PIDE Headquarters
Uncover the secrets and scandals of the Portuguese security agency.
Miradouro de Santa Luzia
This romantic terrace offers amazing views of Lisbon & the Tagus River.

Related Tours

First Time in Lisbon: The Private Express Walking 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. On your private express tour, you will:

  • Explore four of Lisbon's most famous neighbourhoods: Chiado, Baxia, Se' and Alfama
  • 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
  • Admire the view from Lisbon's most famous view point, decorated with Azulejo tiles : Miradouro de Santa Luzia

On this 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.

You private tour begins at Largo do Chiado, where you will journey back to the Middle Ages to uncover the city’s Jewish and Moorish heritage. Hear about the impact of one of Lisbon’s defining moments, November 1st 1755, when a magnitude 9 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, see 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.

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. 
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