Lisbon: Exploring Alfama

I'm going to start with the hilly neighbourhood of Alfama for my first Lisbon post. That's not because it's the most touristy area, it really isn't - Alfama is where the locals live - but because it's one of the oldest parts of Lisbon, filled with narrow cobbled streets that you can get lost in. It's also the only part of Lisbon to (mostly) survive the great 1755 earthquake.

Hills aside - though most of Lisbon is super hilly - Alfama is an excellent base for exploring and will cut down on you using public transport or taxis to get around Lisbon (though not completely, areas like Belem aren't comfortably walkable from here). We stayed in the heart of Alfama in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom airbnb which had a shared pool with an awesome view of Castelo de São Jorge - I'd definitely stay in this area (and at this airbnb) again. Look at the awesome Moorish tiles our building had!

Castelo de S. Jorge (St George's Castle) is located at the top of Alfama and it's the best place to go for an awesome view (we did, it felt like, go to most of the miradouros - viewing points - in Lisbon, so I can say this with authority; the view from the castle is at the bottom of this post). OK, the castle isn't free like the mouridaras are - entry costs €10 - but it's worth visiting. It dates back to the 8th century people-wise - with fortifications dating all the way back to the 1st century - so has quite the history. (And just like we could see the castle from our pool, we could see our pool from the castle!)

If you want to visit a miradouro in the Alfama area, Miradouro da Graca is a good one. If you approach it from Rua dos Lagares (this is the street our airbnb was on, actually) and head up the stairs you're going to see plenty of cool street art all the way up to the terrace (pictured below). Beyond this is also Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, the highest miradouro in Lisbon, which is said to be a great viewing point at sunset - or you could do your castle visit then. 


But maybe you fancy sunset with a drink? Then you want Miradouro das Portas do Sol, which has just that and a closer sweeping view of the red-tiled roofs of Alfama. Head down the stairs from there and you'll find a mural depicting the history of Lisbon by Nuno Saraiva. Like with lots of Lisbon walls, it will likely be covered in graffiti. You get used to it! (We did none of these sunset options but went for a sunset cruise which I'll tell you about another time.)

You'll find another colourful mural in-between Mercado de Santa Clara and the National Pantheon.  Known locally as the "thieves' market" (Feira da Larda), Mercado de Santa Clara is a flea market which runs on Tuesdays and Saturdays. I personally wouldn't recommend it - there's a lot of tat - but it's worth popping in the National Pantheon (Panteao Nacional) if you're over this way.

Entry to the National Pantheon costs €3 - or buy a joint ticket with the National Tile Museum (Museu do Azulejo) that's valid for 48 hours for €7, which is what we did. (I think, it was either valid for 48 hours of 7 days... I honestly can't remember/find it online.) There you'll find, after climbing up many stairs, another sweeping view of Lisbon. Famous Portuguese people like presidents, writers and footballers are entombed at the National Pantheon, plus there are cenotaphs of Portuguese explorers like Vasco da Gama and Henry the Navigator.  

Other places of note in the Alfama area are the Church of Sao Vicente of Fora (just by the National Pantheon), Lisbon Cathedral (Sé), which was built originally in 1147 and is the oldest church in the city, and the Museum of Fado. If you're after an iconic photo, time it right and you can get a picture of one of Lisbon's famous yellow trams as it travels in front of Lisbon Cathedral - I wasn't patient enough to wait, as you can see above! The most famous tram route in Lisbon also starts in Alfama - tram 28, pictured at the top of this post. If you ride it, be wary of pickpockets.

Back to the Museum of Fado, which we didn't visit, a museum dedicated to the Portuguese version of blues music. There are plenty of bars in the Alfama area where fado will be the evening's entertainment - we just had a drink there in the day, but O Prego is one such place (and also a great place to spy those yellow trams from). If you fancy an ice cream, Giallo, which is opposite the museum, serves up tasty and interesting flavours. I enjoyed a scoop of lemon, honey and rosemary sorbet with a scoop of vanilla and basil ice cream. Yum! 

Which brings me to where you can eat and drink in Alfama as you'll need some food to get you up all those hills! Breakfast-wise we enjoyed Quase Cafe and Augusto Lisboa, both excellent cafes with very generous portions. I had the best scrambled eggs I've ever eaten at Augusto Lisboa (above left), which is saying something, whilst Olly had their signature dish (above right).

An awesome place to go for dinner for delicious Nepalese food is Yak and Yeti - and it's dirt cheap. It may have a very simple decor, but the food is incredible. I went for momo to start with (fried Nepalese dumplings), followed by chicken thali, and everyone else had various yummy curries. Can highly recommend you eat there as well.

Alfama is a great neighbourhood to explore (or stay in) and shouldn't be ignored - make sure you add it to your list if you're visiting Lisbon. x

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