Alfama Lisbon District

Alfama: The Quaint Lisbon Neighborhood

Alfama Lisbon District is where travelers can enjoy insights to authentic Portuguese way of life, in the capital’s oldest and most historic district. The humble neighborhood with narrow alleyways, steep streets, crumbling churches and rebuilt structures that survived the 1755 earthquake, make up the scenery for this picturesque district of the capital Lisbon.

Alfama is also one of the best known Lisbon areas to enjoy shows of Fado, a local music genre that attracts the interest of many visitors. Usually Fado shows are performed by one or more artists, in small taverns or restaurants where you can also eat local traditional food and enjoy the show.

Amidst the aging buildings and sun-baked houses, there are trendy shops and bars serving the younger generation. While leisurely walks in this steep sloped district are a pleasurable way to soak in the local atmosphere, hopping onto Tram 28 will take visitors to most of the popular attractions in Alfama. There are many “hop on-hop off” bus services plying along Avenida Infante Dom Henrique, the road running parallel to the Tejo. This route connects travelers from the train station Santa Apolonia to Praca do Comercio

Alfama Lisbon district is home to some of Lisbon’s most famous attractions like the stately Castelo de Sao Jorge, the Se Cathedral of Lisbon and the Santa Engracia Church among other museums and churches. The best panoramic views of the Alfama district are from the public belvederes of Portas do Sol and Santa Luzia, where the sight sprawls over the rooftops all the way to the Tagus River.

Castelo de Sao Jorge, perched on the eastern hill of Lisbon, served as the hilltop citadel of the Moors. It was converted into a Portuguese royal residence after Lisbon was recaptured from the North African-Arabian invaders, in 1147. Later on, King Manuel I took upon the task to build a more lavish palace at the current Praca do Comercio and Castelo de Sao Jorge underwent several reincarnations. It has seen days as a theatre, prison and even an arms depot. The 1755 earthquake caused such devastation to the castle grounds that it remained in ruined state until 1938. Then the local government began a complete overhaul of the medieval walls, while adding to the flora and wildlife population, which these days are still very much part of the landscape.  Today, the towering ramparts from the past overlook the Alfama Lisbon district and attract visitors to its popular promenade, where spectacular views of the city await.

Santa Engracia, the 17th century church building whose construction is a 300 year old saga, forms a prominent part of Lisbon’s skyline. The delayed construction throughout the centuries has led to a local expression which refers to a ‘Santa Engracia’ job as a task never completed. The church building, finally completed in 1966, now serves as the National Pantheon, being home to cenotaphs of prominent persons in Portuguese history such as Vasco da Gama and the Viceroy of India, Alfonso de Albuquerque. The viewpoint from the dome, accessible by a lift, provides sweeping sights of Alfama Lisbon District and also of the whole city.

Se of Lisbon, short for Sedes Episcopalis was the cathedral built for the first bishop of Lisbon, Gilbert of Hastings, an English crusader. Built in 1150 and having survived three devastating earth tremors in the 14th century and the 1755 earthquake, the cathedral has been revamped over the centuries, resulting in the present blend of architectural designs. The strong Roman influence is clearly evident in the distinct facade with twin bell towers and the magnificent rose window. The simple interior is a pale shadow of its embellished past during the reign of King Joao V in the first half of 18th century.  The nine Gothic chapels within the cathedral have various interesting sights to intrigue the visitors. These include sarcophagi from the 14th century, Gothic cloisters, numerous sculptures and remains from archaeological excavations.

Making up the fascinating sights of the Alfama Lisbon district are various museums and churches dotting different sections of the neighborhood, turning it into one of most visited and enjoyed by tourists coming to Lisbon.

Tags: , , ,

Popular Places