Alfama Neighbourhood Guide: Lisbon’s Most Charming District

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Alfama is Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhood, its most traditional and charming. One of the only districts to be spared from the devastating earthquake of 1755, Alfama is the historic soul of Lisbon and its steep, cobblestoned lanes stand just as they were in medieval times. When the WOW Team visited Lisbon recently, we headed directly to Alfama to explore the heart of Lisbon and to kick off our trip the right way! Here’s our guide on the very best that this charming neighbourhood has to offer.

Things to do:


Castelo de São Jorge

Alfama’s castle can be seen from almost anywhere in Lisbon and is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. Visitors can climb the towers or wander along the ramparts for some of the most breathtaking views across the city, the river and on clear days, the distant Atlantic Ocean.

Alfama_neighbourhood_guide Alfama_neighbourhood_guide_lisbon

Get lost in the steep, cobblestoned lanes

Exploring Alfama’s maze of tiny streets, cobblestoned lanes and steep staircases feels as though you’ve stepped back in time. The winding, rabbit warren of alleyways lined with intricately tiled houses with wrought iron balconies, hanging washing and colourful, peeling paint reinforces the feeling that this is a living, breathing district and not one falsely constructed for tourists. Leave your map at the hotel and get wonderfully lost in these streets for a few hours.


Ride the number 28 tram

One of the highlights of any visit to Alfama is to ride the famous number 28 tram. This narrow, yellow tram has become an icon of Lisbon as it winds its way through the tiny, steep streets. You won’t find trams like these anywhere else in the world – they’re still the original models that were commissioned back in the 1930s. The tram route is long, but the Alfama section is the most enjoyable.


Miradouro de Santa Luzia

The romantic terrace of the Miradouro de Santa Luzia offers sweeping views over Alfama and the Tagus River. Find a spot and sit for a little while admiring the cascading bougainvillea, the chipped tiles and the stunning vista below.



Bring your wallet so you can browse the traditional shops selling all manner of beautiful prints, tiles and crafts. If you’re in town on a Tuesday or Saturday, be sure to visit the famous Feira da Ladra flea market for an eclectic mix of item and the best place to pick up Portuguese baskets.


Admire the vibrant colours

Alfama is Lisbon’s most colourful neighbourhood and a feast for the eyes. The brightly pained, albeit weathered houses, the pretty flowers bursting from balconies and the impressive tiling that decorates almost every inch of the district will fill your camera’s memory card in no time!


Miradouro de Graça

High up on the hill is the residential Graça district and another of Lisbon’s beautiful viewpoints: Miradouro de Graça. This is a favourite spot amongst locals because of its splendid terrace and panoramic views over Lisbon as well as Castelo de São Jorge. It’s much more peaceful than Miradouro de Santa Luzia. Have a drink at the open air café in the late afternoon.


Churches and cathedrals

Alfama is also home to some spectacular and significant churches and cathedrals. Be sure to stop in at the Romanesque Sé Cathedral with its twin castellated bell towers, the Igreja de Santa Engrácia-Panteão Nacional, one of the most recognisable buildings in the Alfama skyline, and the Igreja de São Vicente de Fora, admired for its spectacular Baroque canopy over the alter.


How to get around

Because Alfama is a maze of steep hills and narrow lanes, transport options are limited. The best way to get around this neighbourhood is on your own two feet of course. A popular walking route is to follow the tram route from Baixa to Miradouro de Santa Luzia. Another favourite route is to exit from the Santa Apolónia metro station and climb the steep streets up to the castle. Be sure to take the number 28 tram at least once as well.

Another unique way to get around Alfama is by tuk tuk! Asia isn’t the only place you can zip around in these three-wheeled auto rickshaws. Tuks tuks are perfect for navigating the narrow, undulating streets and make for an exciting and fun way to experience the city.


What to eat

Lisbon is a foodie’s delight and you can’t come to Portugal’s capital without sampling the following dishes, many of which can be found in Alfama: bacalhau (the Portuguese national dish of salt cod), caldo verde (a green soup made with cabbage, onions, potatoes and chourico sausage), carne de porco Alentejana (Portugal’s version of surf and turf featuring pork and clams), queijo de serra (a creamy sheep’s milk cheese), and of course the famous pasteis de nata (custard tarts), which can be found all over the city!


Where to stay

If you’re looking for a central Alfama hotel with a focus on good design, the Memmo Alfama is the place to stay. Located in the heart of the neighbourhood and only steps away from the Sé Catheral and Castelo de São Jorge, the Memmo Alfama is already considered one of Lisbon’s finest hotels and is also the first boutique hotel in the city’s historic quarter. The wine terrace and rooftop pool offer some of the best views over Alfama. Its contemporary feel, minimalist design and high standards make it a great base for your stay in Alfama.

Have you been to Alfama in Lisbon? What did you love about it?

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  • aldubra16@hotmail.com'
    Ana Lucía
    January 18, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    I was there a couple of years ago and this post brought me right back, you really captured the beauty of the place with just a couple of pictures. I can’t wait to go back!

  • thedailymiacis@gmail.com'
    The Daily Miacis
    November 14, 2015 at 11:59 am

    Ah there so much good food here in Portugal! 😀

  • admilacardoso@hotmail.com'
    November 14, 2015 at 11:27 am

    Loved the photos!
    Lisbon is such a beautiful city! I live like 30 minutes away and yet don’t get the chance to visit it as much as I would like. But every time I do I love it!

    Lots of hugs, A

  • petiteadventures@gmail.com'
    November 13, 2015 at 3:43 am

    We spent one night in Alfama during our recent Lisbon stay and it was fabulous! We got completely lost in the cobblestone street (less than ideal when carting three suitcases…), but it was still amazing–the sights, the sounds, the smells. I would highly recommend Alfama to anyone traveling to Lisbon!

  • ashleynitransky@hotmail.com'
    Ashley Wanders
    November 11, 2015 at 6:34 am

    Looks amazing! Portugal is at the top of my travel wishlist!

  • brittanyfromboston@gmail.com'
    November 11, 2015 at 5:00 am

    So beautiful! I have been thinking more and more recently that I really must go to Portugal, and I think this just sent me over the edge!

  • laura_martin1996@hotmail.com'
    Laura Mareno
    November 11, 2015 at 2:54 am

    Alfama is so beautiful! I absolutely loved the Castelo de Sao Jorge! The views was so breathtaking!! kisses:D

  • somogyibarbara@yahoo.com'
    November 10, 2015 at 10:06 pm

    This place is soo charming! Can’t wait to see it in person! Wonderful photos 🙂

  • christina@cavaforlunch.com'
    Christina - CavaforLunch.com
    November 10, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    What an adorable place! I really need to go there now xx

  • sarah@wanderbeforewhat.com'
    Sarah Hickey
    November 10, 2015 at 4:04 pm

    Great post on Alfama Rachel!
    I stayed there during my last visit to Lisbon and I just love the old-world feel of the neighbourhood, despite getting lost every time I left my Airbnb! Lol.

    Sarah Lynn

  • rockpaperglam@gmail.com'
    November 10, 2015 at 10:44 am

    Thank you for such a delightful tour guide of Alfama! Lisbon is on my list for next adventures. The idea of taking the 28 tram sounds alluring and memorable. Thanks again for sharing. Xo, Ellese