Alfama

Top choice area in Alfama, Castelo & Graça

Image by M G Therin Weise Getty Images

Wander downhill (to save your legs) through Alfama's steep, narrow, cobblestoned streets and catch a glimpse of the more traditional side of Lisbon before it too is gentrified. Linger in a backstreet cafe along the way and experience some local bonhomie without the tourist gloss.

As far back as the 5th century, Alfama was inhabited by the Visigoths, and remnants of a Visigothic town wall remain. But it was the Moors who gave the district its shape and atmosphere. In Moorish times this was an upper-class residential area. After earthquakes brought down many of its mansions (and post-Moorish churches) it reverted to a working-class, fisher-folk quarter. It was one of the few districts to ride out the 1755 earthquake.

With narrow lanes of residential houses and grocery stores, it has a distinct village atmosphere; you can quickly feel like an intruder if you take a wrong turn into someone's backyard. Early morning is the best time to catch a more traditional scene, when women sell fresh fish from their doorways. For a real rough-and-tumble atmosphere, visit during the Festas dos Santos Populares in June.


Advertisement