Travel Guide of Alfama, Lisbon for: Solar Do Castelo HotelAlfama, Lisbon, Lisbon District
- Stunningly preserved hillside neighborhood with traditional charm
- Home to St. George's Castle -- an ancient hilltop fortress with excellent Lisbon views
- Packed with Old World fado restaurants
- Narrow cobblestone streets are almost too scenic to believe
- Tons of historic sights, including Lisbon's main cathedral
- Popular Tram 28 navigates neighborhood's warren of streets
- Quieter than some neighborhoods, like Bairro Alto, Baixa, and Chiado
- Exploring the area means navigating hills and stairs
- Tourism is quickly altering the neighborhood's character
- Tuk-tuk tours tend to clog the roads
- You'll wait a long time to ride Tram 28
What It's Like
If cobblestone streets, brightly painted houses, seemingly endless scenic twists and turns, and fado are your idea of Lisbon, then head directly to Alfama. One of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, Alfama owes its roots to the Visigoths and the Moors, and vestiges of both can still be spotted along many of the narrow, confused streets that make up this atmospheric part of town. A visit here tops the list of many travelers to Lisbon, and it's an undeniably pretty part of town in which to get lost. However, the tourist impact in Alfama grows every year, and these days you're more likely to spot tuk-tuk tours and souvenir shops clogging the streets that you authentic bakeries and cafes. Even so, it can still make for a convincing step back in time.
Situated just east of busy Baixa, Alfama is a steep hillside neighborhood that's spoiled when it comes to scenic vistas. Views across Lisbon and the Tagus River are spectacular from many of its steep staircases. However, if you want to tap into one of the oldest corners of Lisbon and be treated to epic city views, make the steep climb to the top of the neighborhood. There, St. George's Castle draws travelers in spades, with its leafy grounds and Moorish ramparts that stretch back to the 13th century (and possibly earlier). But history literally threads itself through nearly every part of Alfama. Down below, Lisbon's main cathedral sits along the tracks of Tram 28, the busy classic street car that winds its way across Lisbon all day long. The tram route passes Portas do Sol, another famous viewpoint in the neighborhood. Keep in mind that this is an incredibly popular route and that you may have to wait for several trams to pass before getting on board.
Culture runs deep in Alfama, and the bairro has numerous famous fado joints where the city's iconic mournful music is played alongside glasses of wine and traditional fare. Tasco do Chico -- one of the most famous fado spots in Lisbon -- has an outpost here, though there are numerous other venues throughout Alfama. Street art enthusiasts are also in luck, as the steep staircases and narrow lanes hold an amazing array of murals that make for excellent urban photography.
Where to Stay
Despite its ever-growing appeal for tourists, you won't find too many big hotels in this part of town. Instead, it's all about quaint guesthouses, bed-and-breakfasts, and boutique spots in Alfama. No matter where you stay, if you're bedding down here, the mornings will be the most peaceful time of day and are a great time to sample the remaining authentic vestiges of the neighborhood. As the day draws on, tourists will arrive in packs. You'll also need to prepare yourself for navigating steep hills and staircases to get to any other parts of Lisbon. Travelers who want the appeal of this classic part of town, but don't want to suffer the steep climbs multiple times a day should stick to the lower streets, near the cathedral (in the Sé district, which is often lumped in with Alfama). However, this is arguably the busiest and most crowded part of the Alfama. If you want great views, go higher up the hill. We love Solar do Castelo, almost at the top of the hill and near the castle.