The Alfama is Lisbon’s oldest and most atmospheric quarter, a labyrinthine maze of narrow streets, steps and alleys wrapped round the steep lower slopes of the Moorish castle. Walking round the area is a must for any Lisbon visit. It’s the street life that’s the interest here, much of it continuing in the same way as it has for centuries, with children playing in the squares and alleys, and families cooking fish on tiny grills outside their houses. Appropriately in an area which is home to many fado clubs, there is also a museum dedicated to this classic Portuguese music genre, while around the Alfama are further distractions in the form of the city’s cathedral, two historic churches containing national pantheons, a fantastic market, and museums dedicated to a Roman theatre, decorative arts and – further east – Portuguese tiles.
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Alfama walks and viewpoints
The easiest place to start a wander around the Alfama is along the road below the Sé, which becomes Rua de São João de Praça, and later Rua de São Pedro. Follow this as it twists its way down to the Alfama’s lower square, Largo do Chafariz de Dentro, home to many of the city’s best fado bars and clubs. From here, head uphill and you’ll probably get lost in the maze of alleys that wend up past the church of São Miguel to emerge by the Largo das Portas do Sol, a viewpoint with a tremendous outlook – a solitary palm rising from the stepped streets against the dome of Santa Engraçia and the Tejo beyond. Just round the corner, in front of the Igreja da Santa Luzia, the Mirádouro da Santa Luzia has perhaps the city’s best views across the Alfama and the river.