Alfama is Lisbon’s old town and is characterised by cobbled streets, narrow walkways, painted old buildings and tram lines frequented by the city’s oldest trams. This part of Lisbon has plenty of steep inclines as it’s all built on the slopes of the hill which lead to St George’s Castle at the top. Along the way though, there are plenty of panoramic views down to the river and some pleasant seating areas in which to enjoy them. We particularly liked the one below at the side of the church of Santa Luzia.
The big attraction of this area of Lisbon is how pretty it is. As such the best way to enjoy it is simply to wander around and soak it all up. Explore all the narrow walkways you can, because each one is different. Naturally, the biggest sights and busiest areas are on the tram route, but there’s so much more of Alfama to see then you can take in from a crowded tram window. Some of the streets are so narrow that you could touch the walls of the houses if you leaned out of a tram window.
The parts of Alfama we enjoyed the most were the streets around the castle, like the one above. The cobbled, winding pathways are packed with traditional houses and a number of gift and craft shops. They’re just lovely and the people who live in these streets are often sweeping the steps outside or watering their plants. The castle church is also worth popping into and is free. If you do want to see Alfama from a tram, the most popular route to take is the E28.
This tram leaves Praça Martim Moniz square every 10 or 15 minutes from 7am to 8pm. It’s a great route and it’s well worth doing, but it is absolutely packed during the main hours of the day. It’s not an enjoyable experience if you’re standing up and crammed in. So, our top tip would be to catch it at the first stop by 8am one morning. If you stay on after Alfama you’ll see Rossio, Baixa and Estrela before the tram route ends at Campo Ourique. Get yourself a Viva Viagem card which gives you the cheapest fares – much cheaper than buying on the tram and you can use it on pretty much all of Lisbon’s public transport. You can get a Viva Viagem card from any metro station and top it up with cash. All you do then is present the card on entry for whatever you are using – this is known as ‘zapping’.
There are a number of notable attractions in Alfama to visit. The one you shouldn’t miss is St George’s Castle (Castelo De Sao Jorge) which stands high on the hill overlooking the city. The views from here are stunning and the castle is open daily from 9am to 9pm from March to October and from 9am to 6pm at other times. Adult admission to the castle is 10 Euros (2019 prices). The other attraction you ought to visit is Lisbon Cathedral (pictured below) which stands towards the foot of the hill. Entrance to the cathedral is free.
LOCATION & MAP
This map shows the location of St George’s Castle and the surrounding district of Alfama. The easiest way to get the castle is to take bus 737 from Praca Da Figueira which takes you straight there. You can then walk down through the twisting streets of Alfamato get back to central Lisbon.