Guide to Lisbon’s Alfama district

Visiter le quartier de l'Alfama à Lisbonne

Coming to Portugal soon? Find out all there is to know about Lisbon’s fantastic Alfama district!

Alfama is undoubtedly Lisbon’s most typical district. With its steep streets, cafés and artisanal stores, it has everything to seduce travelers! In fact, when you think of Lisbon, images of the Alfama inevitably come to mind. You’ll even find the historic tramway line n°28, which runs through the district all the way to São Jorge Castle. This magnificent medieval castle has overlooked the Alfama since the 11th century. Of course, there are many other monuments, viewpoints and cultural sights in the district, making it a must-see!

But especially at nightfall, some of the district’s old restaurants play host to fado singers. This traditional melancholy music invades the streets and enchants visitors. Coming to Lisbon soon? We’ll tell you all you need to know about the wonderful Alfama district!

The Alfama district in a nutshell

Bâtiments colorés, Alfama, Lisbonne

Photo credit: Shutterstock – joyfull

Alfama is one of Lisbon’s oldest districts. Its name derives from the Arabic  » alf maa « , meaning « hot springs ». During Muslim rule, this district was located within the Cerca Moura, the city walls built by the Moors.

With the return of Christian rule in 1147, the Alfama district expanded eastwards. At the time, it was the city’s most pleasant district. Unfortunately, the wealthy inhabitants gradually moved west to protect themselves from earthquakes. The fishermen and poor settled in Alfama. Now located outside the city walls, it was associated with poverty and miserable living conditions. As Lisbon developed into a major port and maritime city, the district became the place where sailors and dockers lived.

Today, the Alfama is a far cry from its former reputation. It has preserved and enhanced its heritage, transforming it into a friendly, trendy and authentic place! The many monuments on its slopes bear witness to the district’s long history.

What to see and do in Lisbon’s Alfama district?

The Alfama is definitely one of the most pleasant districts to visit! The best way to explore it is to willingly lose yourself in its labyrinth of alleys and lanes. Around every corner, or at the end of a slope, you’ll discover superb squares, charming boutiques and typical cafés.

Would you like to visit Lisbon’s Alfama district? Then here’s one of the best itineraries for discovering each of the district’s wonders.

The heights of Alfama

Monastère São Vicente de Fora

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Helissa Grundemann

Before visiting Castelo, we recommend you take streetcar 28 to Largo da Graça. You can then go to the Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen. From here, you’ll enjoy superb views of central Lisbon and the Castelo de São Jorge. From here, take the main street to the sublime Igreja de São Vicente de Fora. This monastery is one of the country’s most important Mannerist buildings!

From here, follow the streetcar lines to Largo das Portas do Sol, Alfama’s largest square. Along the way and around the square, you’ll discover a tangle of cobbled streets and pretty little hidden squares. This is one of the most beautiful parts of Lisbon! You can also visit the Igreja de Santa Luzia estate. Richly decorated with sumptuous painted azulejos tiles, the monastery is home to another popular vantage point. And don’t miss the Museu de Artes Decorativas, housed in a former Azurara palace.

From Largo das Portas do Sol, it’s a steep climb to the Castelo de São Jorge. Overlooking the Alfama, it boasts a superb keep, huge ramparts, an interesting museum and, of course, superb views!

Alfama West

Cathédrale Sé et tram 28, Lisbone

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Farbregas Hareluya

On the way down from the castle, you’ll come across the Teatro Romano and its museum, a must-see attraction in the area. You can then visit the sublime Sé Cathedral, the oldest church in the city. In the cloister, you can observe the excavations and archaeological research carried out on site.

Not far from the cathedral, you can also discover the Igreja de Santo António de Lisboa. This church was built on the birthplace of Saint Anthony, the patron saint of Lisbon and Portugal.

The lower parts of the Alfama

Marché aux puces Feira da Ladra

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Sean Hsu

In the lower parts, you’ll find the famous Museu do Fado. Along the way, you can contemplate the Chafariz d’El Rei or climb the stairs to the Arco de Jesus. Between the museum, dedicated to Fado, and the Portas do Sol, lies one of the most authentic corners of the district. It’s full of sloping streets, small squares and staircases. We recommend it for a quiet exploration at the end of this itinerary!

But first, make your way to the Igreja de Santo Estêvão, where you’ll find another superb viewpoint. A short walk then takes you to the magnificent Panteão Nacional. In this ancient church, 12 of Portugal’s leading personalities are buried. On the roof, you’ll enjoy a sublime panorama of the Tagus estuary. Opposite the Pantheon, you’ll find the Jardim Botto Machado and its famous Feira da Ladra flea market. It’s held every Tuesday and Saturday.

Finally, if you’re interested in military history, you can visit the Museu Militar. Or lose yourself in the district’s fantastic alleyways. Charming cafés, typical restaurants and craft stores await you!

Guided tours of the Alfama district

To learn more about the district and make sure you don’t miss a thing, you can of course opt for a guided tour of the Alfama! Several types of tour are available.

Guided walking tour of the Alfama

Personnes marchant dans le quartier de l'Alfama

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Adam Wasilewski

To visit the Alfama district, there are 2.5-hour walking tours. Accompanied by a local guide, you’ll wander through the narrow streets of this typical Lisbon district. You’ll discover St. George’s Castle at the top of the city, learn more about the history of Fado, visit Lisbon Cathedral, the Church of St. Anthony and admire many other monuments!

This guided tour costs an average of €14 per person.

Guided tour of the Alfama and fado concert

Groupe de fado à Lisbonne

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Sopotnicki

Would you like to attend a Fado concert? If so, you can opt for a guided tour of the district, followed by a concert in a traditional fado house! This type of tour is often preceded by a traditional dinner. Lasting 4 hours, this tour with a local guide will enable you to learn more about the history of the district and of this music.

Prices are around €35 for this type of visit.

Guided tour on streetcar 28

Tram 28 dans le quartier de l'Alfama à Lisbonne

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Olena Z

To visit the Alfama district, you can opt for a tour on foot or by streetcar! This 3-hour tour takes in the vast majority of the district’s monuments and treasures. Of course, you’ll be accompanied by an enthusiastic local guide who’ll tell you all about the district’s history and special features.

Count €18 per person on average for this guided tour of the Alfama.

Guided tuk-tuk tour

Tuk-tuk dans le quartier d'Alfama à Lisbonne

Photo credit: Shutterstock – portumen

Not interested in the streetcar? Then opt for a guided tuk-tuk tour! As with the previous tour, you’ll be able to discover most of the wonders of the Alfama district quickly and effortlessly. Carrying up to 6 people, tuk-tuk are the best way to explore Lisbon’s narrow streets.

On average, this tour costs €20 per person and often includes other parts of Lisbon.

The best hotels to stay at in the Alfama district

To extend your discovery of the Alfama, there’s nothing better than staying there during your stay in Lisbon! We particularly recommend the Convento do Salvador and Santiago de Alfama hotels.

The first is a chic, modern hotel. Located in a former convent, it is beautifully decorated with local artwork. The second occupies a restored 15th-century palace. The rooms are equally comfortable. Some even have a view of the river! For a night’s stay, expect to pay between €80 and €120 minimum.

In the Alfama district, you can also rely on the Alfama Yellow House, Alma Moura Residences or Hotel Riverside Alfama. And for those on a budget, we recommend Suave Lisboa Hostel, located high up in the district.

Where to eat in Lisbon’s Alfama district?

Of course, this district is full of good cafés, typical restaurants and bars where fado reigns! In terms of addresses, we can’t recommend Café Audrey’s enough. This restaurant has a beautiful terrace and serves delicious typical dishes and tapas. It’s also the perfect place for brunch in Lisbon! Prices here range from €7 to €20 for a dish.

You can also opt for the Farol de Santa Luzia restaurant, renowned throughout the capital for its seafood dishes! We also recommend the Parreirinha de Alfama restaurant, which may be a little pricey, but offers delicious traditional cuisine and exceptional fado concerts! For each of these restaurants, be sure to make a special dinner reservation.

Finally, for a hearty and delicious breakfast, we recommend the charming Alfama Doce bakery.

How do I get to the Alfama district?

To reach this typical district, we recommend you take the legendary streetcar 28, which circles Lisbon’s oldest districts. You can also reach the district from the Rossio and Martim Moniz (green line ) or Terreiro do Paço (blue line) metro stations.

From one of these stations, the district can be reached in 10 to 15 minutes on foot.