Top 9 Things to Do in Alfama, Lisbon | One Day Tours Portugal
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Top 9 Things to Do in Alfama, Lisbon

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June 13, 2024

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Reading time

10 minutes

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Galyna Rogovska

Explore Alfama, the oldest district of Lisbon, which is mentioned when talking about the Portuguese capital.

Key Takeaways

Alfama is the heart of Lisbon. This old Moorish quarter survived after the terrible earthquake of the late 18th century, when almost the entire city was destroyed. Alfama is a way to experience provincial Portugal without leaving its capital.

While in Alfama, it is worth visiting the top places that will leave an unforgettable impression:

  1. The Monastery of St. Vincent de Fora is an object of medieval architecture, founded in the mid-12th century.
  2. The Church of Santa Engracia de Zaragoza (National Pantheon) is an ancient building, built almost 300 years ago.
  3. The viewpoints (miradouros), since the area of Alfama is historically located at the foot of one of the hills, are perfect for observing the city. 
  4. The Castle of St. George, whose centuries-old walls are one of the most famous landmarks of Lisbon.
  5. Se Cathedral, founded in the 12th century in Romanesque style, has the facades safely kept to this day.
  6. Church of St. Lucia, named after the daughter of a wealthy Roman citizen from Syracuse who tragically died but stayed in the memories of locals.
  7. Tram 28 route. The city tram in Lisbon is a well-known attraction that has become a symbol of the city.
  8. Fado Museum & Dinner with Fado. Alfama district is a place to get acquainted with real Fado, feeling this sad soul of Portugal.
  9. Casa dos Bicos, one of many architectural objects in Alfama, is highly popular among tourists.

Insider Tip: For Alfama exploration, it's highly recommended to wear the most comfortable shoes. Characteristic features of the area are the steep hills and slippery cobblestone streets, so make sure you're well prepared for long walks.

One-Day Itinerary in Alfama

Alfama is attractive for visitors as it showcases the real life of locals in Portugal. Being one of the most desirable tourist spots, Alfama is a perfect destination for the first acquaintance with Portugal. While you can simply walk around here and feel the atmosphere of the place, there are some must-visit spots on your journey. Let's have a closer look at the top places to visit.

1. Explore the Monastery of St. Vincent de Fora

The monastery is one of the most honoured in Portugal. The first project was built in 1147 by the first Portuguese king, Afonso Henriques, who dedicated it to the Augustinian Order. The monastery was built in the Romanesque style and was considered one of the most important monastic foundations of medieval Portugal. 

It has the name of St. Vincent of Zaragoza, one of the patron saints of Lisbon. His relics were transferred to Lisbon in the 12th century from Algarve. Right at the entrance, the visitors have a chance to examine two large cisterns, which were used to store water supplies for the monastery's needs. 

The interior is a real masterpiece, as it is decorated with incredibly painted azulejos under the carved arches of the church. They will not leave lovers of beauty indifferent.

2. Visit the Church of Santa Engracia de Zaragoza (National Pantheon)

The Church of Santa Engracia, or the National Pantheon, is one of the hallmarks of Lisbon. Its huge snow-white dome towers are seen over Alfama and are clearly visible from many spots. The church has a unique feature, unusual for Portuguese architecture, because the roof of Santa Engracia is shaped like a Greek cross. 

Since 1966, this church has served as the National Pantheon of Portugal. Here you can see both tombs and cenotaphs, typical of Greek culture. These are the symbolic funerary monuments in a place that does not contain the remains of the deceased. 

The visitors can see the cenotaphs of six outstanding heroes of Portugal:

  • Prince Henry the Navigator;
  • Traveler and colonizer Vasco da Gama (discoverer of the sea route from Europe to India);
  • Admiral Pedro Cabral (discoverer of Brazil);
  • Second Viceroy of India and builder of the Portuguese colonial power Afonso de Albuquerque;
  • Commander Nuno Alvares Pereira;
  • Poet Luis de Camões. 

These cenotaphs are located in the central hall and are open for visits.

3. Take in the View from the Viewpoints (Miradouros)

Since Alfama is located on a hill, most of the streets and alleys here turn into stairs, heading up to the viewpoints. If you're here, don't skip the following observation platforms:

  • Miradouro das Portas do Sol is the most famous spot in Alfama, and it deserves all the hype. It's an elevated belvedere with stunning views of Alfama’s houses and the Tagus River, and in the distance, one can also see the Monastery of St. Vicente de Fora.
  • Miradouro de Santa Luzia is a part of the Church of Santa Luzia (Igreja de Santa Luzia), which dates back to the 17th century. The church is not popular, but the stunning views over Lisbon’s old quarters are guaranteed.
  • Miradouro da Graca is a bit higher than the others. Unlike the other viewing terraces in Lisbon, this place is not crowded. You can see the nearby Monastery of Sao Vicente de Fora from here much better than from other spots.

Amazing views over Alfama and Lisbon are guaranteed. 

4. Discover the Castle of St. George

The Fortress of St. George played a large role in the history of Lisbon's creation, becoming its core.

The majestic Castle of St. George is visible from anywhere in the city. To get there, you have to climb, but at the end of your road, you will find an unforgettable historical landmark with ancient gates, towers, and other fortifications.

By the bridge over a moat, you can get to the citadel of St. George, one more architectural object for precise exploration. The conquest of the citadel is commemorated by the statue of King Alfonso. Go up the tower to get into the camera with great panoramas over Lisbon.

While in Alfama, walk along the castle walls and admire the fortress, the Tagus River, and the tiled roofs of the city. The sunset panorama that opened up from here in the evening is amazing.

5. Snap a Photo of Se Cathedral

Lisbon Cathedral (Se de Lisboa) is located on a small hill near the Alfama district. The towers of the cathedral are visible from many spots of the city, being one of its recognizable symbols.

The construction of the cathedral began in the middle of the 12th century, immediately after the liberation of the city from the Moors. The place itself is also of specific significance because there was a mosque in its place before. Moreover, according to some research, at the beginning of our era, there was a Roman temple.

Nowadays, it's quite difficult to attribute the cathedral to any architectural style because, over its centuries-old history, it has been repeatedly restored.

The design of the modern building has features of the Romanesque style in which it was originally made, as well as Gothic and Baroque details. At the beginning of the 20th century, to give the building a medieval appearance, special reconstructions were carried out.

6. Ascent the Church of St. Lucia & Viewpoint

The church is one of the oldest in Lisbon, built in the 12th century. It's highly recommended to visit this spot to see the great views of the lower Alfama neighbourhood.

The church got the name of Lucia, who, according to the legend, was the daughter of a wealthy Roman citizen from Syracuse. She died early and tragically. Her mother found a husband for her, but Lucia took a vow of celibacy and did not agree to the engagement. 

The interior and exterior of the church are rather simple, but their great religious significance can't be denied. Nowadays, the church itself and the viewpoint near it are perfect places to discover Alfama and see unusual landmarks.

7. Take a Tram 28 Ride

Tram route 28 is considered the oldest and longest route in Lisbon. The path runs through the entire center, old districts, and numerous iconic landmarks of the city. 

Even if you don't have much time to visit Alfama and thoroughly explore its attractions, be sure to take a ride on the tram, as it looks especially picturesque in the frame of the old streets. 

The journey time along the route is about 45 minutes. Only old wooden carriages travel along this route. They went through small modernization only in the technical part regarding the engine and brakes, but the appearance didn't change even a bit.

Tram 28 is extremely popular not only among tourists but also among locals and is one of the best ways to explore Lisbon.

8. Learn about Fado Museum & Have a Dinner with Fado

The museum is a must-visit spot for all Fado lovers or those who want to understand this cultural feature of Portugal. The museum's collection includes photographs of famous fado performers, instruments, multimedia sections with recordings of songs, and, in a separate room, guests can learn about the history of the Portuguese guitar.

The museum highlights the exceptional value of the Fado as a defining symbol of the city of Lisbon, its deep roots in the traditions and cultural history of the country, its role in the statement of cultural identity, and its significance as a source of endless inspiration.

If you find yourself in Alfama in the evening, be sure to attend dinner with Fado, even if you don’t like that kind of music. A new, unusual experience is guaranteed to you.

9. Have a Look at Casa dos Bicos

This house-museum was built at the beginning of the 16th century on the border of the historical districts of Baixa and Alfama. It looks very unusual, even for Lisbon, which cannot complain about architectural monotony. 

The facade is made out of more than 1,000 diamond-shaped studs and is designed in the style of Italian Renaissance palaces. The elements of Manueline architecture, such as arched windows and ornate portals, make it even more authentic. 

As a result of the catastrophic Lisbon earthquake of 1755, the palace lost only the top two floors. For a long time, it was used as a warehouse.

After a complete reconstruction in the 20th century, the house returned to its original appearance and became the headquarters of the Jose Saramago Foundation. In addition, Casa dos Bicos is part of the Lisbon City Museum.



Alfama is the heart of a 3,000-year-old city where narrow streets, civilizations, and traditions intertwine. Having walked around Alfama and visited its main attractions and also definitely climbed to the observation decks on the hills, from which you can see the city in all its glory, it becomes clear why this is where artists, historians, and writers drew their inspiration.

In this area, you can fully enjoy the architecture of Lisbon's Moorish past, plunging into the history of the city, as well as getting to know the local customs and lives of the residents. Also, don't miss dinner with traditional fried sardines accompanied by Portuguese Fado romance and much more.

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