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Lisbon

Alfama

Hidden gems

Alfama

Lisbon's oldest district is the elevated Alfama and can be found between the São Jorge Castle and the Tagus River. The name is derived from the Arabic Al-hamma (bath). There used to be hot springs at the foot of the hill. Miraculously, this district was spared in the great earthquake of 1755, making it one of Lisbon's most popular historical and cultural sights.

Most people take the tram from the Praça Duque da Terceira roundabout to Alfama, as the climb up is quite steep. Alfama is a labyrinth of steep winding streets, narrow alleys, arches, gates and stairs. The best way to explore the area is to wander around a bit while taking your time. You'll probably get lost, something that's almost unavoidable. Eventually you will come to a point that you recognize, such as one of the terraces where you have a beautiful view over this old district. The largest terraces (miradouros) are Miradouro de Santa Luzia and Miradouro das Portas do Sol.

Alfama is the cradle of fado, the melancholic Portuguese music. You'll find bars, cafes and restaurants where the fado is played everywhere. The most authentic fado can be heard in bars that are hard to find. Ask the locals. The most famous fado singer was undoubtedly Amalia Rodrigues. Her house is a museum where you can admire the prices she won, her clothes, jewelry and letters. The voice of Amalia can be heard throughout the museum. For more information about the origin and development of fado music, visit the Fado Museum.

There are some old churches in Alfama, the most famous is the Santa Maria Maior de Lisboa, usually just called Sé (Cathedral). Built between the 12th and 14th centuries, this is the oldest building in Lisbon. In the church of São Vicente de Fora, kings of the Brigantine dynasty are buried. In the cloister you can also see beautiful tile panels that represent the fables of La Fontaine. Former presidents have their final resting place in the Santa Engrácia Church, where famous writers as well as fado singer Amalia Rodrigues are buried. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, the famous Feira da Ladra flea market is held at this church.

Good to know

Fado Museum

Website: Fado Museum
Address: Largo do Chafariz de Dentro Opening
Hours: 10.00-18.00 (closed on Mondays)

Amalia Rodrigues Museum

Website (Portuguese): Amalia Rodrigues Museum
Address: Rua de São Bento 193 Opening
Hours: 10.00-18.00 (closed on Mondays)

Consult the websites for up-to-date price information and opening hours.

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