Walking Tour 2: Alfama West (3 km)
1. Castelo de São Jorge
Over the ages, many people have trudged up the hill to the Castle of Saint George. We suggest you take electrico 28 (the little tourist tram) from Chiado up, and then amble down Alfama, rather then tire yourself performing the reverse commotion. The oldest signs of settlements are from around the 7th century BC, the glorious iron age. The Greeks, the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians were here. The first fortifications of Lisbon's highest hill date back to the 2nd century BC and were built by the Romans who named the city "Olisipo", as legend has it Ulysses came sightseeing here. The city thrived under the Moors until the Visigoth took over in the 8th century AD (some say they are still in charge thanks to the austerity plans they have graciously granted us...). The crusaders took over in 1147. The castle was named after Saint George of Cappodocia, a Roman martyr. The castle served as a royal palace until the 15th century. Sunset or late afternoon is the best time to go, as you can combine the pleasant panoramic views and the tranquil gardens with a romantic walk, a drink or a meal in Alfama.
2. Largo das Portas do Sol
The Gate of the Sun was one of the seven gates into Moorish Lisbon. It is a classic view point for many of the panoramic postcards of Alfama that abound in the souvenir shops: roofs covered with red tiles, the imposing Monastery of Sao Vicente de Fora, and in the distance the tranquil flowing Tagus.
3. Palácio Azurara
In times gone by, Alfama was the home of nobility. The Museum of Decorative Arts has an excellent collection of the trinkets cherished by the rich Portuguese of the 17th to 19th centuries: azulejos (tiles), porcelain, tapestries and furniture. If you like old buildings and architecture, the palace itself is a great visit. There are also some workshops where artisans practise traditional wood carving while you sip tea or a beer.
4. Miradouro de Santa Luzia
This is a tram stop and another great panoramic view of Alfama. Check out the old folks drinking coffee and playing chess, they're a rare breed and fast disappearing. The small and simple Igreja de Santa Luzia was built by the famed Knights Hospitaller of Malta. The original church did not survive the earthquake and was rebuilt in the 18th century.
5. Igreja de Santo António
After the Great Earthquake, the church was built in 1812, literally on the birthplace of Saint Anthony of Padua. Admire the Ionic columns and the neo baroque facade. There is a big saintly procession in June throughout Alfama.
6. Sé de Lisboa
Shortly after the defeat of the Moors, Portugal's oldest cathedral was commemorated in 1150 by its first king, Dom Afonso Enriques. Where once Lisbon's Mosque stood, the crusaders decided to build Sé. How's that for promoting world peace? Nevertheless, the architects did a great job with the cloister and the sacristy. On a related subject, and as you will undoubtedly notice, we Portuguese, tend to be dark haired with a sun tanned skin. Some tourists even mistook Pedrito's dad for Omar Sharif. Where did all that Moorish ancestry come from? World love, undoubtedly...
7. Casa dos Bicos
The House of Spikes was built in the early 16th century and partially survived the Great Earthquake. The building mixes Italian Renaissance and Manueline architectures and was the abode of the Vice Roy of Portuguese India.
8. Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Conceição Velha
The facade of the church is a superb example of Manueline architecture that uses Gothic and Renaissance decoration. While the old building did not survive the Earthquake, bits and pieces were rescued from the original to build the present facade.
9. Igreja de Madalena
The original church was built in the 12th century and has been rebuilt three times since then because of fire, cyclone and earthquake. The fine Manueline portico dates from 1783. Nearby there are some Roman gravestones and the remains of an altar dedicated to the goddess Cybele, the Mother of Gods.
Alfama derives from the Arabic Al-hamma (fountain or bath). This was the city of the Moors. As Lisbon spread to the West, the East became inhabited by the poor, the working class, the fishmongers and the harlots. It's an exciting district, and for the most an authentic roam through streets smelling of garlic, fish and spices. There is music, fado, stray cats and wandering sailors...>>