Alfama: the Heart of Lisbon

Europe, Portugal, travel, TRAVEL

When I plan a trip all by myself, I usually start with a city. Obviously for practical reasons as well, trying to settle first after having seen just airports and airplanes, but also because I like to take some baby steps first in a new country. Being lost without the feeling of losing it completely (do I even make sense here?): getting to know a new culture, but still being able to explore, roam and eat easily, having everything accessible. I stopped in Lisbon twice, deciding to stay in two different districts because they could not have been more diverse from each other. The first stop of my solo trip to Portugal was in the Alfama.

Before giving myself some slow, sleepy kind of days on the Atlantic coastline in the beautiful town of Ericeira (read more about it here), I wanted to walk around a lot, and I found the Alfama being absolutely perfect for that. Located only about 15 minutes away from the very buzzing center of Lisbon, this area is more like a completely separate village apart from the city itself. The first impression was quite clear: this isn’t a place for high heels, not that I wear any (only on the rare occasions I know they might are required AND I know I will sit 80% of the entire time) but it was funny picturing some brave gals trying to catwalk here while I was carrying my bag on a steep street that seemed not having an end at all. You know now why Lisbon is called the city of the seven hills.

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But exactly this makes out the whole beauty of this place. Narrow streets, walking up and downhill, stairs everywhere. It’s easy to spend hours just being outside, there’s gorgeousness everywhere. Fans of tiles (me!) will take out the camera because of every second building, the cafés and restaurants are tiny and cute, the whole place has a strong bohemian vibe and the long walks are rewarded by the most breathtaking views, no matter where you stand. The so called miradouros are scenic points, where there’s the possibility to just overview the whole district, whole Lisbon, far down to the river Tejo, which is so wide that it looks more like the (not so far away anymore) Atlantic ocean.

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These places where the only ones where I saw a lot of people grouped togehter for my surprise. Even if the Alfama is a very popular place to visit for every tourist that hits Lisbon and is very into photography and riding an overpacked oldschool tram, I had the streets for myself most of the time. September is known as very high season for visiting so I was kind of ready to pull out my elbows 24/7. Nope, it’s chilled, exactly how I like it.

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The Alfama has a roaring character and it’s easy to see why. It survived a massive earthquake without being destroyed and it’s one of the place where Fado music was born. If you get the chance you should totally join an authentic Fado night in one of the restaurants here in the district. Even if Portuguese isn’t your language, you can tell that it’s taken very seriously here. Fado gives you chills and it should be respected. Whenever the artists are performing, the whole place has to turn quiet, usually people even stop eating and totally drift away by listening to romantic, dramatic and heartwarming songs. If you get completely carried away, and you’re interested to deepen your knowledge about it, you should visit the Museu do Fado, located just at Alfama’s footsteps.

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Practical Infos

Where to stay: I started my journey in Lisbon by staying in the Alfama and it was the best choice I’ve made. I booked my room at Alfama Patio Hostel and ended up in a single room with a 5 star hotel worthy view and the cutest tapestry. So my love for patterns was rising up once again here. The shared area is great for having your meals or just simply hang in one of the hammocks, the activity list is big. I highly reccommend the Streetart Tour, from which I’ll share a few impressions later on, and the Fado night, that can be combined with an in house 3 course dinner, wine included. Another great add on at Destination Hostels is that you’ll get a wristband that allows you to visit the other two hostels. Why? Well, if you get tired of hanging out at the hippie sister here, you can always go downtown and watch the sunset from the Sunset Destination that has a pool and sip on your drink at the bar. The third one, Lisbon Destination, is located in the main station itself and seems to be amazingly decorated. Staff is usually very nice and helpful, I encountered some grumpy ones, but I guess everybody is allowed to have a bad day. My single room cost me approximately 80 Euros for 3 nights and i found it to be a great deal. The bunks are very cute as well and the whole vibe in the house very cosy, since it’s one of the smallest hostels from this housing chain.

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Where to eat: I must say, I grabbed a lot of things on the go during my walks, including the famous dessert Pastel de Nata (delish!), so I didn’t see the need to travel to Belém for some cake. But hey, feel free if you want to, I just hate lines. Especially for sweets. I’m not a sweets person. I would stand in line for salty stuff though. Like good Pizza. However, I allowed myself one nice night out and ended up at The Food Temple after a walk. This place is on a cute little square and a bit hidden, offers an always changing vegan menu, which was absolutely yummy and you’ll join all the other guests of the restaurant on a long shared table. I would reccomend to reserve a spot. Oh, and another things I’ve learned here: the typical Portuguese Tapas are called petiscos. So if you’ll ever see a restaurant offering literally “tapas”, watch out, it most likely will be a tourist trap.

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Getting around: Lisbon has an excellent public transportation, metro from the airport included. In the Alfama I highly suggest to just walk and if the uphill thing gets a bit hard, take a ride on the very famous 28 tram.

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