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Sights & Landmarks
24 hours a day, 7 days a week, all year round
Alfama is the oldest district of Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, and is, in fact, a tourist attraction all by itself, but still contains lots of famous Portuguese landmarks. It bottles up the spirit of the ancient capital and is its most vibrant and animated neighbourhood, where visitors will sooner or later end up strolling through.
Alfama inherited its name and atmosphere during its Moorish era: originated from Arabic, "al-hamma" refers to "hot springs" or "hot baths". Indeed, this territory was popular because of its hot water sources that considered to be therapeutic and were used for medical purposes, especially during the 16th - 17th centuries. Also, these sources were the main water supplies of the city at the time.
For a long period, this district was the heart of the city, inhabited by the rich. However, with time and trade development of Lisbon, they moved in the western direction, abandoning this area to the poorer strata. Later, it became the neighbourhood, occupied mainly by sailors, dock workers, etc. And in the middle of the 20th century, Alfama was even on the verge of being destroyed because of high crime rates and generally notorious reputation. However, now it is actually the most peaceful place and has a lot to offer to visitors!
The district has also managed to preserve the medieval atmosphere because it was the only area which remained unaffected by the Lisbon earthquake in 1755. Now, you have a chance to take a glance at how the city panorama looked ages ago. It is a burst of colour, steep cobblestone streets that you just can't help but want to get lost in for quite a while. It is also dominated by the Castle of São Jorge, first fortifications of which date back to the 1st century BC.
The antique walls offer one of the best views on Alfama and the city in general. Speaking about views, travellers can also enjoy multiple vistas from special terraces (miradors), for example from Miradouro de Santa Luzia, Miradouro das Portas do Sol, Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen or Miradouro de Graça.
Another must-visit of Lisbon and Alfama is Sé Cathedral, the gorgeous church built in the 12th century on the site of the Moorish mosque. It gracefully combines Romanesque and Gothic architecture styles, and this is what distinguishes from other baroque churches in Lisbon.
Also, here in Alfama, you can hop on the iconic yellow tram #28 that is the main character of Lisbon postcards. Its itinerary lies through pretty much all of the districts, so, if you are not in favour of exploring it on foot, it's also a nice option! If you eventually decide to saunter the area, you will most probably hear fado - the Portuguese genre of music, originated here, in Alfama, played on traditional guitar and saturated with nostalgia and melancholy. Fado songs were sung mostly by sailors' wives waiting for their husbands to be back home.
Don't forget to come round the Fado museum, where you can learn more about the history of this kind of music. All of this and much more is waiting for you in Alfama, so be sure to grab your camera and go out into this loud authentic narrow maze of streets, filled with colour and music, and you won't be disappointed!
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