April 28, 2021

Fado in Alfama
The lines above are taken from a “Fado” sung by Portugal’s most famous “fadista”, Amalia Rodrigues. Fado is traditional Portuguese music, often using melancholic or mournful tunes and lyrics about life at sea, or the everyday lives and loves of the working classes. The music will usually refer to some form of “saudade”, which can be loosely translated as nostalgia or a longing for someone or something. Fado can perhaps be thought of as a kind of Portuguese “blues”. Alfama, together with the Bairro Alto, are the “bairros” or neighborhoods par excellence for listening to fado. 

Alfama is the oldest district of Lisbon, having survived the great earthquake of 1755, its streets and inhabitants have been the subject of many Fado songs down the years. Today this famous “bairro” includes many excellent Fado restaurants, and some of the best are of the “Fado vadio” variety, where non-professional singers get up and put their hearts and souls on show for all to see.

Alfama stretches across one of the seven hills of Lisbon, which leads from the foot of St. Jorge’s castle and sweeps down to the Tagus estuary. It consists of narrow, cobbled streets and alleys, steep steps lead you from one area of the district to another. 

Everywhere you turn there are small patios and picturesque squares. Its traditional churches, shops, markets, cafeterias, restaurants, and buildings, have been maintained by the local inhabitants, many of whose families have been living in this old part of the city for generations. If you want to stay in the historic ‘bairro’ check out our apartments in Alfama

The best way to get to know Alfama is to get lost (as inevitably you will) in its timeless labyrinth of intertwining alleyways. But this is no problem as it will allow you to fully enjoy and experience the sights, sounds, and smells of the oldest part of the city. On your way, you will discover small taverns, traditional shops and plenty of good restaurants.

The Sé Cathedral and Castle São Jorge

Within a very easy walking distance of Alfama are some of Lisbon’s most popular and ancient attractions such as the ancient Sé Cathedral and the  Castle. The building of the Sé cathedral began in 1147, since then it has undergone many facelifts and modifications having withstood many earthquakes.  The building is now a mix match of different architectural styles including Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque.  

The main façade of the Castle looks similar to a fortress, this menacing style was adopted during the reconquest period when the Cathedral was used as a base to attack the Arab enemies.  The Castle of São Jorge was originally a Moorish castle that dates back to the 10th century, although there is evidence of fortification on top of the hill as far back as the 2nd century.  It was taken over by the Portuguese forces during the Reconquista in 1147 and it was renamed after Saint George in the 14th century by King João I who had married an English princess  The warrior slaying a dragon was a popular figure in both countries.

The Nº28 Tram
One of the best ways to get to and from Alfama is to catch the famous nº28 tramcar that will whisk you around the seven hills of Lisbon. The tram is a great way to get from Alfama to the downtown Baixa or Chiado and the other hilly neighborhoods of Bairro Alto and Graça.  

Whether staying in Alfama or just visiting the historical streets and traditional restaurants the tram is a great way to get around, certainly atmospheric.  Why not take the tram to the top of the hill by the castle and wonder your way around the charming streets of Alfama, check out the Alfama map, although be prepared to find a map of the hilly winding maze of Alfama of little to no use at certain points of your adventure. 

Parking in Alfama
As with many other areas of Lisbon street parking is very difficult in Alfama. Not only is it very difficult to find space in the narrow streets of Alfama, strict parking restrictions are also in place.  However, there are several designated car parks here is a list of the ones that best serve Alfama,

Santa Apolónia Car park
Address: Avenida Infante Dom Henrique  1100 Lisbon – 24 hrs Mon-Sun uncovered parking with 280 spaces.  Disabled spaces available. prices 1 hr for  1€, 24 hrs 16€

Sistemas de Engenharia de Trânsito, S.A. Car park
Address: Doca de Santa Apolónia Avenida Infante Dom Henrique Lisbon –  Uncovered parking Mon-Fri 0700-2100, Sat 0800-1500.  Prices 1hr for 1.20€ , 2 hrs for 2€, 6hrs 5.60€,  max 8€

EMEL Car park Portas do Sol
Address:  Rua de São Tomé Lisbon- Covered parking Mon-Sun. Prices 0800-2000 1 hr 1.80€, 4hrs 9€  2000-0800 1 hr 1.10€ 4hrs 4.50€  (This car park is currently under reconstruction and may be closed to the public)

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