Last Updated on January 23, 2024 by Soumya
If you’re looking for the best things to do in Alfama Lisbon, then you’re in the right place.
In this detailed travel guide for the Lisbon Historic District, I will talk about the top things to see in Alfama.
Being one of the most touristy neighborhoods of Lisbon, there’s no dearth of things to do in Alfama.
The real appeal, however, lies in Alfama’s delightful maze of narrow cobbled streets and pastel-colored houses.
Add to that a wonderful collection of historic churches and palaces, interesting museums, atmospheric Fado houses, and beautiful miradouros overlooking the city and you’ll never ask me what to do in Alfama again!
In all of Lisbon, Alfama was one of my choicest neighborhoods. I can go back there a hundred times and so can you!
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- Best Things to do in Alfama Lisbon
- Visit Sao Jorge Castle
- Stroll through Alfama’s winding streets
- Ride the Historic Tram 28
- Enjoy a Tuk-Tuk Tour
- Relish Local Cuisine
- Listen to Fado music
- Shop for local souvenirs
- Soak in the views from the miradouros
- Head to the local flea market
- Visit Lisbon Cathedral
- Visit the National Pantheon
- Discover the Monastery of Sao Vicente de Fora
- Check out the House of Spikes
- Lisbon Military Museum
- Best Places to stay in Alfama Lisbon
- Practical Information for Visiting Alfama Lisbon
- Alfama Travel FAQ
- Loved this Alfama attractions bucket list? Pin it for later!
Best Things to do in Alfama Lisbon
Visit Sao Jorge Castle
One of the best things to do is visit the Sao Jorge Castle.
The castle provides unrivaled views over the city and gives you a deep dive into Portugal’s history.
The spot at which Sao Jorge Castle stands today was inhabited as early as the 1st century BCE. The current castle was constructed by the Moors in the 11th century.
You can explore the castle’s medieval walls, towers, and courtyards. The castle also has a sprawling garden that is home to peacocks.
The castle also houses a small archaeological museum showcasing artifacts found on the site.
However, the highlight is the panoramic view of Lisbon that you get from the castle’s courtyard.
✦ Pro Tip: Sao Jorge Castle is always busy. Be sure to buy your skip-the-line ticket in advance here to avoid waiting in lines.
Stroll through Alfama’s winding streets
One of the best ways to experience Alfama is by getting lost in its winding streets.
Getting lost in Alfama allows visitors to truly immerse themselves in the local culture and atmosphere.
Visitors can discover hidden gems such as charming cafes, traditional Fado music bars, and quaint shops selling local crafts.
The streets are also lined with colorful buildings adorned with stunning Portuguese tiles, providing the perfect backdrop for photos.
Do not miss the laundry lines hanging over the walls. They look so cute.
✦ Pro Tip: The best way to enjoy the atmospheric streets is by taking this highest-rated guided tour through the old Alfama quarters.
I love the fact that their guides are very knowledgeable and make the excursion an enjoyable and enlightening experience.
Ride the Historic Tram 28
When visiting Alfama, opt for a ride on the historic Tram 28 to see the sights from a different perspective.
Tram 28 is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Alfama and is worth doing even if you’re in Lisbon for a day.
The historic tram takes visitors on a scenic route through the neighborhood’s narrow streets, passing by some of its most iconic landmarks.
When on the train, you can see the Sao Jorge Castle, Se Cathedral, Miradouro das Portas do Sol, and many other Alfama attractions.
What makes Tram 28 special is its vintage charm and the fact that it still operates on its original route, which has been in use since the early 1900s.
Enjoy a Tuk-Tuk Tour
If boarding a crowded tram is not your thing and you don’t want to tire yourself by walking up and down the hilly streets of Alfama, then book yourself a tuk-tuk tour.
This highly recommended tuk-tuk tour allows you to see the highlights of Lisbon including those of the Alfama district. It includes hotel pick-up and drops as well as the services of a local driver/guide.
Relish Local Cuisine
No visit to Alfama would be complete without trying some of the local cuisine.
The neighborhood is known for its traditional dishes such as bacalhau (salted cod) and sardinhas assadas (grilled sardines).
You can find these delicacies at many restaurants and street vendors in the Alfama area.
Don’t forget to also indulge in some pasteis de nata, a delicious custard tart that originated at the Jeronimos Monastery in Belem Lisbon. Many bakeries in Alfama offer their own unique twist on this beloved Portuguese dessert.
For a truly authentic experience, consider joining a food tour where you can taste a variety of dishes and learn about the history and culture behind them.
This Treasures of Lisboa Food Tour is a great way to immerse yourself in the culinary delights of Alfama with 18 unique tastings.
📖 Related Read: For more food ideas, read our post on What to Eat and Drink in Lisbon.
Listen to Fado music
Beyond its beautiful architecture and delicious cuisine, Alfama is also rich in culture and traditions.
One of the best ways to experience culture in Alfama is by attending a Fado performance.
Fado is a traditional Portuguese music style that was born in Alfama Lisbon. It is listed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Having originated in the songs of fishermen and sailors of Alfama, Fado is a soulful rendition of passion, pining, lament, and melancholy. It is often associated with “saudade”, the Portuguese word for longing.
The fadistas or Fado musicians usually dress up in black suits and perform in pubs and cafes called Fado houses. Several Fado houses can be found scattered throughout Alfama.
Watching a Fado performance is deeply moving and gives you unique insights into Portuguese culture and traditions.
Music lovers will be glad to know that Alfama also has a FADO Museum (Google Maps) where you can learn all about the history of Fado music, the instruments, and famous fadistas.
The best way to experience Fado in Lisbon is by joining this live Fado music show in Alfama along with a traditional Portuguese dinner and an Alfama walking tour.
Shop for local souvenirs
Another great way to experience the beautiful culture of Alfama is to shop for meaningful Portugal souvenirs in the neighborhood.
The quaint alleys of Alfama are littered with art galleries and handicraft shops.
Be it an amazing collection of ceramics or cork products or the rarer wool blankets, Alfama is full of unique pieces that showcase Portugal’s artistic talent and heritage.
One of my favorite places to shop for souvenirs in Alfama is the Alfama Shop, where you’ll find all kinds of Portuguese gifts at fair prices.
If you’re looking for unique fragrances crafted from Portuguese native flowers and fruits, head to Benamor. Benamor is a 100-year-old Portuguese cosmetics brand that has served many illustrious customers including Queen Donna Amelia.
The flea market at Feira da Ladra is also a great spot to get some good deals on souvenirs.
✦ Pro Tip: Check out this epic list of best things to buy in Portugal.
Soak in the views from the miradouros
No trip to Alfama is complete without enjoying the breathtaking views from one of its many viewpoints.
Locally known as miradouros, these elevated spots offer panoramic vistas of the city.
In my opinion, the miradouros are the prettiest places in Lisbon and are perfect for capturing memorable photos.
4 Best Viewpoints in Alfama
- Miradouro das Portas do Sol is one of Lisbon’s most popular miradouros. Located at one end of the Alfama, this spot offers stunning views of the Tagus River and the red-tiled roofs of the city. It’s also a great place to watch the sunset over Lisbon.
- Another must-visit miradouro is Miradouro de Santa Luzia, which provides a picturesque view of Alfama’s colorful buildings and winding streets. This spot also features beautiful tile panels that depict scenes from Portuguese history.
- For a quieter and more off-the-beaten-path experience in Lisbon, head to Miradouro da Graça. Here, you’ll find a peaceful garden setting with stunning views of the city and the Sao Jorge Castle.
- Another unusual viewpoint is the one at Palacio Belmonte. Even though the nearly 600-year-old palace is one of Portugal’s oldest royal abodes, it is the panoramic views of the city from here that truly steal the show.
📖 Related Read: For more beautiful miradouros, read our post on the 10 Best Viewpoints in Lisbon.
Head to the local flea market
Make sure to explore the local flea market, Feira da Ladra, where you’ll find everything from vintage clothes to antique furniture.
As one of the oldest flea markets in the city, Feira da Ladra is the best place to get good deals on souvenirs, handmade crafts, clothes, and even electronics.
Feira da Ladra happens twice weekly, Tuesday and Saturday morning, right next to the National Pantheon.
Visit Lisbon Cathedral
The Lisbon Cathedral, also known as Se de Lisboa, is one of the most iconic landmarks of Alfama.
Built in the 12th century, this Romanesque cathedral has survived numerous natural disasters, including the devastating earthquake of 1755.
Behind the simple and sober exterior of the Lisboa Cathedral, you’ll discover a captivating interior featuring vaulted arches and decorative cloisters.
Highlights include the baptism fountain of St. Anthony of Padua and a beautiful Gothic chapel from medieval times.
The Se is the oldest and the most important church in Lisbon.
The cathedral is free to enter, but you must pay a small fee to visit the cloisters, upper choir, nave, and religious art collection. Click here to book your Se Cathedral tickets.
✦ Pro Tip: Visiting Lisbon? Check out our easy-to-implement, 2-day Lisbon itinerary to plan a memorable trip.
Visit the National Pantheon
Another Alfama must see attraction is the National Pantheon.
The National Pantheon is a beautiful baroque building that is the final resting place of some of Portugal’s most famous personalities. The list includes several presidents, writers, and the iconic fado singer Amalia Rodrigues.
One of the highlights of the National Pantheon is the climb up to the domed roof, which provides a breathtaking panoramic view of the city, the Tagus River, and beyond.
Inside, the ornate marble floor and symmetrically arranged tombs make it one of the most impressive things to see in Alfama, Portugal.
Discover the Monastery of Sao Vicente de Fora
The Monastery of Sao Vicente de Fora is not exactly within Alfama but only a stone’s throw away.
I have included it in this list of things to see in Alfama because it is so strikingly beautiful and easy to get to.
Sao Vicente de Fora Monastery dates to the 12th century. It was reconstructed in the 17th century in the Mannerist architectural style. It houses the pantheon of Portugal’s Braganza royal family, which I found a little creepy, to be honest.
What truly sets this monastery apart is its stunning collection of azulejos, the iconic blue and white tiles synonymous with Portuguese art and culture.
More than 100,000 tiles are arranged in a striking pattern along the walls and stairs of the monastery. The most special collection illustrates the fables of La Fontaine, which is a great addition to your family trip in Portugal.
The panoramic city views from the rooftop are another highlight.
✦ Pro Tip: Looking for offbeat experiences in Lisbon? Read our post on Lisbon’s Best Hidden Gems.
Check out the House of Spikes
Casa dos Bicos, or the House of Spikes, is an intriguing building located in the Alfama district.
This 16th-century building is special because its façade is studded with diamond-shaped stones giving it a spiky appearance. Over 1100 stones adorn the façade.
Casa dos Bicos was once the residence of the nobleman and viceroy of India, Afonso de Albuquerque.
Today, Casa dos Bicos houses the José Saramago Foundation, which is dedicated to the Nobel laureate of Portuguese literature.
The building’s unique architectural style is a striking contrast to Alfama’s predominantly medieval architecture, making it a must see in the Alfama district.
Lisbon Military Museum
I am not into military history, but I know many of you are.
While studying at UNC Chapel Hill, I had a professor who was passionate about historical warfare and could talk for hours about it.
If you’re someone like that, then you’ll be happy to know that Alfama is home to the Lisbon Military Museum, which has a large collection of artillery on display.
Apart from guns and swords, the Military Museum also features a richly decorated ceiling filled with murals from 18th-century Europe.
Best Places to stay in Alfama Lisbon
Alfama is one of the best places to stay in Lisbon. It is safe, touristy, and filled with the best Lisbon attractions.
Here are a couple of great hotels in the Alfama district.
- Palacete Chafariz d’El Rei – A 5-star hotel, Palacete Chafariz d’El Rei is housed in an opulent 18th-century Art Nouveau mansion built with Brazilian riches. It is now a luxury hotel with stained glass windows, antique furnishings, and a terrace with views.
- Memmo Alfama Hotel Lisboa – A 4-star hotel, Memmo Alfama Hotel Lisboa is a charming hotel with the most gorgeous views in town. The staff is wonderful, and they serve great breakfast.
Practical Information for Visiting Alfama Lisbon
Best Time to Visit Alfama
The best time to visit Alfama, Lisbon, is during spring (April to June) or fall (September and October).
During these periods, the weather is pleasant, not too hot or cold, making it comfortable to navigate the steep streets and enjoy the beautiful views.
Another advantage is that these periods are less crowded compared to the peak summer months, providing a more relaxed and enjoyable experience.
The famous Festival of Santo Antonio, held in June, is also a fantastic time to visit with street parties, traditional music, and dancing. However, be prepared for larger crowds during the festival.
✦ Pro Tip: For more ideas on things to do in spring, refer to our Spring Travel Guide for Lisbon.
How to get to Alfama Lisbon?
As mentioned earlier, you can ride Tram 28 to get to Alfama. The tram offers a nostalgic way to travel and lets you see many of Alfama’s top sights.
But remember that Tram 28 is almost always crowded and, therefore, unsuitable for traveling with luggage.
If you’re coming directly from the airport, I advise you to take a taxi or book a reliable airport transfer.
Various bus lines also serve Alfama. Route 734 and 737 are the most popular.
If you’re already in the city center, you might choose to walk to Alfama.
It’s an uphill walk but offers a unique opportunity to discover Lisbon’s old city’s small, winding alleys and charming squares.
Remember, the Alfama district is a maze of narrow streets and alleys, many of which are inaccessible by car. Therefore, exploring the area is best done on foot once you arrive.
How to get around Alfama Lisbon?
The best way to navigate the labyrinthine streets of Alfama in Lisbon is by foot.
Due to its narrow, winding streets and steep staircases, many areas are inaccessible by car or public transport.
However, if you want to cover more ground, consider hopping on Tram 28.
The historic, yellow trams offer amazing views of the city’s most iconic landmarks.
Remember that Tram 28 is a popular Lisbon tourist attraction and hence, always crowded.
Alfama Travel FAQ
What to do in Alfama Lisbon?
In Alfama Lisbon, you can wander through the winding, character-filled streets, discover hidden cafes, listen to soulful Fado music, explore historic forts and churches, shop for trinkets, and check out unique museums such as the Fado Museum and the Military Museum.
Is Alfama safe?
Yes, Alfama is one of the safest neighborhoods in Lisbon, but it is always advised to be careful, especially at night, and not carry a lot of cash or wear flashy jewelry.
Is Alfama Lisbon a good place to stay?
Yes, Alfama is one of the best places to stay in Lisbon. The neighborhood is safe, touristy, and full of character, which makes it a great place to stay for solo travelers, couples, and families.
Where is old town Lisbon?
Old Town Lisbon is located in the quaint and historic Alfama district, which is full of historical landmarks, beautiful miradouros, and atmospheric cafes.
What is Alfama Lisbon known for?
Alfama Lisbon is known for being the birthplace of the UNESCO-listed, soulful Fado music that was born from the songs of sailors and fishermen right here in Alfama. It is also one of the most popular tourist places in Lisbon by virtue of being home to several historical landmarks, quaint cafes, and beautiful miradouros.
How do you get around Alfama Lisbon?
The best way to get around Alfama Lisbon is on foot. The streets of Alfama are narrow and hilly, and it is best to walk around and explore. You can also ride on the historic Tram 28, which will take you through the best Alfama sights.
Is Alfama a good area in Lisbon?
Yes, Alfama is one of the best and safest areas in Lisbon. If you’re visiting Lisbon for the first time or the tenth, Alfama is one of the best places to stay.
What is the prettiest part of Lisbon?
Alfama, with its narrow winding alleyways, pastel-colored buildings adorned with hanging laundry, charming viewpoints, and atmospheric cafes, is Lisbon’s prettiest part.
What is Alfama like in Lisbon?
Alfama in Lisbon is very pretty. It is chockful of historic landmarks such as the Sao Jorge Castle and Se Cathedral, colorful houses, winding lanes, and cute cafes and boutiques. The presence of several miradouros also makes Alfama stunningly beautiful.