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Alfama: the most characteristic district of Lisbon

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The Alfama, which extends east of the city center, is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Lisbon and still retains its Arab structure. This is undoubtedly the most popular and folkloric district of the capital.

In Alfama you can get lost in a picturesque tangle of alleys and stairways between fish stalls and characteristic shops. Or, especially in the evening, it is always here that, in typical clubs, you can listen the fado, the characteristic Portuguese popular music. Slow and plaintive music that expresses the soul of the Portuguese. A mixture of smug melancholy, calm anxiety, a fatalistic sense of life, which the Portuguese call “saudade”.


In this neighborhood is the Sé Patriarcal (cathedral) originally built in the XII century in Romanesque style. The interior has three naves, with a Latin cross. In the Franciscan chapel, there are the azulejos depicting the life of Saint Anthony, the tombs of King Afonso IV and his wife, in the chapel of Santo Ildefonso a carved tomb of the fourteenth century, the Gothic cloister, the cathedral museum.

In the surroundings of the cathedral, the Baroque church of Santo Antonio da Sé is worth visiting. The Casa dos Bicos, a 16th century civil building, was the home of Brás de Albuquerque, son of Afonso de Albuquerque governor of Portuguese India. Finally, the church of Conceiçao Velha with a Manueline-style portal.

Largo do Chafariz de Dentro represents the central square of the neighborhood. Nearby are the ancient Jewish ghetto, the church of Santa Luzia, with a wonderful viewpoint on the Alfama, and the Museum of Decorative Arts with works from the 17th-18th centuries. Also worth a stop are the Sao Miguel and Santo Estevao churches, from which you can admire another beautiful view of the neighborhood.


Going upwards you reach the castle of São Jorge (XII century), royal residence in the XIV-XVI centuries. The castle offers wonderful views over Lisbon from its towers. Coming down from the castle we can visit the baroque church of Nossa Senhora da Graça, where Afonso de Albuquerque, governor of Portuguese India from 1509 to 1515 is buried. A great leader who conquered Hormuz, Goa and Malacca, he was the true founder of the Portuguese maritime power in Asia. Next to this church is the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, another beautiful viewpoint over the city.

Not far away is probably the most beautiful Renaissance church in Portugal, the church of São Vicente de Fora (16th-17th centuries), designed by the italian architect Filippo Terzi. The interior of the church with a single nave is baroque, inside is the pantheon of the royal house of the Braganza. Finally, do not miss a visit to the beautiful cloister decorated with azulejos. Behind the church is the Campo de Santa Clara, where the Feira da Ladra takes place every Tuesday and Saturday morning, a picturesque and lively market of furniture, used clothing, silverware, old books, magazines, vinyl records, paintings, rugs, majolica , azulejos, odds and ends, collectible coins, military equipment etc.

A museum to visit is the Museu Militar, located in an 18th century arsenal, where weapons and military equipment from the 9th century to the present are exhibited. To admire also the beautiful Manueline portal of the church of the Madre de Deus, the interior with a single nave is baroque and is covered with azulejos. In the two cloisters of the church, one Renaissance and the other Manueline, there is the Museu Nacional do Azulejo, not to be missed.

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